There are certain things that luxury doesn’t provide for. Some of these are obvious, like the love of your soulmate or helping a friend in need. Others less obvious – it turns out your iPhone alarm clock has a setting for weekdays only. Setting up some potential predicaments if you’re unaware of this. Settling in to our airport accommodation with a top class hotel awaiting us at our destination, we prepared to arise way before sunrise to catch the first flight off of the tarmac. Imagine my surprise then as I awoke in the darkness feeling the need to check the time. A cartoon double take then proceeded, as there was only 50 minutes until the flight left. Never have I missed a flight and with Amalfi and Hotel Santa Caterina as our destination this was certainly not the time to start. What ensued next was a frantic blur as we checked our luggage, through security and sprinted through an ever-winding snake of shops in duty free. Of course it was then inevitable that we were departing from gate 99. Somehow we made it. I’m not sure how…but never have I been so relieved to sit on a plane.
Upon arrival in Naples, the more relaxing experiences began. Our driver sent from the hotel met us at arrivals and we were driven in black Mercedes style for the next hour through the city and towards the Campania Mountains. The Amalfi Coast is separated from Naples by these mountains and other than boat, the only way to go is over the top. Our drive took us to scale the slopes to near the ridge and then moved through a mountain tunnel. The transformation in landscape from one side to another was dramatic. On the Naples side, the city sits far below in the distance, hazy through the city air. Mt. Vesuvius, the giver of life to the area and yet possessing incredible destructive power rises above, its presence ever ominous yet magnificent. The coastal side is beautiful. Probably more beautiful than words can even describe. Far, far below the road is the azzurro sea glistening under the Italian sun. Never have I seen a road so awe-inspiring as it folds back on itself hundreds of times over like tagliatelle strewn in a bowl, slowly allowing us to make the descent. The villages step up the sides of the cliffs to a great height and leaves you wondering how fit the residents must be scaling these steps daily. Life here is no doubt difficult as the majority of people make their living through farming, although this is rapidly shifting to tourism services. The cliffs are lined with lemons and vineyards – as this is home to the greatest and no doubt largest lemons in the world.
Hotel Santa Caterina sits on a stretch of road above the town of Amalfi. When we arrived the porter took our bags and there was a huge breakfast platter awaiting us. Word had reached the hotel about our crazy morning with the lack of showers and breakfast! At the hotel’s terrace we were presented with a breathtaking view. As ravenously hungry as we felt, this view deserved some attention. The sea stretches into the distance with cliff faces to the right and left of us dotted with picturesque Italian villages waiting to be explored. Could there be a better place in the world to eat croissants, fresh fruit and a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice. This was exactly what we needed.
The bedroom, one of the 67 rooms or suites that we had the pleasure of staying in for two nights was a cool white classic décor scheme complete with its own private terrace. That beautiful view again? Yes it was visible from our bed. Simply wow. The bedroom was very spacious with a small seating area and a walk in closet.. The bathroom featured a Jacuzzi bath and a separate shower. Perfect for a couple looking to relax or get ready to go for dinner together. As for the beds, well we woke feeling rejuvenated every morning, ready to enjoy the day without a stress or a strain. The rooms are particularly comfortable and well-equipped with widescreen TVs and air-conditioning to take the Italian heat out of the equation and create a comfortable atmosphere. Decadent and classically Italian in style, it was a luxurious space to retreat to after a day in the sun.
We decided to dedicate the afternoon to the use of the hotel’s fantastic pool (cover image) and private beach terrace. Nestled in the cliffs far below the hotel, it is accessible by a lift with a glass slide that gives you an incredible panoramic as it travels downward. For those that prefer to walk there is a scenic path lined with citrus groves that follows the cliff. Once you have reached the salt pool you can lounge on your deckchair and overlook the Mediterranean, bathing in the warm sun. In fact the pool is so close to the sea, it’s practically one and the same. So if you’re looking to go au natural then feel free to splash in the deep blue too. This was one of the most enjoyable few hours spent at the hotel; soaking in the sun, hypnotised by the Mediterranean and admiring the exquisite yachts as they passed. One of the hotel’s restaurants, Al Mare is located next to the pool so is perfect for a light lunch. You can even have fresh pizza from the wood oven bought to you on your sun-lounger. It’s heaven, trust us. Next to the pool is a gym where the fitness fanatics of you can work out. Here we found a treadmill that surely has the greatest view of all treadmills in the world looking at the breathtaking Amalfi cliffs. Truly stunning.
Hotel Santa Caterina has a spa too that you should experience to take you to that next level of relaxation. The spa offers treatments and massages using Mediterranean essences of herbs and citrus fruits to take care of whatever you require. Designed to leave guests feeling relaxed and energised. Perfect to rejuvenate yourself after a day of shopping in Amalfi or a pre-dinner energiser. When you can sit by the pool, enjoy a drink and then have a full body massage, why would you want to do anything else?
Whilst the hotel is a fantastic destination in itself and we could have spent a serious amount of time here, it’s always important to get out and explore the local area. Fortunately the Amalfi Coast has more than enough to offer. A good dilemma is then presented to you – what to see in the short time you’re in the area. It’s possible to book private boats to explore this magnificent coastline and the hotel will arrange this for you. With towns such as Sorrento and Positano on your doorstep, it’d be a crime not to visit them. Nearby Capri, the destination of the movie stars is also but a short boat trip away. Historic towns attract visitors for their culture and architecture as well as their fantastic dining and decadent party scene. Spending the evening at a sea edge restaurant while sampling wines grown on the fertile soils provided by Mt. Vesuvius sounds like a fantastic evening in our books!
One evening we dined at the hotel’s main restaurant, Santa Caterina. We started our evening with an Old Fashioned, champagne Bellini and a selection of canapés at Bar La Terrazza.
After enjoying our drinks in the bar we were shown to our table on the hotel’s terrace. This evening the mosquito nets had been lowered across the deck, the lanterns lit and the sea was black with only the faint glow of town lights along the cliff casting any luminescence across the still water. The terrace was busy and alive with evening chatter amongst friends, family and couples. Our waiter was particularly attentive and interested in our travels from London. A waiter that is friendly, funny and develops great conversation with his guests is a rarity, but then Hotel Santa Caterina had been demonstrating its rare and unique status amongst hotels to us all day. Our first course was a parmesan crème brulee to simply get the appetite going- an absolute winner in our eyes. We were told of the specials and of course being in such wonderful proximity to the sea, fish is a must when visiting the region. I highly recommend the lobster salad for an appetizer. The flesh of the lobster was very light, delicate and flavoursome, demonstrating its freshness and the presentation on the plate was an exceptional work of art. Alongside a squeeze of Amalfi lemon to add some citrus punch it is a very complete dish. Throughout the evening we feasted on other dishes such sea bass pasta and fresh grouper fillets. We did not simply sample the fish however and also enjoyed delightfully creamy Burrata with lemon sauce and a first course of ravioli with cheese and zucchini.
Of course it would not be an Italian trip without some excellent wine and the hotel restaurant certainly doesn’t disappoint on this front. The waiters are more than happy to suggest recommendations of good wine and food pairings. The food was excellent, although understandably expensive. With a venue so glamorous it’s not surprising and perhaps that adds to its special occasion charm. We retired to our rooms, tummies full and strangely looking forward to breakfast as we knew we’d be sat on that terrace again, looking out across the Med one more time.
Amalfi is a short drive away and the hotel provides a shuttle to take you there. A beautiful town awaits you where you can sit with an espresso and watch the tourists pass. Overlooking the town square, Piazza del Duomo stands Amalfi Cathedral. Its steps that climb high above the piazza provide an excellent vantage point of the town as well as a good photo opportunity. If there were a downside to Amalfi it would be the number of tourists here, however visiting outside of peak times can help this.
Hotel Santa Caterina is a paradise. Not only is the hotel attentive and gorgeous, its setting transcends it to something special. A level that most hotels simply do not and cannot replicate. It is no surprise that it is a member of The Leading Hotels of the World and attracts visitors from around the globe. The service was exemplary and sets the bar for all others. Looking out across the Mediterranean Sea, one does not wish to be anywhere else. Is that not what we search for when we take a holiday? Just don’t miss your plane here, you’ll miss out on something really special.
Hotel Santa Caterina
S.S. Amalfitana, 9
84011 Amalfi (Salerno)
T: +39 089 871012