What a pleasant surprise I discovered on a recent solo journey to Italy’s Amalfi Coast. First, let me set the scene for you. In this region, there are the natural beauty spots of Sorrento, Amalfi, Ravello and Capri. Then there is Castellammare di Stabia. Yes, you’ve probably never heard of it and for good reason…….it’s the Italian version of a seedy, honky tonk Asbury Park in its worst days before its resurrection by Bruce Springsteen.
Anyway, most people drive through Castellammare on their way south to the more scenic destinations. They bypass the huge shipping and container port and the world’s largest Bingo hall outside of an Indian casino (and such a waste of Amalfi coastline). Yet, just south of the hub of seedy is a beauty of a hotel in the Crowne Plaza Castellamare di Stabiae. True, that’s not an American hotel chain which conjures up images of greatness but more like affordable cleanliness and there is clearly a difference between an American 4-star hotel and an Italian 4-star hotel but this Crowne Plaza is worthy of a multi-night stay.
I must admit the building had always intrigued me as I drove by it many times along the Via Sorrentina. Then I learned of its history – it was an old cement factory (hey, I told you the area was seedy). Now it is a waterfront haven complete with spa, fantastic restaurant and stunning, uninterrupted views of Mt. Vesuvius from a private beach.
The rooms are all of modern design and well appointed, complete with rain-head shower. Caution, however, when you book a room with a balcony. Here, as in other Italian locations, a room with a balcony is a six-inch ledge the width of one window. I kid you not! Upon my surprise I asked them to relocate me to a proper balcony and what I found was a 2-foot deep balcony with a wall that blocked my view of Vesuvius from the bed. Hey, if I am going to live like a princess, then I want to see the volcano; so I moved back to the small ledge and was very happy.
SpaMarine – offered an excellent array of services and technicians who know how to give great facials and massages. There is also a sauna and wonderful indoor jacuzzi to use during your stay.
Ristorante Gouache – was an incredible surprise since I find that most hotels in the Amalfi region do not boast good food (I know, hard to imagine bad food in Italy). Yet, here I tasted the best stuffed calamari since my Nonna left the earth plain. It was delicately stuffed with what they called smoked cheese and breadcrumbs but it was very similar to blue cheese. The fish was so tender it just melted in your mouth and was served atop a bed of green fava beans and grilled cherry tomatoes. As for pasta, I selected homemade tagliolini with alici (anchovies), mint, black pepper and potatoes. I was so stuffed that I could not manage dessert but instead finished off 2 little wonderful taralle which were in the bread basket. I enjoyed this restaurant so much that I returned again for lunch even after I had checked out.
The private beach – is small but beautiful. I did not even have to lift my head off the sun chair to take this photo of Vesuvius. The hotel offers courtesy use of a chair and beach towel for each guest, which is again a nice perk since some hotels here charge for towels and chairs. Finally, the attendant was pleasant eye candy for a solo traveler! There is a pool but it was closed for seasonal maintenance. When it is in use, there is a glass enclosure over a portion of it, making indoor swimming possible even in the winter.
The staff here was more than accommodating and could not do enough for me. The only negative on its star rating would be that there was never a porter/bellman at the door for guests arriving and/or departing. He had to be called to the entrance and sometimes there was a wait. In the states, when I check into a 4-star hotel, there is always someone to assist with luggage and park the car. That service is part of the rating.
All in all, the Crowne Plaza Castellamare di Stabiae is a jewel that I will be visiting again…………and again……….and again.
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