SORRENTO'S TREASURY OF INDULGENCE
FROM its clifftop eyrie its front views are million-dollar of the Bay of Naples stretching to the horizon, parts of spectacular Sorrento below and of the Neapolitan Riviera's coastline sparkling away to right and left.
From around the back they're out over its own 2ha (5 acres) of parklands, and from one side of archaeological ruins from 50BC or possibly earlier, and from the other a few remains of a one-time Roman bathing pool.
Beneath it lay parts of a villa Emperor Augustus once called home, an ancient Roman spa, and a fascinating centuries-old crypt inquisitive visitors can still explore today.
And inside it blends the most contemporary of facilities amid the ambience of an era long past, of modernity and classical elegance, 18th and 19th century works by great masters and contrasting Art Nouveau, furniture from the periods of Louis the XVI and Beidermeier, and painstakingly restored frescoes…
Is all this some grand museum, some coveted Italian government treasure house, a regal palace or priceless residence from Victorian times?
No. It is a hotel, conceived by forward-thinking Raffaele Fiorentino in 1834 and managed by the Fiorentino family ever since, the current fifth generation rattling off names of guests like a Who's Who of royalty, business, the arts, music, literature and film… even an Australian politician who would later go on to become his country's Prime Minister (our lips are sealed.)
Names like Otto von Bismarck, King Louis of Bavaria, England's Prince of Wales in 1874 who would later return as King of his country, Catherine Grand Duchess of Russia, King Rama VII of Siam (now Thailand,) England's Princess Margaret …
And Richard Strauss, Luciano Pavarotti, Andrea Bocelli, Lionel Ritchie, Barbara Streisand, Marilyn Monroe… and Enrico Caruso who in 1921 spent his last days here in Suite 448 that's now named after him.
Jack Lemmon and Juliet Mills played their parts in the Billy Wilder film 'Avanti' here, and Sophia Loren, Edoardo Ponti and Philippe Noiret in 'Qualcosa di Biondo'…
From the very beginning the Fiorentinos wanted their Grand Hotel Excelsior Vittoria to stand out from the rest for those undertaking the Grand Tour – not just for its clifftop location in the very heart of Sorrento, but for its décor, services and dining.
So rather than one over-powering monolithic structure they created three smaller interconnecting buildings… and as pioneering firsts back in 1834, installed unique private bathrooms in each of their 92 rooms and suites, new-fangled electric lighting, even a remarkable funicular railway inside a one-time Roman-era tunnel linking the hotel directly with Sorrento's waterfront below.
Today, guests enjoy a choice of boutique venues and terraces rather than vast restaurants and bars, indoor and seasonal outdoor dining areas offering a choice of Michelin Star regional Campania, Mediterranean and international cuisines… and for those who must have their American-style buffet fix for breakfast, the Vittoria Breakfast Room has that together with a healthy organic corner and a pianist at play.
Other rooms include the Winter Garden with its overflowing flower baskets, the quiet Reading Room with photographs and newspaper cuttings chronicling those who have indulged here, the Music Room adorned with lush green plants and furnishings handcrafted by local artisans…
Large, grand and in many cases over-sized guest rooms and suites reflect the Victorian era with classic antiques contrasted by the latest in contemporary 21st century facilities, almost all having private terraces overlooking the azure Bay of Naples with its flanking hills of olive and citrus groves.
Guests can frolic in the large hydro-jet pool, be pampered in the only Spa on the Amalfi Coast to offer Australian-invented Intraceuticals Oxygen Facials (a hit with the likes of Madonna, Naomi Campbell, Kim Kardashian and Justin Timberlake,) work out in the hi-tech Gym, walk or jog the 2ha-plus private park with its 100 year old ornamental trees, citrus, olive, vegetable and flower gardens, and children's playground.
Or take the lift directly from the hotel down to Sorrento's waterfront for outings by car, coach, train, ferry or private launch to nearby Capri, Naples, Mount Vesuvius, Pompeii and Herculaneum, Amalfi, Ravello or Positano…
Prices start from Euro220 per room per night including buffet breakfast for two, complimentary Wi-Fi and taxes, and the hotel has its own carpark for self-drive holidaymakers. Book through your favourite travel agent.
 SORRENTO'S Grand Hotel Excelsior Vittoria overlooks the town's marina and
captures million dollar views to left and right.
 SEASONAL outdoor dining venues like this offer a choice of regional
Campania, Mediterranean and international cuisines.
 THE Blue Salon for taking gracious afternoon teas in an ambience of an era past.
 PREMIUM Deluxe guest room fit for a Who's Who of royalty, business, the arts,
music, literature and film… and a future Australian Prime Minister.
 CHILDREN'S playground in a corner of the hotel's 2ha-plus private park with 100
year old ornamental trees, citrus, olive, vegetable and flower gardens.
(Images: Grand Hotel Excelsior Vittoria)