Across Italy, these are the most romantic hotels – the centuries-old palazzos to hide out at in Venice, the cliff-front villas with the best views on the Amalfi Coast and the cave hotels built into the rocks in Matera.
The best bit of this old-school favourite – run by the fourth generation of the family that founded it – is the beach club deck, where sunbeds sit right on the water's edge. With views straight out to sea and around to the town of Amalfi, this is up there as one of the most outstanding locations on this stretch of coast.
Back at the top of the rock face, there are more dazzling panoramas from the breakfast table, and from the bedroom balconies of the 19th-century villa, which is set in gracious grounds planted with citrus, bougainvillaea and olives. Read the full review of Hotel Santa Caterina.
The Sassi of Matera in southern Italy are an extraordinary labyrinth of cave dwellings that date back to prehistoric times. It's here, in the soft tufa stone, that Swedish-Italian hotelier Daniele Kihlgren has fashioned a beautifully judged hotel of 18 spacious rooms and suites sparsely furnished in antique linens, upcycled rustic antiques, freestanding tubs and candles.
The same group runs the Albergo Diffuso village-hotel in Santo Stefano di Sessanio in the Appennines, which is equally, exquisitely minimalist and authentic.
From 1943 to 1954, this 19th-century crenellated extravaganza on Italy's largest lake was home to Mussolini. Today it's the European hotel of choice of many a high-end traveller, with two members of staff for every guest and a Michelin-starred restaurant overseen by Stefano Baiocco.
There are 13 suites in the main building, which has a magnificent staircase with stone-mullioned, stained-glass windows, and a further eight in three guest houses and a boathouse. It's all set in a peachy-pink-and-cream neo-Gothic villa on a shore of Lake Garda, just outside the pretty port town of Gargnano.
John Steinbeck described Le Sirenuse as 'an old family house converted into a first-class hotel’ when he stayed here in the 1950s, and it is still the height of low-key sophistication. This in no small part thanks to second-generation owner Antonio Sersale, who runs the place with effortless grace and humour.
The Pompeii-style red and white building in the centre of this pretty town has 58 bedrooms, most with sea-facing balconies, and one of the prettiest restaurants in Italy. La Sponda’s white walls crawl with vines and through the window are views of Positano’s yellow majolica mosaic cathedral dome. Read the full review of Le Sirenuse.
Claus Thottrup bought this 13th-century villa near the beautiful roofless abbey of San Galgano as a wedding present for his wife Jeannette; 15 years later it's the ultimate honeymoon retreat.
The 15 classic rooms and suites - some with open fires, frescoed walls and claw-foot baths - are insanely pretty, and the 13 acres of grounds include a freeform pool, a spa, a rose walk, and organic gardens that grow produce for the Michelin-starred restaurant and Treehouse Bar.
A small hotel by Amalfi Coast standards, with just seven bedrooms, this really is a private option perfect for couples. Beneath the old fisherman’s house are four steep terraced levels.
First is the canopied restaurant; then the gardens with their tinkling water feature; next, a pool, each pair of sunbeds enclosed in a box hedge; and closer to the water’s edge, past lemon trees, is a rocky outcrop with more white sunbeds and steep steps down to the sea. Halfway between Amalfi and Positano, this is a brilliant location from which to explore the Amalfi Coast, or to hide out instead. Read the full review of Casa Privata.
This jet-set favourite on the rocky Argentario coast offers the best of both worlds: the medieval villages of the Maremma to the left and right and, straight in front of you, the blue-blue Tryrrhenian sea.
Dating from the 1960s, Il Pellicano exudes old-school glamour, with a sunbathing terrace on the water, a heated saltwater pool, a Michelin-starred restaurant and 50 rooms - distributed between the main house and more private villas - with classic, slightly unexciting, interiors.