Grand Excelsior Vittoria review: Why Princess Margaret's Italian haunt is a Wes Anderson daydream

·7-min read
Grand Hotel Excelsior Vittoria
Grand Hotel Excelsior Vittoria

The Italian coast has long been a favourite with luxury travellers, with celebrities, billionaires and politicians flocking to its shores for some stylish R&R.

For those sailing into Sorrento’s port from Capri, if you cast your eye up you’re likely to see the Grand Hotel Excelsior Vittoria perched on a cliff - a towering legend of Italian hospitality not even Wes Anderson could resist.

Run by the Fiorentino family since 1834, several generations of Fiorentino hoteliers have seen the likes of Princess Margaret, Oscar Wilde, Marilyn Monroe and Sofia Loren make themselves at home on its oceanside terrace.

A corner of the terrace (Grand Hotel Excelsior Vittoria)
A corner of the terrace (Grand Hotel Excelsior Vittoria)

In fact, there’s an entire wall dedicated to photographs of famous former guests which include heads of state and Hollywood celebrities, while various suites are named in tribute to loyal A-list customers.

A photo of Princess Margaret arriving at the hotel in 1949, which hangs near the reception of the hotel (Megan C. Hills)
A photo of Princess Margaret arriving at the hotel in 1949, which hangs near the reception of the hotel (Megan C. Hills)

While there’s no disputing the old world glamour, care and passion that goes into the Grand Hotel Excelsior Vittoria, the property has also started to modernize.

The efforts include a new Instagram account (despite owner Guido Fiorentino’s reluctance), a modern fine dining restaurant and a private glass lift that leaves you just footsteps from the Capri ferry.

The Lowdown

(Grand Hotel Excelsior Vittoria)
(Grand Hotel Excelsior Vittoria)

You get the best of both worlds with this vintage beauty, as it’s located in downtown Sorrento on a private estate.

With a short drive through the gates and sprawling garden leading up to the front door, it’s a tranquil experience coupled with the handy lift which leads to the nearby harbour - ideal for stars hopping on private yachts or regular people packing into a ferry to Capri or nearby Amalfi.

The Grand Hotel Vittoria Excelsior (Grand Hotel Excelsior Vittoria)
The Grand Hotel Vittoria Excelsior (Grand Hotel Excelsior Vittoria)

There’s no disputing the crown jewel of the property is its gigantic ocean-side restaurant terrace, where guests can dine, listen to live piano music and watch the sun go down over the horizon.

On one of Sorrento’s many clear days, you’ll be able to see the Gulf of Naples and Mount Vesuvius over a glass of wine - but it’s worth booking a sea view room to make the most of it.

(Grand Hotel Excelsior Vittoria)
(Grand Hotel Excelsior Vittoria)

With rooms featuring hand-painted frescoes and lush interiors, the Grand Hotel Excelsior Vittoria’s charm extends beyond the aesthetic.

From Michelin-starred restaurant Terazza Bosquet through to the relaxing spa La Serra hidden in its sprawling gardens, it’s an ideal place to unwind in the height of Italian glamour.

The rooms

(Megan C. Hills)
(Megan C. Hills)

I stayed in one the hotel’s garden-view rooms, which was bigger than my own flat - and probably many flats - in London.

The room includes a white marble bathroom, two small balconies and a painted ceiling fresco of a celestial chariot and deities.

While stunning, the room did feel tired and the metal shutters that automatically came down over the windows at the end of the night left me feeling slightly claustrophobic.

The Caruso Suite (Grand Hotel Excelsior Vittoria)
The Caruso Suite (Grand Hotel Excelsior Vittoria)

Other rooms in the property have been renovated, offering both sea- and garden-views.

Music is written into the DNA of the Excelsior Vittoria and many of its notable suites are named after musicians, all stemming from the grand Caruso suite - where famed tenor Enrico Caruso once lived.

Decorated in opulent vintage fabrics and wallpapers, Caruso’s piano remains in a corner of the room as the ocean rolls past through the balcony windows.

The Pavarotti suite, named after tenor Luciano Pavarotti who idolised Caruso, was similarly named after the famed singer after he chased Caruso’s trail to the hotel in search of inspiration.

In contrast, Pavarotti’s 2293 square metre three bedroom suite is a light, airy experience full of cream fabrics and homages to the Amalfi Coast.

The food and drink

The hotel has a mixture of dining options, depending on your budget and what kind of vibe you’re looking for.

Discerning diners will be right at home at the Michelin-starred Terrazza Bosquet, a modern fine Italian dining restaurant which emphasises local flavours with dishes such as a nitrogen-made lemon sorbet crafted at your table to much fanfare.

Ideal for romantic occasions, the terrace also offers a sweeping vista over the ocean.

The Orangerie (Grand Hotel Excelsior Vittoria)
The Orangerie (Grand Hotel Excelsior Vittoria)

It was the Orangerie however that I found myself wanting to return to again and again.

Aimed at a casual dining clientele, the restaurant is tucked away in the garden beside the pool - just a stone’s throw from the hotel’s orange grove - and the menu is full of crowd pleasers elevated by high quality ingredients.

From a melt-in-your-mouth gnocchi which had been prepared in a pizza oven through to classic Neopolitan pizzas served with the biggest anchovies I’ve ever seen, it’s a spot that will go down a treat for families with young children, especially as the chefs can be seen preparing food at the open kitchen.

The breakfast room (Grand Hotel Excelsior Vittoria)
The breakfast room (Grand Hotel Excelsior Vittoria)

While other hotels might not try so hard when it comes to breakfast, the hotel aims to make your first meal of the day one of the best.

Held in a glamorous miniature ballroom complete with a view of the ocean as well as a mixture of mirrored and painted ceiling frescoes, the buffet ties together standard buffet fare with Italian delights - including two types of stracciatella which are both worth a try.

For those who like to start their day off healthily, there’s also a stand at the back where a chef will prepare fresh juices.

Things to do

Spa La Serra (Grand Hotel Excelsior Vittoria)
Spa La Serra (Grand Hotel Excelsior Vittoria)

Beyond eating and luxuriating in the pool, there’s a cosy spa on the estate called Spa La Serra.

Transformed from a 19th century greenhouse, the massive treatment rooms also look into their own enclosed private garden with other amenities such as a bathtub and heated massage beds.

Using French brand Cinq Mondes’ products, the spa’s cold pressed almond oil massage had me floating for the rest of the day.

A view of the hotel from the harbour (Megan C. Hills)
A view of the hotel from the harbour (Megan C. Hills)

While you’d be forgiven for spending all your time at the hotel, the hotel’s prime location makes it an ideal spot for sightseers.

To reach Sorrento’s bustling city centre, all you have to do is walk a few minutes out of the gate where you’ll be an easy distance from Piazza Tasso as well as numerous shops and trattoria restaurants.

It’s also well worth taking the lift down to the ferry pier, where you’ll be able to catch a boat to Capri - an ultra luxe island that swings between designer stores and celebrity-haunts through to local dining institutions.

You can also charter a private boat through Sorrento Luxury Charter, which will be able to take you on a more picturesque route to see spots such as the Blue Grotto.

For those looking to go a little further, the archaeological sites of the lost village of Pompeii and Herculaneum are also within an hour’s drive. Those with a car can also hug the coastline to visit picturesque towns such as Positano, Amalfi and Ravello.

Grand Hotel Excelsior Vittoria offers rooms starting from €498 on B&B basis, based on two sharing a garden view room, including a Resort Tax. For further information please visit exvitt.it

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