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Built inconspicuously into the cliffside between Positano and Praiano, The San Pietro boasts the most spectacular location and fabulously engineered physical plant of any hotel on the coast. This is one of southern Italy's great luxury getaways, a Relais & Chateaux chain member that's first-class all the way. All guest rooms have stunning views from their private terraces, which are staggered in such a way that you’re unaware of neighboring guests, and many units boast a picture window in the bathroom that affords wide-open vistas of the sea and coastline right from your bathtub. Room décor is variable throughout the property, but for the most part, interiors are eclectically elegant, with a captivating mix of marine colors, gilt, whitewash, and Vietri tile that manages to feel both homey and luxuriously transporting.

Hotel facilities include a panoramic pool perched near the top of the property, formal and casual restaurants, and, at water level (hundreds of feet below the main hotel), a glamorous bathing platform, a private beach, and a tennis court. Stealthy, 007-esque elevators carved in the rock connect the various levels, from the unassuming street-level entrance down to the main lobby and then, much lower, to the waterside facilities. From June to September, guests can also take a free two-hour excursion up and down the coast in the hotel's private boat. The San Pietro has a relaxed and secluded feel, making it popular with honeymooners and older couples. Its main competition is Le Sirenuse, and if you're on the fence about which to book, look to the San Pietro if a jawdropping, fantastical setting with water access matters more to you than style and cachet. The hotel runs a free, all-hours shuttle service to Positano and back, making the slightly out-of-town location only a minor issue.