Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Grand Hotel Convento di Amalfi

“This historic early 13th-century monastery slung across cliffs above Amalfi’s harbor, first became a hotel in 1885. Reached by lift (or a path that zigzags up the cliff face), it’s a lofty world of its own, including the church, cloister, lemon groves, and pool”.
The hardly noticeable ground floor entrance to the hotel stands on a bend, with temporary parking, of the famous SS163 Amalfitana coast road, on the edge of Amalfi. From there, a lift whisks guests high above to seven floors with access to reception, church, and cloister, Monks’ Walk (now the fabulous terrace), gardens, pool, restaurant, and bedrooms.

Alighting from the lift, it feels as if one has been transported to a castle ­– or in this case Capuchin monastery ­– in the sky, with exhilarating sea and harbor views. It takes a while to learn the layout and adjust to the slightly corporate feel of the hotel, but there’s no doubt that the historic setting is extraordinary.

The bare cliff towers above, the terraced gardens drop almost vertically below and the building, exuding a monastic air and fittingly decorated in calm, contemporary, undemanding – verging on bland – fashion, stretches between the half-ruined cloisters and Baroque-style church (available for weddings) at one end and gorgeous infinity pool and outdoor restaurant La Locanda at the other.
Service is friendly and efficient, though in general perhaps less personal than in another luxury, mostly privately-owned and often family-run Amalfi Coast hotels: not surprising, as it is part of large Spanish-owned group, NH Hotels.

Facilities include an infinity pool on the terrace, a wellness area with a spa and gym, two restaurants, a bar, a reading room, and the cascading gardens. Valet parking is available, and the hotel provides a free shuttle service into town.

The 53 rooms are small in size (the legacy of a converted monastery), found along suitably monastic long corridors, occasionally adorned with old black and white photos of the property. They are decorated in cool, contemporary style: elegant, simple, linear and white. It's somewhat clinical and uninspiring but tranquil and in no way irritating.

There are terracotta floors and marble bathrooms and many rooms have a balcony or terrace with breathtaking views over the coast and Monks’ Walk below. Best is the Eremite Suite, on its own at the top of steep steps, with panoramic views and outdoor hot tub.

Non-Italian restaurants are a distinct rarity on the Amalfi Coast, but here guests can dine on Japanese cuisine at the dinner-only Kyushu (open April to October). The creation of Japan-trained Madrid chef Julian Marmol, the dishes are a fusion of Japanese cooking with Neapolitan ingredients and flavors, such as nigiri of salmon with Amalfi lemon and gyozo (pasta) with Neapolitan sauce.

The à la carte menu (there are also two tasting menus) can be confusing at first. Some dishes, such as the tuna and salmon sashimi and the tataki of rubia beef with fennel and balsamic vinegar stand out but all are beautifully prepared, and they certainly make a change.

Normal Italian fare is served in outdoor restaurant La Locanda. The buffet breakfast is one of the most extensive on the coast.


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