Paula Lester discovers the high life at the seriously stylish Capri Palace hotel on the glamorous island of Capri, off Italy’s dazzling Amalfi coast.
From the moment I stepped off the ferry onto the quay at the bustling Marina Grande on the ‘blue island’ of Capri, I knew I’d arrived somewhere special.
At first, the crowds of tourists milling around the port’s cafés and souvenir shops (even in October) were a little off putting. And the drive to the hotel, which involved negotiating steep, single-lane roads and hairpin bends, wasn’t exactly relaxing (I can still hardly believe that our driver didn’t hit any of the buses we met coming the other way).
However, as soon as we walked through the tunnel-like entrance – punctuated by windows into the depths of the sunlounger-surrounded swimming pool – to the Capri Palace, it was clear this hotel is a calm, discreet and stylish oasis from the outside world.
Indeed, it was as sophisticated and elegant as I had imagined an Italian palazzo might be, with acres of pale linen-covered furniture and contemporary art.
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Although it was built in the authentic Capri style in the 1950s, this grand five-star retreat, with elegant whitewashed arched ceilings, vaults and Doric columns, looks more like an 18th century Neapolitan palace.
Rooms with a magnificent view
Many of the hotel’s 68 rooms, some with a private pool and garden, are named for the film stars and glamorous guests, such as Jackie Onassis and, more recently, Gwyneth Paltrow, who’ve flocked here since the island first became a high-class holiday destination in the 1960s.
And my ‘Marilyn Monroe’ suite certainly did not disappoint thanks to its own entrance hall, a bed the size of a small island, a massive limestone-floored bathroom with double sinks and a separate sitting room, plus a balcony overlooking the bay of Naples.
Michelin-starred magic on a plate
With two restaurants to choose from – L’Olivio (pictured below), which has two Michelin stars, and the more informal Ragu Bistrot, where it’s possible to devour deliciously fresh seafood, pasta and pizzas cooked in the wood-fired oven on the terrace – the food, along with the service, was exceptional.
Breakfast presented all manner of treats, from ham carved off the bone and local cheeses, to scrambled eggs, sausages and even Champagne on tap.
However, I will never forget the simple starter of rich red sliced tomatoes and plump mozzarella, topped with fresh basil, drizzled with the finest olive oil and balsamic vinegar, served with warm, garlic-encrusted flat bread that we enjoyed al fresco, during one long, relaxed lunch. Bellissimo!
Beauty is on the eye of the beholder
Tucked away discreetly at the back of the hotel – just off one of the main corridors, so it’s easy to walk back to your room while still clad in one of the spa’s fluffy white bathrobes – the Capri Beauty Farm is a multi award-winning and internationally acclaimed health club.
Offering all the usual beauty treatments, such as tension-melting massages and tailor-made facials – we were treated to an exclusive Skinesis treatment designed by the London facialist Sarah Chapman, that left us glowing and relaxed – the spa is also famous for pioneering medical wellbeing. Those wishing to lose weight can sign up for a health check up, a blood test, a nutritional consultation and follow a special diet during their stay.
Other procedures, such as the VelaSmooth Pro involve the use of a machine that sucks at your skin like a vacuum (more pleasant that it sounds) and emits infrared light in a bid combat cellulite and aid lymphatic drainage.
The spa’s signature treatment, The Leg School – masterminded by the spa’s medical director Prof Francesco Canonaco – aims to reduce the appearance of veins and tone legs. First devised by Prof Canonaco when he was head of Paediatrics at the University of Modena, this innovative therapy involves the application of (freezing cold) medical mud, enriched with mineral extracts, which is washed off before your legs are wrapped in cool, soaked bandages. The final stage, called Kneipp Hydrovascular Path, saw us hoiking up our bathrobes to wade through waist-deep channels of warm (38ºC) and cold (18ºC) marine algae-enriched water in a specially designed pool.
Although it’s difficult to assess the efficacy of a treatment after just one session, my legs definitely felt lighter and thread veins were less noticeable.
All in all, after such a wonderfully indulgent facial and targeted reshaping procedures, I felt much more comfortable wearing a summer dress – and flashing my pins – when we hit the delightful town of Capri later that evening.
Rooms at Capri Palace – part of the Mytha Hotel Anthology comprising seven retreats in Italy, Turkey, Croatia and Spain – start from £365 per night, on a bed and breakfast basis (00 39 06 320 8041; www.mythahotels.com)
While you’re there
- Take the chairlift to the top of Monte Solaro, which, at nearly 2,000ft, is the highest point on Capri and offers spectacular views of the Amalfi coast.
- Be sure to indulge in the Alice and Wonderland-like ‘dessert room’ (below) at the one Michelin star Beach Club Il Riccio – an impossibly romantic restaurant that clings to the cliff edge on the rocky coastline and serves delectable seafood – a 15-minute drive from the hotel, close to the infamous Blue Grotto.
- Book a specially-designed Sarah Chapman facial at the hotel’s Capri Beauty Farm, the first certified medical spa in Europe to offer the ‘leg school’ (which treats veins and cellulite) and the pioneering Bodyism fitness programme.
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