Positano’s Hotels – Campania, Italy

Bastions of Elegance and Luxury

In 1953, John Steinbeck described the Hotel le Sirenuse as “a dream place . . . not quite real”—and so it remains, perched above the terraced homes of Positano and draped in fuchsia, bougainvillea, and honeysuckle.

Vines insinuate themselves everywhere, the floors are paved in cool, hand-painted tiles, and a min­gling of precious antiques enhances the hotel’s elegant but comfortable personality. Run by a family whose summer villa this once was, a special feeling of welcome sets Le Sirenuse apart.

So does a narrow lap pool-with-a-view and a small but exquisite spa and gym designed by the famous Milanese architect Gae Aulenti. The Pompeiian red 18th-century building was named for the sirens of Homer’s Odyssey, those alluring demi-women said to have inhabited the small Li Galli islands, which you can see from your terrace.

Slightly east of town, a tiny 17th-century chapel alongside the fabled coastal drive dis­creetly signals the presence of the Hotel le Sirenuse’s longtime friendly rival, the multisto­ried San Pietro, carved into the precipitous cliff below and one of the world’s most dramatically situated hotels, a triumph of human ingenuity and sheer extravagance.

An elevator cut into solid rock whisks guests down to the airy lobby, terraced guest rooms, and, ultimately, the vest- pocket-size cove where guests can swim and sunbathe, even play tennis.

Nonguests can idle away an afternoon at the bougainvillea-covered restaurant, 300 feet above the Tyrrhenian Sea, open to the breeze but protected from the sun. At sunset, have a leisurely drink on the tiled terrace: the view up and down the coastline is heart-stopping.

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