They say a view is best seen from above. But as we drove away leaving Naples behind us, to the foot of the mountains, I could understand why this coast has been under attack for millennia by maritime marauders… The headlands with crumbling watchtowers, the viewpoints with their guardian castles, the chasms with their small, hidden, glowing churches, against cliff-faces, all teetering above awful drops. Such were the views leading up to the Amalfi coast. Our journey was yet to deliver us to the spectacles from above.
Of the grand ruins which hang over the Amalfi Coast, is a cliff top bearing the Monastero Santa Rosa. The preserved 17th century monastery sitting against nothing but sky and stone, tells you it bears one of the most magnificent views of the coast. Peering up as we waited to meet a gentleman from the Hotel, I was ready to believe it.
The first titanic realization to dawn upon me was the painstaking romanticism of this renovated Monastery to Boutique Hotel steeped in history. Which I was about to enjoy with my very female best friend. Nevertheless, this slice of paradise can be marveled at by any and all visitors, as was displayed over our stay.
Greeted by the warm members of the hotel with a glass of limoncello from lemons home-grown in the gardens, we were invited to peer outside an arched bay window cut into the stone walls at the entrance to take in the surrounding serenity which would encumber us for the next two days. We stood behind our stone window gaping at the dramatic winding roads and the endless blue sea from this point on Conca dei Marini. This part of the Amalfi coast is a sleepy fisherman’s village with cobblestone and lemon groves galore. The charming Majid guided us through the majestic hallway of the monastery onto a terrace of majolica tiling, with a full view of the alabaster-toned splendor and tiered landscaping, spilling into a gloriously scented tiered garden, drawn to a halt by an infinity pool, which true to character, seems to spill superbly off our cliff-top into the ocean below.
Dragged, quite literally, in doors by Majid who had patiently asked 3 times now if we would like to see our rooms, we walked back through the halls, and up a flight of stairs to our suite. Carved designs into the cobbles and plaster from foot to ceiling, original paintings dating back to the days of the monastery, ornaments and a confession booth flitted past us as walked on. We arrived at our suite, the Lilly Suite, of 19 others, and stepped in to face the wide vaulting and four windows in this authentic but luxuriously furnished room. God was in the detail. He was also in the lighting (automatically flicking on and off as the sensors follow your trail), the Wifi (quicker than I can blink), the heated tiled floor (which had us gleefully marching around the room and bathroom barefoot, as if 32 degree heat didn’t await us out doors), chilled champagne and a greeting card addressed to each of us. My second delayed titanic realization was the wonder that the hotel has kept to it’s original incarnation as a tranquil, simplistic, isolated Monastery, yet transformed into this tower of luxury. I can’t imagine how else a place so magnificent could have looked but don’t suspect that the nuns will have lived like this.
Our breakfast on the hotel terrace presented hand-crafted flavours of the Campania. Delicately rolled pastries baked freshly within the hour, fresh meats, cheeses, fruits, all garnished with locally sourced ingredients, piled plates in abundance at your table.
Only the Spa, the Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella could tempt us to leave our view at this point. Set, again within the vaulted ceilings and the soft stone walls of the original monastery, the thermal spa with a tepidarium, hydro pool and aromatic steam room, is merely an extension of the luxurious gardens and infinity pool steps away. As we soaked up the local ingredients in the array of products, my favourite being the pasti de mandorle (that’s almond paste to you) the rose, bitter orange and iris powders blended into the massage oils, the serenity was broken by an unfamiliar sound. The unmistakable cackle of the quintessential American housewife echoed against the walls. Listening to the ricocheting sounds, I heard her tell of the wonder of America, how: “Everything’s possible there. You can achieve anything you want. All you gotta do is work hard! It’s the freest place in the world.” I wanted to echo back, from my walls to hers, that freedom is stumbling upon the castle-like silhouette of this coastal gem. Freedom is lying in this once Holy Ground, transformed over a ten year labour of love by local artisans and craftsmen, to create a point of luxury steeped in 500 years of history, and wishing you could lay here for 500 more.