[RAVELLO, ITALY] –– Years ago I finally realized what I really like: cliffs, overlooking a distant ocean, preferably with a pool clinging to a steep hillside. From then on, it’s been my focus on choosing where I go on vacation. (You’ll see this as a common theme throughout this site!) Palazzo Avino fits all of those criteria. Plus, small, quiet and really expensive. After a recent remodel, it is on almost every Top Ten list of all hotels in the world. They have some rock star-great rooms and terraces, with prices to match. Sitting high on a hilltop in Ravello, dubbed one of the most beautiful cities in Italy, sits Palazzo Avino. When I was there in ’04 it was called Palazzo Sasso, also famous in its own right.
[RAVELLO, ITALY] — A few thousand feet up the mountains over Positano and the sea is the town of Ravello. Often voted one of the prettiest villages in Italy, it shows it. They’ve done a great job at preserving this little mountaintop town. No modern stores or chains. Just a quant little piazza, with hotels and restaurants spanning out to the edges of the cliffs. The views are stunning of the distant water, the shimmer of the sun. Extremely relaxing place with just a few hotels and restaurants. A couple days is all you need unless you just want to unwind with a book by the pool and feel the breeze. Here is a great website about Ravello, including resources on hotels, cafes, etc. An
[POSITANO, ITALY] –– Stayed here years ago, it was like 80 bucks a night, very mom & pop B&B and more like a private guest house. Spartan but super clean. Low services. 186 steep steps up from the beach or down from the road, so have little luggage, although they’ll send a porter. One of the best terraces in Positano. You see it on postcards all over. It’s a great place. http://www.casacosenza.it/ Sorry, these pics aren’t the best. Had to scan these from film…and from a not very good camera. Before digital! But the views remain pristine today!
[POSITANO, ITALY] — If you’ve never been to Le Sirenuse in Positano, put it on your list. One of the best, and best-run, hotels in the world. Nothing compares to sitting in the grandstands (the pool) overlooking one of the prettiest views in the world. A cascade of villas, hotels and restaurants tumbling down to the sea. That’s why it is #1 on my World’s Best Pools List. And why the hotel itself is at the 🔝 of nearly every World’s Best list and if they shoot a movie in Amalfi, it’s usually here. Pinch me. Nothing can beat the style of this hotel, or location, hanging on the edge of a cliff with all those pretty houses climbing up the hills. It is on nearly every
[PRAIANO] — A teeny little restaurant right on the water underneath the Onde Verde, we avoided it at first…just some bamboo and plastic chairs clinging to the rocks right on the water. It was one of the best meals all of us every had. While we were eating, a fisherman pulled his boat right up to the railing and whistled. The cook comes out of the kitchen and the dude hands over a few octopuses and a sea bass of some sort. Not a tourist in site. Doesn’t get any better than that. Simple stuff, like muscles. bruschetta and pasta. This was the first meal that made me realize the importance fresh ingredients can make in a dish. Before, I always thought “more was better”. But this meal taught me that
The whole Amalfi Coast is a string of towns south of Naples, roughly starting from Sorrento on down. Each has it’s own charm and personality. Not a big fan of Sorrento, more of a modern city that cruise ships and tour buses visit. Keep going down farther, starting at Positano. Positano is almost all about hotels and restaurants, not much else going on except lemons and pottery with lemons on it. You come to rest and look out over the sea, then eat. All of Positano is built on a steep cliff around a V shaped cove, with one main road that zig-zags from the top to the bottom, then back up again. The rest is just steep steps connecting each level. The beach
(Rome) — One of the best things about Rome is killing an hour or two each day prowling the local markets. One of the best is Campo die Fiori. You can get everything here, or nothing.
(Rome) — The Pantheon, one of the great wonders of the world and certainly my favorite of all time. Every time I come back to Rome, the first thing I have to do is to go and see and touch this magical place. Built by my friend Emperor Augustus and rebuilt over hundreds of years, its recent reincarnation (hundreds of years ago) is a good as it gets. Look closely and you’ll notice the repeating motif of a sphere inside of a square. Lots has been written about this wonderful place, so I don’t need to go on here. But if you’re in Rome, you need to go here. Several times, so you can experience the changing light from morning to night.
[ROME] — Trastevere is the cool part of Roma where Romans go. Chocked full with students and awesome, affordable restaurants, it’s where you want to head out for a stroll and some grub. Day or night. If you’re zigzaggin’ through Trastevere schtop into the most excellent Ristorante Paris, not 30m from the cathedral S. Maria in Trastevere (which is a cool church to duck into… or even pray, for chrissake). I’m cuckoo for carciofi. Oh man, just the mere mention of artichokes on the menu and my feathers get all fluttery… almost as if they said “lamb”.😳 If you’re in Rome from Feb-May that’s peak artichoke season and carciofi is on the menu nearly everywhere. Heaven. They specialize in Roman dishes throughout the seasons, but
[POSITANO, ITALY] — This is my second favorite place in Positano. It’s a hoof to get down the steps from the main road, but when you’re there, you are just clinging to the side of the cliff. It really doesn’t suck. Very nice people, exceptional rooms. Can’t go wrong. Expensive, but worth every penny, especially if you splurge for one of the rooms that has this shower overlooking the sea. It’s a great hotel with super sweet people that run it and that combination is why even all the barking dogs on TripAdvisor rank this puppy 5 out of 5 stars. You know you’re doing something right when you have a four star hotel pulling down five stars. Albergo MiraMare website
[ROMA] — There are fancier places to stay in Rome, but one of my favorites is the Albergo del Senato, directly across from my favorite building in the world, The Pantheon. It is small, Old School, but delightful. You can’t beat the location, smack in the heart of everything good. And right around the corner from the best gelato in Rome, Giolitti. If you can’t get a guarantee from the hotel for a Pantheon view, then there are other hotels I’d choose. (I once had a broom closet of a room once that wasn’t and it looked out onto a blind alley.) But if you can secure a room that overlooks the Pantheon, there is no place better to stay in Rome. If you can
NOTE: THESE ARE LOUSY SCANS OF LOUSY PICTURES FROM A LONG TIME AGO, CLICK THE LINKS TO SEE PRETTY PICTURES FROM THEIR SITE: [MONTAIONE, TUSCANY] — Let the hoards of English, Germans and Americans crowd the overly popular Under The Tuscan Sun areas south of Florence and the tourist-choked villages of Montepulciano. To me, I loved staying on the western edges of Tuscany centered around the cool and undiscovered town of Montaione. The geography of this area is more farmland than grapes and a prime hunting ground. And Villa Cerretello is the perfect villa. Part of a larger private farm that includes other agriturismo villas, hunting grounds, the massive Villa Cerretello is the perfect base for entertaining lots of your friends. While it’s big, when you
(Tiscali, Sardinia) — If you’ve ever seen the old movie Lost Horizon, you’d think hidden ancient civilizations are a thing of fiction. But the long-abandoned Tiscali nuraghi settlement is just such a magical place. Invisible from the rest of the world for hundreds of years until it was rediscovered in the 1900s, this ancient civilization was a whole village tucked into a deep caldera that sinks into the ground on top of a mouton ridge, accessible only by a hidden crevasse that cuts through the rock, then descends hundreds of feet into the caldera. Protected there, a whole community thrived, with animals, orchards, olive trees and a totally isolated prehistoric society. It is just indescribable. And once you cut down through the trails, see the
(Costa Smeralda, Sardinia) — You won’t hear much about the Hotel Pitrizza, but a few people have. As part of a trio of Luxury Collection hotels scattered around the tip of Costa Smeralda development, it might be the most exclusive. With just a handful of rooms, extremely understated architecture and extremely private bungalows, it’s long been a secret hideaway from celebrities and titans, far from the prying eyes of the paparazzi. But its “rustic simplicity” design was intended from the start to blend in to the natural beauty of the Costa Smeralda, small bungalows built of rock, with low-slung landscaped roofs that make the view from every room unobstructed. Its a really cool visual trick and add even more to the privacy and seclusion. It
Porto Cervo, Sardinia) — The Hotel Cala di Volpe is consistently voted one of the world’s top-rated (and most expensive) hotels. Incredible architecture, great restaurants and incomparable people watching. When you see pics of stars on vacation in Sardinia, they are usually staying here. It’s a Starwood Luxury Collection hotel, so you know it’s good. Great beach that a launch takes you to around the bay. The waters and beaches of Sardinia are the best Italy….none of those pebble-strewn beaches, pure, pure sand, ice blue water…you can see clear to the bottom. The architecture is really something unusual: James Bond meets Planet of the Apes. Kindofa Arcosanti in the sand. They actually filmed a James Bond movie here.
[ORVIETO, ITALY] — About an hour’s drive north of Roma is the mountain top village of Orvieto. It’s a great mid-day stop if you’re on your way form Rome to Florence or Tuscany. Really cool church, with really modern-looking stripey theme going on, everywhere. Excellent stop for lunch in the quiet town, or for the perfect overnight, sleep in the former convent-turned-hotel La Badia, an excellent property to sit, relax, a sip on a nice Orvieto crisp white wine. In winter, they have a great fireplace.
[PRAIANO, ITALY] — Two villages down from Positano is a small little hillside village called Praiano. Clinging between the cliff and the roadway, it is like a suburb of Positano — once removed, quiet and friendly. And zero tourists. What few hotels there are cheaper. It’s a great place to stay away from the touristy Positano. You can shoot in a cab, your car or take a water taxi that comes by fairly regularly. Not that many people know the secret that is Praiano. Just 20 minutes around the corner from Positano, past the ritzy San Pietro hotel, is this little village, also perched on a hill. (Aren’t they all in Amalfi?) If you want to be close to the action in Positano but away from the crowds, this is your