Before I start this review I have a small confession to make…my wedding was in Maratea, Basilicata so I fear my glasses may have that suspicious tint of rose and my judgement may be somewhat clouded by the mist of love…but what the heck – much as I want to keep Basilicata ‘our little secret’ I can’t! Like love itself I have to scream about this place from the rooftops and share it with the world so everybody can appreciate this hidden gem in southern Italy. (Ok, emotional outporing done I promise – now onto the review!)
Situated around 2.5 hours drive south from Naples, Basilicata is the Amalfi Coast’s lesser known little brother. Except…strip out the tourists, dial up the scenery, raise the bar up a few notches on the food (OMG the mozzarella!) and add some spectacular wines and suddenly little brother is punching way above his weight.
Think of the Amalfi Coast as a filter for this untapped region of Italy, storing all the tourists like sedament at the bottom of the bottle, allowing those adventurous enough to pleasure on the smooth, silky delights of this unspoiled treasure.
Valleys to rival the Sierra Nevada (another review!), azur, crystal clear sea, mozzarella good enough for Her Majesty, The Queen of England, one of the largest Christ the Redeemer statues on the planet and some of the best wine in Italy make this place a must see for all our intrepid followers.
Best hotels Maratea
With a guestbook that includes Frank Sinatra and Richard Burton among its former patrons the 5 star Hotel Santavenere in Maratea certainly has the A list pedigree.
Add to this a world class spa occupying 300 square metres, a mere 34 rooms deliberately restricted in number to ensure every guest recieves the upmost service and attention, some of the best scenery in the whole of Italy as a backdrop and its easy to see why we fell in love with this place all those years ago.
From the moment you arrive the staff make you feel at home. There is a personal touch and relaxed atmosphere without straying into the unprofessional. So many high end hotels we have stayed in around the world have an air of snobbery but the Santavenere just isn’t like that.
The rooms are traditionally decorated in a minimalist style but are well appointed with everything you need. His and hers sink? check. Rain shower head? Check. Bidet? Check. Bulgari Unpack your kindle and chill out by the pool at the Sanatavenere bath products? Check. Minibar? Check. TV? Check. Comfortable beds? Check. Balcony with view to die for? Check…
We stayed in the Junior Suite (well it was our 10th wedding anniversary!) which had views across the beautifully mantained lawns and beyond to the Tyrrhenian Sea. This cost 4,400 Euro for 5 nights including breakfast. There is a 20 Euro supplement to have breakfast delivered to your room which we took advantage of every day!
The pool is just about the perfect size, cold and refreshing without being an ice bath and although it isn’t an infinity it may as well be as you can lay on your back with a panoramic view of mountains and sea. Its also close enough to the bar to refresh ones palet regularly with Prosecco or champagne!
Best restaurants Maratea
The good news just keeps coming my little gastronaughts as the food in the Santavenere is of excellent quality so you don’t even need to leave this oasis of a hotel.
Lets quickly get the bad news out of the way…there are only two restaurants in the hotel and one is only open for lunch (we have suggested the hotel change this!), which leaves ones dining options a little limited.
The above said there is enough variety on the relatively small menu to keep you happy for 5 days and there are some nice local options outside the hotel (we will get to that).
Some of the highlights from Le Lanterne, the Sanatavenere’s main restaurant, were a creamy, unctuous mozzarella with a light, delicate carpaccio of tuna that melted in the mouth. A ravioli of bacalao (salt cod) with fresh chopped tomatoes that took me to the backstreets of Barcelona, followed by a crispy sirloin of lamb that fell apart with the merest touch of the fork. The Wagu beef was tender and packed full of flavour, whilst the scallops wrapped in parma ham disintigrated on the tongue.
The second restaurant, Il Carrubo is down by the sea and sadly only opens for lunch. We had our wedding reception here 10 years ago and it really is a beautiful spot at any time of the day but especially for sunset. At night the restaurant turns into a Morrocan themed bar (I know that sounds awful but imagine a 5 star scene from Marrakech rather than some tacky Soho eatery).
Our anniversary lunch in Il Carrubo couldn’t have been better. A starter of deep fried mozzarella and aubergine in a filo like parmesan crust was followed by seabream cooked to the point and all washed down with a 2006 Dom Perignon – perfect.
If you do decide to venture out Maratea port is a buzzy spot with a handfull of low key bars and local restaurants. Our favourite is Lanterna Rossa which is above street level looking straight out onto the marina. Gastronaughts should also try Locanda Di Nettuno where the food is simple but tasty and the resident chef is well qualified, spending his time working at the Bulgari Hotel in Milan in the off season.
Things to do Maratea
For me the Santavenere is the perfect place to come and relax and take some downtown from the 100 mile an hour treadmill that is London life.
Our days largely consisted of indulging in a lazy breakfast on our own private balcony, wandering down to the pool with a good book (I love my kindle – a travellers essential), taking the occasional refreshing dip in the invitingly chilled pool and grazing on a 2 hour lunch of locally sourced mozzarella, buffalo carpacio, fresh pasta and grilled fish with lemon. One can easily consume a bottle of Cartizee Prosecco and still be on form for dinner in evening.
You can book boat trips along the coast through the hotel and there is also the hotel’s very own private beach. This is pebbles rather than sand (standard in Italy) but the water is crystal clear. You can also organise other execursions such as horse risding but we didn’t do this.
There is a fantastic spa onsite – definately one of the best and most comprehensive we have ever been to – and trust me we like a spa. You can indulge yourself in anything from a swedish massage to a facial, indian head massage or be bathed in snail slime and donkey milk! The prices are pretty reasonable for a 5 star hotel and the masseurs are very good.
The Marina is a couple of minutes down the road and is fairly lively with a couple of bars and restaurants. Don’t expect St Tropez but this place is more chill than party scene and actually thats its charm.
The old town is a ten minute drive up into the mountains behind the hotel and is worth a visit for a stroll and simple lunch or dinner. This can be coupled with a drive further up the mountain to view Maratea’s very own Christ the Redeemer statue – it is in fact the 5th largest in the world and is an ever present guard visible high up on the headland above the peninsular.
What to wear
Maratea is far more laid back than the resorts of the Amalfi Coast nearer to Naples so you will mostly be chilling out in your Villbrequins and Havaianas day. By night either chinos or some Boss jeans with a smart Polo top. Bring a cardy if you are coming during the shoulder seasons.
Girls should bring plenty of Bikinis for round the pool and some beach kaftans to slip on for lunch. You won’t need much more than a nice maxi dress for the evening though you could go fancier if you like as you can always dress up in Italy. Flip flops, wedges and gladiator sandals for the footwear.
How to get there
We flew business class with British Airways (£600 pp) from London Gatwick to Naples and the Santavenere arranged for a Mercedes to pick us up from Positano – they can also arrange from the airport.
There is also the option of private yacht transfer (around 4,000 Euro) or helicopter (roughly 4,000 Euro) for those with slightly larger wallets.