The hotel in Sorrento lives up to its “big” name

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The oldest hotel on the Sorrento Peninsula, a stay at the Grand Hotel Cocumella is like stepping back in time into a world of old-school hospitality and charm. Formerly a 16th-century monastery and now adjoining the old chapel, the hotel has hosted Goethe, Mary Shelley, Hans Christian Anderson and Sigmund Freud on their ‘Grand Tour’ throughout its 200-year history. And now it houses me.

The look

The Grand Hotel Cocumella sits on a huge piece of land next to the overlooked parish of Sant’Angello, just a few minutes drive from Sorrento. The main building has majestic arched hallways lined with statues that lead to a tiny bar and restaurant overlooking the grounds and the sea. Outside, a long path leads diagonally through manicured and dense gardens with ornate statues, a vegetable garden and fruit trees. Tucked away is a tennis court, pool and a second restaurant. The path ends at the top of the cliffs with magnificent views of the sea and peninsula down to Ischia, Naples and Vesuvius. There is also a restaurant here and access to a private beach via an impressive path carved through the side of the cliff. A serviced pier juts out into the ocean from the beach, where guests can relax on sun loungers between ocean dives.

service

I am impressed by the concierge who, via email request before my arrival, arranges a spectacular sunny yellow Vespa to cruise around Amalfi and Sorrento for the next four days. The Vespa – which lacks a rear-view mirror – draws more attention than I expected, even from the Positano police, who gave me a parking fine. I wouldn’t be surprised if it now has its own TIkTok account. Service here is of the old-fashioned five-star kind across the board, with sweet quirks like acquiring your (very large) key every time you leave the hotel and staff remembering your room number every time , when you come back to pick them up.

The room

I love this room which is large and has a beautiful view over the property to the sea and Mount Vesuvius. Decorated with antique furniture, it has a separate bedroom and living room, a balcony and a sun terrace. The marble bathroom has a large whirlpool tub from which to soak up the view, and there are large bottles of Diptyche toiletries that I’ll be enjoying for days to come. There’s nightly turndown service and fresh flowers — a nice touch.

food + drink

Starving after my trip from Rome, I rush to a pit stop at the poolside restaurant L’Agrumeto, which is shaded by vines and orange trees with an outdoor kitchen and pizza oven – classic Amalfi decor. The smell of cooked tomatoes is intoxicating, and I can’t resist ordering a pasta dish smothered in the stuff. The excellent staff here also recommended the pizza, so I come back the next day for one of these doughy delights, served with a whole slice of burrata in the center and local anchovies.

Perched on the cliff top with stunning views of the lights of Naples sparkling beneath distant Mount Vesuvius is the third restaurant, Coku, Italy’s first robata restaurant. The generous portions at lunch mean I can’t fit a heavy dinner, but my tempura fish and vegetable “snack” is indeed a hearty portion that I wash down with a sturdy Negroni. Breakfast is another smorgasbord of temptation, with staff I trust presenting focaccia straight from the oven and fresh orange juice from the orchard outside my window. There are whole grain croissants with a touch of honey; Fruit tarts, cakes, different types of cheese and so on.

On road

Sorrento is so close that you can walk there within 30 minutes. and the under-the-radar Sant’ Angello is also worth exploring. However, I have my own bikes and can take me down the Sorrento coast from here. The Amalfi Coast is also within easy reach – Positano is probably far enough away, anything else would make the day a long day and you may want to take some time to enjoy the hotel’s facilities. And having your own sun lounger on a private beach is enviable in Italy.

The judgment

This classic luxury hotel lives up to its great name and is a destination in itself.

Our rating of five

Five

The essentials

Via Cocumella, 7, 80065, Sant’Agnello di Sorrento, Italy; [email protected]; cocumella.com. Rooms from €500 ($719) per night.

To mark

I can’t decide if this is my first time observing the view from my balcony; a swim on the private beach or a lunch under the vines on pasta with tomato.

Little light

No USB ports make charging devices difficult—plan accordingly.

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