Luxury Explorer Review

Luxury Villa Review

Palazzo Santa Croce

Italy, Amalfi Coast

A 17th century baroque masterpiece transformed into a lavish private home

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Palazzo Santa Croce

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Palazzo Santa Croce
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Palazzo Santa Croce






Grandly perched above Positano, a 10 minute walk down to the beach

Travel Information

Naples - 1.5 hours by taxi or self-drive

Top Tips

Lunch and dinner on the terrace overlooking the village, but also visit Le Sirenuse for a cocktail or two


This is THE villa to stay, when in Positano

Full Villa Details >

Palazzo Santa Croce

Perched above Positano, Palazzo Santa Croce has stood the test of time. It is, without a shadow of doubt, one of the most spectacular private villas we have ever holidayed in and perfect for family vacations or a stylish escape with a group of stylish friends.

The Palazzo was built in 1716 as an Episcopal residence during the baroque period of ornate extravagance. With Positano being a port on the trading route for spice, silk, art and artefacts, many prestigious residences, including Palazzo Santa Croce (PSC to us), were, and still are, the lucky bearers of some astonishing objet d'art and exotic structural features.

My fear was that the children, ranging from 20-something to five months, would not appreciate the eclectic attention to the baroque genre, wanting instead, something more high-impact and contemporary, like our Amalfi favourite Casa Angelina. But this place is all that, too. It is high-tech and 'gizmo' equipped, from wireless internet to surround-sound Bose systems, to satellite-enabled plasma TVs, to sumptuous lighting, to a staggering professional kitchen... not to mention the amazing hydro-powered indoor pool in the ground floor 'grotta'. However, we all just fell in love with the rich essence of PSC and its soul melting location. Here's why:

The location

PSC 'perches' in four lavish layers, many, many steps up from Positano's beachfront. Though it may feel like a Vesuvius-like climb at the time, the benefits are numerous; the view is more spectacular than any photograph, the steps keep you fit and most definitely firm your legs, the peace is perfect, and besides, you don't have to do the food shopping throughout your stay. This place is all about enjoying the luxury of 'time out', while all the hassles that can make a villa holiday work-away-from-home are totally extracted. It is, in that sense, more like a private petit-luxe 5-star hotel.

So the palazzo, paint-perfect in an earthy rose terracotta with cream cornicing, faces the enigmatic sea to the south and east as far as the eye will take you; ahead to the little archipelago of three islands known as the 'Sirenuse' and further west, beyond to Capri. Beneath, the cliff-side town of Positano (more like a fishing village in feel) swirls in a rich colourful vision of loveliness around and up the mountainside.

At night, when the sea turns to endless ripples of indigo, Positano lights up with a veritable incandescence. Hugging the coastline are the dramatic crown of verdant Latteri Mountains, with sheer cliff drops into the sea, which are framed most days by picture perfect sea and sky.

The sunsets are truly sizzling (though here you get the glow rather than the direct hit) while the mountains in the morning are often cloaked in a soft veil of velvety-white cloud. It's stunning here, absolutely stunning. All this can be soaked in from the wondrous main terrace, while enjoying an aperitif or an al fresco meal. You really can't beat this for an intimate dining-cum-chilling venue.

What is on offer?

PSC is a small 'palace' so it's easy to familiarise yourself with all the rooms and the terraces and, before you know it, this palace is your home.

Two by two the children peeled off into their boudoirs. On the top level the four boys went into two moderately grand rooms, beautifully finished - one with a view as though you were far out to sea. Both had flat screens and adequate cupboard space plus luxurious en-suite, dazzlingly tiled, shower rooms. The palette is soothing and creamy on the upper level suites with wooden flooring; grand-yacht style.

On a mezzanine level there was another bathroom (guest perhaps), adorned in a glistening myriad of vintage, handmade, aqua tiles.

Opulent slumberland

Some more glorious polished flagstone steps take you down to the primo-luxe-suite-level, with a terrace the width of the palazzo facing that view. To the left was ours, which, in its day, was the Bishop's Suite. It is lavish without being kitsch; it is opulent without being ostentatious. Antique burgundy silk frames the amazing, original oak-shuttered French windows on to the terrace, decorated with intricate hand-stitched stars woven in golden thread with glass beads; the floors are sprawled in century-old Ziegler Mahal rugs; the hand-painted chest belonged to the Bishop; the ceiling above our grand rouge silken bed was a gold star studded dome in pale night blue.

And so it continues, but never do you feel that the iconic references and irreplaceable oeuvre; sculptures, inlaid and hand crafted antiques, masterful paintings, cherubs, marble statues, antique books...are too daunting to enjoy; instead you genuinely do feel privileged throughout your stay. Both these suites have sitting rooms that open onto the terrace; our twenty-something-princesses' room was every bit as gorgeous as ours and enjoyed a spectacular triple aspect. The bathrooms are also grand treat; suitably palatial with marble sinks the size of small baths; perfect for bathing princess Bibi, but are otherwise bath-less. It would seem that Bishops prefer to shower.

Our daily agenda was dictated largely by the weather, which being October was a little inclement at times. Though, I can think of worse places in which to chill-out when the rain is lashing down. What's more, the ground level houses serious indoor-pool-glory. This really is perhaps the most sensational luxury in-palace. It is a hydra-pool with massaging jets and a waterfall of wonder that pours down from the mouth of an ecstatic gargoyle. The poolroom occupies the entire ground floor, originally a chapel, complete with alter (now a shrine to massage), plus a steam room/hammam, sauna, shower, private massage room, and relaxing area with mega flat screen TV. No wonder Madonna went home and ordered one just like it.

Most days we would make the descent down to the beach where, for many years, we have enjoyed the good brasserie-style cuisine and jubilant Southern Italian ambiance at the beachside trattoria, La Terazza. Needless to say, the ascent absolved all guilt. On one day, when the weather was beyond braving, we organised lunch at the Michelin-starred La Caravella in Amalfi and enjoyed the most indulgent seven course tasting menu and amazing wines. Pricey but exceptional.

Impeccable service

Again, this is more akin to a private 5-star establishment, as you neither cook nor shop, though you possibly could if you so wished. However, you can place specific food and beverage requests. It would be hard to fault the staff's gentle manner and genuine hospitality. Diana, the housekeeper and homemaker, plus the chef, the maid and the caretaker, all waited on us unprompted.

It was my birthday while we were there and before I knew it the kitchen exuded the sweet smell of baking, while Diana placed a large bouquet of scented white lilies on the terrace dining table, set with silver and crystal for a celebratory feast - with all the family able to enjoy that soul-melting vista. I could not have dreamed up a more spectacular venue for a celebration!

A stay at Palazzo Santa Croce will feed your memories for many, many moons.

Full villa details for Palazzo Santa Croce

Sophie Marchant
Sophie Marchant

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