Our recent trip to the Amalfi Coast of Italy was to celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary. As is the case many of the times when I ‘explore’ new travel destinations for my wife and me, I actually DO search through TripAdvisor, along with Travel magazines and referrals of friends.
With hundreds of credible ideas to consider, one of the most frequent suggestions - from those who are aficionados of the Italian Amalfi Coast - is to visit the small, quaint town of Ravello. I can without hesitation add my support to this great advice. I would furthermore suggest that one actually stay in Ravello for several days rather than take it in as a day visit. There are several reasons which I will expand upon in this review.
We elected to stay at the Hotel Caruso, mostly upon the reference of our Virtuoso Travel Agent along with the reviews of TripAdvisor. We were not disappointed!!
The road up to Ravello from the lower coastal drive is very curvy and absurdly small in width. While many people seem to find this disconcerting, our hired driver made it feel like he could drive it in his sleep. Mind you, you may never see a car on the coast with its side view mirrors extended. The reason becomes evident when you come across one of the wide vans or buses which come within what seems fractions of an inch to the side of the passing cars and the cliff walls. In fact, our driver said that, despite the constant passing of motorcycles and small vehicles along the drive, there are very few accidents... and those are usually just 'scratches'. For those who are squeamish… just close your eyes! The end of the uphill drive to Ravello will make the journey well worth it!
The Hotel Caruso sits at the top of a hill (one of countless hills in the Ravello countryside) and overlooks north-easterly over the magnificent blue Tyrrhenian Sea and the surrounding mountains. When you drive up to the Hotel entrance, it is almost indistinguishable from the many pastel colored wooden ‘doors’ on the cobblestone street, yet when we entered the Caruso we knew we were in a very special place indeed. We were greeted by the most beautiful smile of ‘Ella’, one of the Hotel’s gracious guest service staff, who warmly welcomed us and facilitated the very quick registration process. We were then offered a glass of chilled fresh squeezed lemonade, after which Ella toured us around the property, showing us the areas of the pool, restaurant, and grounds of the once magnificent 11th century private palace. We were then taken to our Junior Suite where the doors were opened to the stunning views of the Sea and the mountainside together. A gorgeous king sized canopy bed and ceiling arches framed the oversized glass doors and private garden, where lemons grew fresh on the bushes. The bathroom was incredible; large, spotless, with nary a speck of dirt or mold. There was beautiful large natural wood closet space, and stunning marble floors. An enormous Jacuzzi tub dropped in to a marble case was set before a beautiful window overlooking the Sea. The separate shower was powerful and … oh so marvelous. And yes, there was that token bidet next to the toilet. I have just never understood the attraction of this European bathroom staple, but for those who want it… the Caruso’s is shiny and white!
The bathroom also had a wonderful abundance of fine hair and body toiletries - and if we even unwrapped - or yes, stowed away - one of the soap bars or unique oils, they were immediately replaced in the next maid service. I might add, I am a sucker for beautiful hotel stationary, and the Caruso’s unique water-colored scenes of the Ravello countryside on folded cards were spirited away into my suitcase every morning… and refilled each evening. The Caruso skimps on nothing!
A couple of thoughts on the Caruso’s amenities; first of all, we both agreed that the enormous infinity pool is one of the most stunning and breathtaking we’ve ever encountered. It truly appears as though the pool is an extension of the Tyrrhenian Sea below. The pool deck is adequately provided with comfortable chaise lounges, where the pool attendant will reserve your spot promptly at 9:30am. No worries about being obsessive in the securing of a ‘spot’, however. We found that the pool was not overcrowded, there were always chaises available, and the service was courteous and prompt. The pool area Bistro serves a wonderful array of pizzas, pastas, and fish fare, along with specialty drinks and carbonated or still waters. One suggestion: the food charges at the Caruso are indeed exorbitant, whether eating at the pool bistro or at the beautiful Belvedere Restaurant. Yes, if you stay at the Caruso, you are already paying a small fortune for this experience, but one shouldn't feel guilty about a little reality check on the costs to eat here. Two small thin crust pizzas with two specialty cocktails and water cost us nearly €85, enough to stimulate a 'gag' reflex. After spending over €9 (approximately $12.25) for a single medium sized bottle of Pellegrino water, we found that the market in the village of Ravello sold bottled effervescent water for €1.25 that we simply put in our pool bag along with our books. You can also hit one of the small village trattoria’s which offer marvelous pastas, focaccia sandwiches, and assorted Italian specialties which allow for enormous savings over the Ravello’s high food fare. That said, the Belvedere Restaurant offers not only an excellent menu, but a splendid wine list as well. Along with the manager, Giovanni, (who is a dead ringer for Robert De Niro), and the Belvedere sommelier - who is the youngest, most lovely wine steward I have ever learned from - the view at night is a Ten Star experience; and yes, while overpriced, the cuisine was excellent. We ate at the Belvedere for the first of our five nights at the Caruso. The other nights we ate at local Ravello spots, our favorite being Victoria’s and Salvatore’s.
While many people flock to the seaside towns, such as Amalfi, Positano, and Minori, Ravello offers a much quieter, but no less special experience. There are far fewer tourists, and yet there are still many wonderful specialty shops to appease the credit card companies! Also, if you are inclined to look for pottery ware - we purchased our first full set of 12 new dinner settings in 30 years this trip here - Ravello is a secret windfall; there are 3-4 primary shops, ALL who declare they are the BEST, and yet prices that we saw from the North, such as Capri, Positano, and Amalfi, were exorbitantly higher than in Ravello. The artistry is beautiful!!
Perhaps the best experience of our five day stay in Ravello was our day spent at Mama Agata’s Cooking School. While I was highly skeptical of the 600+ 5 Star ratings for “Mama Agata’s”, the truth is… it really IS that good. I will discuss Mama Agata’s Cooking experience under a separate review.
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.