Danielle Demetriou discovers the grand edifices where you can live like a king

Palazzo Sasso, Ravello

Palazzo Sasso is a 12th-century palace perched on 1,000ft-high cliffs in Ravello, overlooking the Amalfi Coast. The former residence of the Sasso clan, the property has passed through a succession of hotel owners, with early guests including Virginia Woolf, DH Lawrence and André Gide. Today, it is a luxury retreat with 32 rooms and 11 suites, brimming with Vietri tiles, antique furniture, Frette linen and Bulgari toiletries. Relics of its Renaissance heritage remain dotted throughout, including in the Michelin-starred restaurant.

Palazzo Sasso, Ravello, Amalfi Coast (00 39 089 818181; www.palazzosasso.com) Doubles from €330 (£236) including breakfast. Closed annually November-March

Palazzo Terranova, Umbria

An enduring love affair with Italy led Sarah Townsend to spend six years restoring a crumbling 18th-century property to its former glory. Today, the honey-hued palazzo is a tranquil hilltop retreat, complete with swimming pool. The nine rooms and three suites are painted in rich renaissance colours and are named after operas. The cast-iron four-poster beds and views of the rolling countryside from every window add to the romance of the place.

Palazzo Terranova, Perugia, Umbria (00 39 075 857 0083; www.palazzoterranova.com) Doubles from €295 (£211), including breakfast

Bauer Il Palazzo, Venice

For a taste of aristocratic Venetian style, check into the Bauer Il Palazzo. A private dock allows visitors to arrive at the 19th-century, faux-gothic palace in style via the Grand Canal. The owner, Francesca Bortolotto Possatti, who inherited the hotel from her grandfather, has created a world of understated elegance: Murano chandeliers, silk wall-hangings, mosaic floors, wood panelling, rich fabrics, marble bathrooms and Venetian antiques set a refined tone. At the heart of Venice and just steps from St Mark's Square, many of the hotel's rooms have balconies with romantic views over the Grand Canal.

Bauer Il Palazzo, Venice (00 39 041 520 7022; www.ilpalazzovenezia.com) Doubles from €430 (£306), including breakfast

Locanda di Palazzo Cicala, Genoa

The 16th-century building, opposite the duomo, brims with history but modern minimalism fills the airy six-bedroom hotel on the first floor of the Palazzo Cicala. It was originally the home of the Cicala family, an illustrious dynasty of city leaders, poets and cardinals. Today the hotel is a showcase of contemporary design. Ruby-red Ron Arad chairs sit alongside glass-bubble lamps by Flos, while the white bathrooms are Philippe Starck. Signs of its historic past remain in the form of a medieval loggia and an 18th-century stucco-fronted façade. And beneath high-vaulted ceilings, lofty windows frame historic views of the Piazza San Lorenzo.

Locanda di Palazzo Cicala, Genoa (00 39 010 251 8824; www.palazzocicala.it) Doubles from €125 (£89), including breakfast

Palazzo San Domenico, Sicily

Built on the site of a 15th-century monastery in the heart of Taormina, Palazzo San Domenico now focuses on indulgence. A network of cloistered courtyards, vaulted ceilings, hidden chapels and airy, white corridors reflect the serene ambience of its monastic heritage. Its lofty location in cliff-clinging Taormina ensures expansive views of distant Mount Etna. Elegantfurnishings fill the rooms. Traditional Sicilian cuisine is served on the terrace of the Principe Cerami restaurant, while Oratorio dei Frati provides the perfect lounge-bar setting for a cognac digestif.

Palazzo San Domenico, Taormina, Sicily (00 39 094 261 3111; www.sandomenico.thi.it) Doubles from €290 (£207), including breakfast