Glorious sun-drenched villas that have borne silent witness to untold escapades of love and adventure are nestled against a mountainside, a backdrop of turquoise tranquillity. No matter your gender, you are Alice and this is Wonderland. You are gazing giddily from the balcony of the Hotel San Pietro in the village of Positano.
In the south of Italy, it is a little piece of heaven waiting patiently for your arrival, a magical place that excites the senses as you wend your way through a glorious landscape of gentle mountains by a placid sea.
Chiseled into the rock face, in all its glory, San Pietro is paradise high in the Amalfi Cliffs overlooking the Mediterranean Sea.
Rose gardens, lemon groves and wild arugula cover much of the hillside. From your lofty perch, you stand among the stars.
The San Pietro has long been a haven for celebrities.
Every magical wonderland has a queen, of course, and the queen of Positano is Virginia Attanasio Cinque, owner of the Hotel San Pietro. Legendary director Franco Zefferelli and acclaimed novelist Gore Vidal, Virginia's good friends, often hold court at the San Pietro and can be found sharing a meal with this illuminated Positanian, sometimes with her two handsome young sons, Carlo [Vice President] and Vito [Manager], who can be seen on premises alongside Virginia running the day-to-day operation of the hotel.
Sometimes they just bring their favorite house guests-for example, Elizabeth Taylor and Jeremy Irons.
Virginia Attanasio Cinque and her brothers and sisters have established the gold standard for hotels in the region: the Palazzo Murat is owned by Dr. Mario Attanasio; the Hotel Miramare, owned by Carlo Attanasio and Rosa Attanasio Russo, is one of the first hotels to open in Positano during the early part of World War II; and, finally, the Punta Regina, also owned by Rosa Attanasio Russo, is a quaint little boutique property. Marilù Attanasio Vespoli also is involved in the activities of all the hotels. Hospitality is truly a family affair.
The aerial view of the property and its kaleidoscope of flowers will leave you breathless. The hotel's chapel welcomes you. Just a few floors below is a realm of cantilevered terraces and gardens, along with 61 uniquely constructed rooms, all of which provide astonishing sea views. Even many of its bathrooms feature breathtaking seascapes, along with a relaxing whirlpool bath. No two rooms are alike. We know; Virginia had us visit almost every one.
There is also a pool, beautifully situated atop one of the hotel's highest terraces. From this elevation you can take an elevator, cut into the mountainside when the hotel first opened, 262 feet down to the sea, then enjoy a champagne Bellini, while lounging in a charming sunbathing area, replete with a bar and private beach. It’s the only way.
And if you insist on bringing your helicopter, Virginia will be waiting for you there, too, at the hotel's private helicopter pad.
Fitness is important, and there is a tennis court available. For hardcore fitness buffs, there is even a modern exercise center filled with treadmills, hand weights, and musculation machines.
Although the property is one of the most breathtaking in the world, it is Virginia who establishes the spirit of the hotel, its sister properties and this historic family. Her presence can be felt everywhere.
Once you've entered the San Pietro, it is only moments before Virginia greets you. A warm smile blossoms. Her energy is unbounded, and you will immediately feel adopted-a member of her extended family and entitled to the luxury which abounds. She makes the Hotel feel like home in heaven, whether you stay for weeks or just one night.
Her enthusiasm and lust for perfection have attracted many luminaries. Some of the biggest names in politics, Hollywood, the literary world, and society have visited the San Pietro. Isn’t it time your name was added to the list?
The mastermind behind The San Pietro was Virginia Cinque’s late uncle Carlo. In the great stone cliffs of the Sorrento Peninsula, just north of the Bay of Salerno, “Carlino,” as he was known, imagined something wondrous, a beautiful villa chiseled into the rock, and offering the most breathtaking views.
On a fortuitous day in 1962, Carlino bought an expanse of cliff face south of his beloved Positano. The only structure there at the time was the ancient chapel of San Pietro. With chisels in hand, Carlino painstakingly carved a small apartment into the stone; a beautiful garden soon followed. Still an embryo, they were the humble beginnings of what would become the stately San Pietro.
More rooms and terraces were added. More splendid gardens bloomed, and a majestic hotel, etched into the crest of a cliff, began to take shape. After eight years there were 33 rooms, along with an elegant terrace and cavernous lobby. Today there are 61 rooms on 12 ledges, and each room has a private balcony.
Carlino was a man of nature and wanted the San Pietro to be at one with the luxuriance of the region. A wealth of flowers, vines, trees and shrubs bathe the surrounding countryside in radiance and color; they also thrive within the San Pietro, and everywhere you look, beauty abounds in verdant cascades and colorful effusions.
Grape arbors overhang terraces and bring shade to the afternoon, and pink-petaled bougainvillea adorns the balconies.
Fine terra-cotta tiles are underfoot at most every turn, and although no two rooms are alike, many are decorated with the exquisite paintings of two renowned German artists, Ursula Kluth and Michele Theile.
Following Carlo’s death in 1974, his niece and nephew, Virginia and Salvatore, assumed the helm of his palace overlooking the sea. They carried on their uncle's legacy with a great determination to be true to his vision. Salvatore passed away in 1996, and today Virginia and her sons, Carlo and Vito, manage the hotel.
Again the torch has been passed, and once again it illuminates to path to luxury and bliss.
Paradise is not just a word — some illusive garden of idyllic splendor nestled somewhere beyond the second star to the right. It is within reach of all who strive for its glory; it is the ultimate in restfullness and opulence; it is the magnificent San Pietro.