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Ischia & Sorrento

Star-studded resorts in the Gulf of Naples



The Regina Isabella is open from late-March until mid-November, in addition to 10 days during the Christmas holiday season. For reservations and information, contact the L’Albergo della Regina Isabella, Piazza Santa Restituta, 80076 Lacco Ameno d’Ischia (Napoli), Italy.  Tel: (39 081) 99 43 22, Fax: (39 081) 90 01 90, Email: [email protected], www.reginaisabella.it.

A short 30-minute yacht ride away in the Gulf of Naples is Sorrento, a mecca for the Grand Tourists of the 18th and 19th centuries, and an ideal base for those who wish to explore the towns along the Amalfi Coast. The grande dame and the most prestigious address in town is the historic Grand Hotel Excelsior Vittoria. Built on the same spot where the Roman Emperor August had his villa, the hotel has been owned by the Fiorentino family for four generations. Occupying a dramatic cliff top position with views across the Bay of Naples and Mount Vesuvius, the hotel is secluded from Sorrento’s central town square by a five-acre, citrus groves-scented garden.

The numerous awards the hotel has received includes the “Five Star Diamond Award” from the American Academy of Hospitality Sciences, inclusion in “The Leading Small Hotels of the World” group and support from the Italian Ministry for Cultural Heritage. It is also a member of “Virtuoso”, the American travel agents network specialized in luxury travel.

Since it first opened in 1834, the Hotel Excelsior Vittoria has attracted artists, the literary glitterati, royalty and statesmen who came to spend the winter months in the salubrious Mediterranean climate. The photos which adorn the walls in the reception, and in the guestbook preserved in the Reading Room show such illustrious visitors as Otto von Bismarck, the Grand Duchess Catherine of Russia, Empress Sissi of Austria, and King Edward VII of England. From the world of the arts came Sophia Loren, Brian De Palma, Luciano Pavarotti, Andrea Bocelli and the famed Italian tenor Enrico Caruso, who spent his last days at the hotel.

In addition to its historic significance, the hotel is an architectural showpiece featuring a Belle Epoque Music Room, an Art-Nouveau-style Winter Garden, and the stunning Vittoria Dining Room with original frescoed ceilings. The 76 guestrooms and 20 suites are individually decorated with antique furnishings without forsaking any of the modern comforts. All rooms have either unparalleled views over the Bay of Naples or look onto the hotel’s lush garden.

The Caruso suite, one of the most requested at the hotel, is kept in the same style as it was in 1921 when the singer was there for an extended stay. The room offers a large terrace with a harbor view and still contain his private photos, letters and his piano. Other suites named after famous guests include the Princess Margaret Suite which features an antique cast iron enameled bathtub and a painted neo-renaissance ceiling.

For those looking for something architecturally different from the other rooms, the hotel’s new Vittoria Design Suite embraces a contemporary Minimal-Art style. Inspired by the international trend of design hotels, the ultra-modern room boasts a Belgium black marble bathroom with Jacuzzi bathtub, and four balconies overlooking the Gulf of Naples and the Sorrento hills.

Dining alfresco at the open-aired Bosquet restaurant (open May to October), guests can watch sailboats and cruise ships criss-cross across the bay with Vesuvius serving as a backdrop. Chef de cuisine Vincenzo Galano offers the flavors and fragrances of the Mediterranean with the freshest seafood and local produce such as Vesuvio cherry tomatoes and buffalo ricotta cheese. Save room for the trio of classic Neapolitan cakes: baba, caprese and lemon delight.

Don’t worry if you’ve left your boat at home, guests have at their disposal the hotel’s powerboat “Tornado 38” which will take you along the Amalfi coast, to Naples or Capri – a mere 8 nautical miles away. Charismatic owner Dr. Luca Fiorentino and his charming wife Lidia can arrange excursions and often host special events on warm summer nights. During my stay, a tango evening by Argentine dancers captivated with performances followed by a milonga on the Excelsior Vittorio’s panoramic terrace.

With two noteworthy bejeweled hotels set amidst breathtaking natural scenery in picturesque seaside towns and enchanting islands, the Gulf of Naples is an ideal destination for yacht-owners and other sybarites to resurrect the bygone era of the aristocratic grand tour.

For information and reservations contact Grand Hotel Excelsior Vittorio, Piazza Tasso 34, 80067 Sorrento, Italy, Tel: (39-081) 807-1044, Fax: (39-081) 877-1206, Toll Free: (800) 74614, Email: [email protected], www.exvitt.it. www.excelsiorvittorio.com.


More Stories By Yvonne Yorke

Yvonne Yorke is an established international travel writer and photographer specializing in travel destinations, luxury resorts and spas, yachting and cruise travel. Her work has been featured in leading travel and lifestyle publications in the U.S, Europe, Asia, Australia and South America including CNN Traveller, Departures, InStyle, Elle, Harper's Bazaar, and many others. She has also been a foreign correspondent for W and Women's Wear Daily.

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