European hotels for your winter and 2013 vacation (Part II)

Conde Nast Traveler lists the Top 100 hotels in the world each year. Here is a personal endorsement of six grand European hotels in Italy, Switzerland and Ireland. Photo: Santa Caterina

CHARLOTTE, November 6, 2012 – Each year when Conde Nast Traveler publishes its Top 100 list the first thing I do is peruse the various rosters to find out if I have been among the privileged group of travelers who has experienced one of them. This year I found nine.

Last week I wrote about three properties in the Caribbean. Now I will focus on Europe and the United Kingdom for the remaining six hotel treasures.

To begin we head to the sunny places of the Continent where visitors can get an early escape from the harsh realities of winter. After that we will move to hotels and resorts better geared for shoulder and high season pleasures.

Europe (Italy):

Hotel Santa Caterina (Amalfi, Italy) – The thing that strikes you about Hotel Santa Caterina ( is that it sneaks up on you. When you arrive for the first time, the gleaming white façade along a wide spot in the road is deceiving until you walk through the front door into a timeless Alice in Wonderland world.

Service is the name of the game at Santa Caterina which is owned and operated by sisters Giusi and Ninni Gambardella. The aromatic smell of lemon groves, the coolness of painted inlaid tiles from neighboring Vietri and a staff that has been in charge almost as long as the hotel has existed combine with Mediterranean charm and exquisite cuisine to create an unforgettable experience. As Conde Nast’s third best hotel in Italy, Santa Caterina is infectious.

Il San Pietro (Positano, Italy) –

Dramatic San Pietro, Positano

Just outside Positano, CN’s fourth best hotel in Italy is built within a cliff that plunges into the sea. I call San Pietro ( the “Invisible Hotel” because it was designed so that it cannot be seen from the road, and you really have to look for it from the water. It began in 1962 when Carlo Cinque decided to build a private villa beneath the peak of a rocky cliff where only the tiny Chapel of San Pietro existed. 


The hotel is designed in such a way that many of the bedrooms and bathrooms have no need for curtains. Instead they gaze upon breathtaking views of the stunning Amalfi Coast. The main veranda faces Positano and the elevator to the beach takes a full 90 seconds to tunnel through sheer rock into the grotto that leads to the pool.

Grand Hotel Quisisana (Capri, Italy) –

Hotel Quisisana, Capri

If you ever wondered how a Roman emperor would have lived in the 21st century, Hotel Quisisana ( would be the place. Whether you go to the Isle of Capri for a day trip or to spend some time there, Quisisana’s magnificent location is impossible to miss at the junction of the three main routes as you stroll around the island.


Originally a sanatorium that opened in the mid-nineteenth century by George Sidney Clark (Quisisana means “here one heals”), the property was developed to its present status by the Morgano family in 1981. Among its notable guest list of monarchs, actors, writers and celebrities are Ernest Hemingway, Tom Cruise, Sidney Sheldon, the Savoy family, Hohenzollerns, Claudette Colbert, Jean Paul Sartre, Gerald Ford and Sting.

Europe (Central):

Grand Hotel Beau-Rivage Palace(Lausanne, Switzerland) –

Step back in time at Beau-Rivage

Lausanne’s Beau-Rivage Palace ( is rated the best hotel in central Europe. This elegant property is nestled on a hillside overlooking the harbor of Lausanne on the shores of Lake Geneva with the French Alps in the distance. Since opening in 1861 the hotel has hosted numerous international celebrities including Victor Hugo, Gary Cooper, Camille Saint-Saens, Coco Chanel and Charlie Chaplin.


Situated within ten acres of private gardens, Beau-Rivage is sequestered within a residential area of Lausanne. Its next door neighbor is the gleaming white marble Olympic Museum which is less than a five-minute walk. This sophisticated hotel offers superb service, accommodations, and cuisine in one of the cultural centers of Switzerland.

Palace Luzern (Lucerne, Switzerland) –

Lucerne Palace, Switzerland

Hotel Palace Lucerne ( is known as “the pearl of hotels in Lucerne” for good reason. Sitting along the romantic promenade that lines the perimeter of a portion of the Lake of Lucerne, the hotel is framed amid a bowl of idyllic alpine panoramas. Lucerne’s Old Town has long been a favorite destination for travelers. Here the Lake of Lucerne flows beneath the historic landmark Chapel Bridge before it empties into the rushing waters of the River Reuss.


The Belle Epoque style property conjures images of Old World travel with 136 rooms and suites. Hospitality thrives at this chic yet unpretentious grand hotel located in the heart of Switzerland’s historic roots. Many rooms feature lake view vistas where excursion boats serenely sail between nostalgic charming shoreline villages. Hotel Palace Luzern is traditional hotel elegance as it was at the turn of the twentieth century.

British Isles:

Ballynahinch Castle Hotel (Connemara, Ireland) –

Ballynahinch Castle Hotel, Ireland

Ireland’s 4-star Ballynahinch Castle Hotel ( proves you don’t need 5 stars to make the list. Although Ballynahinch calls itself a castle, it feels more like a luxurious hunting lodge. It is located within a 450-acre forested estate filled with woodlands and lakes in the heart of Galway.


The nearby Twelve Bens mountains are among many places for outdoor enthusiasts who can use Ballynahinch as a base for day trips. The castle hotel itself offers fishing, hiking, cycling and nature trails amid picturesque surroundings while providing elegantly rustic accommodations after a full day of activity.

If you are planning the trip of a lifetime, you might want to think about the opportunity to indulge yourself. If you do, it could also be the memory of a lifetime.

Peabod is Bob Taylor, owner of Taylored Media Services in Charlotte, NC. Taylor is founder of The Magellan Travel Club, which creates, and escorts customized tours to Switzerland, France and Italy for groups of 12 or more. Inquiries for groups can be made at Taylored Media has produced marketing videos for British Rail, Rail Europe, Switzerland Tourism, the Swedish Travel & Tourism Council, the Finnish Tourist Board, the Swiss Travel System and Japan Railways Group among others. As author of The Century Club book, Peabod is now attempting to travel to 100 countries or more during his lifetime. To date he has visited 70 countries. Suggest someplace new for Bob to visit; if you want to know where he has been, check his list on Facebook. Bob plans to write a sequel to his book when he reaches his goal of 100 countries. He also played professional baseball for four years and was a sportscaster for 14 years at WBTV, the CBS affiliate in Charlotte.


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Bob Taylor

Bob Taylor has been travel writer for more than three decades. Following a career as an award winning sports producer/anchor, Taylor’s media production business produced marketing presentations for Switzerland Tourism, Rail Europe, the Finnish Tourist Board, Japan Railways Group, the Swedish Travel & Tourism Council and the Swiss Travel System among others. He is founder of The Magellan Travel Club ( and his goal is to visit 100 countries or more during his lifetime.


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