A trip to Italy had been on the cards for some months. After a back and forth on what dates would showcase Amalfi in all its glory, we settled on the last weekend of October.
It was an ideal time to visit- just towards the end of their high season, where the droves of tourists and even more imposing tourist buses, had begun to dissolve for another 9 months. The weather was a very respectful 21c and the last of the summer lemons still hung in all their waxy glory, punctuating the dramatic coastline like acidic jewels, just coaxing to be plucked, inhaled and committed to memory- another piece of my sensory-scrapbook fulfilled.
Our room was exceptionally large, complete with a split -level marble bathroom with a rainfall shower and jacuzzi bathtub. Fresh fruit from the gardens was provided and replenished daily, alongside the most wonderful selection of Italian pastries. 14-foot shuttered doors framed a magically impressive sea view, flanked by the rugged coastline and surrounding gardens.
The interior of the hotel is wildly luxurious and the abundance of local majolica floors, old-school silver wear, monogrammed napkins and endless blue and white crockery perfectly summed up the inimitable glamour of Italian finesse.
Hotel Santa Caterina, is a late 19th century liberty style villa, just steps from the centre of Amalfi’s historic marine republic. The dramatic cliffside is world famous and our location couldn’t be better suited to exploring the area.
There are so many walks and tours that are easily accessed and the centre town is just five minutes away via a free shuttle service. In the town of Amalfi, you will find so many charming ceramic shops, artisan grocers and top notch pizza and pasta places that offer a more laid back dining experience.
I filled my boots stocking up on seasonings and as many jars of truffles as I could carry before going on the hunt for the most perfect piece of pizza, which I found at the nearby Da Maria Trattoria.
I had read about Hotel Santa Caterina and pored over their Instagram before our stay, so I knew we would be in for quite a treat. Their main restaurant boasts several culinary awards and has frequented many a Michelin guide. There’s the slightly less formal Restaurant Mare, that’s completely wrapped around the Mediterranean Sea.
It’s a less expensive and better suited place to grab some lunch and views. We descended to lunch via an outdoor, glass elevator, lapping up the swollen sea views before perusing the menu.
We opted for a sharing plate of grilled garden vegetables that were charred to perfection and anointed with just the right amount of olive oil and a careful finish of Provola cheese. Bread baskets were forever overflowing, and the pace was wonderfully slow, yet attentive.
For mains I went with ‘’ Spaghetti all ‘Antica’’ aka ‘’Old Style Spaghetti’’, a traditional, peasant-roots pasta dish. With nowhere to hide in its six ingredients, garlic, olive oil, parsley, hot chilli, breadcrumbs and spaghetti- it was perfection. We shared a traditional local almond cake, which transpired to be part parfait, part semi-freddo and quite fabulous.
There’s no mistaking that provenance is pride of place at Santa Caterina; from the menus pulling most of its vegetation from their own surrounding gardens through to the interior choices of the hotel. Everything is considered and effortlessly prudent.
Expect wait staff who wait, not lurk, who truly love what they do for a living and do it with both ease of hand and presence. Even our barman was a consummate professional and left us always smiling and suitably well refreshed. Santa Caterina really would make the most wonderful place for newlyweds to honeymoon. You feel special and important from the second your bags hit the lobby
Breakfast the following morning was a true delight, hands down the best selection I have yet to come across in any 5 star to date.
Pastries, juices, cheeses, cereals, yoghurts, fruit, hot and cold selections, pancakes to order and eggs and omelettes any style- there was even an anchovy station.
All executed impeccably and with an incredible level of service for a buffet style set up. Crisp linen cloths, silver coffee pots and perfect fine bone china cups- a-plenty, made it an elegant start to the day.
Later that evening enjoyed a truly unforgettable dinner in the Santa Caterina Restaurant. Picture buttery beef tartare, one lighter than air tomato soup and a pristinely cooked, crispy-skinned grouper resting atop a silky cannellini bean stew. These are the kind dishes that fill your soul with the essence of true hearty Italian cooking.
Albeit plated with the skill of chefs who are hell bent on recreating Nonna’s flavours with razor sharp presentation on the plate, it still feels authentic and heartfelt. An impressive selection of wines and champagnes will see the most discerning pallets satisfied.
We dined across from Italian football royalty Roberto Mancini, a couple of times during our short stay- so that will give you a window into the typical clientele of Santa Caterina.
The evening was capped off with an obligatory cocktail from the stunning La Terrazza Bar. We blissfully drank in our €22 Aperols and Gin Mare martinis, enveloped in our magnificent surroundings, with the kind of reckless financial abandon a place like Amalfi commands.
All in all, 48 hours in Amalfi was the shortest, most perfectly pomp trip I have taken in a long time. I can’t wait to return next summer and soak up the sun and atmosphere of the famous Beach Club in all it’s chintzy glory.
We flew direct to Naples, via Aer Lingus, flights are limited at this time of year, so we had to return with Ryanair to suit our dates. Flight time is just over 3 hours. We were greeted with a private transfer on arrival, which costs €180 euros each way.
However, there are several other routes to the hotel; a taxi will set you back between €130-€150 depending on traffic or you can take advantage of the far more reasonably priced shuttle that runs five times per day for €15. Hotel Santa Caterina can arrange this for you prior to departure and the bus holds 16 people, so a nice option for a group or family.
The drive itself from Naples Airport is 1.30 hours, the majority of which is incredibly scenic as you begin your accent up the cliffs towards the hotel, I didn’t want the drive to end.
A deluxe room with a sea view will set you back €1,090 per night during high season. Keep an eye on https://www.hotelsantacaterina.it/en/index for special offers or look at off season dates like end of September/October where you can expect to pay €519 for a standard room with a partial sea view. The hotel is closed from November to April.
Sarah Kiely is an award-winning food entrepreneur, freelance travel journalist and speaker from Dublin.
When Sarah isn’t creating and launching innovative health food products to market, she’s travelling the world on the hunt for the best dining and cultural experiences to share with her readers.
A lover of luxury travel, wellness, street food and fine dining, she is happiest when breaking bread with friends and loved ones- a firm believer in the restorative ritual of a home cooked meal.Sarah Kiely Sarah Kiely