Villa Cimbrone

Ravello, Naples & Amalfi, Italy Book from Eur310

A medieval palazzo with sumptuous suites, panoramic pool, formal gardens and "the most beautiful panorama in the world".
Villa Cimbrone occupies the most gobsmacking position on the entire Amalfi coast, perched on the lip of a sheer-sided spur high above the sea, like Winslet and DiCaprio on the prow of the Titanic. And it's no less romantic. Greta Garbo famously fell in love here, honeymooners vie for the sea-view suites, and high profile weddings are frequent.

The grounds are what most people come for: long avenues of umbrella pines, fragrant rose gardens, trellises dripping with wysteria, a belvedere fringed with marble busts, even a pseudo-Roman temple. And these are reason enough for any visit. But stay after they've left, book one of the elegant vaulted rooms and you will have the place sublimely to yourself. Dinner is served in a gourmet restaurant on a poolside veranda while the sun reddens the sky above Monte dell'Avvocata and the twinkling Maiori coastline. By day, you can sun yourself by the pool, explore the stately churches and museums of gorgeous Ravello, wander down to Atrani for a swim, or take a boat trip along the rugged peninsula.

Highs

  • The best views in the world (according to Gore Vidal)
  • Formal gardens designed by Lord Grimthorpe (of Big Ben fame), full of flowers, statues and secret nooks
  • Historic building, one-time residence of the King of Naples and Sicily, with medieval towers and crypt
  • Regal bedrooms with grand fireplaces, frescoed vaults, antique furniture
  • You follow in the footsteps of E M Forster, Henry Moore, T S Eliot, Virginia Woolf, D H Lawrence, the Duke of Kent, Churchill, Clinton... the list goes on and on

Lows

  • The grounds are open to non-residents from 9am to 6pm, as are the restaurant and crypt
  • It's 10 minutes' walk from the nearest carpark, though porters will trolley your bags
  • Occasional wedding parties (mostly on Saturdays), though the grounds are big enough to absorb them
  • It's not cheap - but Ravello's other headline hotels, the Palazzi Sasso and Caruso, are nearly twice the price

Best time to go

  • Summer is extremely busy - in mid August you can barely find beach space to lay your towel. Come in spring (April-early June) or autumn (Sept-Oct) if you possibly can. The weather then is perfect for gentle exploration, and swimming is quite feasible until early November (though in April it's chilly).
  • There is a series of classical concerts in the gardens of Villa Rufolo from March-June and Sept-Oct, with events moving to the nearby village of Scala in July-Aug. Expect chamber, piano and a dose of Wagner, who wrote the second act of Parsifal while staying in the Rufolo.

  • Our top tips

    You might want to check when booking if there is a wedding planned during your visit, as large ones can be disruptive.

    Great for...

    Foodie
    Honeymoon
    Wedding
    • = Recommended
    • = Best in region
    • = World favourite
    • Boutique Hotel
    • 19
    • Restaurant and bar (open daily)
    • All ages welcome.
    • Closed: 1 Nov 2015 - 31 Mar 2016
    • Outdoor Pool
    • Spa Treatments
    • WiFi
    • Pet Friendly
    • Disabled Access
    • Beach Nearby
    • Off-street Parking
    • Restaurants Nearby
    • Air Conditioning
    • Guest Lounge
    • Terrace
    • Garden
    • Gym
    • Concierge Service
    Room: Deluxe room

    Rooms

    The building was never intended as a hotel: it started out in the 12th-14th centuries as a patrician villa for the aristocratic Pitti of Florence and the royal d'Angio family of Naples, then was incorporated into the adjacent monastery of Santa Chiara, before becoming the residence of Lord Grimthorpe and the summer haunt of the Bloombury Set and other 20th-century artists. Only in the last decades have mere mortals been allowed the chance to stay in its huge and atmospheric rooms.

    As you'd expect, no 2 rooms are the same: some have frescoed ceiling vaults, others a monumental carved-tuff fireplace or an arched opening to an elegant sitting room. Floors gleam with patterned majolica tiles from nearby Vietri, their colours picked out in the bed fabrics and curtains. You might find a sculpted walnut wardrobe, a tall gilded mirror or a massive desk with heraldic side-panels, all gently evoking its noble and historic heritage. But it's not overdone. Walls are white or pale-pastel with a sprinkling of botanic prints (each room is named after a flower which grows in the park); the furniture (mostly antique pieces bought by Grimthorpe) sits fittingly and modestly in the huge space; and the overall impression is one of airy comfort which needs no gimmickery to underline its privilege.

    There are some concessions to modernity: satellite flatscreen TVs, laptop connectivity, TVs, inbuilt heating / air-conditioning, and, in most bathrooms, whirlpool bathtubs or hydro-massage showers.

    You pay extra for sea views, of course, but don't under-estimate the garden views here! The pink camelia which fills the window of 'Dahlia', for example, is almost as overwhelming as the blue of the sea. Deluxe Rooms are larger - in the case of 'Tulipano' it's a full 4m high, while 'Pervinca' at the town-ward tip has long views to sea and mountains. Junior Suites are larger still (around 40 sq.m.), with a (partly) separated sitting room. One is high and airy, while another has a secluded terrace where you can enjoy breakfast or a light lunch. The 2 suites are real honeymoon stuff: Camelia has high painted ceilings, pink walls, a terrace and a sunken bathtub in the bathroom; Greta Garbo (also known as Iris) has a pretty private terrace too.

    Three of the loveliest rooms - Magnolia (Junior Suite), Pervinca (Deluxe Room) and the Camelia Suite - are in the wing near the cloisters, and can be booked as an independent apartment for 4-6.

    Features include:

    • Air conditioning
    • Central heating
    • Cots Available
    • Extra beds
    • Internet access
    • Internet access
    • Minibar/fridge
    • Phone
    • Safe box
    • Satellite tv
    • Tv

    Eating

    One of the luxuries of this place is the sense of space, which extends to the restaurant: you can dine at wicker tables by the pool, on a stunning terrace overlooking the gardens and vineyards, indoors in a vaulted hall, or even have meals brought to your room on a tray.

    When we visited the gourmet Il Flauto di Pan restaurant we found the service to be impeccable, and the cuisine both delicate and unpretentious. But be aware that there are occasions when large wedding or party groups can take over somewhat.

    It's no surprise to hear that it was awarded its first Michelin star in 2012. The young chef uses vegetables and herbs from the hotel's organic garden, combined with local recipes (and lots of homemade pasta), to prepare dishes which are light, tasty and beautifully presented. We enjoyed bersagliera (large macaroni) with aubergine, tomato and freshly plucked basil, then tender smoked salmon with capers and scallions, accompanied by an easy white 'Tramonti' recommended by the maitre.

    Light lunches are also available - soups, salads, pasta, sandwiches - but, lest you imagine white-bread triangles with tasteless cress, we're talking homemade ciabatta with parma ham and buffalo mozzarella. And the breakfast spread is excellent, particularly the fruit platter.

    There's also a café directly below the main belvedere, whose tiny tiled balcony is the most romantic spot for a gelato; and a tea room on the shady lawns behind. Both of these are liable to get busy in the middle of the day.

    If you fancy eating out, we recommend Rossellini's in the Palazzo Sasso (expensive), cheffed by Pino Lavarra who worked with Raymond Blanc in the Manoir aux Quat'Saisons; Mamma Agata (moderate), which has just 6 tables and specialises in vegetable antipasti and lemon cake; Cumpà Cosimo (moderate) which is good but perhaps over-recommended (the rotund proprietress is full of 'mamma mias' and has a habit of telling you, rather than asking you, what to eat); and, for an informal pizza among the locals, Da Vittoria near the duomo.

    Features include:

    • Bar
    • Minibar/fridge
    • Restaurant
    • Restaurants nearby
    Eating:
    Activity:

    Activities

    • Explore the gorgeous town of Ravello, with its impressive duomo, its airy and sociable Piazza del Vescovado, its tasteful shops (limoncello, ceramics and colourful clothing are the highlights), its coral museum and its historic Villa Rufolo, where Wagner composed parts of Parsifal, and which now hosts classical concerts in its gardens

    • Take a small ferry from Amalfi or Minori along the coast to Positano or the isle of Capri for some glitzy shopping and dining, plus colourful sea-caves and cliffside villages

    • Or hire a private boat to sea coves (the deep inlet of Furore is spectacular), caves (La Grotta dello Smeraldo is appropriately turquoise, but extremely popular) and to rocky islets such as Li Galli (where Nureyev had a villa)

    • Or hire a canoe or pedalo from Atrani for more secluded coastal exploration

    • Allow a day for Amalfi, with its impressive duomo (in whose crypt lie the remains of St Andrew), its small museum in the town hall (where you can see the first ever maritime law, the 16th-century Tabula Amalfitana), its paper factories, its Cappucin monastery (now a hotel), not to mention excellent pastry shops (try the creamy sfogliatelle of Andrea Pansa) and restaurants (Da Gemma is an old-fashioned trattoria, La Caravella a Michelin-starred and Michelin-priced indulgence)

    • Hikers should not miss the lovely Valle delle Ferriere, a 5-hour walk heading deep inland from Minuta or Campidoglio, to re-emerge at Pogerola above Amalfi

    • We need hardly tell you to enjoy the hotel's gorgeous gardens, preferably early in the morning before they open to non-residents

        Activities on site or nearby include:

        • Boat trips
        • Hiking
        • Sailing
        • Shopping / markets
        • Snorkelling
        • Swimming
        • Traditional cultures

    Kids

    Children are welcome; there is a charge for cots and extra beds.

    Family friendly accommodation:

    Cots Available, Extra Beds Available

    Baby equipment:

    Baby cots available on request

    Remember  baby and child equipment may be limited or need pre-booking

    Kid Friendly:

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