Here is another Neapolitan nobleman's palazzo in Positano, built in 1677, but in all other respects completely different. Come to the California if you want atmosphere, a warm welcome and (for Positano) budget prices. The châtelaine is Mary Cinque (English first name, but 100 per cent Italian mamma) who now runs the hotel opened by her father-in-law in 1968 and named after his much-missed sister who had emigrated to California. 'I want my guests to be happy,' she says, and she means it. Mary tries hard to keep up with modern requirements and a programme of renovation has recently been completed. Luckily most of the rooms, though plain, still retain an old-fashioned charm, and all have a balcony or terrace. No. 54 is large, with green tiled floor and high painted ceiling. No. 55 is even bigger. No. 61 is one of the rooms in which Mary has proudly installed a Jacuzzi, and benefits from windows on two sides.
The hotel's star feature, notwithstanding Mary herself, is the upper-floor terrace which stretches along the front of the building. It has a pure turn-of-the-century feel, leafy, elegant, dotted with wrought-iron and wicker furniture. There are no other public spaces; breakfast is served here or in your room. As the Eagles sang of another Hotel California, we thought it was 'a lovely place' - but we'd be reassured by some positive readers' letters, especially as we haven't yet been able to stay the night.