In the sea of luxurious and historic properties that festoon the breath-taking Amalfi Coast, the Casa Angelina with its cutting-edge style and laid-back chic must assuredly be the most modern! The innovative dream of owner Antonino Cappiello – who bought and transformed a 1970s-era bed-and-breakfast in sleepy Praiano (a short drive away from the better-known town of Positano) in 2007 – the Casa Angelina is a cutting-edge boutique property which offers a refreshing alternative to the more trad offerings of the area. The website quotes Cappiello as introducing “the notion of ‘barefoot luxury’ through his ahead-of-the-curve hotel — all the high style, none of the stuffiness…a new type of high-end but down-to-earth accommodation; a luxurious home-away-from-home, with the perks of five-star amenities”.
Certainly, on our visit we were wowed with the elegant simplicity of the Casa Angelina’s design; with an almost gallery-style whitewash to both walls and furnishings the hotel’s splashes of vibrant colour come from an incredible collection of handpicked modern art pieces, from playful Murano glassworks and whimsical works by Cuban artist Alfredo Sosabravo, to colourful paintings and sculptures by Tim Cotterill, Patricia Carstens and Gina Nahle Bauer. And thanks to enormous windows which open up onto an absolutely heart-stopping view of the Amalfi Coast, it feels like rather than competing with the natural beauty on show, the elegant Casa Angelina is itself a part of it.
The hotel boasts an impressive modern restaurant, fully equipped gym, both indoor and outdoor pools, a spa, a programme of exercise classes, private beach, and an enviably secluded location. And all, while luxurious as you could wish, somehow beguilingly simple.
Though the Casa Angelina has a host of different suites and rooms to cater to all needs, the things they all have in common are their cool, understated elegance. White, bright, and flooded with natural light, the rooms all come stocked with L’Occitane and Jo Malone toiletries to Etro sheets to that all-important free Wi-Fi and Apple iPads (and notebook laptops in the larger suites). We were given a ‘Romantic Room’ for the duration of our stay, which had the welcome bonus of a small private balcony and – of course – a stunning view across the bay. Though possibly a little on the compact side for some guests (and lacking in ‘power shower’ in the bathroom), the vast comfortable bed more than made up for it. And any converts to the minimalist movement will find themselves in seventh heaven!
With the bustle of Positano and its excellent restaurant scene a drive away, the Casa Angelina is lucky enough to boast two wonderful dining options. Their gourmet restaurant ‘Un Piano Nel Cielo’ – which translates as “a floor in the sky” – is appropriately enough at the top of the property and, on a fine evening, allows you to dine outside as well as in (and thanks to more huge windows enjoy an incomparably Italian sunset whatever option you chose).
The menu is seasonal, and of course incorporates many of the finest ingredients of the region. But although it may have its roots in the rich cultural tradition of Campania, the dishes on offer are most assuredly on the modern end of the spectrum. Expect deconstructed, weird and wonderful, such as the Redfish in wheat Tempura Batter, Cauliflower, Sea Trufes and Dill Emulsion (35 euros) and Salt crusted John Dory, with Citrus Fruit, Potato Flan and black Soup (40 euros). The excellent sommelier on hand was a dream to chat to, and her recommended (pink tinted!) white wine was so tasty we bought two bottles to take home.
For something a little more laid back there is also poolside dining during the day, with a limited menu of much more traditional offerings. Certainly, the Spaghetti alle Vongole had my partner in raptures (he REALLY likes pasta, but apparently this was especially good). And finally, the breakfast buffet – much like the menu in Un Piano Nel Cielo – was the most unusual and flavoursome collection of treats I’ve come across in some time. Expect several flavours of yoghurt (including goat), pastries much more interesting than your traditional croissant (poppy seed crusted vanilla rolls), and fruit salads that include cape gooseberries and a multitude of melons.
Out & about
Praiano itself is a pretty sleepy small town, so unless you’re planning to take in the local church I’d grab the hotels shuttle bus which is just a 15-minute drive into busier Positano (though be warned, it takes a hearty midday siesta) and explore; the town is full of chic boutiques, bars, historic monuments and beaches. Or for the more adventurous there are some stunning coastal walks. The historic towns of Amalfi and Ravello are a slightly longer drive away (but worth it), or a day trip to the dreamy island of Capri is easily organised through the concierge. But, if I’m honest, the isolation of the hotel is part of its appeal, and spending your time either grabbing a massage, chilling in the spa, sipping a cocktail on the sun terrace or taking in a complimentary Pilates class might be a better use of the Casa Angelina’s serene surroundings.
The best thing
The hours I spent on the Casa Angelina’s sun terrace with first a tea, then a cocktail, then lunch, then more cocktails, broken up by spells in the pool and the spa, while the sun went from brilliantly bright to a spectacular golden sunset were some of the calmest I can remember spending. We had the terrace pretty much to ourselves and the service from staff throughout was extremely attentive. I could have happily spent 24 hours there and wanted for nothing else…
The worst thing
Having just advertised the complimentary exercise classes, I wasn’t a huge fan of the yoga I attended. But I put that largely down to the actual yoga instructor being away and a personal trainer trying his hand at running the class. Never have I been more aware that yoga isn’t just hitting poses than during the hour I spent with this poor chap telling me aggressively “this is not your maximum! NOT your maximum!!” while tapping at my legs repeatedly. Mind you, his English wasn’t the strongest so maybe something got lost in translation.