As the plane descends into Naples airport, the islands of Ischia and Capri sparkle beneath the wing tips. On arrival we are met by our driver who instantly engages my youngest football-mad son with news of the latest Napoli signings. It has been twenty years and two months and seventeen days since I last visited the Amalfi coast. I know this because we were on our honeymoon! And little has changed … more of Pompei has been uncovered from the volcanic ash of Vesuvius, the roads are still chaotic but no more busy, Vesuvius sits still – quiet but menacing – not a puff of smoke to give away it’s violent past, and only the speck of the research and monitoring station at its peak and the shriek of “shield volcano” from our A level Geography student daughter to point it out.

We climb out and up the Apennine mountains, the spine of Italy. This is tomato country and the switchback roads are lined with the fruit in every colour and shape, all that volcanic soil and hot sun supercharging their growth. We are told this section of the mountains are called the Milk Mountains for the number of goats there that produce Mozzarella. Try as we might, we can’t spot one single goat until our driver slows to convince the doubters and there before us are battalions of the horned beasts sheltering under the canopy of pine trees.

Goats found, we descend towards Ravello. Of the Amalfi coast towns (there are twenty seven of them in total) Ravello alone seems to have totally escaped the issues of mass tourism and its tiny streets, squares, gardens and stairs seem just to me as they were twenty years ago, and perhaps just the same as when they were discovered by tourism in the sixties and made famous by films and film stars. You forget that that the town was an escape as far back as Roman times, and the Villa Rufflo is now a dramatic backdrop to the Ravello music festival.

ravello in italy

We were lucky enough to be staying in Palazzo Avino, the original luxury boutique hotel of Ravello. The modest entrance to the hotel disguises what is to come. The reception full of orchids leads to a lounge with a fabulous blend of antique furniture and modern art, but not even an original Michaelangelo would distract you from the the view. Everyone who arrives is drawn to open windows to pause, transfixed by the uninterrupted vista from the mountains to the Amalfi coastal towns and villages clinging to the hillsides and down steeply to views of yachts and boats bobbing on the glimmering sea.

The hotel has been perfectly designed to the make the most of the perfect panoramas, from the roof Jacuzzi pool to the numerous terraces which tumble down the hillside, each offering a slightly different outlook and proposition. Arbours covered in lemons and sweetly smelling blossom offer shelter and privacy, not that the hotel ever feels busy with only 36 rooms. It’s grand and imposing and its frontage is large, taking on those views, but like a racing yacht, Palazzo Avino is long and relatively narrow.

The hotel is nicknamed The Pink Palace as it is painted a hue of pink which Farrow & Ball would love to capture – it blends perfectly into its surroundings. Family owned and run, there is a sense of belonging and place. Such hotels have a style and touch no chain can match or replicate. The gardens are immaculate with begonias lining the pool and paths. Rooms and Suites have been furnished with care, love and a personal touch. We adored the antique mirrors which adorned the halls and walls of the hotel with foxed glass giving a soft reflection on those that passed by, and the antique Persian runners which wound round the marble staircases.

pink palace

This a hotel you could stay in forever, but three or four nights would be perfect. The hotel is obviously loved by the Avino family and we loved it back. As we left we met one of the Avino daughters and Mr Avino himself, quietly watching the world from reception with his faithful sausage dog Richard by his side. How proud he must feel to have created such a wonderful hotel. I sincerely hope it’s not 20 years, two months and seventeen days until I return again.

sophie and angus at the pink palace

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