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October 7, 2009
August 26, 2009
December 17, 2004
Nowadays, the Excelsior Vittoria can also claim convenience as an asset in a time-pressed world. I literally stepped off the SITA coach I arrived on from Amalfi, crossed the street, and entered the front gate of the hotel. A long and elegant tree and plant-lined walkway leads up to the main buildings painted Pompeian red and Neapolitan yellow. Tall glass doors open into a cavernous lobby that you could swear has also just transported you into another century, but for the ring of an occasional telephone and the smart grey uniformed staff that greet you. The hotel has 120 rooms, including 10 suites. My room was on the ground floor and had grand view of the Bay of Naples from a tall set of semicircular windows. The room itself was rather vast in that grand hotel style, with high ceilings and ornate furniture -- marble was everywhere, especially in the bathroom. The most famous room is named after the hotel's most famous guest, Enrico Caruso, who visited last in 1921.
The Excelsior has two restaurants; the main one, the Vittoria, is as stunning as the rest of the premises: vast vaulted ceilings covered in frescoes, waxed parquet floors, a huge array of foods laid out buffet style at breakfast, and still fit for a visiting emperor or grand duke. The nearby public rooms that connect one to the next recreate the hotel's 19th-century grandeur--there's a music room with marquetry-inlaid furniture and huge potted plants and a writing and reading room. But most magnificent of all is the adjacent and expansive outdoor terrace that also juts over the harbor front below and lets you sit with your coffee to marvel at the misty but looming presence of Vesuvius across the Bay, the boats and hydrofoils coming and going. All on the same waters that saw the Roman Caesar Augustus come in summer to escape the heat of the capital long ago. You understand what has drawn the mighty and the simple here down through the ages since, and why it's so hard to leave this vista of perfection.
From journal Sorrento, where the Sirens still call