Out of all the dreamy spots visited on our recent Amalfi Coast escapade, Amalfi's city center and its nearby Grand Hotel Convento di Amalfi were highlights. The coastal town has a compact little village (aka the city center) tucked behind the port, while the hillside Grand Hotel Convento, a centuries-old convent turned hotel, sits high above the sea overlooking the coast, its three jetties, and the winding, cliff-hugging road below.We found it a pretty magical place. Picture this: A storm rolls in one evening knocking out the power in the entire city. Despite the commotion, we remain seated at a candlelit table on the waterfront (perfectly content with our wine and likely the best pasta well ever have) staring into the darkness where a hillside cluttered with sparkling lights should be. Power is soon after restored and life returns to the little hamlet. Eh, it happens, the locals say. Later that evening we return to the hotel to find a wedding party scurrying in from the bougainvillea-draped balcony after a sudden downpour, then watch lightning emblaze the sky from our oceanfront balcony. These are the Amalfi moments well always remember - the comings and goings in an ancient Italian village, not entirely overrun with Americans (though there were a lot of them for sure - Positano and Capri Town are still more touristy). Aside from its ideal location, perched for priceless views but close enough to the port and village to walk, the Grand Hotel Convento sticks to a simple, very white, aesthetic showcasing some of its original features: sweeping arches at every turn and magnificent Amalfi vistas. Since the structural bones can't be altered in the historic building, the 53 rooms and suites are all different, many quite petite, though they feature pleasing modern furnishings, terracotta floors, and marble bathrooms. A massive balcony-like promenade stretches from the check-in area passed the restaurant and lemon grove to the infinity pool and lounge area. The staff is wonderful and a ferry service will shuttle guests to the hotels semi-private beach or to the different villages along the coast. Rates in October start from 228/night; www.ghconventodiamalfi.com
For general trip-planning info, see our Amalfi Travel Guide.