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Palazzo Sasso, Ravello, Italy

Larry Olmsted
From the Print Edition:
William Shatner, Sept/Oct 2006

Ravello is closer to heaven than it is to the shore," claimed André Gide, the Nobel laureate in literature. The author Gore Vidal was so taken with the setting that he moved in (his hillside villa just sold for over $17 million). Ravello, the smallest, quaintest and most exclusive of the triumvirate of glorious towns that make the Amalfi Coast Italy's romantic best, has this effect on people. From postcard-perfect views of the azure waters of the Mediterranean to medieval hill towns and cliff-top villas, the region enjoys one of the most stunning and dramatic settings on earth. Steep hillsides are terraced with endless vineyards, gardens and orchards, broken by the occasional castle ruins or ancient stone walls. For Amalfi's hospitality and culinary best, look no further than Palazzo Sasso.

The small luxury hotel fits the town like a glove: Ravello blissfully lacks the souvenir shops and day tourists that inundate the region. As a result, such visiting dignitaries as Humphrey Bogart, Jacqueline Kennedy, Dwight Eisenhower and Placido Domingo have made this serene town, perched 1,000 feet above the Gulf of Salerno, their escapist haven. Palazzo Sasso, just steps from Ravello's Duomo and central piazza, is the place to experience the magic. The stunning structure began life as a royal palace more than 800 years ago, and since 1997, when it was turned into a luxury hotel, Palazzo Sasso has offered accommodations fit for royalty.

The hotel has just 43 rooms, including two oversized, decadent VIP suites equipped with private whirlpool baths and terraces, but even the smallest rooms boast multifunction showers with waterfalls and massage jets and amenities that include Bulgari toiletries and a choice of silk, linen or cotton sheets. Guests can enjoy a lavish, fully equipped spa, a gorgeous blue-tile pool with one of the best views on earth, and a rooftop solarium with hot tubs and sweeping vistas of the coastline. The season runs from March to October and the rooms from $360 to $2,400 a night.

Perhaps the marquee attraction at Palazzo Sasso is Rossellini's, the most-revered restaurant on the Amalfi Coast and the only two-star Michelin eatery in this part of Italy. Diners who opt to eat on the sunny outdoor patio are rewarded with world-class food and an equally charming view that takes in the coast, hillside gardens, lemon groves and even a coastal watchtower erected by the Knights of Malta in the twelfth century. Centuries-old cobblestone walkways lead from the hotel down the mountain to the sea, and everywhere you look is a tempting attraction. But despite the many beckoning charms of the Amalfi region, once you have settled into the heaven that is Palazzo Sasso, it is hard to leave.

Call 800-225-4255 or visit www.sanctuare.com.

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