Although the Palumbo has long been in our guide, we have not perhaps done justice to this lovely hotel in Ravello, very much our kind of place in the luxury bracket. It stands next to the much-vaunted Palazzo Sasso, but is in every way different: while the international-style Sasso could be anywhere, the Palumbo oozes individuality, panache and understated elegance. It feels like a private house – or rather a private Moorish-style 12thC palazzo – which is what it was until converted by its Swiss-Italian owners, the Vuilleumier family.
Public rooms focus on the core of the palazzo, an inner courtyard where Corinthian-topped columns, a dazzling deep blue-and-white tiled floor, imaginative modern wall ceramics and comfortable sofas and chairs create a strong first impression. The first-floor restaurant is equally elegant, graced by lovely antiques and paintings including a (school of) Caravaggio. Or you can eat on the terrace, with views over vineyards to the dazzling blue sea below. Half board is compulsory in high season, but this is no hardship. Bedrooms, accentuated by antiques and rugs, are elegant and unpretentious, as are the bathrooms, some with quite elderly fittings. We don’t mind: if you want state-of-the-art, choose the annexe: these bedrooms are modern, but lack character.