Known among locals as the ‘Pink Palace’, luxury hotel Palazzo Avino sits high on Ravello’s hillside, overlooking terraced gardens that climb from the sea. It’s a regal view – and the hotel is the jewel in the crown. Standing here since the 12th century, this former villa has Italianate grandeur by the wine-barrel load with vaulted ceilings, polished-walnut furnishings and decorative tiled floors. We especially like the vast art deco-style star that adorns the floor of one of the lounge areas – a tip of the hat to another golden age of glamour. This being Italy, it’s not enough to live well, however – you have to eat well, too. Thankfully, the hotel has a Michelin-starred restaurant, Rossellini’s, which is easily one of the most romantic dinner spots in town.
Get this when you book through us:
A bottle of Prosecco on arrival; stay three nights or more and you'll also get a €50 credit at the hotel spa
Noon, but flexible, subject to availability. Earliest check-in, 3pm.
Double rooms from £412.66 (€483), including tax at 10 per cent. Please note the hotel charges an additional local city tax of €5.00 per person per night on check-out.
Room rates usually include a buffet breakfast.
Palazzo Avino is the only hotel in Ravello with a private beach club that has direct access to the water’s edge. All guests get access to Clubhouse by the Sea, which is just fifteen minutes from the hotel (they’ll whisk you there and back in a shuttle) and has beach platforms, a pool, changing rooms and a laid-back restaurant, the Clubhouse.
The hotel is closed from October until April.
At the hotel
Stepped gardens, several terraced areas (including one on the roof), free WiFi throughout and laundry service. In rooms: desk, flatscreen TV, iPod dock, minibar, air-conditioning, and free bottled water. Some rooms have terraces with sea views.
Our favourite rooms
With the hotel facing such a dramatic stretch of coastline, our favourite was always going to be a room with a sea view. For something indulgent, try a Junior Suite, which has three sets of double doors that open onto a balcony overlooking the Med. A Queen Double with Partial Sea View is smaller, but still gives you a slice of that postcard-perfect scene.
The 20-metre heated pool is in the tiered gardens, so it gets an excellent view of the sea and coastal hills. It’s ringed by a lawn on which sunloungers and pool furniture are arranged, and it’s family-friendly too: it’s supervised by a lifeguard between 9am and 7pm.
Located next to the pool under a vaulted ceiling, the spa has a historic setting but all the bells and whistles of a newer facility, including an indoor hydro pool, hammam steam bath, sauna, massage and treatment cabins, and a covered outdoor gym. The products used here are made specially for the hotel, and contain extracts of the fertile region’s fruits: Sorrento lemon, Annurca apple and Vesuvio apricot.
A notepad, just in case Ravello’s views bring on a flash of inspiration as they did for Wagner. Incidentally, DH Lawrence, Virginia Woolf, Salvador Dali and Tennessee Williams were also drawn to the town at one time or another. Perhaps there’s something in the water…
With the exception of the pool and spa areas, most of the hotel’s common areas – and one of the Deluxe suites – are wheelchair accessible..
Children of all ages welcome. Cots are free for under-twos. Extra beds are available on request (€120 a night in high season, €110 in low), and can be added to all rooms except Queen Rooms. Babysitting is available for €15 an hour.
On a fine evening, a table on Rosellini’s terrace can’t be beaten – you’ll be dining against a backdrop of moonlight-dappled waves. For the gastronome, it has to be the Chef’s table: seating a maximum of four, this table has a view into the kitchen.
Dress like the noblesse – embrace the hotel’s patrician past with sharp tailoring in light, breezy fabrics.
Michelin star-holding Rosellini's is helmed by chef Giovanni Vanacore, whose creative cuisine is underpinned by an old-school Italian heart. The wine list is full of judiciously-picked vintages from some of Italy’s best regions – try one of the whites alongside the rigatoni pasta with a creamy seafood sauce, parsley and chili pepper. Terrazza Belvedere, a more casual option, is on a large terrace with a retractable roof; it's the place to go for lighter meals and pasta dishes.
With its walnut drinks cabinets and cream-and-gold furnishings, Caffé dell'Arte will have you feeling like a member of one of Ravello’s famiglias in no time. It’s the perfect place for a pre-dinner cocktail or a whisky – they have an impressive collection of single malts. The Lobster & Martini bar is outside at the foot of a stone staircase on Terrazza Belvedere, so it’s the definitive spot for a sundowner. At last light, try the locally-caught lobster with a glass of prosecco, or the dedicated Martini mixologist can rustle up 80 different variations of the drink (though perhaps not in one sitting).
Breakfast is served from 7.30am to 10.30am; Rossellini’s is open for dinner from 7pm to 10pm. Terrazza Belvedere serves from 12 noon to 11pm.
A full room-service menu is available during restaurant hours. Sandwiches and cold dishes are available between 11pm and 6am; drinks are available round the clock.
Palazzo Avino occupies a choice spot above Ravello’s hillside streets; most of the seaside town’s sights are just a short walk away.
Naples is the closest international airport to the hotel, just over an hour’s drive away; there are frequent flights from other Italian airports and larger European destinations. Flights and transfers can be arranged with the Smith24 Team; call 24 hours a day.
The closest station to Ravello is Vietri sul Mare, around 30 minutes from Ravello by taxi. It’s served by frequent trains from Naples Central Station, a journey that usually takes around 90 minutes and involves a change at Salerno. A high-speed service runs between Rome Termini and Salerno several times a day; the fastest of these takes around 90 minutes.
Hiring a car makes a lot of sense – driving is the fastest way to get from Naples to Ravello and is a convenient way to get around the coast for day trips. Most of the major rental firms are available at Naples airport. The fastest route to Ravello takes around an hour, passing Pompeii on the way; the other option is the coastal drive, which has impressive views but takes longer. Things can also get a little hairy when there’s traffic.
Worth getting out of bed for
Villa Rufolo has stood over the town since the 13th century, welcoming popes and kings in its time. The architecture is a mish-mash of Norman, Sicilian and Arabic styles, making this a monument to Amalfi’s cosmopolitan past. The gardens attract just as many visitors, who come to see the stepped levels of cyprus trees and the fragrant exotic greenery creeping down Moorish walls. For the foodies, there’s Mamma Agata’s cooking classes. Employed as a cook by a wealthy American in her youth, the eponymous ‘Mamma’ once cooked for guests like Fred Astaire, Elizabeth Taylor and Jackie Kennedy. Husband and colleague Gennaro is a qualified sommelier and cheese taster, so you’ll be learning from two epicureans with a lifelong passion for Italian food. Can’t get enough of the coastline? Ask the concierge for a map of the walking route from Ravello to the town of Atrani. If you do the route this way round you’ll be heading downhill, so the steps aren’t quite as tiring – the panoramic views make it worthwhile, we promise. There are buses back to Ravello too.
Occupying a spot in Ravello’s main square,Duomo Caffé is a great place to stop for a home-made pastry, sandwich or a glass of wine – they stock some of the best local varieties alongside celebrated national vintages . Enotavola is a traditional wine bar and restaurant serving old-school Italian classics in what was once the villa of a noble family. If you’re lucky enough to get one of the tables outside, you’ll be able to gaze on their hand-painted surfaces – the handiwork of local artists.
As anyone who has navigated the hairpin bends along the Amalfi coast will know, they’re not for the lily-livered. Boys on scooters lean into the cliff at 45-degree angles, cars overtake on blind corners and Mr Smith shouts ‘Mamma Mia’ every time we have to squeeze our Fiat past a hulking bus full of tourists. The soundtrack to our journey along one of Italy’s most beautiful coastal roads is a chorus of frantic beeping.
We climb higher and higher to the mediaeval village of Ravello, which is perched on the cliffs above the Mediterranean sea. When we arrive at the designated greeting area for Palazzo Avino, nerves a little frayed, we gratefully entrust our car to the porter. He directs us down a cobbled street to the hotel’s entrance. Outside the front door, a woman is taking photos and when we catch her up, I see why. The door leads to an open archway which frames the most spectacular view beyond: vivid blue sky, sunlight shimmering on the sea and jagged mountains.
There’s plenty more where that came from; happily we’ve booked a deluxe sea view suite. Although it’s only 10am we are given the key to our room. The guests in the lobby are spared the spectacle of us emptying the contents of suitcases onto the marble floor in a bid to locate bikini, flip flops and swimming trunks.
Our sleeping quarters are bright white and decorated with hand-painted ceramic tiles and antique furniture. I peer through the floor-to-ceiling window and see a Tiffany-box blue swimming pool below. Sun loungers are laid out like pink wafer biscuits beneath white umbrellas. The bed is heaven but there’s no time to drift off between the crisp white sheets. Mr Smith has made some astute inquiries and our luck is in: breakfast is still being served.
Sitting at the outdoor terrace – which by night morphs into Rosselini’s, the hotel’s Michelin-starred restaurant – I have in front of me a smorgasbord of Italian fare from the buffet table: delicate rolls of prosciutto, plump balls of mozzarella, giant green olives, strawberries, kiwis and pineapples and the crumbliest biscotti I’ve ever tasted. We study the menu offering eggs done every which way and sip from flutes fizzing with prosecco. We may have only just arrived but the stress of the journey has dissipated entirely. Now the only thing that brings on a bout of anxiety is the thought that, at some point, I will have to check out of this sanctuary.
Revived by bubbles and the diet-sabotaging basket of pastries that followed our omelettes, we explore Palazzo Avino. The marshmallow pink villa, which has been operating as a hotel since 1997, was originally built in the 12th century for Italian nobility, and was part of the aristocratic quarter of Ravello during the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. The place has whispers of history and glamour throughout.
Outside we clamber down stone steps from one grassy level to the next and past the gym, located in the gardens under white gazebos overlooking the sea. We rule out a session – we can’t have our wheezing interrupt the sound of ice clinking in glasses nearby. We spend the day by the pool, before heading for a massage at the hotel spa where our limbs are loosened and soothed with apricot oil.
Afterwards we make for the hotel’s lobster and martini bar. The menu features 100 different martinis concocted by the hotel’s in-house martini mixologist. We plump for the espresso martini and enjoy a generous snackette of marinated peppers and blinis. The comfy sofas, surrounded by pink flowers and the scent of rosemary, are the perfect spot from which to watch the orange sun dissolve into the sea.
As the darkness settles in we head to Rosselini’s to navigate eight courses of the fish tasting menu. The Norwegian lobster, apple with smoked eel ravioli, and fig with tuna and red pepper are lip-smackingly good. We opt for the wine-pairing menu and the sommelier brings us glasses of local reds and whites. The restaurant is awash with honeymooners drunk on romance and parents blissed out by their temporary child-free status.
Day two is a revelation. Palazzo Avino's Clubhouse by the Sea is located in the small town of Marmorata, a 15 minute shuttle ride from Ravello. We share the private deck with one other couple and a few peckish seagulls. We swim out from the platform which hugs the rock and take turns to spot silver fish with a diving mask. Later I lick salt from my lips. It may be from the sea, the ice cold margarita or the club sandwich but it is the taste of a perfect holiday.
Unlike it’s more garish sisters along the coast, Amalfi and Positano, Ravello is the serene beauty. But even her attractions can’t entice us from our bolthole. Apart from a few short jaunts around town – we watch wedding guests lingering outside the cathedral in anticipation of a bride and attend a concert recital – we cling to the hotel’s sofas and sunbeds like limpets. There are few places in the world as romantic as Ravello but for decadent romance in the village itself, Palazzo Avino can't be topped.