When in South Italy’s storied Campania region, where would you rather stay:
A) a mega-chain hotel?
B) a restored monastery, palace or manor?
If you answered “A,” no need to read on. But for travelers who yearn to be lord of a castle -- even for only a night -- can discover top heritage properties in the Campania capital of Naples, in nearby Sorrento and on the island of Capri across the bay.
And what getaway to these mainland cities is complete without a boat ride to Capri? Here are several vintage offerings to bring history to your bedside after visiting the Greek temples at Paestum, the Roman ruins of Pompeii and Herculaneum or the resorts Tiberius left behind on the “Blue Island” of Capri.
ISLAND OF CAPRI
Only a handful of Capri’s hotels remain open during the winter months. But there are two that do so in grand style.
Hotel La Palma
Capri’s oldest hotel takes its name from a huge palm tree that has towered over the site for centuries. The four-star establishment, formerly an inn dating back more than 150 years, is a short hop from the boutiques and night spots of the Piazetta. Bathroom frescos and bedroom trompe d’oeils grace its 74 rooms, which range from Junior Suites (some with terrace Jacuzzis) to De Luxe and Superior Suites. Its guest book lists illustrious sorts from around the world.
Via Vittorio Emanuele
39 – 80073
+39 81 837 0133
Hotel Gatto Bianco
Luxury is also the watchword at this romantic four-starrer, also on the fashionable Via Vittoria Emanuele. With its majolica tile floors and terraces overlooking lush gardens, the venerable establishment has been renovated to suggest the tony island homes of the 1950s. High-flying guests from King Farouk, Sofia Loren and Clark Gable to Brigette Bardot, Jacqueline Kennedy and Leni Riefenstahl have stayed at the “White Cat.”
Via Vittoria Emanuele 32 - 80,073
+39 81 837 0446
And, from April-October, travelers can seek safe haven from Capri’s throngs in Anacapri.
Hotel Al Mulino
A converted farmhouse set in a fruit tree grove and garden, Al Mulino earns its three stars for its traditional country decor and breakfast of homemade cakes and pastries. When you’re ready to reemerge from bucolic bliss, it’s a ten-minute walk from the center of Anacapri, and the hotel runs a shuttle service to and from the port of Marina Grande.
Via La Fabbrica 9
+39 081 8382084
Decumani Hotel de Charme
“We would like you to think of Cardinal Sisto Riario Sforza’s residence as your own home,” goes the Decumani website about this renovated 18th-century palace of the Bourbon Kingdom of Naples’s last bishop. No argument there.
The three-star trove of frescos and mirrors bestrides Naples’s historic district, site of the maliolica Cloister of Santa Chiara Church, Veiled Christ, Via dei Pastori – and, of course, Neopolitan pizza joints. Molo Beverello harbor, which operates hydrofoils and ferries to Capri, is a 10-minute walk from the hotel.
15, Via San Giovanni Maggiore Pignatelli
+39 69 338 7532
A quick hop from Naples’s world-class National Archeological Museum, the 13 rooms and six junior suites of this renovated 19th-century villa overlook a Neoclassical palazzo with a pool and garden -- not your typical set up in the town’s historic district. The huge Liberty-style stained glass window lends Art Nouveau pizzazz. (Caveat: the similarly oversized breakfast may endanger your appetite at the nearby Antica Pizzeria Da Michele, raved about in author Elizabeth Gilbert's Eat, Pray, Love.) Illustrious guests have included the Coen Brothers -- directors of Fargo and No Country for Old Men.
Via Santa Maria di Costantinopoli, 104 - 80138
+39 081 557 1035
Grand Hotel Excelsior Vittoria
When 160 miles south of Rome, do as the Sorrentinos: quaff a limoncello and cop a cliffside view of the Bay of Naples. Overlooking a 300-foot high cliff, the five-star Excelsior Vittoria is the classiest place to consummate the task. Otto von Bismark, Italian tenor Caruso, and an A,B,C of world celebrities thought so, and Conde Nast Traveler USA concurred: for three straight years it voted this 1834 aristocratic manor (built on the site of Emperor Augustus’s villa) as one of the Best Italian Hotels.
Its 20 balconied suites and 78 terraced rooms give on to a five-acre private park with lemon and orange groves, jacuzzi pool and spa. Mount Vesuvius, the Amalfi Coast towns of Ravello and Positano and the archaeological sites of Pompeii and Herculaneum all fall within easy reach, and the marina for hydrofoils and ferries to Capri is vertically below.
Piazza Tasso, 34 - 80067 +39 81 877 71 11