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

Bedrooms

5

Sleeps

9

Location

Positano

Travel Information

Naples - 1 hour

Read Our Villa Review

Palazzo Santa Croce, Positano

Read Our Villa Review

Palazzo Santa Croce, Positano

Palazzo Santa Croce

Perched on a steep hillside above the lovely fishing village of Positano on the mesmerising Amalfi Coast, the Palazzo Santa Croce defines palazzo-luxe living. A painstaking seven-year restoration transformed this 17th century baroque masterpiece into a lavish private home.

The elegantly formal façade faces a vista of sea and dramatic cliffs, with Capri in the far distance. All three of the palazzo's expansive terraces offer dramatic, romantic and ever-changing panoramas of this magical coastline. The interiors are divinely proportioned and embellished with a carefully selected collection of art.

There is even a private spa with a sumptuous indoor heated pool, Turkish bath, sauna and showers. The private chef and dedicated full-time staff will discretely attend to your every need. Palazzo Santa Croce is a haven of cosseting comfort and style in a landscape of otherworldly beauty.Palazzo Santa Crice

Read our own review of one of Positano's best luxury villas - Palazzo Santa Croce.

The grounds

  • Gate from village stairs opens to upper garden with expansive views of the village and sea
  • Benches shaded by fruit trees, intimate round pergola with cushions for relaxing seats six to eight. Lower terrace with table and cushions designed for those wanting respite from the sun
  • Narrow front terrace opens from upper level bedrooms and central staircase
  • Primary terrace with gracious sitting area for 12 and separate dining table for 12 under awning. Original well remains
  • Private spa terrace with combination fountain/hydro massage pool, cushioned sun beds and door to village stairs

Garden level

  • Double bedroom (king/twins) with TV ensuite bath (shower stall)
  • Double bedroom (king/twins) with TV ensuite bath (shower stall)
  • Full bath (shower stall)
  • Laundry room
  • Direct access to upper garden and gate to village steps

Upper level 

  • Master bedroom suite (king/twins) with sitting area for four, TV. Opens to private balcony and shared terrace; ensuite bath (shower stall)
  • Master bedroom suite (king/twins) with sitting area for four, TV. Opens to shared terrace; ensuite bath (shower stall)
  • Single bedroom (twin) with private bath (shower stall)
  • Central hall with double staircase

Piano Nobile

  • Central entrance hall with double staircase
  • Formal dining room with seating for eight to 12. Separate den area with seating for six; desk with computer and DSL line for guests' use; double doors to front terrace.
  • Casual dining room open to professional kitchen (eight gas burners, grill, oven, double size fridge, washing machine, microwave, dishwasher) with fireplace and two traditional fornos for cooking with wood

Piano Nobile

  • Waterfall from wall into hydro-massage heated pool lined with antique tiles (8 x 3.5m; stairs and shelves for sitting 2.4m in depth; maximum temperature 40 degrees C)
  • Turkish steam bath and sauna
  • Three distinct showers for cold, tepid and hot water
  • Sitting area for eight with flatscreen TV, satellite, sound system, fridge with cold drinks
  • Massage area
  • Private chapel

Points of Interest

  • Positano (stores, restaurants, beach): five-20 minutes
  • Sorrento: 30 minutes
  • Capri: 30-40 minutes by boat  
  • Ravello, Amalfi, Naples (airport), Pompeii: one hour  
  • Vietri: two hours
  • Rome airport: four hours

Notes

Welcome dinner with wine and champagne aperitivo included courtesy of the owner. Cooking services for continental breakfast, lunch and dinner included seven days per week. Professional chef with butler available on request with additional payment. Cleaning included seven days per week. Bed and bath linens changed daily. Personal laundry services included. Additional staff hours available on request with separate charge. Heat, electricity and air conditioning are included. Complimentary WiFi provided although there may not be consistent coverage throughout the property. Use of the spa facilities is at the guests' own risk. Professional masseur available on request. San Salvatore, the owners' restored Sorrentina boat, is available in June through October only. Guests are treated to one complimentary tour (three hours) with a rental. There are 229 steps to Palazzo Santa Croce from the roadway, depending on which path you take. A carrying chair can be arranged on request. Owner's small dog is in house with the owner. Saturday-Saturday rentals only during high season; some flexibility for off-season rentals. Additional days are prorated, for stays of more than one week. Arrival time is 4-5pm; departure time is 10am. Arrivals before 4pm will incur an additional charge.

Palazzo Santa Croce, Positano

Palazzo Santa Croce has stood the test of time with outstanding pulchritude. It is, without a shadow of doubt, one of the most spectacular private villas we have ever holidayed in.

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.

Sophie Marchant
Sophie Marchant


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