When life gives you lemons, make sure they’re Amalfi Coast ones – la dolce vita doesn’t get sweeter than with the southern peninsula’s supersize citrus fruit and its stylish (in that effortlessly Italian way) stays, which we’ve rounded up in our list of luxury Amalfi Coast hotels.
The sunny coast, home to holidaying Hollywood royalty, hilltop medieval hamlets and hair-raising hairpin bends, has long been the A-list’s summer destination of choice and it won’t take you long to see why – even UNESCO concurs (the coastline has been a World Heritage Site since 1997).
Drive the winding coastal roads, touring the lemon-scented towns that dot the precipitous cliffs: Ravello, and its terraced gardens and historic villas; the lesser-visited former fishing village of Praiano; and Positano, whose heritage hotels and other colourful buildings tumble down the cliff-face to clear turquoise waters and quiet coves.
Discover Amalfi’s history as a maritime republic, and its medieval architecture and Byzantine cathedral and call in at limoncello-homeland Sorrento (technically on a different peninsula, but crowned the unofficial gateway to the glitzy coastline on the other side of the mountains).
Our edit of stylish Amalfi Coast hotels – a little inspiration for what will hopefully be a more normal summer in 2022 – includes storied Steinbeck favourite Le Sirenuse, the cliff-edge former monastery Monastero Santa Rosa and Villa Cimbrone, once the Ravello residence of an English aristocrat.
Check out the best Amalfi Coast hotels to check into this year.
1. Le Sirenuse, Positano
Once frequented by John Steinbeck, who wasn’t lying when he wrote that “Positano cuts deep”, Le Sirenuse is one of the most famous hotels in the world, family-owned and tended to by the Sersales since they opened their home to the world in 1951.
Positano is affectionately viewed by locals as a vertical town – the only way is up or down – and that’s evident at Le Sirenuse, whose colourful buildings cling to the cliffs and whose terraces offer some of the best views in town. Steinbeck continued: “It is a dream place that isn’t quite real when you are there and becomes beckoningly real after you have gone.” Luckily for guests, Le Sirenuse really does exist.
2. Hotel Santa Caterina, Amalfi
At Hotel Santa Caterina near Amalfi, sun loungers are stretched along the shore at the bottom of the towering cliffs for dips in the sparkling sea or the heated saltwater pool at its beach club, reached either via precipitous steps or by the lifts carved into the rockface.
The 19th-century villa, built in Liberty style (the Italian take on art nouveau), has all the regional horticulture you’d hope for covered: bougainvillea drapes the buildings, and orchards and olive groves line the grounds. The seaside residence has a Michelin-starred restaurant inside, a terrace for languorous lunches and rooms with four-poster beds, hand-painted majolica floors and sea-showcasing balconies.
3. Monastero Santa Rosa, Conca dei Marini
Of all the Amalfi Coast’s photogenic vistas, few can trump the captivating view of Monastero Santa Rosa seen from the water. There’s that pool, seemingly suspended above the sea; the 17th-century buildings clinging to the cliffs; and tiers of gardens stacked up from the rocky shore.
The Dominican monastery is in the fishing village of Conca dei Marini, a handy stop off on the road between Amalfi and Positano. The chef at Michelin-starred Il Refettorio uses produce from Campania to create his culinary love letter to the area – and, since his wife hails from the Amalfi Coast, the romance reaches new heights.
4. Belmond Caruso, Ravello
Lording over Ravello from its highest point a thousand feet above sea level, the Belmond Caruso continues the Amalfi Coast’s theme of incredible history: the 11th-century palace was built by a noble family who needed a sanctuary to stop off at on their way to Constantinople. Thankfully, the frescoed salons, stone vaults and rose-scented gardens are still intact, with modern additions including a sleek, sea-edge infinity pool.
A personal trainer can take you out in Ravello for a workout with a slightly more impressive backdrop than your average gym or for hikes through coastal lemon groves – before settling in for a well-earned meal on that dreamy terrace.
5. Hotel Villa Cimbrone, Ravello
With a name reminiscent of all Italy’s fabled estates, the Villa Cimbrone in Ravello has a heritage to match: it was once the home of Lord Grimthorpe, the horologist behind Big Ben. The turreted medieval building has also hosted politicians, artists and members of the Bloomsbury Group. These days, it has lost none of its charm, with its painted vaulted ceilings, elaborate fireplaces and majolica-tiled floors all preserved.
The gardens – redesigned by Vita Sackville-West in the early 20th century and considered an important example of English landscaping and botany in southern Europe – are still home to the famous series of statues, set along the edge of the cliffs.
6. Palazzo Avino, Ravello
Another mediaeval villa built for nobility several centuries ago and now fortunately a hotel, Palazzo Alvino is high on the cliffs of hilltop Ravello with a vantage point of the coast’s prettiest fishing villages.
As befitting the holiday playground of the rich and famous, the hotel, not content with just a Michelin-starred restaurant, also has a lobster and martini bar, where no fewer than 100 takes on James Bond’s favourite drink are served. No self-respecting Amalfi Coast hotel would be without a breathtaking terrace and at Terrazza Belvedere the amazing views of the coastline come with superb small bites and fresh pasta.
7. Casa Angelina, Praiano
More minimalist and modern than many of the more fresco-focused luxury Amalfi Coast hotels, Casa Angelina is a pristine all-white palace, offset of course by the dazzling blues of the sky and sea. The boutique hotel has 42 rooms, each with beds dressed in perfectly pressed Etro sheets in bright white (obviously), with the only other flashes of colour coming from a plant or soft furnishing.
Lemons dangle above the pool, scenting your swims in an appropriate Amalfi manner – and the concierge creates packages that include convertible hire or a sailing trip with a chef to ensure you’re living la dolce vita.
8. Il San Pietro di Positano, Positano
Restaurants at Il San Pietro include the Michelin-starred Zass and the breezy beachside terrace Carlino, both of which make use of the organic produce from the gardens, which cover half of the estate and are set across 10 tiers – and the bounty is so good that the chef’s been in his job for two decades.
Part of the gym is outside underneath a lemon grove, and yoga and Pilates classes take place on a lawn overlooking the sea in the unlikely event that your wellbeing levels have dipped. The Positano hotel has direct access to a private cove, reached by entering the lift in the lobby that’s been handily hewn from the cliffs.
9. Bellevue Syrene, Sorrento
Though strictly speaking part of the Sorrentine Peninsula, Sorrento is an honorary member of the Amalfi Coast’s favourite towns, and it’s definitely worth a visit to stockpile everything from limoncello to lace.
At Bellevue Syrene, marble hallways, vaulted ceilings, Murano glassware and ceramics (yet another thing to shop for here) all feature. Its bright white interiors also have sea-framing windows that create a calm, cooling sanctuary – and it has a jetty to jump off for equally refreshing dips in the sea. Built on the remains of a Roman villa, the current residence was constructed in 1750, opening as a hotel in 1820 and serving dinners with a view of Vesuvius ever since.
10. Casa Privata, Praiano
As the name suggests, privacy is the aim of Casa Privata (often abbreviated to Ca’ P’a) in Praiano, between Amalfi and Positano. The intimate retreat has just seven rooms, most of which are in the main villa but there’s a suite a few steps away with its own terrace that leads out to the garden, too.
The vast grounds of manicured lawns and organic orchards descend to a private rocky beach, where there are various sun loungers and sets of tables and chairs to choose from. The ruin, once a fisherman’s home, was discovered on a sailing trip along the coast and swiftly snapped up for its unique character and heavenly isolation.
From Harper’s Bazaar UK