Ravello is for those who love peace and quiet and stupendous views. Perched high above the tiny Italian coastal town of Amalfi, it has been described as closer to heaven than to the sea. And Belmond Hotel Caruso, almost suspended between sea and sky at the highest, quietest point of Ravello, is a tiny slice of that heaven with a rich sense of its past.
Beyond gorgeous Hotel Caruso, Ravello is a Sicilian-Moorish town with an intimate atmosphere that differs from Sorrento or Positano. Ravello is a definite must along the grand tour. Here, there’s a nonchalant elegance to be found around every corner, evident in the buildings, the inner courtyards, churches and many gardens, especially the garden of Villa Rufolo, which inspired Wagner’s ‘Parsifal’. The Wagner Festival is held here annually.
Hotel Caruso itself has a long history, dating back to the 11th century, when a Roman family was shipwrecked and could not reach Byzantium. As a consolation, an estate was built in memory of the accident (as well as for the family martyr, Eustachio), known as Palazzo d’Afflitto.
It didn’t become an hotel until the late 1800s when Pantaleone Caruso ran it as a pensione. Over time it became the preferred retreat for presidential families, writers, artists and film stars. Present day guests are walking in the footsteps of Virginia Woolf, Jackie Kennedy, Humphrey Bogart, Gina Lollobrigida and Greta Garbo—who loved the place so much she stayed for weeks at a time.
It is little wonder that they were attracted here. Hotel Caruso is magically restorative, an environment for immersive escapism. With vaulted stone arches and frescoed salons, ancient gardens and panoramic views across the Mediterranean, it is impossibly romantic. Above all, with its scented rose arbour leading to one of the most spectacular infinity pools to be found anywhere, and with sunlit and candlelit dining in the restaurants, Caruso creates a feeling of absolute pleasure, totally relaxed. It never feels busy here.
The 50 rooms and suites make the most of the views and most have private terraces or gardens. All are airy and elegant, furnished with antique furniture and four-poster beds, and each is unique, retaining its own intriguing historical details. Villa Margherita is a recently added private guesthouse with a terrace overlooking the sea—breakfast in bed takes on a whole new meaning here.
The food is beyond delicious, the exquisite flavours of fresh produce from the Amalfi coast to the Lattari Mountains, enhanced by panoramic sea views. Whether guests choose Ristorante Belverdere for creative fine dining, or Ristorante Caruso for delicious day-long delicacies—think Calvisius caviar, fresh fish, homemade truffle pasta and risotto—or Bar Caruso or the Pool Grill, all are sublime.
The Spa and fitness centre are also exemplary, the full service spa menu offering everything from a massage in the tranquil privacy of the garden to deep body renewal and high-performance facials for men.
And as might be expected of a great hotel of the world, throughout Hotel Caruso the service is as it should be—immaculate and omnipresent.
For those who can tear themselves away from the delights of Hotel Caruso, the world heritage sites of Pompeii are nearby, as is the Isle of Capri. And of course Amalfi, Procida and Positano beckon. A private shuttle descends to the hotel’s secluded stretch on Lido degli Artisti beach, where guests savour the tranquil pace of Amalfi living with beachside butler service, complimentary boat trips and tailor-made tours.
The hotel is 65km from Naples airport. Rooms are located in the main building or in the garden annex. All accommodation includes an LCD TV with CD and DVD player, air conditioning, and free internet.
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Belmond Hotel Caruso
Piazza San Giovanni del Toro 2
84010 Ravello SA