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Honeymoon heaven

A touch of class, a dash of romance and oodles of spectacular scenery - Adrian Lowery and his bride found it all on the Amalfi Coast, particularly at the luxurious Palazzo Avino hotel

The Bay of Naples and the Amalfi Coast conjure up romantic imagery - panoramic drama, glittering beauty and film-star chic. Jude Law, Gwyneth Paltrow and Matt Damon louchely draped around the crumbling stucco and cobalt waters of Procida and Ischia in The Talented Mr Ripley.

A digital, bus-riding Audrey Hepburn unwrapping her chocolate bar in the picturesque village of Atrani. The Mediterranean backdrop to Sixties paparazzi shots of Richard Burton and Liz Taylor.

It was this sort of thing I had in mind when I suggested we should honeymoon there. A bit of class, a dash of romance and some good restaurants – the perfect destination, we surmised. Well, it pretty much was.

The beautiful Palazzo Avino hotel

Our first stop was the little town of Ravello, where we arrived well into the evening after an hour’s drive from Naples airport. The entrance, on a narrow street off a tiny piazza high up in the old town, which rambles along a lofty ridge above the Amalfi Coast, is discreet and easily missed.

There are just 43 rooms at Palazzo Avino. The upper landings of the central atrium are balustraded by slender marble columns, which together with the floor’s tilework and white plaster walls give it a Moorish-Andalucian feel.

Rooms are decorated with classic tastes and understated opulence: white paintwork, green and gold furnishing, wooden fixtures and a clean, cool and airy feel. Ours had a honeymoon present – a bottle of sparkling wine on ice.

Victoria Lowery liked the classical tastes and furnishings of the lounge areas

But we had to leave the bubbles in the bucket to catch last orders at the family-run Cumpa' Cosimo restaurant in the town.

The palazzo - mostly 18th century but with some parts dating back to the 12th - is not the only high-end hotel on this stretch of coast, but it must rank as one of the finest and most spectacularly set.

Wisteria-bound terraces spill down the hillside, housing pool, spa, restaurants and bars that look out over the Med and south-eastwards past Maiori to the Gulf of Salerno.

The loftiest vista is from the rooftop terrace where late in the afternoon our bottle of fizz, freshly chilled, is sent up as a sundowner

One of the two restaurants is the renowned, two-Michelin starred Rossellini’s where executive chef Michele Deleo creates tasting menus that emphasise the catches of local fishermen. Highlights include an exquisite codfish tartare and a larded diamond fish with clam foam.

Together with a Costa D’Amalfi Tramonti white, attended by staff exuding professionalism and charm, it's hard to think of a more exceptional restaurant experience.

The hotel even has a beach.  A fifteen-minute shuttle bus away is the Clubhouse by the Sea, where guests can lounge all day at a series of waterside sunbathing areas.

The hotel has a huge pool with a view of the sea and mountains

Ravello is certainly the coolest option to stay in both senses of the word. If you want to be down by the sea, Atrani is a laid-back option. There are peaceful hotels all along the coast, including Hotel Villa San Michele and Sant'Agata sui Due Golfi, atop the Sorrentine Peninsula, from where you can see the Amalfi Coast in one direction and the Bay of Naples and Vesuvius in the other.

For restaurant choices, there are many great value possibilities. There's an exceptional fixed menu at Hotel Villa San Michele. Other good choices include Ristorante Savo in Atrani and Taverna degli Apostoli next to the Duomo in Amalfi.

We’d read about the Path of the Gods and decided it had to be done. The trail starts at Bomerano, high in the hills above Amalfi, and progresses south-westwards for about five miles, before finishing high above Positano.

You are rewarded with a bird’s-eye look down on Praiano, and then the clear and well-marked path scratches along the cliffside.

First published in the Mail Online -  June 2017

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