Sunday, April 1, 2012

Hotel Caruso Belvedere

Upon arrival to the Orient Express Hotel Caruso Belvedere in Ravello, a hotel meticulously restored from an 11th century palace overlooking the Amalfi Coast, you can't help but feel like royalty.  If not royalty, then at the very least one might feel that the indulgent desire that took over when booking the hotel was totally on point!

For us, stepping out of our car was like stepping into the past, into a simpler time filled only with the sound of the breeze rustling through the lemon groves.  And as that breeze fills your senses with the sweet scent of jasmine, you undoubtedly get the feeling that this place essentially hasn't changed in centuries.  "Belvedere" itself got its start in 1893 when vineyard owner, Pantaleone Caruso, rented out 5 rooms in the palace, calling them "Belvedere" or "beautiful view".  When the Orient Express restored the full palace in 2005, keeping Belvedere front and center was certainly a nice touch.
Courtesy of
Before we had too much time to stand in awe at Caruso's entrance on Piazza San Giovanni del Toro, we were greeted by a concierge who ushered us inside, graciously serving us fresh lemonade and encouraging us to enjoy the view as he organized our paperwork.  Before we knew it, our bags were on their way to our room and we were whisked away by the same concierge for our personal tour of the hotel grounds.

Wowing us first was the cocktail bar area, which had a separate piano room with the most dazzling chandelier and original fresco on the ceiling.
Courtesy of Roberto Bonardi
Rounding the corner, you turn your focus through the Norman archways and to the spectacular views of the sparkly Gulf of Salerno 1,200 ft below.
Courtesy of
We were then escorted through to the lush terrace gardens which lead to the infinity pool and Poolside Bar and Restaurant.
I first got the urge to stay at this hotel after I read an article listing the Top 10 Pools in the World on  Needless to say I was just dying to see it with my own eyes!  Despite it being a little bit hazy that afternoon, this pool simply did not disappoint. Our concierge graciously offered to take our picture once we were able to regain our composure :)
Eager to get to our room and change so that we could enjoy the pool as soon as possible, we were guided back indoors to our room.  As far as room options, many people will be happy to hear that there are only 50 rooms in the hotel.  It allows for a quaint, personal feel throughout your stay.  Never once did we feel like we were sharing our vacation with too many others.  As the Junior Suites, Suites and Exclusive Suites were too far out of our price range, we chose from the Double Room offerings.  Since both the Double Village and Double Superior rooms did not provide sea views, we decided to upgrade to the Double Delux Sea View room. We also had been mining Caruso's website and found a Buy 2 nights get 1 night free deal, which made the 3-night stay a little more reasonable to stomach financially.

Our Delux room gave us our own private balcony and a beautiful and spacious marble bathroom with whirlpool tub.  A wonderful touch was the dozen fresh red roses that greeted us inside.
Once back by the pool, we indulged in some lunch at the Poolside Restaurant and Bar.  Two glasses of Prosecco complemented the savory salad bar, which was filled with local delights...particularly seafood and cheeses.  We also shared a brick oven pizza.  Although I cannot find anything negative to say about our food and service, the price of EUR 130 gave us quite the shock. Although I do recognize that we were staying at a 5-star resort, I would nonetheless say this was still steep!  As I've gone back and read through a few more reviews, I think most people agree that the food prices are the biggest and perhaps only negative to this hotel.

With our stomachs full and wallets lighter, we soaked up the rest of the day's sun by the pool.
When we arrived back to our room, another complimentary surprised awaited us ... a bottle of prosecco!
As we settled in on our private balcony drinks in hand, we did decide, due to our pricey poolside lunch, to amend our strategy for the rest of our days there.  The plan was to stuff our tummies with the complimentary breakfast and not eat again until dinner! We would place our breakfast order on the outside of our door every night and the staff would promptly bring in our food at the time we specified.  Of course, we opted to dine on our balcony.  Each morning, I had to catch my breath at the view.  It hardy felt real.
Over the next few days, we took in every moment outdoors, including...

more time at the Infinity Pool...
complimentary shuttle to Amalfi where a 2 hour boat ride awaits you (also complimentary)...
walking the gardens...
As you are probably gathering, this is one of the most stunning places I have ever seen in my travels!  I would highly recommend a trip to Ravello.  Although I can't imagine a trip to the Amalfi Coast could ever be classified as a bargain in general, I do believe you'll be able to find some lower cost options vs Hotel Caruso if so desired.  Rest assured, the entire town of Ravello is just lovely.

Final note from me...
As if all of this beauty wasn't enough, Dave went and topped off our time in Ravello with the world's most precious gift -- an engagement ring!  As I am now in the midst of wedding planning, it was really fantastic to revisit this spot where we got engaged.  I can't get over how lucky we are to have experienced this moment at Hotel Caruso :)

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Scenes from London

You've probably had more than enough London reading from my Visitor's Guide post, so I thought I would dedicate this one to some, hopefully, easy-on-the-eyes photos I took on my most recent trip. Enjoy!

Trafalgar Square ... by day:
Trafalgar Square ... by night
Covent Garden:
Houses of Parliament / Big Ben:
London Eye:
Views from the London Eye:
Buckingham Palace:
Tower Bridge:
Views of St. Paul's Cathedral:
Next up... more on the Italy trip :)