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LUXURY HOTELS: Grand Hotel Excelsior Vittoria, Sorrento, Italy
One morning in the lobby of The Grand Hotel Excelsior Vittoria I see an elegant old lady sitting under a potted palm, she must be a contessa the very least. The head concierge sees her, comes over and solicitously kisses her hand. This for me sums up the Excelsior. It is a hotel with heart ... and history, both with a capital 'H'. You can see its history in the original antiques, in the magnificent stucco work and the frescoed ceilings. You can feel it hanging in the air like a lingering scent; Sophia Loren stayed here and Marilyn Monroe and Enrico Caruso and endless marcheses, duchessas, countessas and more royalty than you can shake a tiara at. The rich and famous still come to relax and drink cocktails on the hotel's wide terrace looking out over the Bay of Naples or book a room with a view of Mount Vesuvius. If this hotel could talk, oh the stories it could tell!

exterior
exterior
reading room
the vittoria terrace
antique suite
deluxe sea view room
pool by night

The Romans were among the first to appreciate the spectacular scenery and balmy climate of Surrentum, and it is said that the Roman Emperor Augustus built a beautiful villa on the site of what is now the Grand Excelsior Vittoria and there are Roman columns in its expansive gardens. The hotel itself dates back to 1834, a time when Italy was not even a unified country. From the day it opened the hotel has been owned and run by the Fiorentino family, and the current owner Guido Fiorentino and his wife and sons have a shuttered villa in the grounds.
Perched on the cliffs above the bay the Grand Hotel Excelsior Vittoria (known affectionately as the Ex Vitt) is like your favourite great aunt, elegant but a little eccentric. One of Aunt Vitt's charms is that all her rooms have personality, no cookie cutter square footage here; no identikit design. This is the kind of luxury hotel which inspires affection and fierce loyalty. Returning fans of the Grand Hotel Excelsior Vittoria -and there are many- all have their own favoured rooms; which can be a problem if two loyal lovers of room 101 want to check in to 'their' suite the same week.
The hotel] is like your favourite great aunt, elegant but a little eccentric. One of Aunt Vitt's charms is that all her rooms have personality...
 
Our room (which has instantly become my favourite) has high ceilings and a quirky elongated balcony running at a right angle from the French windows presided over by a bust of a roman emperor who stares out across the bay.
Outside the main gates of the hotel is Sorrento's busy town square, cars hoot, motorbikes buzz, people throng the pavements but the minute you step through the wrought iron gates into the Ex Vitt gardens it is a if someone has flicked a switch to turn the sound off. The gardens seem immediately peaceful as we wander through five acres of plants, flowers and shady trees. Some of the flowers have been blooming here for generations and the citrus groves produce the oranges and lemons consumed in the luxury hotel. The old olive trees are the source of the fine extra virgin olive oil used in the hotel restaurants.
 
We eat our breakfast in the Vittoria Restaurant under original frescoed ceiling and in the evening sit in the open-air at the Bosquet Terrace Restaurant and looked out at the winking lights of passing cruise ships as waiters in starched jackets served us traditional Mediterranean cuisine. Another night we eat wood-fired pizza by the pool.
A private lift takes us down to the port beneath and the hydrofoils to Capri and the islands. The hotel can also organise private tours to nearby Pompeii or a boat trip around the rocky coastline. On the last day a porter takes our bags right down to the hydrofoil for Naples.
 
Will we be back? Of course, after all we now have our own favourite room - just as long as no one else sleeps there while we're gone.

 
Check in: Grand Hotel Excelsior Vittoria, Piazza Tasso, 34, 80067 Sorrento Italy
Ultimate Luxury: The wide balconies of the vast Imperial Suite, the winding staircase of the Split level Pompeii Suite.
Most Indulgent Moment: A treatment in La Serra spa, a grand converted greenhouse in the hotel gardens
Insider Secrets: The private lift down to the beach feels like your own personal secret passageway.
Junior Luxies: Welcomed with warm Italian hugs. The wonderful gardens, playground, mini soccer pitch and the pool are made to share.
Dress code: Southern Italian relaxed, but a certain style and formality governs evenings
Dent in the platinum:
Luxury Hotels Links: www.lhw.com/ , www.exvitt.it
Hilary Doling, 27/3/12
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