HOTEL VILLA FRAULO
The astonishing beauty of Ravello attracts both visitors and hoteliers. The latter include some of Italy’s finest. The opening of a new hotel in this magical place is therefore a matter of some importance. I have known for some considerable time about the plans to create this particular establishment. Indeed, I have observed over the course of my numerous visits, as I have walked past on my way to the town’s piazza for my morning coffee, the progress of the restoration. It has been painfully (and painstakingly) slow. Now, however, the work is done, and I have returned to one of my very favourite destinations in Italy to see whether the many years of waiting have been worthwhile. They have. I can report that the Hotel Villa Fraulo is a fine establishment, and I am happy to pay tribute for this achievement to the owners – including the jovial, enthusiastic and ever-present Matteo di Lieto (pictured with your correspondent). He has done a marvellous job, not least in securing some first class members of staff – notably, the General Manager, Maurizio d’Agostino (pictured)– and has ensured that this is a worthy addition to the stock of Ravello’s fine hotels.
It has just 26 rooms (including 5 suites), and I must advise you at once about which rooms you should choose. The building sits on the side of a hill. Its upper part is the original residence of the Cortese family, which was eventually re-named after Pantaleone Fraulo, who bought it in 1908. Its lower part is new. With your luggage, you arrive and depart at the lower entrance, on a road which leads up to the town centre. As a pedestrian, you use the higher doorway, which leads you out onto the via San Giovanni del Toro, the street of grand villas. Here you find prettiness all around, with ancient ruins, quiet gardens and views of the Cathedral tower. The general principle with the accommodation is: the higher the better.
If you can manage the steps for one flight of stairs, the 8th (and top) floor is best. Here are rooms 802 (a Deluxe – 380-560€ a night) and 801 (the ‘Infinity Suite’ – a lovely, spacious, elegant apartment, which certainly deserves its price of 780-1,000€ a night). If the lift is a necessity for you, then it should be the 4th or the 5th floors. (The 6th and 7th floors are occupied by the Restaurant, the Reception and the public sitting rooms.) All the rooms have balconies and terraces and enjoy the views for which Ravello is famous around the world: of the rugged Amalfi coastline and of the sea, gently swaying a thousand feet below.
My own room was number 403, a Junior Suite on the 4th floor (560-650€ a night, bed and breakfast for two). Here there was much pristine white, including the painted walls and ceiling and the ceramic tiles on the floor. A period-style mahogany writing table and a sofa in beige damask provided some colour. The bed was large, and made extremely comfortable for me, by the addition of numerous soft duvets under the bottom sheet. In the walk-in wardrobe was a safe and in the bathroom was a lot of white marble. (There is much marble throughout the hotel, an abundance which imparts a pleasing sense of occasion to crossing its floors and sitting in its salons.) The separate loo (with a bidet) and the separate shower were behind glass doors. The tub was of good size, and I could therefore soak in warm comfort each evening, before engaging in the usual pre-prandial struggle with my stiff collar and studs.
The restaurant is a pleasing space. Sitting inside, on a blue and white fauteuil by the 19th century fireplace, or outside, on a metal armchair on the terrace next to a marble fountain, I found the environment entirely conducive to enjoyable eating and drinking. Chef Giovanni Luigi Mansi (pictured) cooks good ingredients with care, combines them with intelligence and serves them in healthy portions.
I will tell you of my dinner during one of the most dramatic electrical storms I have ever seen. As the heavens opened, the rain poured down and the thunder crashed, on the verandah all was calm, for I was being looked after by the excellent Restaurant Manager, Maurizio di Palma, and by my charming waiter, Ivan. They ensured that my evening was a delight.
I began with a large, prettily arranged plate of beef carpaccio, with rocket and shavings of parmesan. All the proper tastes were present and correct. Then I moved on to some good pasta – soft tagliatelle, with broad beans, crispy bacon, pecorino cheese and fried leeks. This was followed by the highlight of the meal – tender and tasty fillet of beef, pink and yielding, with fried onions and steamed asparagus. I ended, as one should in this region of lemons, with lemon cake with a sauce of wild berries. (These four courses were 70€.)
The wine list has 84 offerings. Prices run from 18€ for a white from Orvieto to 205€ for a 2006 super Tuscan called Siepi. I was grateful to Mr di Palma for recommending a lovely pink Franciacorta, its bubbles and freshness ideal for my first two courses, and then a full-bodied chianti with plenty of bold black fruit for the beef (Fonterutoli, 2008 - 55€).
I returned to the restaurant terrace each morning for breakfast. Then thoughts of storms were banished by the sunshine, and my mornings began, shaded from the sun and able to gaze at the coastline far away, with pots of coffee, glasses of orange juice and plates of grilled local fish. From the buffet I took croissants, slices of pineapple and melon and croissants.
With its perfect location, comfortable apartments, hard-working kitchen and first-class staff, the Villa Fraulo is a hostelry which will attract those of discernment and taste – like myself. Ravello can be proud of its new hotel.
HOTEL VILLA FRAULO
Via San Giovanni del Toro 18, 84010 Ravello, Italy.
Telephone +39 089 85 82 83
Fax +39 089 311 52051
Double rooms from 199€-249€ including breakfast, according to season.
Ask about special offers