I have probably been to Palazzo Avino (formerly Palazzo Sasso) a dozen times now (yes I am lucky!) but it just gets better every time I go.
Every year I host a familiarisation trip, usually in April but this time we decided to change it to May so that our guests could experience the beach club and wow did we experience it!
The 3.20am wakeup call on Monday had been praying on my mind during most of Sunday but actually I was awake at 3am in anticipation of what I knew would be a lovely trip so did my "automatic pilot" routine for the 6.35 flight from Gatwick to Naples. Arriving to glorious sunshine, we were soon in our comfortable vehicle for the one hour transfer to the hotel.
Sitting at Terrazza Belvedere for lunch by 12.15 with a glass of prosecco and looking into the glass like sea below, the early morning start was just a distant memory!
Feeling revived after a, nutritious salad with homemade breads and delicious olive oil, few of us wandered into Ravello (only a five minute walk). Ravello is such a unique place, known globally as somewhere on most people's “bucket list”. It is unique in its charm, full of locals and whilst a tourist attraction, still unspoilt with its stunning art galleries, cashmere shops and stylish boutiques. I defy anyone to come away without treating yourself!
Cocktails on the terrace at 7pm and whilst waiting for the group, I observed all the happy couples and families making the most of this special place and creating memories, taking photos that they would look back on sentimentally in years to come. Palazzo Avino oozes elegance and what struck me as I sat there was the understated luxury of the place. Guests are obviously used to the best in life but there is a subtlety about the service. The staff is friendly and professional but confident in what they do and very evidently love working here.
Having enjoyed our cocktail, we opted for a local pizzeria, La Vecchia Cantina only a ten minute walk from the hotel where we enjoyed the most delicious hors d'oeuvres - fresh squid, anchovies, roasted vegetables, the mandatory buffalo mozzarella and smoked salmon. That would have been enough for me but then came two of the most enormous platters of pizza I have ever seen! Unlike our pizzas though they were light (or so I convinced myself!). The service was attentive and friendly and they certainly did not take note of “no thank you" when it came to second helpings! Our fellow diners were a mix of locals and tourists and created a lovely atmosphere in casual surroundings.
At 11pm we called it a day and wandered back through the square looking forward to the soft Frette linens awaiting us!
I had promised myself that I would get up early on the Tuesday and do the 1600 steps to Minori and back so full of enthusiasm, I jumped out if bed and donned my trainers to greet the beautiful morning with not a soul around. The descent was fine, taking in the breath-taking vista of the Amalfi coast at its best - a mirror like sea, lemon groves in abundance and little houses scattered around with their owners waking up to start their day in this magical corner of Italy. It struck me as I walked how simple their lives probably are and I wondered if they truly appreciate what a special part of the world they live in. I met three young children walking to school, aged 8 or 9 which made me contemplate what do we really need in life? As I pondered, I decided that these people might have it all! -a small house, beautiful views, nature, fresh, organic food, friends and a culture that nurtures family life!
The ascent was much more challenging than I had remembered and soon put an end to my philosophical thinking...... I consider myself to be reasonably fit but it was very tough, the morning sun adding to the challenge...
Eventually I made it back to the hotel and joined the group for a well-earned breakfast selecting from the gorgeous array of fruits, hams, cheeses and breads.
After the hotel site inspection, we took the hotel's shuttle bus to Palazzo Avino's beach club which is exclusive to hotel guests only (15 minutes from the hotel) where Giuseppe and Maria Elena gave us the best of welcomes, showing us the three different levels where we could base ourselves. We opted for the lower level, closest to the sea and a couple of brave colleagues jumped in! The Clubhouse by the sea is a great alternative to the hotel pool for those who want to swim in the ocean, do kayaking or snorkelling or simply
have a change of scenery. I would certainly recommend any guest at the hotel to spend at least half a day there and it is ever popular with families.
With Giuseppe attentively serving us drinks and issuing towels and cushions to make us feel even more pampered, we collectively agreed that we loved our jobs!
En route back to the hotel, we took a detour (only fifteen minutes from the Beach club) to visit Amalfi which was extremely busy with the many tour buses that stop there as part of a coastal trip and many of the boats to Positano, Capri etc depart from here so it is generally never quiet and a complete contrast to Ravello.
We stopped at Sacha in the main square for a gelato and people watching. Once back at the hotel which is only another fifteen minutes from Amalfi, I took myself up to the roof terrace sadly to check emails but there are a lot worse places this could be done. Two couples were enjoying a bottle of prosecco, dipping periodically into the Jacuzzi. I wasn't at all jealous! The roof top terrace is a must to catch the last of the day’s sun and witness the glorious sunset.
At 6.30pm I decided to try out the spa and so booked a back and shoulder massage which was wonderful except that I could have stayed for another hour! The spa is small but stylish and offers an adequate choice of treatments.
After sampling Salvatore's cocktail recommendations in the lobster and martini bar, we experienced what can only be described as a culinary masterpiece in the Michelin starred and newly renovated Rossellini's restaurant. Chef Michele Deleo kept producing what were more like works of art than food, every one better than the last. My favourite, however, was the lobster course steamed and served with buffalo mozzarella cream, eggplant confit and its aromatic bisque as well as the "pre dessert" course of fish and chip ice cream!
It is not often a group of eight travel agents are stuck for words, but they were definitely "wowed" a big thank you to Michele and his team for such a gastronomic experience.
I had an early wakeup call on Wednesday to fly home but the rest of my friends were doing a guided tour of Ravello and then Pompeii en route to the airport for the late BA flight out of Naples.
I had stayed only two nights at Palazzo Avino and came back feeling very spoilt and privileged to be representing such an incredible resort.
To find out more information about Palazzo Avino in Ravello, Amalfi Coast, visit the hotel's official website.