News & Reviews Europe Italy Review: Hotel Caruso, Italy

Hotel Caruso, Italy 
Room type: Deluxe Suite
Duration: 19 > 22nd June, 2021

Feelings, such strange things.  One minute they’re putting dust in your eye as you watch the sunset with your daughter, the next they’re telling you that your dog really is possessed by an ancient demon and you should shoot people.  It’s those pesky feelings that make this an interesting review, for you see, if I stopped mining Bitcoin and instead used all that processing power to develop a supreme Artificial Intelligence that ranked hotels, Hotel Caruso wouldn’t score highly.  The rooms look like they were signed off in a rush by Pompei’s interior designer during the Mount Vesuvius eruption; the spa is as basic as Boris Johnson; the only stand out culinary experience was going next door to Palazzo Avino and my bag of Kinder Bueno from the airport; and the beach club is so far away that you’ll need your passport stamped on arrival, then discover it’s actually blasphemy to what a beach club is – luxurious things like sand and, well, luxury have been outlawed.  

But squint hard enough and Hotel Caruso has a Villa Feltrinelli vibe around it; something unique that offers that something special.

Ohhh, look at me, I’m so bloody special

Hotel Caruso was the first hotel that caught my eye when I started traveling in 2013, but then I saw the room size and my accountant gave me a black eye at the stupidity of the idea.  It has become a running joke that every year I say I will go, then never get around to it.  Probably not my best joke, but maybe Top 10.  When looking at it on a price-per-square meterage, Amanzoe clearly wins, so that’s what I chose and have returned almost annually since.  I’m grown up now, so don’t just look at such superficial things as size (nope, no dick jokes today, I’m all grown up).  Instead I focus purely on what country will let me in.  

As it turns out, Italy was not that place, albeit briefly, as the moment we booked they imposed a ban on British travellers, only to then change it to give us 72 hours notice.  They probably realised the humanitarian work I do with this blog and changed it just for me.  We booked on Friday evening, arrived on Saturday and then got to act like the cool kids that skipped school as we waltzed around what felt like a near empty Italy.

With barely a days notice, they still managed a good job of setting everything up and anticipating our needs, except after repeated emails they screwed up a request with the fridge.  The other thing they didn’t anticipate is what it’s like to spend 8 hours traveling with a baby, so when we arrived at 9pm and they made us sign enough forms that Laucala would have been proud of, I finally understood why manslaughter exists.  Responsibility for going to the gym, for receiving marketing, for being disease free, for promising not to write a negative review.  Usual stuff.  

Write a negative review? You’re sent on the first plane to Belarus

Within five minutes of entering the room, Isabelle saw her opportunity and took a shit with such ferocity that it pierced her nappy and charmed the hearts of the Italian nation, when it flew all over the bed.  Those were her first fews minutes of reviewing luxury hotels – symbolic for my blog as a whole.  I was not disappointed with the room, the website does a good job of ensuring that your low expectations are met.  For a Junior Suite it was actually really impressive, with plenty of space and a huge balcony area that included sun loungers, dining area and a sitting area.  It was only let down by the neighbours balcony being so close that I could practically taste their covid. Me being me, I wanted to see availability and so we moved to a Deluxe Suite.  

In retrospect, was it really worth it?  Let me leave that question there to simmer, so that my wife can’t say “I told you so”.  Do be careful with the room choice here – I went to see two Deluxe Suites and they had very little in common with each other; the first having a balcony so small it already practiced social distancing, as you’d be there by yourself – it would have been a significant downgrade on our Junior Suite.  The benefit of a Deluxe Suite is the additional living area and extra privacy on the balcony, as no one overlooks you.  I’m not sure how overjoyed this review might have been if I paid full price instead of a supplement to upgrade.  Stick to one of the better Junior Suites.  

I think the pictures say it all – it’s pretty basic, best shown by there being a VHS player.  I thought Pompei also wiped those out.  It’s not every day you get to a Pompei joke twice in a review, so I’m leaving it in.  The tech is extremely outdated, which would explain why the Internet was sometimes so slow I couldn’t even run a speedtest to tell you how slow it is.  I’ve never seen a speedtest go negative, but it was close.

 

So what exactly are you getting here?  Sat atop a hill, overlooking Ravello and the sea below, there is no doubt Hotel Caruso is photogenic.  But just as glamorous as the view is the single reason you would stay here: the extremely impressive gardens and pool.  Exclusivity, serenity, uniqueness.  These are the feelings that Hotel Caruso offers.  This is why despite its obvious drawbacks and need to modernise, there is a real beauty to this property that perhaps should ignore everything I don’t like and never change.

When you feel that you’re being completely looked after by the charming staff, and that you can relax in such a tranquil setting, this is the feeling that cannot be explained, but must be experienced.  Eating dinner near their gardens, whilst the pianist entertains the guests; having staff move an umbrella over our daughter as she slept, before the sun even made it close to her; never having to sign the bill; everyone knowing our names; everyone being so charming, friendly and keen to please.

For as I’ve said, there is nothing else that stands out, but I leave knowing that whilst I will not rush back, I would return.  Although were I honest, which I am, I would very likely pick Palazzo Avino next door – just not with a baby, as the stair situation would leave me with needing a chiropractor.

The Good

  • Pool and gardens
  • Service

The Bad

  • Food
  • Rooms
  • Real pain in the arse with a baby, which is surprising as we saw so many families here.  There are no ramps and not enough staff to support carrying a pushchair around, so get those weight lifting courses in.  
  • Getting to the beach is so convoluted that it makes Amanzoe’s beach look so close that Captain Tom could have sprinted there.  A 20 minute car ride, a 10 minute boat journey, and then you need to climb on the back of dolphins, swim under the ocean, befriend a crab and kill some sea witch called Ursula.  You’re also not offered a life jacket, but luckily it’s mandatory to wear a mask so you’re invincible.

The Luxurious

  • That little bit of je ne sais quoi, just whatever that is in Italian

Conclusion

So let’s summarise? Almost nothing was good, but I’d still recommend it? Does anyone know if covid can cause brain damage or heightened feelings of elation? 

Perhaps it’s that I’ve not been abroad since September, but maybe it’s that inexplicable feeling that tells me there’s something special here.  A lot of times I’ve focused so much on the hard product, but the best hotels are how they make you feel.  Hotel Caruso allowed our daughter to scream her lungs out and annoy other guests, and that made us feel great.  

It’s not Villa Feltrinelli, but it’s nowhere near as far off as I would have expected.  

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Tom Cahalan

Written by Tom Cahalan on 28th Jun '21

Dorsia Travel’s co-founder Tom Cahalan’s take on travel is reliably candid. Here’s his take on what’s good, bad, and luxurious.

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