Best Hotels in Italy
You might sample award-winning gelato in a Byzantine tower in Florence, or take an afternoon swim in a terraced saltwater pool on a secreted corner of the Amalfi Coast. Gratify your inner chef as Nonna teaches you the art of hand-cut pastas, or get pampered like Roman royalty with a massage using rosemary and olive oil from groves at your Tuscan hideaway. In Italy’s best hotels, every detail is bellissimo.
Related: Best of the Italian Lakes
Whether conjuring visions of Venetian opulence or rolling-hill retreats and dips in the clear-blue Mediterranean, Italy is an eternal fixture on our list of must-do Europe as well as yours. Let readers’ votes in T+L’s annual World’s Best Awards survey uncover the cobbled paths and meandering canals to the best hotels in Italy. —Melanie Lieberman
No. 1 Castello di Casole—A Timbers Resort, Casole d’Elsa, Italy
A cypress-lined road leads to the rolling 4,200-acre Tuscan estate with a castle that dates back to the 10th century. Now owned by Timber Resorts, it was formerly the home of film director Luchino Visconti and an entertainment center for countless Hollywood luminaries. The 41 rustic-luxe suites incorporate oil paintings, local antiques, wood-beamed ceilings, and reclaimed terracotta. And Essere Spa, originally the estate’s wine cellar, features seven treatment rooms and massages incorporating orange and basil essential oils. Available for rent on a weekly basis, the Tuscan Farmhouses (for eight to 12 people) are set among the vineyards and built of stones, bricks, and terracotta found on the estate. Modern amenities include spacious kitchens and glass-tiled infinity pools.
No. 2 Palazzo Avino, Ravello, Italy
From the gym to the underwater window in the heated pool, sea views abound at this ornate 12th-century palazzo along the Amalfi Coast (formerly known as Palazzo Sasso). Guestrooms are layered in 17th- through 19th-century antiques, Vietri tile floors, and Frette and Bulgari appointments. Chef Pino Lavarra’s eclectic/nouvelle-Italian cuisine has garnered two Michelin stars for Rossellinis Restaurant (open April–October).
No. 3 Hotel Santa Caterina, Amalfi, Italy
Now in its fourth generation of Gambardella family management, this 1904 looker still reigns in Belle Époque splendor. Rooms are spread across the main building, two villas, and a triplet of honeymoon cottages and decorated with local antiques. An elevator descends to a private beach, saltwater pool, fitness center, and thatched-roof pizzeria and fish grill. As you stroll through the secluded terraced gardens and citrus orchards, it’s obvious why Liz Taylor and Richard Burton chose to hide out here.
No. 4 Le Sirenuse, Positano, Italy
The San Pietro may be flashier, but nothing beats archrival Le Sirenuse for traditional, dignified luxury. In 1953, two years after it opened, John Steinbeck described it as “an old family house converted into a first-class hotel.” More than half a century of overexposure later, that impression remains at this storied hotel, now in its second generation of Sersale family management. Nearly all the rooms in the poppy-red, 18th-century villa, with museum-quality antiques and hand-painted ceramic-tile floors, have a private balcony or patio overlooking the bay. Diversions include an alfresco champagne-and-oyster bar, a pool and Aveda spa, and a vintage wooden boat for tooling up and down the coast in 1960s-starlet style. The Neapolitan menu at the restaurant, La Sponda, was devised by chef Matteo Temperini.
No. 5 Il San Pietro di Positano, Positano, Italy
One mile outside town seems to be just far enough from Positano’s crowds to attract a constellation of stars (George Clooney, Julia Roberts, Franco Zeffirelli) to the coast’s most famous cliff-top hideaway, which spills down the sides of a rocky promontory, its terraced rooms discreetly hidden amid a profusion of flowering plants. The elegant guest quarters—decorated in a singularly odd mix of gilded 18th-century-style elegance and 1970s fab—all come with sea views from private balconies (and, in some cases, from the showers). Tiled benches scattered around the grounds are ideal for sunset cocktails. Though there is a small pool, most guests opt for the private sunbathing patio and sandy beach—a coup for any hotel along this rocky coastline—reached via a dramatic elevator ride down through the cliff. As long as you’re splurging, go all-in on a De Luxe room—much larger than the Standard quarters. Free private boat excursions (every morning, June–September) cruise up and down the scenic coastline.
No. 6 St. Regis, Florence
Formerly the Grand Hotel Firenze, this 15th-century landmark reopened as the St. Regis Florence in 2011 following a multimillion-dollar renovation of the entire building, which was originally designed by Filippo Brunelleschi in 1432. The public spaces are furnished with antique Murano chandeliers and restored 16th-century frescoes, while the 100 guestrooms have high coffered ceilings, wall frescoes or tapestries, and beds set beneath swags of brocade fabric. In select rooms, large windows overlook the Arno River and surrounding hills. The St. Regis also boasts a wine cellar fashioned from a medieval cave. The back of the property is adjacent to a recycling area that's often noisy, so light sleepers should request a room at the front. Have the concierge arrange a roundtrip shuttle to the Mall, where you’ll find some of the region’s best high-end outlets, including Gucci, Armani, Fendi, and Valentino.
No. 7 Four Seasons Hotel Firenze, Florence, Italy
Following a massive building restoration, Florence’s 117-room Four Seasons hotel finally opened in June 2008. Located in the fifteenth/sixteenth-century Palazzo Scala della Gherardesca—with monumental frescoed halls and room décors that range from opulent Renaissance suites to a discreetly elegant, almost Georgian style in most rooms—this is the city’s first true resort hotel. Facilities include a spa, an outdoor pool, and an eight-acre private park. Room amenities go beyond the usual satellite TV to included DVD players, iPod docking stations, twice-daily maid service, and WiFi. Service, under manager Patrizio Cipollini, is top notch. There's an annex in an ex-convent—500 yards away, on the far side of the park—with its own entrance at 46 Via Gino Capponi.
No. 8 Grand Hotel Excelsior Vittoria, Sorrento, Italy
Three adjoining 19th-century buildings on a cliff overlooking the Bay of Naples and Mount Vesuvius, owned and operated by the same family since 1834 and still containing many original furnishings. Standard Doubles with bay views that look out toward Mount Vesuvius; Classic Sea View rooms with amazing view of Gulf of Naples and Mount Vesuvius. Stroll through the property’s sprawling five-acre grounds full of colorful flowers, Italian olive trees, and citrus groves.
No. 9 Hotel Brunelleschi, Florence, Italy
Named for the Italian Renaissance architect and engineer Filippo Brunelleschi, this historic property in the heart of Florence occupies the Byzantine Pagliazza Tower. (Fans of Dan Brown may recognize it as Robert Langon's hotel of choice in The DaVinci Code and Inferno.) Rooms have a modern aesthetic, with parquet floors, marble bathrooms, four-posted beds, and velvet headboards (in bright solid colors such as purple and red). At the on-site, seven-table restaurant Santa Elisabetta, exposed stone walls and wood-beamed ceilings set the stage for Florentine cuisine. The Tower Lounge Bar is the place for afternoon tea, a midday snack, and pre- or post-dinner cocktails. Book the Deluxe Executive Panorama for its 360-degree vista, which includes San Lorenzo, Santa Maria del Fiore, the Giotto Tower, and Palazzo Vecchio. Or the two-level Pagliazza Tower Suite, complete with Jacuzzi tub on the ground floor. Don’t miss the gelato tasting, available at the Tower Bar. Three flavors such as Piemonte hazelnut are paired with other sweets and spirits.
No. 10 Hotel Cipriani, Venice, Italy
Giuseppe Cipriani’s legendary 1950’s getaway—silk lampshades and all-marble bathrooms—flanked by two 15th-century palazzos. Room to Book: Lagoon views with balconies—ask for one with a jacuzzi; the Palladio Suite with private heated pool. Explore the beauties of the lagoon with the Cipriani's own private beautiful wooden boat, Shirley.