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"Exploring Italy: Catherine's journey to Maratea, Amalfi, and Ishcia"

Updated: Jun 11

May 2024

An early flight from Heathrow with BA saw me depart at 06:30. I stayed overnight at the Premier Inn nearby and grabbed the airport bus at 4am to take me the short 5min journey to Terminal 5.

The flight was busy but left on time and even landed early, just a short 2hrs 40 mins later we I landed into an already busy Naples. The thing I love about BA is that the hand luggage is a generous 23kg so there was no need for me to take checked in luggage for my short trip – Although my case did need me to sit on it to shut it!

A quick & seamless journey through security and I was headed off with the rest of my group to the car hire point on site. Naples traffic is pretty stressful, so I would definitely recommend a transfer for an Italy trip, although once out of the airport the traffic was much calmer.



We headed out on the road for our first destination Maratea, set further down the coast of Italy in Basilicata. I was a little apprehensive of a 2hr30 transfer but after the stress of Naples and the short motorway stint the rest of the drive was beautiful, through national parks and then hugging the coastline with the most gorgeous views. We had a stop off too for some lunch which broke the journey up.



If you felt you didn’t want to drive then there is a direct train from Naples to Maratea a few times a day – Giving you the option to sit back and relax as you travel to your destination.

 

Maratea

HOTEL SANTAVENERE (link on the name)

Arrival - Superb, we were met by a golf buggy at the car park and our luggage was swiftly dealt with – to be next seen in my room! The staff with beaming welcoming smiles were dressed impeccably - Casual but smart and perfectly matched the hotel décor! It’s the little things that really make this hotel special!

We enjoyed fresh lemonade as we were gently steered towards the pinnacle of the hotel entrance – The long balcony with the beautiful view over the bay and the port. The feeling on arrival was instant relaxation, quite a feat after a flight, long drive and the chaos of Naples!



I found the reception area bright, welcoming, and very inviting. I absolutely adored the color scheme and the choice of furniture, which perfectly matched the hotel's blend of modern design with its 1950s roots. There were numerous places to sit, relax, and enjoy the view. The framing of the scenery through the window and doorway created a spectacular entrance—truly the best I have ever seen, taking your breath away.


The outside balcony, which extends to the restaurant, offers a stunning view of the sea, the spectacular gardens, fruit trees, and an array of colorful flowers below, all wafting their delightful fragrance upwards.



Once we had finished our lemonade we were shown to our rooms, I had been given room 19 – a deluxe room and it truly did not disappoint. My room was bright, airy, and impeccably clean, offering plenty of space. The beautiful furniture harmonized perfectly with the hotel's overall decor. The balcony was truly spectacular—spacious and private, with stunning views and surrounded by beautiful fruit trees and flowers that extended into the hotel's gardens. From there, I could see the sea and catch a glimpse of the statue of Christ high on the hill. The bed was enormous and exceptionally comfortable, equipped with high-quality pillows and convenient USB ports on both sides—ideal for a UK traveler! A special mention on the turndown service and constant replenishment of water and little Italian treats provided each day – Very welcomed and a nice touch.



Hotel grounds - I loved that the rest of the hotel grounds offer a wealth of sights and tranquil places to stop. Everywhere you turn, there’s a new spot perfect for spending an hour or two enjoying the views and tranquility. From shady forest retreats to the beach club with its serene ocean views, the options are endless. The beach club, in the summer months, promises to be a massive hit. The crisp white sunbeds with their incredibly inviting cushions contrast beautifully with the bright blue of the Aegean Sea, creating a perfect place to spend the day.



The beach club restaurant will serve classic Italian lunches, and a bathing platform offers a

refreshing escape when the sun gets too intense. Is there a better way to spend a day?

To top it all off, the hotel provides seamless transfers to and from the beach club, ensuring you can return sunkissed and satisfied after a delightful day. Spectacular!



Food - Breakfast at the Maratea might just be one of the best I've ever had! The selection is outstanding, with a dedicated gluten-free section that’s a brilliant touch. I also noticed the wide variety of milks and juices, which were consistently replenished throughout the breakfast service. Other highlights included the incredibly fresh and delicious fruit, and the expertly made omlettes and scrambled eggs—so good that one of my fellow travellers went to watch the chef prepare them the next morning! The pinnacle of the breakfast for me was the honey—absolutely wonderful! With hotel breakfasts being one of the top hashtags on Instagram in 2023/2024, the Santavenere should be trending worldwide!


Lunch and dinner at the Santavenere were just as spectacular as breakfast, paired with local wines, every glass a delight. The local buffalo mozzarella with the tastiest tomatoes might just be the best lunch in the world, and the fresh pasta was exactly what you hope for on an Italian trip. The service during meals was impeccable, with wine and water refilled before they ran out and the staff exceptionally attentive. The mosquito spray provided

at dinner one evening was a thoughtful touch. For those with food allergies, meals were always delivered with a full explanation of the ingredients. Special mention goes to the tiramisu—quite honestly, the best dessert I have ever had!



Things to do –I was pleasantly surprised by how much there is to do in Maratea. The restaurants of Fiumicello are just minutes away, offering excellent dining options, additionally the port, with more options is a short walk or buggy ride from the hotel. The train station offers options to head further afield and the village center of Maratea, perched high on the hill, showcases authentic Italy at its best.



Unique to Maratea is the Christ the Redeemer statue on the hill. Unlike the more famous Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro, the Maratea statue has a distinctive modern design. The statue depicts Christ with open arms, a gesture symbolizing protection and welcoming -it is a major landmark and a popular tourist attraction.

The site offers historic buildings as well as panoramic views of the Tyrrhenian Sea and the surrounding mountains, it is accessible by a road that winds upwards to Monte San Biagio, you can hike or drive and its definitely worth a visit.



I had an amazing time on a boat trip departing from Maratea's harbour that highlighted Maratea's rich history. Our guide was incredibly informative, enriching the experience far beyond what we could have achieved on our own—highly recommended! We discovered that the beaches we visited, accessible only by boat, were voted the most beautiful in Italy in 2016. We also sailed past the so-called "Beverly Hills" of Maratea, a collection of private villas nestled into the hills. The most fascinating part of the trip was learning about the history of the nearby island. In Roman times, this small rock off the coast was a thriving Roman fish factory, with over 80 Roman anchors found nearby and the bones of Saint Blaise, the patron saint, discovered on the island too. To top it all off, I had an incredible swim in the crystal-clear waters, diving in from the back of the boat!



The hotel's bikes are a great addition for those wanting to explore places nearby and the hotel offers a shuttle service to Maretea up on the hill too so you can take a look around the shops and spend time in the little cafes soaking up the typically Italian feel of this beautiful place.



As the sun sets, a whole new beauty emerges in Maratea. I was very sad to say goodbye to this enchanting place. I highly recommend Maratea to seasoned Italian travelers seeking a new destination, solo adventurers in search of a peaceful retreat, and food enthusiasts who appreciate fine wines and exquisite Italian cuisine.



 

Amalfi

The drive to Amalfi although spectacular is definitely not for the faint hearted! A transfer would definitely be my recommended arrival to arrive relaxed and ready to absorb everything this amazing hotel has to offer!



THE MIRAMALFI HOTEL - Amalfi (Link on name)


Arrival – Parking spaces and shuttle collections/drop offs at the top of the hotel offers an easy arrival. There is a lift available for those that need it but during my stay the entrance to the hotel reception by the stairs was quite often my favourite part! The smell of the jasmine as you step down will always remind me of the Miramalfi! Greeted by the immaculately dressed girls on reception with their welcoming smiles and offer of cold refreshing lemonade on the beautiful balcony overlooking Amalfi really gives you an insight of what is to come – The view from there is hard to beat, yet the hotel offers this view on many levels as I will find out during my stay. Luggage yet again seamlessly taken on arrival, next to be seen in our rooms.


Accommodation – I was allocated room 23, heading down in the lift it became apparent the hotel, built into the cliff side is a hotel on many levels. A short trip down took me to a bright fresh corridor and to my room. On entering the room the décor was beautiful and very well done, after conversing with my fellow travellers it became apparent that all the rooms were a different colour scheme but all equally well presented. As soon as you enter this room you are instantly drawn to the balcony – WOW what a spectacular vista – When the first

thing you do is reach for your phone to show everyone you know, you know you are somewhere special. The amenities in the room are second to none. I have a friend who runs a hotel in the Cotswolds and whenever we stay anywhere she always picks up on the amenities and she was suitably impressed! Highlights for me were, the flip flops, the dyson hairdryer, Ortiga products (including conditioner, quite often not included), hotel bag, and the best touch for me (it really is the little things that make a difference) is the hair bobble provided!



Hotel Grounds – This hotel truly epitomizes luxury on every level. The top floor boasts an amazing bar and restaurant, complete with an outside balcony. The area is immaculate, featuring an extremely impressive wine selection showcased amidst exquisite Art Deco décor, which contributes to the hotel's high-end ambiance. Descending further, you'll find the new Azure Lounge (mentioned later), the gym, and finally, the beach club. There is so much to explore—taking the elevator felt like stepping into Mary Poppins' bag, with new and spacious areas constantly revealing themselves


The beach club at the hotel's lowest level spans multiple tiers. It features a larger-than-expected pool, the most comfortable sun loungers arranged to provide many private relaxation spots, a bar, and a bathing platform for a refreshing dip in the sea. Special mention goes to the beach club staff, who are wonderfully attentive, offering towels and drinks upon arrival and delivering them to your sun loungers. The fun rubber rings in the pool are a delightful touch, providing comfort for sunbathing while staying cool in the water.





The Azure Lounge is set to be the jewel in the crown of the Miramalfi. Its lush greenery and modern white furnishings perfectly complement the stunning blue of the sea. Dining here, whether for lunch or dinner, with perfectly matched music and cocktails, evokes the vibe of an exclusive Ibiza beach club, all within the breathtaking surroundings of Amalfi. It’s something truly special! I have no doubt that #HotelMiramalfi and #AzureLounge will be all over Instagram this summer!



Food – Breakfast was wonderful, taken in the main restaurant with surrounding balcony, it was a stunning start to the day. The omelete, and selection of fruit, cereal, cold meats cheeses and pastries meant you had everything on offer you could wish for! The selection of teas were huge, something for everyone in our group including de caffeinated tea – Which one of our group mentioned was often hard to find in hotels.


We were fortunate enough to sample both a multi-course tasting menu and the à la carte menu, and both were spectacular. The tasting menu was accompanied by wonderful wine pairings, with each course presented alongside a mouth-watering description. The service during meals was exceptional; the attentive waiters were impeccably dressed, with a noticeable change in uniforms from day to evening shifts. The fresh pasta was incredible, and my absolute favorite was the selection of bread at every meal, served with delightful lemon butter. The aubergine parmigiana was the best I have ever tasted, the chef and his team are truly an asset to the Miramalfi! The staff here make you feel they wouldn’t want to be anywhere else in the world other than at the Miramalfi as they beautifully describe dishes and wines making your mouth water before you’ve even taken a bite! Such a wonderful dining experience from start to finish.



Things to do - The town of Amalfi exudes history, and our guide, Lello, skillfully navigated us through the crowds along the winding streets and spectacular buildings, providing insight into the historic tales of this stunning town.



The Lemon Path was an excursion not to be missed, meandering along the hills between nearby Maiori and Minori. Learning about the towns' connection with lemons and picking up homemade lemonade and lemon marmalade from the locals along the way added to the charm. The hotel can offer advice on the best way to access this experience; as one of the hotel receptionists even accompanied us, demonstrating not only her expert English skills but also her profound local knowledge.


Another highlight was the sunset boat trip from Amalfi along the coast to Positano. Our local guide truly shone as he proudly showed us caves, beach clubs, and towns along the way. It really is the best way to see this stunning coastline, join the sublime yachts on Italian waters as you cruise along seeing all the sights on the way.



As I said a sad farewell to this spectactular hotel I felt like I had fallen in love! During my time here I experienced; Exquisite service, Stunning vistas, Fantastic Al a Carte menu & a wonderful wine selection. It is a truly serene getaway in Amalfi and an Instagramer's dream! – Find the swing over looking the sea with the lemon grove backdrop!


 

Ischia


I took the 1hr 20 min drive back to Naples to hop onto the Hydrofoil, (only 15 mins from Naples airport too!). Although slightly chaotic at the port the ticket booths were easy to spot and well signed. We had meet and greet and was well worth it! Met at the port our bags were taken and we were ushered to the debarkation point of our hydrofoil.

You take your bags with you onto the hydrofoil and then just collect them as you leave. The hydrofoil has two levels full of seating and the crossing took around 45 mins - Some stop at Procida (another island) first. The port in Ischia is quite small and with meet and greet someone is waiting for you at the port. Many hotels offer a collection service too.



BOTANIA RESOT & SPA (Link on the name of the hotel) Arrival – The shady pergola entrance leads you towards reception, the surrounding greenery already tells you this hotel is going to be at a slower pace than Amalfi & The leading hotels of the world sign gives the nod that this hotel is going to be something quite special. Check in was quick, informative and the offer of a buggy to rooms would be gratefully received by some as the hotel is quite spread out, although personally I relished the walk as there is something different to see and smell along the way! Our luggage was delivered on our behalf leaving us free to meander along the many pathways admiring the

views.

Accommodation – I was allocated a premium room (room 162) it was in a perfect location and it was just perfect! The décor was light and airy and the bathroom was a gorgeous blue. I liked that all the rooms were different inside even though they were in the same category. The higher room categories and ones that had little terraces with gates to enter were very pretty and the layout of rooms felt like a small village.



Out of all the rooms we looked at room 174 was my favourite, the outside was lovely with its own little gate, and the bathroom had a gorgeous bath alongside its shower. The amenities in the rooms were great, the only thing missing was an iron but I was aware we could request an iron and it would be brought to your room.


Hotel Grounds - I loved the village ambiance of the resort, with numerous areas to explore and relax. The main pool area was well-designed with attentive staff, and I particularly appreciated the complimentary sun cream – a thoughtful touch. The pool water was delightfully warm, making for an enjoyable swim early in the season. It was perfect for those who dislike cooler water, including the few pregnant women I saw. While I loved it, I know some found it not refreshing enough. There are more pools dotted around the resort and something new to find at every turn.  I often saw staff with baskets of fresh food collected from around the resort for dinner – a lovely sight.



The spa was beautiful, with a wonderful aroma that greeted you as soon as you approached. It had everything needed for a perfect spa experience: a sauna, steam room, and two indoor pools. The treatment was amazing and very professional, delivered with a gentle touch.



We also walked to the beach, which took 13 minutes (I timed it!). The beach had lovely sand, and the shallow water was warm. If you ventured further out, you could enjoy the cooler temperature – ideal for everyone! The walk back up was a bit of a climb, but it made me feel like I earned my dinner. There’s a great bar, café, and beach club with a lido.


Another highlight was the Grotto bar/Cave, made even more inviting by Onofrio (Humprey!). His impeccable service and magnificent cocktails were very popular among the guests, we were not the only guests sad to say goodbye to him, he had a smile that lit the cave right up. The aperitifs served with pre dinner drinks were perfect and after dinner late night drinks were accompanied by cookies or dark chocolate – again it is the little things that make this place special. I also spent some time in the library, enjoying complimentary tea, coffee, and biscuits – a perfect spot to relax with a book, and outside the library in the evening we had live music – such a wonderful voice, pitched at the perfect level.