Those of us who love the Amalfi Coast know exactly what draws us back year after year: its beauty. But we like to appreciate that beauty in comfort, while we are looked after with courtesy and charm and while we have to hand delicious food and exquisite wine. That is why we go to the Casa Angelina. It occupies a spotless villa in one of the very best locations on the Costa Amalfitana. From its elevated position, it provides the guests in its 39 rooms with a panorama which embraces Positano, Capri and a substantial stretch of the most famous coastline in the world. Reached by a vertiginous private road, it has the feeling of a luxurious retreat. In the mornings I counted just three sounds: the bell of the local church calling the faithful to the divine mysteries, the birds singing to welcome the new day and a distant cockerel proclaiming his masculinity.
The hotel is in the small town of Praiano, between Amalfi and Positano. ‘Praia’ means beach, and the hotel does, indeed, have its own private beach, which can be reached by a lift. But I preferred to stay up in the main building, surrounded by a gathering of glass sculptures by Sosabravo (part of the collection of modern art of Signor Cappiello, the owner) and gaze out of the plate glass windows at the sparkling seascape. Sometimes I was tempted out of the sitting rooms and onto the terrace for my afternoon pot of Earl Grey. But, whether outside or inside, I was always conscious of what a privilege it was to be in so beautiful a spot.
My room, number 310, was a ‘Romantic Double’. (You will need to check the hotel website for the prices for specific dates.) It was, like the rest of the hotel, very white. If, like me, you do not travel light, you might wish to secure a higher category of room, for the amount of space was modest. Still, everything was impressively pristine, and the bed had been made deliciously soft for me. A hallway, with hanging space and a safe, had a sliding door to the bathroom and then led round to the bedroom, with its Bang & Olufsen television receiver. Another sliding door opened from the sleeping quarters to my balcony. And there, of course, was the lovely view. In the bathroom I found one wash basin, a bath tub of good size (with a shower over), a loo, a bidet and toiletries by L’Occitane. This apartment, like the rest of the property, was immaculately maintained.
The Managing Director of the Casa Angelina is Domenico de Simone. I present to you a picture of him with Annarita Aprea, the charming Director of Sales. I must congratulate them on their staff, for everyone with whom I had to do here was friendly, efficient and courteous.
The hotel is particularly proud of it breakfasts. And it is right to be proud, for the Casa Angelina serves one of the best breakfasts in Italy. It is not the extent of the buffet which calls forth this tribute. (It is certainly extensive, but anyone can lay on an extensive buffet.) It is the exceptional quality of what is laid out. I tried the melon, the pineapple, the raspberries, the blueberries, the fruit salad, the fruit tart, the roast beef, the asparagus, the prosciutto (carved to order by a chef), the croissants, the crusty bread and the marmalade, and I can say without a hint of exaggeration that they were all magnificent. Indeed, they were so good that I had to make a serious effort of will not to eat far more than was good for me. And added to these delights were the hot dishes cooked to order. My onion omelettes and my mushrooms on toast were some of the best examples of these dishes I have eaten. These delights were eaten off fine white Schönwald crockery set upon a sky blue tablecloth as I sat in a white wicker armchair and contemplated the sky and the coast from the terrace of Un Piano nel Cielo, the hotel’s top-floor restaurant.
All this suggests a real talent in the kitchen. And there is one – Chef Vincenzo Vanacore. In the evening I chose four courses from his carte (for which you should allow around 100€) and enjoyed a dinner of beautifully presented and intelligently conceived food. Perfectly roasted scallops came with what I can best describe as a little toffee apple. This was a brilliant combination, and one new to me. I shall pounce upon it eagerly if I ever see it offered elsewhere. Artichoke, aniseed and smoked bacon provided interest for the paccheri, although I confess that this pasta was a bit too al dente for my delicate palate. The beef, however, was magnificent – as it should have been, for it was Scottona Marchigana beef. This tender, flavoursome fillet was – at my request – served with boiled peas and sautéed onions, and was truly wonderful. Strawberry and chocolate soup was wonderful, too – although it was better without the strongly-flavoured yoghurt ice cream which accompanied it.
With the setting sun the dining room becomes a calm and sophisticated place, with Riedel glassware, grey tablecloths, candles and discreet lighting. Napkins are re-folded when guests leave the table for a moment and wooden stools are provided for the ladies’ bags. The waiters and waitresses in their loose grey shirts are unobtrusive and discreet. The weather being clement, I sat again on the terrace, where tiny torches were provided to shine on the menu cards.
A water menu lists numerous bottles, with prices going up to 110€ for Bling H20. The wine list is a grand document, with 886 offerings (including 88 magnums). Most are Italian, but France is well represented and there are some well-chosen ‘others’. Prices on the list struck me as reasonable for an establishment of this quality. They run from 24€ for a Tuscan vernaccia to 2,750€ for the 1996 vintage of Pétrus and 3,500€ for a magnum of Mr Gaja’s 1997 Sperss. If you like your 2001 clarets, here you can choose from Cheval Blanc (450€), Latour (590€), Margaux (650€), Haut Brion (680€), Mouton Rothschild (650€) and Lafite (900€). If you prefer 2011 super-Tuscans, Sassicaia is 250€, Solaia is 300€, Ornellaia is 190€ and Masseto is 680€. For your bubbly, Krug Grande Cuvée is 270€ and 2005 Annamaria Clementi, Cà del Bosco, is 140€. Guided by the knowledgeable sommelier, Tiziano Imperato, I found a local red with the dense black fruit and clear tannins to go very well with the beef (Aglianico Core, Montevertrano, 2013 – 40€). This was good drinking in a god restaurant in a good hotel.
Those of us who love the Amalfi Coast love the Casa Angelina.
Via Capriglione 147, Praiano 84010, Amalfi Coast, Italy.
Telephone +39 089 813 1333
Fax +39 089 874 266
Double rooms from around 420€, bed and breakfast, according to season
See the hotel website for specific dates and special offers