The Amalfi Coast is one of those UNESCO World Heritage Sites that are high on every Italophile’s bucket list of places to visit and Hotel Santa Caterina is the jewel in the crown for travellers looking for the ultimate in luxury Italian hospitality.
The journey from Naples airport to the historic hotel that opened in 1904 isn’t the shortest of journeys but it is unlikely you will come across a more piercing, picturesque drive. The winding roads along the cliff edge are made for retro convertibles like a red Alfa Romeo Spider from the 1960s.
The arrival at the hotel might seem slightly abrupt as it is on the roadside prior to entering the centre of Amalfi’s old town but it occupies acres of prime real estate with stupendous views of the Tyrrhenian Sea and looking into Amalfi town. The property has developed over the years from an initial 6 guest rooms to 66 guestrooms and suites now.
If there is any feedback I can offer to the hotel, it is their breakdown of partial and full sea views and deluxe and executive bedrooms seem unnecessarily complicated: all the rooms are jaw-droppingly exquisite and have views of the sea. There are simply no second-rate rooms in this fine establishment and each room has been individually decorated with ornate touches. The bespoke majolica paving tiles from Vietri in each room is worthy of being in an exhibition themselves at the V&A Museum as well as the many priceless heirlooms dotted around the hotel. Do ask the reception staff there if you can get a guided tour of the different rooms.
It is, however, unlikely you will be spending much time indoors, as their sun-kissed gardens lined with the world-famous Amalfi lemon trees and graceful wisteria trees will lure you outside. To reach their beach club by sea, thankfully you don’t have to abseil down the majestic cliff face but they have a glass lift which transports you down and if there was a prize for the most picturesque lift journey, hotel Santa Caterina will be winning by a landslide. They have a heated swimming pool with seawater or you can dive right into the sea if the conditions are suitable.
They have a cosy gym with the latest equipment and a wellness centre for those who haven’t received enough relaxation from the Amalfi sunshine. Their harmony back massage is particularly soothing but for the indulgent ones, they have the lemon massage “Amalfi Gold” which uses their special lemon oil from the coastline.
The dining and imbibing options are fantastic in both restaurants Al Mare and Santa Catarina; they share the same staff and the service is immaculate but with a distinctly personal touch. When one of our fellow travellers didn’t fancy a particular type of fish, they were offered a whole array of alternatives and listening to the passion for their work from some of the staff who have worked there for decades did bring a tear to my eyes.
They have an ever-changing menu during your stay but the 2 types of dishes to look out for are those involving Amalfi lemons grown on the estate such as the luscious tasting, homemade ravioli filled with zucchini and fresh ricotta in lemon cream sauce or those dishes involving seafood such as the spaghetti vongole.
For those seeking to understand more about the local history, then a short complimentary transfer to the old town to visit the Diocesan Museum of Amalfi is a must. They have some of the most spectacular collection of religious artefacts outside of Rome and highlights the great importance of Amalfi as a maritime republic back around the 10th century.
For the thalassophiles, hiring a luxury yacht to cruise along the stunning coastline is a dream come true for any discerning traveller. It isn’t far from many of the other jewels of Campania like Positano and Capri, but you can just visit some of the great local attractions like the wondrous Emerald Grotto.