As we drive along the narrow, winding Amalfi Coast, with fortified ancient towers and candy-colored fishing towns on one side and a precipitous drop of limestone cliffs on the other side, we are mesmerized by the sparkling cobalt-blue Mediterranean, stretching as far as the eye can see. The beauty of this scenic drive, carved into the cliffs along the Amalfi Coast in the mid-19th century, cannot be overstated.
Located directly on the Amafli drive just a few minutes away from Amalfi, is the Hotel Santa Caterina. When we arrive, the friendliness of the staff makes us feel like long-lost relatives. Mindful of our overnight flight and morning drive, we are given a quick, cursory tour of the expansive property, with the promise of a more thorough tour later on. Our room is generously-sized, luxurious, bright, and airy, but nothing can distract from the floor-to-ceiling view of the Mediterranean sea, although the complimentary bottle of prosecco makes a valiant effort. Giddily exhausted, we collapse onto the bed, enveloped by the crisp sheets.
The next morning we are treated to a sumptuous breakfast served in the Santa Caterina restaurant, with multiple stations and white-glove service. The restaurant, like the hotel, boasts gorgeous views of the Mediterranean from every vista, beautifully framed by the flowering bougainvillea vines growing indoors and outdoors. Even the floors are picturesque, covered in blue azul marble. It is in this same restaurant, later that night, that we experience the sophisticated and exquisitely presented gourmet cuisine offered by the Santa Caterina restaurant. My spaghetti ai frutti di mare dish features the freshest seafood I’ve ever eaten. We could easily spend all our time on the property, enjoying the views from our balcony, exploring the gardens and citrus groves, or swimming in the Mediterranean.
The Hotel Santa Caterina, however, is the perfect location from which to explore the entire Campania region. We visit Herculaneum and Pompeii, which were buried by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 A.D. Also worth exploring are the Greco-Roman ruins at Paestum and the buffalo mozzarella factories. The hotel’s concierge is incredibly helpful, giving us directions and advice on how to make the most of our trip. It was difficult to leave The Hotel Santa Caterina, which delighted us at every turn, but our promise to return was heartfelt. If you are seeking unforgettable sea views and Italian hospitality in the lap of luxury, there is no better location.
Old World Elegance, Roman Treasures
The phrase “All roads lead to Rome” feels especially poignant during our stay at the Hotel Hassler, Rome’s most prestigious hotel. It seems that all roads in Rome lead to the Hassler! Located at the top of the Spanish Steps, the Hotel Hassler offers breathtaking views overlooking Rome, The Eternal City.
When we enter the hotel for the first time, we are struck by the Old World grandeur of the lobby. It would be intimidating if the front desk staff were not so friendly and accommodating. We are greeted with wide smiles, and check in is quick and efficient. Our elegant room has an impressive panoramic view of Rome’s terra cotta-tiled roofs that beckon, along with elaborate moldings and marble everywhere. The room’s window treatments, lights, and television can all be controlled from the nightstand. Despite how busy the streets are below, the room is quiet and peaceful.
We are generally independent travelers who conduct lots of research before we leave, but we find ourselves stopping at the concierge’s desk every time we leave the hotel, taking advantage of their wealth of Roman information and experience. Whenever we return, we again stop at the concierge’s desk to thank them profusely for their restaurant recommendations and assistance. We are most impressed by the concierge’s ability to obtain us last-minute reservations to visit the sold-out Galleria Borghese, housing the incomparable sculptures of Bernini.
The staff at the Galleria Borghese can hardly believe it either! Walking amongst the works of my favorite artist, I am humbled and have to blink back tears. The Hotel Hassler’s central location enables us to walk everywhere. The Villa Borghese park, Via Veneto, Via Condotti, and the city’s most upscale boutiques are a short walk away, but we also walk to farther locations, like the Colosseum. We will never forget this particular visit to the iconic amphitheatre, because we book an underground tour for a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Our guide, who calls himself St. Peter because he holds the exclusive keys, leads us away from the crowds onto the sandy floor of the Colosseum, where gladiators stood centuries ago. We are then led down the stairs to the underground portion of the Colosseum, where the markings are still visible from the manual elevators that lifted gladiators and wild animals into the arena.
It is no surprise that Grace Kelly honeymooned here. The Hotel Hassler is the perfect hotel from which to explore Rome, or simply relax and people-watch. The Old World elegance transports you to another world, and another time.