The first time my family went to Caruso, which is an 11th-century estate in Ravello at a summit in the Lattari Mountains that overlooks a 1,000-foot-plus plunge to the Tyrrhenian Sea, my son Henry was almost six months old. It was late April, and Amalfi’s lemon trees were blossoming. The hotel, an austerely beautiful, scrubbed limestone palace clinging to the side of a hill, was an appealingly easy escape. We carried cups of rich, not-too-sweet Sfusato Amalfitano lemonade into the grounds. Gardens arranged with lawns, rose borders, half-concealed hammocks, and citrus trees fanned beneath the palace like giant steps. Wisteria vines dropped petals from the pergolas, outshone by the punch-pink, first-bloom bougainvillea. We slept in the hotel’s Villa Margherita, designed by Eric Egan. I imagine artists who traveled to Ravello in the early 20th century staying here as they waited for inspiration to strike. One of us opened a set of floor-to-ceiling windows, exposing a clear sweep from the coastal slopes of Maiori to Minori, with the chapel-dotted uplands of the Lattaris rising in both directions, and the improbably empty Mediterranean filling in the horizon. It is a view nothing can prepare you for.
Last May, my husband, Andrew, and I went back to the same villa with the cowrie-shell chandelier. We aren’t in the habit of repeating trips, but we both kept bringing up that lemonade. I was seven months pregnant with our second son, and if I had to be benched somewhere with a pack of antacids—well, what a place. We mooched around the pool, an adults-only place in spirit if not by decree, edged on three sides by green hills and by the coastline to the south. Shallow terra-cotta bowls, full of pansies, sat alongside huge white umbrellas, wide enough to shade two sun loungers on the patio or, even better, on the soft lawn dented with ice buckets. On some days we never went farther than the poolside restaurant, where we ordered scrape-the-plate paccheri with burst cherry tomatoes, and eggplant Parmesan that came in a puddle of bright passata.
Food—and the leisurely eating of it—was the tentpole of our return to Caruso. We hovered over breakfast for an hour each morning, scooping up rosemary omelets and fried tomatoes with soldiers of focaccia, tart rounds of caprese al limone, and sfogliatelle santarosa, my favorite, a shell-shaped pastry filled with raspberries and cream. In the afternoons we would walk into town past the duomo for hazelnut and pistachio cones from Baffone Gelateria Artigianale, and in the evenings we stayed at the hotel—a choice that usually would have smacked of laziness to me, but instead felt decadently unambitious.
As I’m writing this, the baby is due in a couple of weeks, and I hope our second trip ends up being the start of something. I hope we’ll return to Caruso as a family of four, and open the windows in that villa, and remember why we keep coming back. From $990. —Jo Rodgers