Destination: Italy: Amalfi Coast
Vibe: Gorgeous grounds, stunning views, family-friendly
At a glance: After an exquisite and pricey restoration, Orient-Express’ Hotel Caruso, located in the hills of Ravello, is a choice destination for sophisticated families looking for peace and sanctuary above the Amalfi Coast.
Review: The generous basket stuffed with toiletries in the Caruso’s lavish bathroom says it all: instead of one haute brand, it features three—Bulgari, Molton Brown and Penhaligon’s. Ravello’s other palazzo property, located next door to the old-world Avino, is all about polished pampering and luxe details. Some may feel it’s a touch orchestrated (the property is owned and run by the international Orient-Express hotel group); the spacious lobby, for instance, with its chic beige-gold color scheme and imposing reception desk, is more consciously design-y and a bit less destination-specific than the lived-in one of the Avino. But no one can argue with the exquisite and pricey restoration, completed in 2005: centuries-old frescoes were uncovered, the palazzo’s original chapel, with a Baroque altar, was left intact and in place (it’s off the bar area); and excavation around the property brought to light remnants of medieval walls, which are now visible in the gardens.
The guest rooms and suites were all refurbished as well during the hotel’s makeover. They’re luminous and spacious, particularly the bathrooms, which come with showers and soaking tubs. The Caruso also owns the property next to the small church across the street. Orient-Express financed its restoration and, in return, received the priest’s former quarters, which were turned into five guest rooms. They don’t have sea views, but the rooms come with their own private gardens, and several of them connect. The hotel and all services are located across the street, but there’s definitely something romantic about being based in the small church garden with views toward terraced Scala, the oldest town on the Amalfi Coast. Best of all, these “standard” rooms are the least expensive.
The Caruso is great for return travelers who want to do a fair amount of relaxing in a beautiful setting. The generous outdoor spaces, including a lovely, sun-dappled breakfast terrace and a hilltop pool area with an infinity-edged extravaganza that seems to float above the Bay of Salerno, have sweeping views of the sea. For those eager to explore, the Caruso can assist in arranging a variety of day trips, including a complimentary two-and-a-half-hour morning boat trip along the coast (the boat can also be rented for private tours in the afternoon).
Who it’s right for: Travelers who want a luxe setting and plan to spend a lot of time on the property. Families and friends traveling together can take advantage of the ultraprivate garden rooms across the street from the hotel.INDAGARE LOVES:
- The hotel’s iconic infinity pool with arguably the best view of the Amalfi Coast
- Family-friendly activities, including full service Kid’s Club with a fantastic cooking school
- Sprawling, manicured grounds that seem to go on forever
Palazzo Avino (formerly Palazzo Sasso)
Vibe: Authentic, sophisticated, storied
A a glance: Set in a 12th century Palazzo and filled with antique furniture and tiled floors, the family-owned Palazzo Avino is the more traditionally Italian and sophisticated alternative to the Hotel Caruso next door.
Review: Built in the 12th century, the Palazzo Avino has seen many incarnations throughout its history. Opened as a hotel in the late 1800s (owned by the same family that operates the Hotel Palumbo down the street), it drew many grand tour travelers, including Francis Nevil Reid and Richard Wagner. In the late 1970s, the dilapidated Avino closed for almost two decades, only to reopen in 1997 after a serious refurbishment as part of Richard Branson’s Limited Edition hotel collection (it was part of the group until 2001).
There’s something undeniably dignified and elegant about the building itself—one Indagare staff member likened it to a grande dame, who keeps getting better with age—with stacked balconies that bring to mind Juliet, lush terraced gardens and an unmistakable pastel-peach façade. Guest rooms are done in an old-world style, with 18th- and 19th-century furniture, antique carpets and tile floors. Rooms tend to be on the small side, particularly the bathrooms, so if a nightly bubble bath is your dream, try to get one of the eleven suites, or book at the Caruso next door. Views are sweeping—Ravello lies hundreds of feet above the coastline—especially from the fantastic Belvedere Terrace, which offers 360-degree panoramas. What really sets the Avino apart, however, is the generous staff, especially Antonio Ferrara, the hotel’s hard-working front office manager–cum-concierge, who has lived in Ravello all his life and who knows everyone in town. Ask him for restaurant and day-trip suggestions, as well as about the history of Ravello’s major sights—he’s more entertaining than any tour guide when he starts discussing the most interesting factoids, legends and gossip.
Editor’s Note: 2012 saw a soft-goods renovation of all the sea-facing rooms, suites, and public spaces with new furniture and textiles (Hermes fabrics are a common theme throughout).
Who it’s right for: Romantics who have a penchant for old-world Italy and who plan to spend most of their time exploring (unless you book a suite, these are not rooms to hole up in). There are no age restrictions for children, though the atmosphere is more adult and families should consider the Caruso:.INDAGARE LOVES:
- A rare sense of old-world sophistication and elegance
- The chic new beach club located a shuttle ride down the hill from the property
- Buzzy Lobster & Martini Bar (Stefano the bartender and expert mixologist can serve up to seventy variations)
The next time I travel to Ravello I will book a room at the Villa Cimbrone, located in the midst of the magnificent Cimbrone gardens. It might be “wedding central,” as one local described it, and I cannot vouch for the service or amenities, but the setting is so stunning that I could imagine forgoing some luxuries to be based here. It’s a good fifteen-minute walk from the center of town (unless you’re staying at easy-to-reach Avino or Caruso, you have to walk to reach your hotel). The nineteen rooms, all of which were recently refurbished, feature pretty antique furniture, colorful tile floors and charming architectural details like stone fireplaces, vaulted ceilings and frescoed alcoves. Most requested is the Greta Garbo Suite (the actress stayed in the villa with Leopold Stokowski in 1938), a blue-and-white-tiled extravaganza with an enclosed balcony, but the smaller Peony Room has a terrace with gorgeous bay views. The hotel has a new pool, and guests have private access to the glorious gardens in the hours before and after they’re open to the public. Rooms from €380 ($592).
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