Going coastal

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The west coast of Italy has long been the preferred destination for travellers seeking a modicum of refinement and a surfeit of sunshine, and after our recent visit, we're happy to concur it's a reputation well earned.

As our driver negotiated the narrow, banking driveway down to our destination, two things became apparent: driving in this part of Italy requires the spatial awareness of an HGV licence holder, and (with the exception of a Buddhist's bathtub) you're unlikely to find many more relaxed settings than Casa Angelina.

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Top: Positano's hillside silhouette; Above: Room 300 at Casa Angelina

Perched on the verdant slopes of Praiano, high on the Amalfi Coast - and a comfortable distance from the nearby tourist mecca of Positano - the hotel is an architectural anomaly in a region famed for the sort of overly ornate buildings aimed at doe-eyed honeymooners and longhaul tourists seeking a bit of 'culture'. The 40-room residence comprises a minimalist white mass jutting out of the cliffs, its monochrome colour scheme purposely designed to keep guests cool, while underlining the preternaturally blue sea framed by its floor to ceiling windows. 

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From left: Rossellini's at Palazzo Sasso; a Casa Angelina sculpture by Alfredo Sosabravo; pointing the way to the beach at Positano

Inside, the rooms boast all the creature comforts you'd expect from a boutique hotel (super-sized beds, Bang & Olufsen TVs, free Wi-Fi), while outside the sea view instils a constant aura of serenity; thankfully there are plenty of vantage points from which to take in the shimmering vista - stretching from the headland all the way across to the island of Capri and beyond - as most of the building looks straight out over the water. 

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Poolside at Casa Angelina

The upbeat staff are, rather helpfully, colour-coded according to seniority - the darker the hue of their pyjama suits, the more significant their rank - of whom the concierge, Gerardo Cuomo (clad from head to toe in black), is on hand to arrange everything from private yacht cruises to restaurant bookings. For the latter, we managed to pry ourselves away from the hotel's excellent al fresco restaurant Un Piano nel Cielo long enough to try out Positano's beach-front eaterie Buci di Bacco, and the family-run kitchen of La Brace (+39 089 874 226) in Praiano's village centre.

But our main gastronomic pilgrimage was saved for Rossellini's, a two Michelin-starred establishment at the lavish Palazzo Sasso hotel in Ravello, to sample buffalo mozzarella prepared seven ways (smoked, iced granita, and a liquid balloon, to name a few), and sommelier Daniele di Palmas' estimable curation of local Campanian wines. After a week recharging ourselves on the hotel's decked pool terrace, our travels took us north to the Italian Riviera, and an entirely different style of coastal living. But more of that anon.

Doubles from around £250. Return flights from Gatwick to Naples with BA cost from £130. Transfers can be arranged directly with the hotel.

*What we drank: Feudi di San Gregorio Sannio Falanghina - a zesty, Campanian white wine

*What we ate: Paccheri Amalfatina - short, wide pasta tubes with cherry tomatoes, arugula, and prawns

*What we listened to: Junior by Röyksopp (Wall of Sound)