Now here is a property with a pedigree. This 18th-century villa was once the summer residence of Gioacchino Murat, the king of Naples and husband of Napoleon's sister, Caroline Bonaparte. Today, it's a tranquil hideaway that offers travelers the rare combination of gorgeous grounds and a serene feel with a convenient location right in the middle of Positano. Still gracing the guest rooms of this upscale hotel are furnishings that belonged to Murat, who was known as the "dandy" king for his love of fashion and the good life. The guest rooms, however, are graceful and relaxed, not over-the-top and regal as you might surmise, given the history of this baroque palace, and feature unobtrusive modern enhancements that please discerning 21st-century travelers, including flat-screen televisions, free WiFi, air conditioning, and luxurious bathroom fixtures.
The hotel has two distinct wings, the old and the new, which are both lovely, but one bonus of the old side is that the building is thick-walled and doesn't have huge windows, so even at the height of a hot southern Italian summer, your room will stay blessedly cool. Hotel-wide, all rooms have terraces or balconies, but don't expect any breathtaking seacoast views—what glimpses you do get of the water are partial and filtered through rooftops. Perhaps the greatest legacy of Murat's era are the hotel's botanical gardens, lush with fragrant citrus trees, palms, and centuries-old bougainvillea whose insanely plump magenta blooms border on the grotesque.
Breakfast and aperitifs are served in the hotel's fabulous courtyard, which looks like something out of a movie set—all sultry Mediterranean flora and evocative stone arcades, it's also the stage for occasional concerts and art shows. A small but delightful pool with a grassy sunning area affords close-up views of the majolica-tiled dome of Santa Maria Assunta. The grounds at Palazzo Murat are magical, and over and over, you'll have a hard time believing you are right in the middle of often-chaotic Positano. Also on-site and open to non-guests is the Al Palazzo r estaurant, offering a romantic setting and traditional Campanian fare, plus a serious wine cellar.