|Grand Hotel Vesuvio
by Sarah Shuckburgh
This is an excellent hotel, set in a prime position on the
sea front above the Castel dell'Ovo. Make sure you get a
room facing the bay (although Vesuvius itself is out of
sight until you reach the roof terrace on the top floor).
The Grand Hotel Vesuvio has stood here since 1882, but the
original building was reduced to a few derelict rooms during
the Second World War - as Norman Lewis describes in his
classic war diary 'Naples 44'. The post-war replacement, two
storeys taller than the original, is less pretty than the
18th-century palazzo next door, and is the least imposing of
the trio of smart hotels on this waterfront. However, inside
all is opulence and elegance, and the service and comforts
make this the only hotel in Naples to be a member of the
"Leading Hotels of the World". From the moment the doorman
twirls the revolving doors, you feel superbly looked after.
Recent guests include Bill and Hilary Clinton, Jose
Carreras, Gwyneth Paltrow, Woody Allen, and the Kings and
Queens of Spain, Holland, Sweden and Saudi Arabia.
In the early 20th century, the famous Neapolitan tenor,
Enrico Caruso, was a frequent guest, and he spent the last
years of his life living at the hotel. His fifth-floor room
- now the Caruso suite - still contains his upright piano,
and the top-floor restaurant also bears his name. At his
debut at the San Carlo opera house in 1901, the boos and
hisses from the audience made Caruso vow never to perform
professionally in Naples again - but apparently his evenings
at the Vesuvio always ended with a rendition of Neapolitan
songs, such as O Sole Mio.
The Caruso roof-terrace restaurant offers a spectacular
panorama of the dented hulk of Mount Vesuvius, the tangled
streets of the city and the wide, glittering bay, with Capri
in the distance. Caruso was passionate about Neapolitan
food, and one of the Vesuvio's gastronomic specialities is
Bucatini alla Caruso - the tenor's own recipe for pasta with
garlic, tomatoes, peppers, courgettes, chillies and herbs.
If the wind is too strong for a meal out on the terrace, you
can admire the view through huge windows. (Or alternatively
stroll across the road to the Castel dell'Ovo, an old
fortress jutting into the bay just opposite the hotel, and
choose a more informal restaurant there, for instance
atmospheric La Scialuppa).
The ground floor Vesuvietta bar offers cocktails with a
piano accompaniment. In the 'Echia Fitness and Relax'
centre, Lucia, lithe and svelte in her catsuit, is on hand
to advise about treatments, or to act as a personal trainer.
The spa's mosaic floors, fountains and murals give a hint of
antiquity (though it's all new). The name, Echia, refers to
the hill from which, legend has it, the siren Parthenope
flung herself in despair at failing to bewitch Ulysses - and
the hillside behind the hotel is called Monte Echia to this
First published by Travel Intelligence Ltd