Bellevue Syrene is built upon the ruins of a Roman villa, but there’s nothing ancient about its flamboyant interiors and attentive service. Sorrento’s dazzling palette sets the tone inside: grass green, sugar-sweet pastels and, inevitably, sea blue.
11.30am but flexible, subject to availability (free before 2pm; half of the daily room rate after). Earliest check-in, 2.30pm.
Double rooms from £330.58 (€395), including tax at 20 per cent. Please note the hotel charges an additional local city tax of €4.00 per person per night on check-out.
Rates include a generous buffet breakfast of local produce.
According to legend, the spot where Bellevue Syrene is built was once home to sirens. Keep your eyes peeled for feathers and flowing tresses…
The hotel will be closed from 4 January to 18 March.
At the hotel
Spa with hammam and treatment cabins, gym, gardens, library, a sunbathing platform with loungers and umbrellas; free WiFi throughout. In rooms: flatscreen TV, free bottled water, minibar and La Source bath products.
Our favourite rooms
The Superior Sea Rooms are styled with Italian elegance (shimmering crystal chandeliers, antiques, sprays of fresh-cut flowers, and soft sherbet-y hues: violet, rose, turquoise and mint) and have balconies overlooking the Gulf of Naples. Deluxe Sea View rooms come with lashings of space, plenty of nooks and crannies tricked out with antiques and oddities, and statement decor: ornate floral murals, bold colour combinations – purple and yellow; tangerine and chocolate – striking lights and marble fireplaces. The incredible 'Roccia' or Rock Suite is set in an ancient Roman grotto and has a large hydrotherapy bath tub opposite the bed, as well as sea views.
There's a small quick-dip pool on the lounger-lined sunbathing deck poised above the water and the the sea is in easy reach.
Binoculars: handy for spying on the fishermen, and – more importantly – for beating your neighbours to the last remaining spot on the sunbathing deck.
Children are welcome. Cots for babies and toddlers aged two and under are free; under-12s can stay with their parents for €60 a night (Deluxe rooms only). A local nanny can be drafted in with 24 hours’ notice (expect to pay €20 an hour). The restaurant has a menu tailored to tots.
Pick according to the season: summer lovers should nab a terrace table as close to the sea as possible for the breeze; come winter, the tables clustered around the piano are hot property.
Linen by day; Lanvin by night.
Mimmo Jodice honours all things local and edible. There’s no chance you’ll forget your seaside setting, with dishes such as home-made pasta with clams and zucchini, or sea bass with cherry tomatoes gracing the plates. There’s food for thought for sugar lovers too – for example, the enticing sounding ‘delizia al limone’. Help yourself to a spread of savoury nibbles, cakes, fresh fruit, wine, juices and various other treats laid out in the Club Lounge from 10am until 8pm.
There are plenty of spots in which to linger over drinks: waiters will find you out on the terrace, or sit by the piano in La Pergola, the Winter Garden room, if it’s chilly. Wherever you end up, be sure to take a mimosa with you.
Eat and drink around the clock: breakfast is served 7am–10am; lunch is noon–3pm (with cold plates available afterwards until 7.30pm); dinner is dished up 7.30pm–10pm. You can get a drink until 1am.
Sandwiches, salads, cakes and fruit can be ordered between 10am and noon.
Naples airport is the closest to the hotel, 50km away. EasyJet (www.easyjet.com) runs regular flights from London Stansted and London Gatwick; or go from Gatwick with British Airways (www.britishairways.com).
Sorrento’s train station is less than 1km from the hotel, with services connecting to Pompei, Ercolana and Naples (www.vesuviana.it).
Naples is 70km away; the hotel has parking spaces (€25 a day).
Worth getting out of bed for
Start with what’s in easy reach: have a treatment at the spa, bump up your tan with a bathing session on the private deck by the sea, and stake out a spot on the terrace with cocktails. Ask staff to arrange a boat trip for you, wander into Sorrento to admire the flower-laden balconies, and acquaint yourself with some of the region’s art and architecture: Roman ruins, the 15th-century Duomo and the 14th-century Church of St. Francis. Between July and August, the Ravello Music Festival attracts flocks of musicians – catch a concert if you can. And, to look around Italy's most famous (and tragic) ruins it takes just half an hour to get to Pompeii by train.
See why Il Buco at Il Rampa Marina Piccola has earned itself acclaim far and wide. There’s a romantic little cobbled spot outside, too, just off the square. Vela Bianca is right on the harbour, at 5 Via Marina Piccola. The restaurant has a number of dining areas to choose from, including a cellar, and the fish and seafood draw in a mixed crowd of locals and discerning tourists. In the fishing village of Marina Grande, eat that day's just-landed catch in a sea-facing setting at Marea or Bagni Sant'Anna, both within a 10-minute walk of the hotel. Also close to Bellevue Syrene is L'Antica Trattoria, an authentic little restaurant that's charmingly Italian; traditional Tasso, just off the main square; and Zi'Ntonio, where they really love a celebration.
It’s a fine thing to be sitting here with Sophia Loren in the lobby of a spectacular hotel. The dimensional specifics of each are similarly impressive. Additionally, I have a glass of prosecco nearby, blue water in the middle-ground, a volcano in the distance and, just by my right elbow, a gasp-making cliff-drop of perhaps 300 feet down to a small beach of black sand.
To be truthful, there is a (sliding) sheet of glass between me and bloodily pulped oblivion, and – alas – La Loren is here only in photo-album form: although, unlike Vesuvius, she continues to smoulder (even off the page). Still, as reception areas go, it’s not too shabby. The sun shines, oranges and lemons grow like weeds in the perfumed air and I think, as I so often do, of La Dolce Vita.
Sorrento’s freshly refurbished Bellevue Syrene is the most elegant of the necklace of fading grand hotels garlanding the vertiginous cliffs of the Golfo di Napoli’s southern shore. It’s only 50km from Capodichino airport, but since half that distance is travelled on the slow, derrière-clenchingly terrifying SS145 – more ledge than road – it seems more remote… both in space and time.
The ledge is a congealed mass of hot, angry metal in summer, so use a boat or come a little out of season. A grand hotel out of season is, I fancy, as the prosecco takes hold, rather like making love to an ageing beauty. Sophia Loren, for example. The physical attraction remains, but decorum is required; the passion may be muted, but the expertise is assured. The result? A specialised, but nonetheless satisfying, experience. For example, Bellevue Syrene’s proprietors have made the calculation that, in the quiet months, it’s cheaper to give drinks away than pay someone to serve them. And the happy result is ice-buckets of wine scattered about: fuel for more cheerful fantasy about mischievous Roman gods and Neapolitan sex goddesses.
We – and I mean Mrs Smith and I, not me and Ms Loren – are the latest in a line of odd couples drawn to this magical, haunted place. At the bottom of my cliff, Virgil celebrated completing the Aeneid with a party thrown by the Emperor Augustus, dedicating a statue of Amor in a troglodyte Temple of Venus (where they now store butane cylinders). Admiral Nelson began his affair with Emma Hamilton nearby in 1793: she had promoted herself by dancing naked on tables at society dinners. Nietzsche and Wagner had their nasty spat here in 1876. Love, and hate, hang in the air along with the oranges, lemons and popping prosecco corks.
All rooms have a sea view, but we have a suite with a panorama of everything. Decoration is by Marco de Luca, who worked on the High Bohemian B&B La Minervetta just up the road. But while the colourful mayhem of La Minervetta is like an explosion in Tricia Guild’s knicker drawer, the Bellevue Syrene’s style is monochrome and restrained: layered, competitive whiteness of very high threadcount sheets and superb Richard Ginori china. It is sumptuously austere: a perfect counterpoint for our room’s model Riva Aquarama and a schlock bust of Marcus Aurelius suggesting the poles of experience, sensual and philosophical, available here. A flyer for a car hire company is in Russian and shows a Ferrari.
Like any luxury hotel, Bellevue Syrene has grand restaurant spaces out-of-sync with the stylish intimacy and dominant sensuality of its bedrooms. Eat here one night and enjoy the tinkle of the pianist playing soft rock classics while you sup. In town, Inn Bufalito is a mozzarella specialist that also cooks real Campanian dishes, which we enjoyed. (Possibly ignore the plague of alien industrial balsamic always on offer.) Also tempting is Aurora, a solemn, brightly lit old-school pizzeria where the staff sport dinner jackets and customers are in shorts.
Best of all, saunter down to Marina Grande, among the fishermen’s nets and ziggurats of piscatorial crapola, to Trattoria da Emilia. I doubt the menu has changed much since 1947, but since they serve the freshest possible fritto misto (the fish are too small to be worth freezing) along with, for Italy, unusually good restaurant bread and jugs of glugging bianco – who wants innovation? And, just beyond the threshold, a thrilling confirmation of the rightness of it all: a black and white photograph, taken in 1955, of Sophia Loren in mozzarella-tight shorts, taking a break at this very spot from filming Dino Risi’s Pane, Amore e… Loren said everything she did owed a debt to spaghetti, but I think other factors were involved.
Saturday morning in Room 501, the sepulchral quiet is interrupted only by a distant strimmer, a tap-tap-tap from invisible lavori and the maddening Eurostar chime, like the Danone ad riff, of our lift coming and going. Mrs Smith is sitting on the terrace in neo-classical repose, watching a distant aliscafo shoot silently across a glass sea to Capri, the craggy goat island. I know she is thinking of lunch.
Years ago, we stayed in Franco Zefirelli’s old house, the Villa Tre Ville in neighbouring Positano. This global HQ of modern hedonism introduced us to the troubled magic of an area that has attracted poets and lovers since BC and drawn gamblers, chancers, divas, directors, dancers and stars AD. The owners of Bellevue Syrene have just bought Franco’s old house and turned it into apartments, establishing another local connection to historic pleasure.
A chair on a vantage point here is a good laboratory to test if the ancient gods still exist. I think they do, but so too do rather younger ones. Maybe if I wait long enough in this sunburnt otherwhere, Sophia Loren will actually turn up. Bellevue Syrene makes la dolce vita real, turning a dream into an address.
Whenever you book a stay at a Smith hotel or villa, we’ll invite you to review it when you get back. Read what other Smith members had to say in Bellevue Syrene’s Guestbook below.
Amazing place! A beautifully restored villa. The bedrooms are out of this world. The service is amazing, nothing too much trouble.