Lavish linens: See how the finest Italian sheets stack up

Many travelers don't know their Mascioni from Anichini. You may not think sheet brands matter, but at the upper end of the luxury spectrum, the difference between, say, a 4-pearl (luxury), a 4.5-pearl (ultra-luxury) and a 5-pearl (insanely extravagant luxury) is largely in these kids of details.

So what makes some sheets better than others? Hotels love to brag about high thread count, but high thread count doesn't always equal high quality. Thread count does come in to play, but other factors like fiber quality, yarn size, and finishing matter just as much. With the luxury brands below, you can be sure that you'll get a decadent night's sleep on a high-quality weave.

The best sheets tend to come from Italy, so to help you distinguish these brands we associated each with an elite Italian sports car.

    • If these sheets were a sports car, they'd be: A Maserati -- grown-up luxury with a lot under the hood
    • What makes them special: One of the few companies to use top-of-the-line materials like voile, silk twill, and double weight sateen; specialty fabrics like Muga silks from Assam and Tibetan cashmere add a touch of the exotic
    • Where you can sleep on them: Koa Kea Resort Hotel Poipu Beach; One Bal Harbour Resort & Spa
    • If these sheets were a sports car, they'd be: A Pagani -- the most expensive car you've never heard of
    • What makes them special: Got its start over 100 years ago making linens for the Italian aristocracy; invented "Paradise" cotton linen, with thread so fine it takes a week to make 10 meters
    • Where you can sleep on them: The St. Regis Washington, D.C.
    • If these sheets were a sports car, they'd be: A Lancia -- classic, understated luxury
    • What makes them special: Develops new techniques at in-house lab; complex finishing treatment results in less wrinkling and increased durability
    • Where you can sleep on them: The Plaza; Fairmont Heritage Place, Ghirardelli Square
    • If these sheets were a sports car, they'd be: An Alfa Romeo -- bold, stylish, and relatively accessible
    • What makes them special: Started in 1891 as a producer of Venetian lace cuffs and collars; design team gets inspiration from travels to Italy, India, France and Germany
    • Where you can sleep on them: Surrey Hotel; The Cooper Square Hotel; Thompson Hotels (60 Thompson; Thompson LES, etc.)
    • If these sheets were a sports car, they'd be: A Ferrari -- also the most recognizable brand name in its category
    • What makes them special: Became Official Purveyors to the Italian Royal family in the late 1800s; has produced custom linens with family crests for over 500 aristocratic families; provided table linens for banqueting rooms on the Titanic
    • Where you can sleep on them: Over 8,000 hotels around the world, including The Pierre; Mandarin Oriental, Boston; Crosby Street Hotel; The Beverly Hills Hotel; and Fifteen Beacon
    • If these sheets were a sports car, they'd be: A Bugatti -- elite, well-made, and powerful. (Okay, Bugatti is technically German, but it was founded by an Italian).
    • What makes them special: Bed linens are made of pure Egyptian cotton, pure linen, or union linen; designed to withstand frequent washings
    • Where you can sleep on them: The Carlyle; Four Seasons Washington D.C.

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