Let's Spend The Night Together: Romantik Villa Cheta Elite, Acquafredda

We'd hiked over the mountains from the stylish little coastal resort of Maratea in the cloying heat. The scent of wild mint saturated the air as we gathered tiny strawberries sprouting from the side of the rocky path. By the time we'd slithered down the final stretch of scree to the little village of Acquafredda, coated in dust, our legs scratched by brambles we looked far too bedraggled to be checking into the Romantik Hotel Villa Cheta Elite. The welcome, however, was warm, the refreshing glass of home-made lemonade on the terrace beneath the soaring pine tree, perfectly chilled.

We'd hiked over the mountains from the stylish little coastal resort of Maratea in the cloying heat. The scent of wild mint saturated the air as we gathered tiny strawberries sprouting from the side of the rocky path. By the time we'd slithered down the final stretch of scree to the little village of Acquafredda, coated in dust, our legs scratched by brambles we looked far too bedraggled to be checking into the Romantik Hotel Villa Cheta Elite. The welcome, however, was warm, the refreshing glass of home-made lemonade on the terrace beneath the soaring pine tree, perfectly chilled.

The aristocratic home of the Morsicano family once entertained local nobility with sumptuous dinners. Now the elegant dusky pink Liberty-style (Italian Art Nouveau) Villa Cheta is an enchanting little hotel with panoramic views down onto the Gulf of Policastro. This stretch of Italy's Tyrhennian coast is scattered with pines, carob and olive trees and indented with caves and coves. The cliffs fall steeply into the clear sea, the tiny beaches are black volcanic sand or pebbles. The area is unspoilt, remarkably free of highrises and large resort hotels. The only sounds breaking the silence as we stretched out in the shade, were the rustling of branches in a welcome breeze, the gentle lapping of a calm sea on shingle.

Inside the villa walls are hung with old oil paintings and prints, rooms scattered with antiques. The Villa Cheta is also famous for its food. You can dine under the pergola on the terrace or in the elegant dining room.

LOCATION

The Romantik Hotel Villa Cheta Elite (00 39 09 73 87 81 34, www.villacheta.it), 85041 Acquafredda, Maratea is perched above the rocky coastline in the Italian province of Basilicata.

Time to international airport: it's 250km to Naples airport; about three hours away.

COMFORTABLE?

All 23 rooms are different, individually decorated and furnished with antiques. I was in room 20 at the front of the hotel overlooking the cacti and geranium strewn terrace, with views out to sea. The French windows framed by beautifully embroidered white curtains opened onto a tiny stone balcony and white art nouveau railings. As the thunderstorm struck, I bolted the huge brown shutters.

The room had high ceilings, white walls and a tiled floor, elegant bedside tables with art nouveau lamps and walnut bureau and gilt mirror. The headboard was a vision of swirling wrought iron, the pillowcases pressed white linen.

Freebies: a little bowl of sweets on the bedside table

Keeping in touch: direct dial phones, portable TV

THE BOTTOM LINE

A double room without a sea view costs €80 (£57) per person half-board, for a double with a sea view the cost is €93 (£66) per person half-board

I'm not paying that: Hotel Settebello (00 39 0973 876277, www.costadimaratea.com/settebello) on the beach at nearby Fiumicello has doubles from €78 (£55) including breakfast.



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