NOTE: having left this review for too long, Trip Advisor's format means I had to put the date of stay as close as possible (at Oct 2012) to the date of my (latest) stay (this review), which was actually JUNE 2012.
GENERAL: Because it says the most, I begin by saying that this was our second stay—two years apart—at the Hotel Continental, and that we were as pleased with our stay this time as with the first. And we will be back.
Entering the hotel the first time was, as I vividly recall, really a bit of a shock, right off—but in the best way. The first sight of its richly startling interior, with its warmly welcoming red marble and well-polished brass-railed staircase is apt to make you wonder, as it made us, whether we made a mistake in the booking. (Wide-eyed, I turned to my wife, and said, “Did we make a mistake? I don’t think we can afford this!”) Needless to say, we found we didn’t and that we could. Really, I don’t understand why the Hotel Continental is awarded only four stars. It certainly looks and feels like a five-star. The impeccably well dressed and mostly English-speaking staff is ever-courteous and welcoming.
With any hotel, a changing staff hints at management problems; and an unhappy staff is a portent of an unhappy stay—so we were glad to see the same friendly faces as before. The especially engaging and friendly Dining Room staff makes the hotel’s dining experience that much more special.
LOCATION: Some visitors to Sorrento like to stay in the hotels high up on the cliffs—giving them a fifteen-minute walk and more into town. My wife and I, however, like to have the town at our toes. (Even when in the middle of town you are still high above the sea.) We chose Hotel Continental because we saw little point in going to the Bay of Naples only to look out our window and see only the walls and windows of other hotels. (There are lots of those in Sorrento.)
Sorrento is divisible, I suppose, into two towns: old and modern. The Hotel Continental is perfectly situated—in the old town, but two minutes walk to the new one. With such sea-and-landscape to be in constant awe of, visitors to Sorrento can forgive the surprising lack of grassy areas in the town itself—but again; where there is parkland, it’s nice to see. Thus, the Hotel Continental faces directly onto one of (as far as I have yet seen) the only green area in the older part of town. (There is a larger park, but in a much more modern area.) Perhaps two cosy acres of palm trees, benches, a monument, iron railings, marble balustrades, and cobblestones, a sculpture in its own right, in an area that hangs dizzyingly from its own marble cliff some sixty to eighty feet directly over the harbour and well-outfitted beach, to peer right out over the sea, the Piazza della Vittoria is itself a serene retreat. A stunning view, it comes free with Hotel Continental—a forecourt to its forecourt. Another bonus, the beach and main harbor are directly accessible from the hotel by elevator and whimsically adventurous tunnel cut through the cliff. Thus, from hotel room to sandy beach entailed about twenty-five feet of hotel corridor, an elevator ride, and about a hundred feet of tunnel. (How do you say “Voila!” in Italian?)
The Piazza della Vittoria aside, a short (if steeply stepped) walk from the hotel and down a cobbled alley (another little adventure) takes you to what I take to be the original, pre-tourist-era town of Sorrento—for it certainly seems the oldest and most charming. Why this area is called the Marina Grande (Grande Harbour) I don’t know, because it is much smaller than its modern cousin. Don’t miss this. It seems strange and yet the Hotel Continental, being on the edge of “two towns” is yet right at the centre of both.
FORECOURT: The Hotel Continental has a large, comfortable and commanding forecourt area, tastefully done with quality modern wicker in a parasol setting and on (variously, depending on exactly where you are seated) marble and hardwood decking areas. Thus, the forecourt provides a gently seamless visual and walking transition between the actual hotel and the Piazza della Vittoria—hence to Sorrento itself. No stepping out, here, from hotel lobby directly onto a busy public thoroughfare. Serene is the word.
VIEW: Half of the Hotel Continental’s perimeter is bounded by other hotels, so if you want a sea view—ask—for a room on the front or (as looking from the inside) the front-left-corner. All the sea views will then be to the front and/or angled slightly off to the left. The hotel’s two fifth-floor penthouses aside, there are four occupiable floors. Needless to say, the higher up your room is, the better. Otherwise, your view may be partially blocked by mature palm trees. (There are worse things in life.) The fourth floor corner suites have wrap-around balconies so large you could have (theoretically) going on, on them, simultaneously, two and possibly three games of ping-pong. (Really!) The third floor corner room balconies are smaller, yet still spacious; but be prepared to pay, also, for any of those rooms. With their table and two chairs, the hotel’s standard-room balconies are, at about one meter x three meters or more, still much more spacious than what seems the average for Sorrento hotels. There are no rooms facing the back. (See Pool Area.)
DINING: It’s hard to think of any reason for the Hotel Continental’s lack of a fifth star. Perhaps it’s the ready-boiled eggs, which are by the time you get to them, very hard. Their fried eggs too, are pre-cooked. It would be nice were diners able to order a freshly-fried or boiled egg. Baring only that, the Hotel Continental’s breakfasts are as A-M-A-Z-I-N-G as is the sunny, spotless, and cheerful Dining Room. And voluminous too. Forget having to squeeze past other diners, you’d have to be seven foot wide to bump elbows here.
At breakfast, diners are presented with what seems an endless choice, both decadent (yum!) and healthy. (Incredible coffee—in proper coffee pots, I didn’t see any machine-made java here.) I can’t testify one way or the other, however, as to actual dinners. As my wife and I like to “spread the wealth” the hotel got our patronage for room and breakfast—but the rest of Sorrento and its surroundings gets us for dinners. It is only reasonable to assume, however, that the Hotel Continental’s other meals are as inviting as its breakfasts.
ROOMS: Very clean, the rooms are generously-sized, air-conditioned and with fully king-sized beds. Ours had them, anyway. So many hotels fall down on the quality of their mattresses and pillows, but not here. Both were top-notch. Decorated white tiled floors were cool and the balcony was accessible by fully-opening double doors. (In the corner suites: two sets!) Cabinets and other fitted furnishings were notably a class above. Two overstuffed-style chairs and an occasional table completed the furnishings as did the digitally lockable safe. (Recommendation to all visitors going anywhere on the continent: take with you a universal plug adaptor.)
POOL & SUNNING AREA: Deep at one end—sorry, no diving—the large external pool (I’m guessing: averaging 75’ x 30’) and its even much larger Sunning area, its clean and convenient changing area are internally accessible by the hotel’s elevator. Well-oriented to the sun, the surrounding Sunning area is spacious and well outfitted with loungers and parasols. A pleasant space, its orientation allows for a permanently shaded flower-and-leaf-lined area along one long side of the pool for the protection of the more sensitive sun worshipper. I don’t recall any additional charge, but the signed-for towels are available at the poolside. You are requested not to use the room towels.
OTHER: Perhaps the point that looses the Hotel Continental its fifth star concerns its external finish. Somewhat at odds with its stunning interior and, were the hotel a pre-WWII building, this would fit in well with the broader Italian experience; but on a fairly modern building this ... I’ll be gracious and call it a “patina” ... doesn’t look nearly as well as the inside. It’s neither bad nor unattractive, but the outside could use a paint job. I hasten to add that there’s no way I would let this rather small point get in the way of my returning to what, for me, has to be the very-best-situated, all-round best-value-for-money-AND-THEN-SOME hotel experience in Sorrento. After all, were it to get its fifth star, its prices would surely rise and I’d never be able to afford the Hotel Continental again. That would be a tragedy.
(This review, btw, was in no way solicited and is entirely bona fide.)
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- Also Known As:
- Hotel Continental Sorrento