Caruso in Pole Position
The problem with the Jewel in Ravello's crown right now is availability. The resurrection of this legendary hotel last year has been nothing short of meteoric and is fast defining a golden rule... Ravello = Caruso, Ravello = Caruso... as it now stands first in line on Ravello's fifteen-starred ridge. Yes, three five-starred-luxury hotels stand cheek by jowl on this amazing escarpment..
Hotel Caruso has been around for some time. In 1893 it was partially occupied by winemaker, Panaleone Caruso, and his wife Emilia. At the time, the problem for guests was getting access to the building; the reason being that this peach coloured gem (Italian peach) is perched many metres up the side of a cliff overlooking the Bay of Solerno. Beneath it are tiered groves of lemons and vines and a few gutsy houses; so with such a knock-out view of the sea in front and majestic mountains behind Mr Caruso was in a prime location to then spoil his guests with homemade wine and his wife's cooking. Back then it was called the "Pensione Belvedere" and, as its reputation spread over the mountains and across the Atlantic, it was not long before the 'creative' pack honed in.
The Bloomsbury Set enjoyed gathering here, as did many other art movements of the day. This meant the mushrooming of rooms from five to twenty four, and, eventually Caruso's "Belvedere" occupied the entire Palazzo. Since then the golden book has been signed by a mass of those enjoying the Hall of Fame such as Umberto of Savoy, Anne of France, Fillipo of Assia, King Farouk, Atruro Toscanini, most members of the Hungarian Royal Family, Toti Dal Monte, Nobel prize winner Alexander Fleming and many Hollywood greats including Gina Lollobrigida, Bogart, and countless politicians during war time.
After the war the celebrities returned and Gino Caruso, son of Panaleone, managed the hotel, and still does to this day.
The Rooms and Suites
We stayed in a suite with the much-talked-about view and it was breath altering. From our terrace, off the bedroom, we sat eating breakfast while the sun displayed its light dance on Ulysses' Mediterranean below. If that were not enough we then watched the light capturing the ancient Byzantine columns of the preserved ruins on the grounds beside the most drop-dread gorgeous infinity pool in Italy. The room was spacious, perhaps even a little nautical in vibe, a porthole window and creamy tones and a slip-below-the-bottom-of-your-king-size-bed television. The separate sitting room with writer's desk, sofa and indulgent mini-bar also had a small terrace. The bathroom too, was top-of-the-range.
Most of the 26 rooms and 26 suites are spacious and sun drenched with must-have sea views, and many have terraces which really is a great advantage if you want to just sit, chill and admire the view.
There are two: the indoor Caruso, elegant and warm with a patio outside for drinks, and the Belvedere, which is outside and more romantic for dinner during the summer. The food is haute-Italian and they are more than willing to compromise on rich ingredients if the enzymes desire. The service is impeccable for early days and, already, the barman has acclaimed fame for his strawberry belinis.
Ravello is enchanting. You step outside the main doors and passing the other two five star hotels, you find the Gardens of Ravello, immortalized by Wagner. Down many steps, the main square, the Piazza Duomo, is dominated by a glorious church throwing out bouquets by the minute with weary onlookers cramming in wedges of pizza. A little farther down and back on the edge, quite literally the edge, is the house that, until two years ago, belonged to Gore Vidal, which we will cover in a subsequent write-up. Ravello is not only coveted by locals wishing to marry, it is becoming increasingly popular for romantics from abroad and both Caruso, and Casa Angelina in Praiano, are able to arrange weddings here for our members.
The Villa Rufolo, where Wagner finally completed Parsifal, dates back to the 13th Century and holds performances during the Festivale Musicale di Ravello in the wonderful gardens with a sensational backdrop of cliffs turning golden from the setting sun. This event runs from July to August.
This should take up a chunkable size of each day spent here, not least because it is one of the most amazing infinite pools in Europe in an unbelievable setting. The Belvedere In Room SPA is below the pool area with 8 different types of massages on tables looking out to the Bay. Top beauticians, brought in from all parts of Italy, carry out the Body and Facial treatments.
The Yacht Factor
The hotel's yacht can sweep you around the Amalfi Coast, feed you on local delicacies, ply you with drinks and drop anchor while you dive off for a refreshing Mediterranean swim. Positano is close, Capri possible.
The Reason is Romance
Ravello is romantic. It is the choice of many couples to both woo and wed and for the rest of us, it encorages to renew those vows.
In high summer, hiring a car from Naples airport will be a bumper-to-bumper affair along a jagged and hot-tempered coastline. Until the end of June, and from the end of August, this is an excellent choice as there are several other wonderful towns to visit along the Amalfi Coast. In high season, we would strongly recommend airport transfers in air-conditioned limos with patient and extremely competent drivers. Of course the sea is another route if your buddy just happens to be passing...'