The Amalfi coast: an Instagrammer's paradise
Forget Marrakesh, the real Instagrammer’s paradise is Italy’s Amalfi coast, says Merryn Somerset Webb.
Pick up a copy of British Airways' High Life magazine from last month and you'll find pictures of the most Instagrammable hotel in the world: the Riad Yasmine in Marrakesh. It's pretty, it has a stunning little green-tiled pool in a hippy-heaven courtyard and it appears to go viral every couple of hours. Going there (or rather, being photographed there), says Mashable, is the "social-media generation's version of a pilgrimage". The hotel has 103,000 followers. I reckon the social-media generation are missing a trick. There's a more Instagrammable hotel out there. It still only has a mere 20,000 followers so if they move it, they might get there in time to be a leader rather than a pilgrim. The hotel is the Santa Caterina in Amalfi (HotelSantaCaterina.it).
A hairy drive
Getting there isn't easy. You can fly to Naples and take a series of boats; you can get a bus; or you can do as we did: go by car in our case, a Volvo XC40. I didn't mean to get a largish Volvo. But it represented only the second time I have ever been offered a free upgrade from my standard choice of Fiat Panda (the first time involved a super smooth Merc in Newquay). So I didn't think to ask why it was available or free. I just took it and with such pleasure that no warning bells rang when we had the obligatory discussion about overpriced excess insurance. "Do you want it?" asked the lady from Hertz. "No, thank you," I said. But, she said (in a soft voice of genuine concern), "you are going to Amalfi". Indeed we were. And an hour in, how I longed for 1) a Fiat Panda and 2) excess insurance at almost any price.
The road to Amalfi might offer exquisite coastal views, but it also twists and turns relentlessly. You can't see around the insanely steep corners. It is almost too narrow in most places for two cars to pass. In a lot of places it is definitely too narrow for two cars to pass. In almost all places it is too narrow for cars to pass buses (there are a lot of buses). The car, I'm afraid, just wanted to go back to Sweden. It let us know this by bonging hysterically for the entire drive.
Divine and delightful
As we approached the hotel, the Volvo and I became equally stressed. The car because we had had to drive through Amalfi, me because in an hour of laser-sharp focus on the road (the view is for passengers) I hadn't seen a single parking space at all, let alone one that would fit the XC40. Then a doorman appeared to remove a rope from in front of the last parking space on the coast and took the keys out of my hands. Why fall at the last hurdle? After that nothing went wrong.
The Santa Caterina is set into the hillside looking away from the frantic road and towards the zen-like sea. The rooms luxuriously traditional and charming take up the top floors. From their balconies you look down on terraces, olive groves and lemon trees, and then at the very bottom to the salt-water swimming pool and private rock beach. This, I promise you, is Instagram heaven. And once you are done with the photos it wouldn't be hard to spend most of the day lying in a lounger by the water, watching boats, listening to the water lapping against the rocks and not quite reading your book. However, I would also urge you to rouse yourself occasionally to visit other terraces for the odd coffee (the view is equally divine but delightfully different from each), and, of course, to eat.
There are two restaurants. Breakfast and dinner are at lobby level get a table on the terrace in the morning and you will feel you have had value from the price of the room almost by the time you have finished your first macchiato (the Santa Caterina isn't cheap, but it does make excellent coffee). For lunch, head down to the romantic Restaurant Al Mare for pizza and seafood. Give it a few days and you might even be ready for a trip to Pompeii (about an hour away). I will be going to the Santa Caterina again. But next time by boat.
(Disclosure: Merryn was a guest at Santa Caterina.)