A close look at…
Sorrento | Grand Hotel Excelsior Vittoria
Vedi Napoli e poi muori! – See Naples and Die…
Even in secure distance from the urban conundrum of Naples, the high cliffs of Sorrento deploy a vista so beautiful that they can only invoke in extremis proverbs or romantic-sentimental songs. Neither seem out-of-place in one of Italy’s last family owned historic Grand Hotels where the spirit of the 19th century Grand Tour and their sophisticated travelers – crowned and uncrowned – is (still) omnipresent.
But regardless of the hotel’s dignified elegance, its extensive grounds and private park grant a feeling of remoteness that is perhaps its most captivating, if not truly decadent luxury. Consequently, Splendid Isolation – deprived of the term’s original conception regarding British foreign policy back at the time – can easily be applied to the ‘Excelsior Vittoria’ nowadays: in an often crowded town where the combination of space, privacy and views is rather the exception than the rule, the hotel captures the essence of the turn of the century by means of a meticulously preserved and updated historical décor that could very well be the set for a James Ivory movie.
A stately iron gate leads right from Sorrento’s ‘outdoor salon’, Piazza Tasso, through lush grounds up to the discrete main entrance of one of the most famous hotels in the country. Inaugurated in 1834, the ‘Vittoria’ building is the oldest part of three distinct buildings that form the hotel and which were subsequently constructed on the edge of the cliff: the neo-classical ‘Rivale’ of 1882 and the intimate ‘Favorita’, reminiscent of a Swiss chalet but in line with the often surprising, but widely employed mix of architectural styles at the time.
As much as this vegetation buffer which is the hotel’s enormous park conceals the hotel landside, the ‘Excelsior Vittoria’ boasts an immediately recognizable profile from the water, on the more traditional (and infinitely more pleasant) approach by boat.
Though Sorrento’s emblematic vistas can also be enjoyed from other properties that line the front row of the high plateau above the water, the distinctive aura that emanates from the hotel composes also its charm. Appearing rather ornate and, at times overly elaborate by modern design concepts, the main public rooms contrast nevertheless harmoniously with the lightness the airy Art Nouveau ‘Winter Garden’ and adjacent reception area.
But above all, the generous outdoor terraces summarize in themselves the beauty of the classic Italian Journey.
Being a ‘small’ grand hotel with only 96 rooms and suites, the hotel manages to maintain a pleasant, individual note. High ceilings, antique furniture and sometimes even 19th century frescoes, create a dignified ambiance that rivals with the beauty of the private seafront balconies and terraces. Named after many notable public figures that frequented the hotel, the ‘Excelsior Vittoria’ offers in addition to the standard accommodations top-of-the-line ‘antique’ rooms such as the ‘Caruso’ (with its original 1921 décor) and ‘Princess Margaret’ suites. Both illustrate to perfection why the hotel appealed to the Who’s Who during the last 175 years.
It goes without saying, however, that the constraints of a 19th century buildings have created more than a few architectural challenges (notably with regard to the provision of bathrooms and the supply of air conditioning) that were mostly overcome quite successfully by successive updates which tried as much as possible not to conflict with the pizzaz of the Belle Époque, naturally deprived of such commodities.
Emphasizing the panorama with Mount Vesuvius and the islands of the Gulf that would draw an ever-increasing number of visitors and transform Sorrento into a world-famous resort, the Fiorentino family (three generations of local hôteliers and owners of the hotel to this day) recognized at an early stage the extraordinary asset of the hotel’s setting. Thus, the three buildings line the edge of the cliff in order to frame the outlook that Sorrento is rightly famous for. But unless other hotels, where the notion of a ‘garden view’ is often a mere euphemism, the green of the hotel’s park is a suitable, if less spectacular alternative. Open to all guests is perhaps the most cherished spot of the hotel, the ‘Terrazza Vittoria’, an elegant vantage point for the iconic vista, perched some 160 feet above Sorrento’s busy harbor.
Homemade preserves prepared from oranges of the hotel’s garden are a small, but excellent indicator of the overall quality and the well-groomed atmosphere that the hotel supplies in a consistently elegant coherence with its architectural heritage. Although breakfast is served in the rather dramatic setting of the sumptuous ‘Sala Vittoria’ (actually the original dining room) the hotel offers beyond a variety of dining venues, a modern pool area and state-of-the-art spa; both add a contemporary touch to the classical atmosphere. Just like in the old days, a hotel representative still meets guests arriving by boat at the pier of Marina Piccola and escorts them to the exclusive private elevator that provides a short, but spectacular ride up to the hotel.
But the ‘Excelsior Vittoria’ would only be half as impressive, had the good sense of the dedicated owner family not preserved the integrity of a their 5 acre property in the middle
of Sorrento: once located at the edge of the historic town, it is now situated in its epicenter, yet luxuriously shielded by abundant vegetation.
The Name of the Game
Nestled between orange trees and the sea, a staple of the Grand Tour framing one of Italy’s most emblematic vistas.
Grand Hotel Excelsior Vittoria
Piazza Tasso, 34
80067 Sorrento (NA)