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La Dolce Vita: 5 of the best hotels on the Amalfi coast

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Hotel Santa Caterina

The family institution

Whether it’s artistic history or Hollywood heritage, if you need more reasons to visit the Amalfi Coast, the classic hotels offer superyacht owners the height of hospitality in ice-cream hues. Sophia Wilson steps ashore for five diverse – but equally indulgent – takes on the good life.

1. Hotel Santa Caterina

The family institution

On a clifftop above the town of Amalfi, its winding paths to the Tyrrhenian Sea shaded by citrus groves and olive trees, Hotel Santa Caterina has been the pride of the Gambardella family for three generations. Opened in 1904, its grand white exterior hides a colourful history through which this Amalfi establishment has both survived and thrived.

During the 1920s the art nouveau villa was a favourite hangout of the British elite. As Mussolini’s power strengthened, the British disappeared and Crescenzo Gambardella ensured the hotel’s survival by running it as a soap factory. When war finally came, the hotel was occupied first by the Germans and latterly by British and American officers. Giusi Gambardella, who still oversees the running of the hotel with her sister, was born in 1945 and had a godfather who was an English army captain.

Since reopening in 1947 the hotel has continued to charm the great and the good. Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton reportedly fell in love here in the 1960s and the spell continued for Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie decades later. Today, in the lobby of exquisitely hand painted tiles, you are as likely to bump into an Italian politician as a Hollywood star.

Its location, with direct access by tender to its private beach club with heated saltwater pool, gives the property a nautical feel, with touches such as porthole windows in the luxurious bathrooms. “We take inspiration from boats,” says Giusi. “I see the hotel like a boat facing the sea.” From the beach club, walkways lead you through manicured gardens – dotted with sweet peas from Giusi’s annual visit to England – to the 66 rooms and suites and the vine covered restaurant. If the sharp incline up to the hotel is beyond you the hotel’s glass fronted lift will whisk you back up the cliffside.

Yet it’s the service that stands out. Staff remember guest names, take care of your itinerary, show that no request is too much trouble and generally replicate the experience enjoyed by the British aristocrats who discovered this gem nearly 100 years go.

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