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Italy: Santa Caterina, Amalfi Coast

Olivia McLearon
18 November 2016

Perched on a hilltop amongst orange and lemon groves, this family-run five-star - with its warm hospitality, exquisite food and views out to sea – is charm personified, says Olivia McLearon

THE LOWDOWN:
With panoramic views over the Amalfi Coast, bougainvillea-strewn walkways, enchanting gardens, and terraces hewn from the rock, the family-run Hotel Santa Caterina captivates us from arrival. Inside, the late-19th century villa has an elegant retro vibe, with colourful ceramic floor tiles, antiques and traditional-style furnishings all complementing the whitewashed walls and ceilings.

The 66 rooms and suites boast a sea or garden view; ours is bright and airy, its colour scheme a nod to the area - blues and greens in reference to the glittering Bay of Salerno beyond our private terrace, and oranges and yellows as a compliment to the surrounding citrus groves. Rain showers and Bvlgari products in the tiled bathroom are a pleasing addition.

Some suites are very secluded and, unsurprisingly, tend to be popular with honeymooners. Three of particular note are Follia Amalfitana, with its sunken Jacuzzi and bed shaped like a shell; split-level Chalet Giulietta & Romeo, which has a heated infinity pool; while the sumptuous Il Torrino offers guests an ample sitting room, huge king-size bed and its own garden.

The feeling of old-school glamour extends to the glass lift that transports guests to the seawater pool or the sea. You’ll also find one of the hotel’s two restaurants, Al Mare, just above the private beach platform, shaded by trellis vines. The other, Santa Caterina, is a conservatory-style dining-room, where breakfast is also served. Both are staffed by charming bow-tied waiters who provide memorable service and equally unforgettable Italian fare.

If you’re a seafood fan, John Dory with artichoke, asparagus and sautéed potato is a must, while the seafood risotto is superb. Leave room for the chocolate and almond cake served with vanilla ice cream and a brandy snap. Seeing as you’re on the Amalfi Coast, order a digestif of limoncello and head to La Terrazza bar for a spot of post-dinner stargazing and people-watching. It would be rude not to...

THE GOOD:
Service is exemplary throughout the hotel, which explains why so many guests are repeat visitors.

Being able to soak up those staggering views of the Amalfi Coast while eating breakfast.

THE NOT-SO-GOOD:
While perfectly formed, the spa is quite small.

I loved the glass lift down to the pool, but those of a nervous disposition might not be so keen.

THE VERDICT:
A cherished family-run hotel in one of the prettiest spots in Italy.

BOOK IT:
Rooms from £265 per night. Hotel Santa Caterina, S.S. Amalfitana, 9, 84011 Amalfi, Italy (+39 089 871012; hotelsantacaterina.it).