Sorrento is the perfect base for exploring the Amalfi coast, with Capri, Pompeii and Naples all within an hour of the town.
Having read the many excellent reviews our expectations were high. To a large extent they were met . In some regards, however, those prepared to spend a little more money should look elsewhere - the Antiche Mura is very much a four star hotel without the frills.
The old town sits high on a plateau overlooking the Bay of Naples. Deep gorges surround the old town on three sides. The Antiche Mura sits high above the point at which one meets another, overlooking the old town mill deep down below.
Quiet, untroubled and out of the way the hotel is only a two minute walk from the main square, the Piazza Tasso. It's central location is one of it's greatest assets. If travelling to Sorrento from Naples Airport or by train, the drop off point is a 200m flat walk from the Piazza Tasso; the cliff top only a five minute walk from the square.
The hotel is rather unassuming. It is not a unique building nor internally is it in any way signficant. The warmth of the welcome, however, and the consistent friendliness and helpfulness of the staff were really 5 star. Nothing was ever too much trouble.
With around 50 rooms this is not a large hotel yet the quality of the accomodation does vary even within the same category. We booked a comfort room. The first one we were given was on the second floor. It was of reasonable size, looking out toward the street - with a view of the construction opposite. On that floor the room was also overlooking the hotel terrace and underneath the perspex canopy that shielded it. With no view to describe we asked to move.
The hotel is very popular with North Americans and Europeans and was full but we were moved swiftly - to room 308 on the third floor. Although also a Comfort Room the difference was marked - we had a balcony, overlooked the gorge and were away from the street. From what we saw the junior suites also looked exemplary.
Much has been written about the gardens. Certainly, they are lovely, citrus tress giving shade and a kidney shaped pool that is refreshing. Surprisingly, the garden did not appear to have been tended that well when we were there and gave the impression of being unkempt.
The hotel operates a buffet breakfast. Again, the service was friendly. Your view of the quality of it will depend on what you are used to. There are endless cakes to choose from and sweet biscuits. Having decided to try to lose weight (not easy when in Italy), I chose to avoid the cakes - leaving a reasonable choice of cereals, breads and cold meats/cheeses to choose from. Hot food was limited to scrambled eggs, hot dog sausages and bacon strips (although omelettes can be ordered). Great breakfast? Not really but if you like cakes...most certainly.
With no dining facilities of an evening, there is a small hotel bar - sitting just next to the reception it was hardly utilised on any of the five evenings we were at the hotel. Not surprising really as there are so many places to go to nearby!
The central square is a lovely place to sit out and watch the world go by. Prices are not too much higher than the rest of the town. More a place for coffee than dinner, the square is closed to traffic in the evenings.
Most of the restaurants are within a 5 to 10 minute walk from the hotel. The concierge did make some good recommendations. Our aim was to go where the locals went, try authentic Italian food and enjoy the experience. The two restaurants that stood out were the Antiche Trattoria (fantastic service, beautiful setting underneath orange trees and vines). Wines not expensively priced by comparison to their off licence cost, we felt really well looked after and it made it a special evening.
Similarly, for lunch, Emilia's down on the waterfront in the old marina was a wonderful place to let the hours slip by. Family run (and clearly the family enjoy their food!), it was simple, hearty and incredibly tasty Italian food.
Disappointments? Il Buco, despite a Michelin star, was not up to it on the night we were there. Small portions, not that adventurous nor well cooked.
Wished we had tried Caruso's - it looked and seemed a great place to go but we ran out of evenings.
Other suggestions? Sit out on the terrace of the Bellevue Syrene hotel (great location, it feels like the 1920's!) or go to the Foreigners Club (less classy but as good a view). Both are exceptional places to spend time in the sunshine.
Highlights of the trip - a visit to Capri. Fantastic island, boats take half an hour for between 12 and 24 euros return. Arrive in the harbour, take the cable car up to Capri town and wander the streets, taking in the designer shops but also the lovely walks on the island. We went to far coast (10 minute walk) and then went along it to the rock stacks and climbed (400 steps) up to a cave and then back into to the town. It was worth the climb! If only for the wonderful Balisto restaurant - probably the best pizza we had on our trip.
Pompeii? A must but take in Herculaneum too. Awesome sight. We were bitterly disappointed by the guide we had around Pompeii - only 10 euros but what he told us (we were in a group of 16) was less than what is written in the free book you can get after you buy your entrance ticket. Pompeii needs time and quiet to take in. As everyone recommends the train is the easiest and best way to get there - every 30 minutes from Sorrento but get to the station early as the seats go quickly.
Amalfi Coast? Definitely. The bus over the hills to Positano was an experience! Very inexpensive - 3 euros - took an hour or so to get there. To get back we took a hydrofoil to Sorrento, only 6 euros but a lovely way to see the coast from the water.
Getting there? Best done by the regular coach transfer from Naples airport. The journey is an hour or so. Alternatively via taxi to the main railway station (20-25 euros) and then by train to Sorrento (6 euros). Note: the last return coach to the airport gets you there at around 6pm. Anyone flying BA back to London on the late flight will then either have to get to the airport incredibly earlier (not good, particularly as the checkin desks do not open early!) or use the train/taxi option (we did and it was very easy).
If not the Antiche Mura? Hotels dot the clifftop with the two harbours quite some way below. The Excelsior Vittoria or the Bellevue Syrene both seemed lovely. Like all hotels, however, it very much depends on the room you are given - we did go into both and were impressed by them, more so the Syrene.
Many hotels are out of town. I would be wary of booking into them. Sorrento is full of steep inclines as soon as you choose to go out of the old town - whilst buses run to and from the new harbour (1 euro) it is a nice but descending walk to the old harbour (Emilias and 4 or 5 other restaurants worth a visit). If you are happy to use shuttle buses or taxis then staying out of town is not a problem - for convenience, ambience and overall quality of stay, however, the Antiche Mura was a real winner.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Antiche Mura Hotel has a wonderful position in the heart of Sorrento, in the main square Piazza Tasso. It is an ideal base for exploring Sorrento and its beautiful surroundings like Capri, Positano, Amalfi, Ravello, etc. This newly renovated hotel combines elegance, style and modern comforts (Like Free Wi-Fi) able to satisfy guests with the highest expectations. At the same time , you will be able to experience centuries of history. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Antiche Mura Sorrento