Today (October 25, 2017): Review of Belmond Hotel Caruso in Ravello, Italy.
- Location: Google Maps
- Address: Piazza S. Giovanni del Toro, 2, 84010 Ravello SA,Italy
- Hotel website: Belmond Hotel Caruso
- Tip: enjoy free VIP perks when booking via Virtuoso
Situated in the most spectacular location, almost suspended between sea and sky, Belmond Hotel Caruso occupies a former medieval palace at the highest, quietest point of Ravello, overlooking the rocks and cliffs of Italy’s Amalfi Coast and the Mediterranean (or, more correctly, Tyrrhenian) Sea. With frescoed salons, arched stone vaults and just 50 highly individual rooms and suites occupying every shape and corner of the ancient palace’s architecture, it is an intimate retreat with an intriguing sense of history. But above all, with its rose arbour leading to one of the world’s most spectacular infinity pools, with sunlit or candlelit dining in the Belvedere Restaurant, and with a rich sense of its past as a retreat for presidents, writers and film stars, the hotel is almost impossibly romantic.
Belmond Hotel Caruso features in my top 10 lists of the best luxury hotels in Italy, the world’s most spectacular cliffside luxury hotels, the best luxury hotels on Capri, Ischia, and the Amalfi Coast, and the world’s most stunning hotel pools.
In this review (more info below my slideshow & Youtube clip):
- Pros & things I like
- Cons & things to know
- My verdict
- Tips for future guests & save money
- Best time to visit
- How to get there
PROS & THINGS I LIKE
- Belmond Hotel Caruso is located on a picturesque cobblestone square in the heart of Ravello, one of Italy’s most utterly charming villages. About a 60 minutes drive from Naples’ airport, the mountain village of Ravello is set on the Sorrento Peninsula, far removed from the crowds that flock to its coastal neighbours Positano, Amalfi and Sorrento. Founded in the 6th century, Ravello features a 12th-century cathedral, houses built in Arabic-Sicilian style, winding narrow streets, and fragrant gardens. Villa Cimbrone is a magnificent lookout point in the village, and there’s a summer music festival on the terrace at Villa Rufolo, whose garden inspired Wagner’s Parsifal. La Dolce Vita was surely born here, surrounded by lemon trees in the lazy, hot climes of Italy’s Campania province.
- The ultraluxe property is the best located hotel on the Amalfi Coast, perched on its own little rocky spur at Ravello’s highest point (350 meters or 1150 ft above sea level). The hotel offers jaw-dropping, unobstructed views over the mountainous Amalfi shoreline and the turquoise Tyrrhenian Sea from just about everywhere (including the pool area, gardens, rooms and restaurant). The Belmond’s incredible hilltop location and its fabulous views out to the sea and surrounding towns is unquestionably one of the property’s major draws and will sweep you off your feet. The panorama from the hotel has often been described by glossy travel magazines as ‘the most beautiful in the world’.
- Belmond Hotel Caruso began life as an 11th-century palazzo, built by a patrician Roman family who set out to reach Constantinople, the new centre of the Roman Empire, but failed because of a storm at sea and ended up in Ravello. Over the following centuries, as the Italian republics squabbled, Ravello was destroyed and the palace fell in and out of ruin. By the 16th century, it had been completely rebuilt, with the addition of a splendid colonnade in the raised garden. A further period of neglect followed, until 1893 when Pantaleone Caruso, a hotelier and vineyard owner, opened the property as a hotel. Belmond (previously Orient-Express Hotels) acquired the Hotel Caruso Belvedere in 2000 and began a painstaking, four-year restoration, working closely with the Italian Fine Arts authorities, before reopening the hotel as it is known today.
- Just like its sister property Belmond Hotel Cipriani in Venice (which I reviewed here), the Belmond Hotel Caruso is a celebrity hotspot. The fame of the hotel started in 1903, when a New York Times journalist visited, and his article inspired many wealthy and influential Americans, overwintering on the European rivieras, to visit. It became a favourite haunt of Virginia Woolf and the Bloomsbury Group. Attracted by the cocoon of privacy, later guests included Greta Garbo, Gina Lollobrigida, Humphrey Bogart, Jackie Kennedy and Dustin Hoffman, who all enjoyed the peace of walking among the
vines in the colonnaded gardens, the taste of authentic Neapolitan cooking and a charming atmosphere away from prying lenses.
- Belmond Hotel Caruso features a classis decor in grand style with frescoed salons, mosaic floors, arched stone vaults, and marble hallways. Guests are still greeted in the sumptuous lobby by two stone 13th-century lions guarding the entrance and the fabulous view that have defined the palazzo right from the beginning. Walking around the property is a like a journey back in time to the Renaissance era. Colourful frescoes of ribbons, flowers, cornucopias, Arcadian scenes, cameos, goddesses and nymphs adorn the ceilings in several salons, the drawing room, the chapel, the bar, the boutique shop and the lobby. The hotel’s interior was created by designer Federico Forquet, who introduced modern elements and 21st-century technology, without losing the authenticity of the palace itself or the Neapolitan spirit.
- Belmond Hotel Caruso offers 51 rooms and suites, all very spacious and each with its own individual style. Most boast sea views from their terraces and many enjoy a private garden. During my visit, I stayed in a Deluxe Suite, located on the property’s upper floor and featuring a separate living area and one bedroom with a kingsized bed. The suite embraced a Neapolitan style decor, was furnished with 18th- and 19th-century antiques. The floor was covered in magnificent mosaic tiles resembling a piece of art. The spacious bathroom featured a separate shower cubicle, bathtub, bidet and double vanity basins, and a unique (and very private) outdoor shower. Exclusive Bulgari and Penhaligon toiletries were provided and replenished daily. The rooftop terrace was furnished with sunbeds, a table and chairs, and offered stupendous views of the gardens and the sea. Unquestionably, this was one of the most astonishingly beautiful hotel rooms I have ever slept in.
- Belmond Hotel Caruso features magnificent, Mediterranean style gardens, that cascade down the hill in layered terraces. The gardens have been over 100 years in the making and comprise a collection of hidden spots, large lawns and scented walkways, with olive trees for shade, and lemon trees and herb beds providing fresh mint, thyme, rosemary and bay for use in the kitchens. Roses bloom and climb at every turn, most memorably over the elegant colonnade that leads up steps to the highest point of the property, where you find the pool area (more on that below).
- The property’s truly jaw-dropping infinity swimming pool is often listed among the best hotel pools in the world. Built in 2005 on the domain’s highest point, the pool is an architectural triumph which appears to be suspended over the Amalfi coastline, taking full advantage of the phenomenal vistas. The pool is adequately sized and lined with very comfortable white-cushioned sun loungers and umbrellas. Clay pots filled with pink and white flowers decorate the stone-tile deck. Pool services include the concierge delivering an iPod pre-loaded with your choice of music, or a fresh fruit appetizer or cocktail to the side of the pool as you swim.
- There’s also a small villa in the gardens with an air-conditioned gym on the ground floor and an intimate spa upstairs. The gym, though small, has a full range of cardio equipment and weight machines, all positioned in front of a window with a distracting, panoramic view of the coastline – the perfect way to forget how hard the workout is. A personal trainer is also available. The first-floor wellness centre offers a well-constructed menu of essential treatments using products by Aromatherapy Associates and Sothys. Treatments are tailored for face, body, hair or beauty, with massages and aromatherapy experiences offered alongside specialist rituals, such as a 140-minute mothers and daughters wellness package.
- Dining facilities at the hotel include the fine dining Belvedere restaurant and a casual poolside restaurant. Belvedere restaurant provides a stellar dining experience – with focus on authentic Italian cuisine – which surpasses the view. The restaurant’s terrace – from where you can admire the breathtaking views of the Amalfi Coast – is shaded by a canopy, so that guests can eat outside without being affected by the sun. Breakfast is also served here, with a beautifully displayed buffet in one of the salons complemented by an a la carte menu for eggs. The poolside restaurant – which has the stunning infinity pool as the backdrop – offers an easygoing menu of Italian favourites, a lavish salad bar and authentic Neapolitan pizza straight from a wood-fired oven.
- Indoors, the Cocktail & Piano Bar is a sophisticated spot for an early evening cocktail or a late-night digestif. This is one of the hotel’s public rooms which benefits from having magnificent, restored 18th-century frescoes, and if you can take your eyes off the ceiling, there are also views over the Amalfi coastline. The atmospherically lit bar area, with its immense wooden bar, offers an extensive list of cocktails – Italian favourites and new mixes – and a wide selection of wines, champagnes and delicious local prosecco.
- The Belmond Hotel Carusdo belongs to the portfolio of the Belmond Hotel Group fomerly known as Orient Express until its rebranding in 2014. Belmond is a hotel and leisure company that manages a ultraluxe collection of 49 iconic hotels, trains and river cruises in 24 countries, bringing together some of the world’s most sensational journeys and destinations. It ranks among the most exclusive hotel brands in the world. With Belmond, you can stay in timeless hotels in Venice, Rio and St. Petersburg, embrace the spirit of adventure at Machu Picchu or Angkor Wat, glide along the rails through the Swiss Alps, soar across the Andes, or explore the mystifying rivers of Myanmar.
- It’s about a 15-minute drive to Amalfi, the beautiful but also very touristic seaside town filled with shops, cafes, and sights such as the Duomo di Amalfi. The village of Positano – which clings precariously to the mountains – is about an hour away by car. Complimentary shuttle service is offered by the property to both Amalfi and Positano. Guests can also enjoy the daily complimentary boat excursions along the Amalfi Coast, on board of the hotel’s private boat.
CONS & THINGS TO KNOW
Hotel Belmond Caruso is one of Italy’s most romantic boltholes. The hillside setting in a medieval town, the grand palalazzo-like design, beautiful rooms, lush gardens, a spectacular pool and a world-class restaurant match the breathtaking views. It’s very hard to fault the hotel, but you may want to know the following nonetheless:
- I’ve mentioned it before, but the spa is small. If you are looking for a wellness stay, you may be disappointed since state-of-the-art spa facilities (e.g. sauna, steamroom, whirlpool, etc …) are lacking except for the treatment rooms. That said, you can still enjoy a range of treatments and massages designed to nourish mind, body and soul and some therapies can even be enjoyed in the romantic gardens under an azure sky.
- The property is extremily expensive, but so are most top hotels on the Amalfi Coast, an area of Italy where holiday budgets come to die. But given the fact that Belmond Hotel Caruso is one of the most exclusive hotels in Italy and provides an amazing travel experience, I find the hotel well worth despite its considerable price tag. It’s a place you will never forget.
- Location: 10/10
- Design: 9/10
- Pool: 10/10
- Rooms: 10/10
- Food: 9/10
- Breakfast: 10/10
- Spa: 9/10
- Service: 10/10
- Value for money: 10/10
- Overall experience: exceptional: 9,8/10
TIPS FOR FUTURE GUESTS & SAVE MONEY
- Save money: read my tips for getting the best deal at a luxury hotel like Belmond Hotel Caruso, whether it’s booking a room at the cheapest price or receiving complimentary VIP perks (e.g. upgrade, breakfast, resort credit, etc …).
- Save money: enjoy free VIP perks at Belmond Hotel Caruso when booking via Virtuoso (e.g. room upgrade, daily breakfast, early check-in, late check-out, and $100 USD food & beverage credit).
- Room tip: Although you can’t go wrong here – since each room is utterly charming – I recommend to book or request a room (or even better, a suite) on a higher floor with view of the sea. Suite Deluxe #208 (the one I stayed in during my visit) is incredibly beautiful and boasts an enormous private terrace.
- Read my tips for preparing your trip in time.
BEST TIME TO VISIT
Without a doubt the best time to see the Amalfi Coast is from April to June, when the spring flowers are in bloom, the weather is just warm enough, and the temperature of the Mediterranean allows for the first dips of the season. By choosing late spring or early summer, you can also avoid the tourist crush of July and August and the oppressive temperatures later in the year. The autumn months of September and October are also an excellent time to visit the Amalfi Coast, since the temperatures are still mild, the days sunny (most of the time), and the lion’s share of tourists have left.
HOW TO GET THERE
Naples International Airport in Capodichino is a short 65 km (60 minutes) drive from the hotel. Transfers can be arranged via the hotel, or via a private taxi company (I used Eurolimo and paid 120 euros one way for the transfer between the airport and the hotel). The hotel’s concierge can also arrange a private helicopter to meet you on your arrival at the airport and transport you to the hotel in supreme luxury. For a list of airlines that offer direct flights to Naples, click here.