Fans of The Odyssey have long held that when Homer's hero Odysseus heard the Sirens' song, he was sailing somewhere off the Amalfi coast in southern Italy. But less than two hours south is a place that has proved just as seductive. With its miles of rocky coves and sandy beaches, the Cilento coast lured the 13th Prince of Belmonte away from his job on Wall Street and back to his roots when he inherited the Palazzo Belmonte in the 1980s.
The kings of Spain and Italy used to come to this 17th century hunting lodge, on the edge of a little fishing village called Santa Maria di Castellabate, to hunt wild boar and quail in the woods nearby. Now the kings are gone, but the prince is still here, and he has converted most of the property into a luxury hotel reserving one wing for his private residence. The 50 rooms in the main house and two new villas are tastefully decorated with antiques and handmade tiles; some have terraces overlooking the sea.
Then there are the five acres (2 ha.) of gardens, brimming with aristocratic charm nurtured over the centuries. On the way to the pool, guests walk through a color spectrum of bougainvillea, hibiscus, roses, jasmine and honeysuckle, as well as orange and lemon groves and dwarf palms. This is also the way to the restaurant terrace where, at the end of the day, guests can feast on rustic fare homemade pasta and vegetables with buffalo mozzarella made that morning and fresh fish caught off the coast as they watch the vivid crimson sunset. With so much to draw you to the Palazzo Belmonte, the Sirens hardly stand a chance. www.palazzobelmonte.com