Vacation rentals in Italy (villas, farms, estates, agriturismo, apartments)
Review 5225: Amalfi Coast Rental (Primula), Villa Hellen
2bed/1.5bath apartment in Positano, Campania
April/May 2011, 2 weeks
Villa Hellen is located in the scenic upper reaches of Positano on the Viale Pasitea, which winds its way from virtually one end of Positano to the other. The views from this area of Positano are breathtaking. I could never walk outside my apartment without stopping to take at least a dozen pictures of the sea, the beach, and the town below. There is some traffic in this area but light compared to the downtown area of Positano, which can become congested in the late mornings and afternoons when the tour buses arrive.
The downtown area of Positano is less than 20 minutes from the Villa although it is a steep descent and a challenging climb back up the hill to the Villa. There is a small grocery at the top of the steps with a very friendly owner and wife. Although it’s small, it is well stocked with fresh fruit and vegetables, cheeses, meats, bread, yogurt, coffee, pastries, and wine - in other words all the staples. I went there every morning before breakfast and there was seemingly something new every day, e.g., new fruits arriving as they came in season, pizza cooked by the owner’s wife. Turn left as you come out the main entrance of the Villa, walk up 42 steps, turn right at the top of the stairs and eccolo! It’s right there. I did most of my shopping there even though there is a slightly larger alimentary (grocery) less than a quarter of a mile away (the larger one did have Muller yogurt to which I quickly became addicted). There are also many, many restaurants,, bars/cafes, convenience stores (for cartoline), dry cleaners, barbers, electronics stores, either in the downtown area or up the hill, which I generally preferred because it was less crowded and seemed at least a bit more authentic. There is a bus stop at the top of the stairs which follows Viale Pasitea and circumnavigates the entire town. The bus schedule is posted at the stop – it generally runs on time but not frequently – if you just miss the bus, you’re better off walking because the wait for the next bus can be 30 minutes or more. There are plenty of taxis both at the top and below the Villa but they are expensive. One ride from the top to the bottom was enough for me.
You must go to the top of the steps, turn right, and climb the street up to the Bar Internationale. It’s a very popular spot (and the closest place to buy bus tickets – it’s the Chiesa Nuova stop for all of the major bus lines) and I spent hours there just soaking in the color and culture of the neighborhood. The Bar has a good selection of very tasty sweet and savory foods and a full bar. Two doors down from the bar is Il Grottino Azzurro Ristorante, a small family run trattoria with a unique character that has great seafood and daily specials. The seafood was fantastic everywhere I ate in Positano. Molto fresco! I never had a meal that was less than fantastic during my two weeks there.
The apartment is beautiful although my first impression was that I would have to crawl on all fours to get from the bottom floor (bedrooms) to the lower floor (bathroom, kitchen, and living room). The stairs are mountain goat steep but you get used to it although make sure you turn on a light when descending the stairs at night to use the bagno – it’s a long and bumpy trip down the stairs if you miss a step. The kitchen is well appointed ... everything you could possibly need – oven, microwave, large fridge and a fantastic espresso/cappuccino maker (make sure you ask the owner to show you how to use the coffee maker – it’s not intuitive). The owner keeps a bowl of fruit and vegetables on the dining table well stocked and there was enough coffee, sugar, olive oil, and other condiments to run almost a full week. Well, except for the coffee – I drink a lot of coffee.
Prepare to have your breath unavoidably taken away when you walk from the French doors onto the patio. It is literally like walking into a postcard! The view is unbelievable. I spent every minute I could sitting on the patio, eating breakfast and lunch, drinking wine and coffee, napping, just generally watching the world go by. A fantastic view of the Mediterranean, the boats bobbing in the harbor area, the lounge chairs on the beach, - the entire town stretches out below you. I literally spent about 75% of my time on the patio, even at night when the nice breeze and the sound of the town settling down was so enjoyable. Oh, and the roosters crowing in the morning and the sound of the buses horns blowing as they approach the hair pin turns throughout the town quickly become a part of your daily routine. There is beautiful table on the patio and comfortable chairs, although if you leave the cushions on the chairs at night, they will be occupied by the numerous cats that live behind the Villa when you wake up. The patio was very private except for the cats but they were amusing. You might even have to break up a cat fight like I did one day!
Furniture was in excellent condition. Both bedrooms were spacious and the beds were very comfortable with windows that offered their own magnificent views of the sea and town below. The bathroom is very modern with a large walk-in shower (no tub but no complaints on my part). Living room, dining area, and kitchen were also very roomy with comfortable furniture. The apartment was spotless when I arrived and the weekly cleaning brought it back to its original spotless condition. Plenty of closet and storage space. This apartment will easily accommodate four to six people.
See above. Plenty of towels, sheets, blankets, and pillows. Towels and sheets were replaced after one week of my two week stay. There was a full bathroom between the top and bottom floors and a half bath on the patio with a very convenient and easy to operate washing machine. No dryer but plenty of sunshine to take care of drying.
Perfect for cooking complete meals or just warming up food bought at the nearby alimentari or left over from the ristoranti. Plenty of plates, glasses, and utensils. The system for taking out the garbage is a bit confusing at first but you’ll figure it out after a couple of days (the garbage bags are different colors and are hung outside the main entrance on collection days). I loved the espresso maker.
Problems or Bonuses
The surprises were all of the good kind. The owner, who lives in the next town with his family, was extremely friendly and accommodating. He and his brother respond very quickly to phone calls or emails. The fresh fruit and vegetables that were replenished on a regular basis were a huge treat. Absolutely no unexpected problems. I would advise spending a little time in physical conditioning before coming to Positano because the hills are steep. I chose to walk on Viale Pasitea – it’s longer than the stairs in back of the apartment but a much more manageable walk for someone who’s not a great walker. I turned 61 while I was there – I have two artificial hips and some joint pain but after a day or two of acclimating myself to the hills, I was fine. The walks are incredible ... you’ll end up stopping at least a dozen times when walking up from the downtown area to just admire the views.
Agency and Representatives (and price)
I dealt with the agency only by email but they were very responsive and efficient. As mentioned above, the owner was very accommodating and spoke excellent English (or Italian of course if you prefer). Price was €1680 for two weeks all fees included. Expensive for just me but for two families, definitely affordable, at least relative to the area. No two ways about it – Positano is expensive but no one tries to hide that fact so you go there with your eyes (and wallet/purse) wide open.
Do you recommend this vacation rental to others?
I would definitely recommend this place to everyone. The apartment is very well maintained, the views are indescribably beautiful, and once you get there, you won’t want to leave. You must see the downtown area, the beach, the shops, and the churches but the immediate area around the apartment is much more interesting and colorful. The hills and steps are a bit challenging but definitely not overwhelming.
Things to do in this area
I took a day trip to Amalfi and Ravello. Definitely recommend it. The ferry that shuttles between Positano and Salerno is very scenic and pleasant. It makes four or five stops on the trip to Salerno and is a very enjoyable way to view the coast. I never made it to Pompeii, Capri, or Sorrento. I was having way too much fun at Villa Hellen! Restaurants mentioned above.
This review is the opinion of a Slow Travel member and not of slowtrav.com.
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