Naples is a fascinating city of hidden palaces, architectural decadence and vibrant streets that would seduce even a sceptic. Hotel Excelsior is no exception, having been at the centre of glamorous Neapolitan society for almost a century. It first opened its doors in 1909 and remains a grand hotel in the traditional sense of the word: sweeping staircases, intricate parquet floors, gargantuan Murano-glass chandeliers, marble-walled lounges and hushed elegance. It's easy to imagine yourself sweeping into the wood-panelled Casanova Bar, sipping a martini and enjoying a Felliniesque moment. Alfred Hitchcock, Laurence Olivier, the Aga Khan and the King of Sweden have all stayed here; Prince Umberto of Savoy and his family liked it so much that they made it their home for 10 years.

The building was damaged during the Second World War but refurbished soon afterwards, staying true to its fin-de-siècle roots. The starring role must go to the restaurant, La Terrazza, on the roof, with its gorgeous views of the bay, Capri, and Vesuvius in the distance.

Location, location, location

The hotel is in the Santa Lucia district, overlooking the waterfront and the marina. It has a view of the 13th-century fortress, the Castel dell'Ovo, which interrupts the cinematic sweep of the bay. Via Partenope, 48, Naples, Italy (00 39 081 764 0111,

Time to international airport: Capodichino airport is five miles from the hotel. Taxis should cost about €25 (£15) – make sure you're not overcharged. Or arrive movie-star style on a yacht, and moor it at one of the hotel's allocated spaces in the marina opposite.

Are you lying comfortably?

There are 120 rooms and 12 suites. Our room had silk wallpaperand curtains, marble-topped tables, a fabulous view and a balcony. Even the fussiest starlet would be thrilled with the perfectly starched linen sheets and marble bathrooms.

Freebies: Just the usual toiletries.

Keeping in touch: All rooms have direct-dial telephones and satellite TV. There are also fax and PC outlets and a business centre.

The bottom line

Double rooms here cost €300 (£184), including tax and a sumptuous breakfast. Going upmarket, junior suites cost €465 (£285).

I'm not paying that: then try the Hotel Chiaia (00 39 0801 415 555,, which offers double rooms from €124 (£76).