24-Hour Room Service: Hotel Caruso Ravello, Italy

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The Independent Travel

Which is probably why Orient Express chose Ravello as the location for its latest venture. The Hotel Caruso opened just over a month ago and is housed within a historic palazzo at the end of the aforementioned cobbled street.

The hotel takes its name from Pantaleone Caruso, who opened it in 1873 as the Pensione Belvedere. It later became the Hotel Caruso Belvedere and, by the mid-20th century, it was a firm favourite of the well-heeled and well-connected. Following its $30m (£16.7m) restoration, the Caruso is certain to attract the modern-day equivalent.

The renovations took more than four years to complete and uncovered untold riches. Archaeologists had to be called in when builders discovered ruins dating from the 11th century - remnants of the original structure, built as the seat of the wealthy Roman D'Afflitto family, who settled in Ravello when they were shipwrecked off the coast. With all those millions to spend, it would have been easy to go over the top with the glitz, but it's obvious much of the budget has gone into preserving or complementing what existed already. Some reception rooms feature delicate frescoes while tasteful modern additions include handmade tiles.

But what really makes the Caruso stand out are the jaw-dropping views of the sea and ragged Campanian coast disappearing into the distance, as well as the friendly and attentive staff. The views can be enjoyed from virtually everywhere in the hotel, from the terraced gardens to the spectacular infinity pool, which seems to melt into the surrounding scenery. The one irksome detail? The hotel would do well to enforce its no-mobiles-by-the-pool rule more vigorously.

LOCATION

Hotel Caruso, Piazza San Giovanni del Toro 2, Ravello, Italy (00 39 089 858 801; www.hotelcaruso.com). The hotel is 365m above sea level and commands 360 degree views of the surrounding mountains and sea.

Time to international airport: it's an hour's drive to Naples Airport. A one-way taxi journey costs around €132 (£94) Public transport requires a bus or train to Salerno and then a local bus to Ravello - but it's unlikely many guests of the Caruso will be exploring this particular option.

COMFORTABLE?

There are currently 54 rooms, 36 of which are suites - the majority have those all-important sea views. Given the rambling nature of the building, there isn't the usual identikit feel. In our room white furniture and subdued hues of green and yellow were offset by terracotta floor-tiles. White marble adorns the bathrooms with details like mosaic panels and reproductions of frescoes uncovered during the renovation.

Freebies: there is a complimentary shuttle service between Ravello, Amalfi and Positano. But best of all are the daily excursions along the Amalfi coast in the hotel's private boat.

Keeping in touch: all rooms have telephones, satellite TV, internet access and faxes in some rooms.

THE BOTTOM LINE

Exclusivity doesn't come cheap; doubles start at €627 (£447) per night with breakfast.

I'm not paying that: The Villa Maria (00 39 089 857 255; www.villamaria.it) has doubles from €180 (£128) with breakfast.

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