Hastings Battleaxe basks in sunny Sorrento

Had a lovely few days. I was a bit worried that the Imperial Tramontano might have changed after ten years, but no, scarcely at all. They had repainted the outside, redecorated the dining room and got some new chairs on the bar terrace, but that was honestly about it.  We had a fantastic room with views across the bay and a proper outside terrace, and the weather was hot, hot, hot. We’ve done most of the big sights (Vesuvius, Pompeii, Herculaneum, Paestum) on earlier visits (2006 and 2012), so were quite happy relaxing on the beach or at the pool, and cruising round the shops.  Got back to glorious GB to find the country still wallowing in an incredibly over-prolongued Mournfest or Mournathon, and then, believe it or not, I got the most dreadful toothache. Went straight to dentist and ended up having the tooth pulled out.

View from our balcony on first morning. Bathing platforms below, Vesuvius in the background.
Our own terrace…

Our flight out was not great. WizzAir? More like CrawlAir. We were three hours late. ‘Welcome back’ said the doorman as he took our bags. We couldn’t really appreciate our surroundings unti the next morning – it was by far the best room we have had. (115 for future reference). It was in the old ‘Hotel du Tasso’ bit of the building, and had a vaulted ceiling about 20′ high.

The Tramontano is still a genuine, old-style, classic Italian grand hotel, the sort of thing we really love, but we slightly felt that it is becoming isolated in a changing world.

Hotel entrance – just the same!

The gardens are as beautiful as ever, but the traffic noise is louder, and the hotel next door, the Bellevue Syrene, has converted itself into a boutique destination specialising in up-market weddings.  This meant noise from bands – nothing went on late at night, but it was sometimes a bit intrusive.  The prices at the Syrene are eye-watering – 1000 euros a night. Would we want to stay there? Not on your life.  The Tramontano is pretty eye-watering in itself – and we got a bit of a further shock when we went to the beach, which of course is not a beach at all, but a series of platforms in the sea below the hotel.  We could still descend in the same old lift – plus lift boy – which takes you down hundreds of feet in the depths of the cliff. But they have given up the running of the beach to private enterprise. Even with our hotel discount, it cost 40 euros for the sunbeds and umbrella, 13 more for coffee and a shared cake, and 17 for a horrible chips pizza thing for lunch.  That’s pretty much 7o quid for a few hours by the sea!

View of the hotel from the ‘beach’. Our room is on the right, middle layer, with one of the doors open. Last time we were just above the ‘du’ in Hotel du Tasso.

But readers, you don’t go to Sorrento to worry about money. We’ll all be freezing and living off rusks and water anyway come the winter here, so a few more weeks of privation won’t make any difference.  We just soaked up  everything Sorrento had to offer and enjoyed ourselves.

Finding good, reasonably priced restaurants in Sorrento that aren’t tourist rip-off joints is not easy, so we did eat in the hotel restaurant a few times. Still the same classic Italian waiters (some the actual same ones!) but they have given up their trollies with the massive silver domed covers.  We have got tougher in our old age, and think nothing of just ordering a plate of pasta and a glass of wine off the menu.  Talking of staff, it always saddens me to read Tripadviser reviews of places like the Tramontano mentioning apparently rude and surly staff.  The staff at hotels like that are often older, very dignified, and expect to be treated as equals. Philosopher remembered one bloke on Reception from last time, and when we asked him he said he had been at the hotel for 40 years. Folk like that don’t respond well to having orders barked at them, and call Battleaxe an old bufferess if you like, but I do think standards of civility have dropped.  We found all the staff we encountered consistently pleasant and helpful.

We had a couple of nice days round the hotel pool, which was quiet and peaceful. There is a good poolside restaurant also.

But what I had fantasised about all though the pandemic was sitting on the Tramontano bar terrace, with a campari soda, looking across the bay to Vesuvious. I booked the hotel early in the pandemic, but had to cancel, and then we had to cancel again because of Philosopher’s illness. But we managed it in the end!

It was far hotter than we had imagined – neither of us had bought nearly enough hot weather clothes.  Here’s a nice pic of Philosopher..

Much shop cruising was done. I bought the obligatory new handbag, and a bizarre floaty beach dress thing. In my old age am getting increasingly drawn to bright colours, and of course Italian high-end resort wear is just too appealing by half. There is an incredible shop in Sorrento called ‘Antica Sartoria’ full of eye-blasting flowing garments covered in beading, fringes and bobbles.  I was tempted, but resisted. I don’t think even Hastings is ready for that stuff. But I did get this…

Very daringly we came home via the ferry from Sorrento to Naples. Went down in our lift, and trundled our cases along to the port. Had predictable slight trouble finding the bus to the airport in Naples, but we managed. Easyjet this time – and it was early – until we get to Gatwick and there are no ground staff to bring a ladder up to the door…

Our last morning…

Then, when I get home… utterly dreadful toothache. My dentist had said a few months ago that this tooth was in its last days, and I already had an appointment on 29 September which I was dreading, but it all suddenly blew up very quickly. My own dentist (who, incidentally, is very handsome – not that it affected my choice of dentist, perish the thought) is on holiday, but they booked me in almost straight away with (arrgh, shiver, dread) a STRANGER… but she turned out to be incredibly nice, and so reassuring that the whole process passed by with minimum trauma. The service from that dentists (South Cliff, in Battle Road), is totally excellent. I know we pay for something called Denplan, but even so. They even phoned me up this morning to see how I was doing.

Can’t leave Sorrento without posting this: here is the painting of the hotel that hangs on our living room wall, which we bought on our first visit in 2006. It is inscribed on the back about our 20th wedding anniversary.  (Thinks – how on earth did we get that back on the plane? It is big… can’t have been Easyjet with their uber-stingy baggage allowances back then. Ah, things are so much better today, under the Tories). And here is the same view taken the other day – 14 years later.  In the painting, there has been a bit of artistic license to leave out the bathing platforms, but otherwise the same.




  1. Jill Fricker
    September 18, 2022 / 9:13 pm

    Love the dress, Steph – I look forward to seeing you wafting round the Old Town in that, and maybe at a poetry reading or two! Lunch soon! X

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