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Francis Bown, Bown's Best

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See below for the latest August 2015 Reviews

Grand Hotel Europa Palace, Sorrento, Italy | Bown's Best


If you are a person of the respectable kind, who is looking for a good four-star hotel in Sorrento – with a convenient location, beautiful views and discreet comfort – I think I have the place for you. Perched on the edge of the city’s famous cliffs, the 69 rooms of the Grand Hotel Europa Palace occupy a smart villa of the Art Nouveau sort. Its facilities include a pleasant garden, a private beach and one of those ‘wellness centres’ which are now so popular. The hotel has its own lift to take guests down to its swimming pool and to the adjacent sun-bathing facilities.

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Restaurant, Hotel Bellevue Syrene, Sorrento, Italy | Bown's Best


The red sunset over the island of Ischia is one of the most gorgeous sights in the Mediterranean. It is best viewed from Sorrento. It must always have been thus, which helps to explain why those lovers of beauty, the Romans – or, at least, their rulers – sought consolation in this part of Italy. For Roman emperors did not always enjoy long and happy retirements. Augustus, for example, was sent into exile, and for a time occupied a villa overlooking the sea on what we now call the Amalfi Coast. Upon that villa’s foundations in Sorrento, in the middle of the 18th Century, the Earls of Mastrobuono decided to build a villa for themselves. In 1820 this was turned into a place in which travellers could lodge. And now it is a luxury hotel, the Bellevue Syrene. The clue is in the name, for it does, indeed, enjoy a ‘vue’ which is remarkably ‘belle’. But I came not for the view, but for the food.

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Hotel San Francesco Al Monte, Naples, Italy | Bown's Best


If you go to stay at the Hotel San Francesco al Monte in Naples, you must look round the 3rd floor of the building. There you will find some interesting and impressive rooms, including the monks’ large refectory and a tiny and exquisitely decorated oratory. I mention these delights, because they are easily overlooked in a place which has The View. In Naples you must have The View. The city is famous for its narrow alleys and ‘interesting’ back streets. But its remarkable position and its wonderful buildings have created vistas and panoramas which are among the best in Italy. To stay in any hotel which does not taken advantage of them would be bordering upon the perverse. That is why I went to the Hotel San Francesco al Monte.

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Francis Bown 2003
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