Live Like the Positanos at This Family-Owned Amalfi Coast Retreat

Come to Hotel Poseidon for the views (and the food) — but stay for a truly unique Italian experience

August 8, 2022 8:04 am
Superior Suite Terrace overlooking Positano at Hotel Poseidon
Superior Suite Terrace overlooking Positano at Hotel Poseidon
Hotel Poseidon Positano

Looking out over the cliffs of Positano from Hotel Poseidon, the few lights of the city still twinkling after midnight, I felt like James Bond on vacation. I sipped a limoncello by the pool while gazing out over the sea, imagining 007 visiting extended Italian family on the Amalfi Coast.

Every suite at Hotel Poseidon is wonderfully appointed with comfortable furniture, hand-painted terracotta tiles and a semi-private terrace that invites you to spend your holiday in the warm embrace of the Italian sun. And, though you can step out of the lobby and get whisked away in the typical offerings of any paint-by-the-numbers Amalfi Coast getaway, I’d challenge you to resist the temptation to follow the tourists trail and instead get to know the family who’ve always known Hotel Poseidon as home.

Sky Room Bathroom
Sky Room bathroom
Hotel Poseidon Positano

Looking out from within a postcard

The drive from Naples Airport to Positano alone is worth the price of the trip. Viewing Mount Vesuvius with the naked eye is almost as impressive as watching the driver of my mini shuttle navigate sharp turns and hills on a stretch of asphalt barely two-lanes wide — with cyclists, scooters and hulking tour buses zooming around every corner.

I arrived at Hotel Poseidon in the late morning and found breakfast was already in full swing on Il Tridente’s buzzing pergola. I’d hardly slept on the train from Turin to Naples but I didn’t need a cappuccino to perk me up. The views from the terrace were captivating, rivaled only by the friendliness of one of my hosts, Liliana. 

As the youngest of three generations of women who’ve managed Hotel Poseidon, it was fitting that she be the one to physically walk me through its history. What started as her grandmother’s summer holiday home in 1950 slowly transformed into a seaside resort through the decades. Liliana led me through her own childhood, inviting me into her grandmother’s old room (the loft-style Liliana Suite that she played in as a little girl) and the romantic suites where she helped guests plan immaculate proposals. 

There’s a sense of grandeur around every corner, and with every lavish furnishing comes an element of personality that only a well-lived-in home could display. Despite the fireside piano behind the cocktail bar and sparkling pool with breathtaking views of the vertical village, little touches like the outdated red sofa near the lobby leave new guests bewildered. Could it be removed to meet the aesthetic vision of the many overnight occupants? Of course, but at what expense?

The red sofa is essentially the difference between a five-star resort and this elevated four-star retreat. That said, returning guests, some who’ve spent decades worth of holidays at Hotel Poseidon, are more than happy to trade impersonal five-star service for the familial environment that they’ve come to cherish.

Vespa entrata
Vespa entrata
Hotel Poseidon Positano

Into the Pyramid

Positano played out before us as Liliana led the way to a small shop on the opposite side of the town. CREO, an artisanal eyewear workshop carved into the hillside, is owned by her childhood friend, Crescenzo. His wide smile beaming with pride, he met our arrival with three Aperol spritzes and showed me how he made all of his custom sunglasses by hand. When we bid a presto to Crescenzo, Liliana joked that his shop was her favorite bar in all of Positano.

Afterward, I sat on Il Tridente’s terrace and gazed blissfully at the catamarans cruising the Tyrrhenian. Mid-day traffic snaked its way around the curved streets belo, dodging pedestrians and navigating narrow turns with ease. What felt like anxiety-inducing chaos on the road now seems somehow carefully choreographed, with the drivers and walkers hitting their marks with split-second accuracy. 

I had no trouble drinking in life inside “the pyramid,” the picture-perfect side of Positano that graces glossy magazine covers, postcards, and the grids of many an Instagram.

A telephone appeared beside me, pulling me from my reverie as the bartender handed me the receiver. 

“Mr. Dauk? You have a phone call.”

It was Margarita, Lilianna’s older sister. 

“Want to go for a ride?”

She said it so casually, as if asking a friend if they wanted to take a quick trip to the store. But this was no jaunt to the mall on the other side of town. Margarita flashed a smile from behind a pair of CREO sunglasses and waved me into the passenger seat of a 1971 vintage Volkswagen Beetle convertible.

Her uncle, who co-owns the hotel with her mother, is a classic car collector. His private garage includes a ‘69 Fiat 600, a ‘61 Alfa Romeo Giulietta Sprint Bertone and other drool-worthy machines that you’d feel guilty even gazing at for too long.

The best part? He lets anyone who stays at Hotel Poseidon take the ‘71 Beetle out for a spin, wherever they please, for as long as they want.

The modern American in me is far too reliant on automatic transmissions, so I politely declined to drive and let Margarita tour me around the coast. We spent a little over an hour with the wind in our hair, cruising along the Amalfi Coast without a care in the world. 

Pool and Terrace
The pool and terrace
Hotel Poseidon Positano

Food, family and a fond memory 

As the sun sets on Positano, Il Tridente sheds its stylish, poolside vibes for a more elegant atmosphere. Candles twinkle along the tables, winking at the town’s soft lights gleaming in the night. With a cigarette in one hand and a rocks glass in the other, I sat at the cocktail bar with the hotel matriarch, Monica. She shared the history of the hotel from her perspective, before asking me why I was only staying one night. I showed her a photo of my wife and one-year-old 5,000 miles away.

“Bring them!” She said with such seriousness, questioning why I hadn’t thought of such an obvious solution earlier. “You all can stay. We will teach your son how to swim in the pool.”

I sat with Monica, Liliana and a few others for hours as we ate and drank late into the night. Every bit of my meal, from the cheese in my risotto to the red wine in my glass, had been sourced from nearby purveryors. Crescenzo made a quick appearance to give me the pair of sunglasses I’d watched him make. He and Liliana planned the gift with such a special detail — the print of the frames matched the unique terracotta floor tiles in my suite. We left the empty terrace just after midnight and Liliana walked me back to my suite, promising that our families would meet again one day. 

It’s difficult to review a hotel that’s literally a home, and there’s hardly a rubric for evaluating a luxe resort with an exclusive position on Positano’s coast yet goes out of its way to be as intimate, inviting and inherently relaxing as it was when it was built as a summer holiday house. There’s no hotel quite like Hotel Poseidon because there’s no family quite like Liliana’s. 


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