So where to start with this hotel……
Why did I choose Sorrento and why in particularly did I choose the Grand Nastro Azzuro & Occhio Marino Resort? Well I love Italy. A bold statement but a true one and here’s an even bolder one for you – Italy is in fact my favourite country in Europe! Having visited Florence (twice), Rome and Venice previously Sorrento was next on the list. This hotel is considered to be the best in Sorrento and I had some credit to spend with Thomson’s (holiday company) so why not? Please note this hotel is an All Inclusive hotel but please don’t let that put you off……..
A very modern reception area and a very easy process. A swift ask of our names and a photocopy of our passports by a very friendly receptionist and that was it – checked in! Our backpacks was eagerly taken from us by one of the friendly members of staff and a glass of Prosecco thrust into my hands! Cheers! What a great first impression. Our bags were taken to our room which allowed us the opportunity to grab lunch and explore the hotel and grounds further.
I’ll be honest I was blown away by the room especially because the hallways are decorated in a tradition Sorrentine style. To be honest I couldn’t believe it was the same hotel on the other side of the doorway! Our room had a sitting area with small sofa and a row of waist height cupboards housing the minibar and safe. The bedroom itself had a lovely and very comfortable king sized bed together with a large slide door wardrobe and wall mounted TV. There are only a couple of English channels available but then again I did not visit to watch TV. Both the sitting room and the bedroom had mood lights which you can change the colour of at the push of a button. They both also had the best black out blinds I have ever seen – a thick metal rollerblind which is operated again by the touch of a button. Granted they may have made the hotel look like a secure prison from the outside but aided my long lazy lie ins so in my opinion a winner. The bathroom was also awesome with double sinks and a double shower, toilet and a European favourite, a bidet.
The pool area again is very modern and as we visited in mid-April, sun loungers were plentiful together with tables and parasols. Waiter service either side of lunch is available for drink orders but the pool bar is easily accessible if a waiter isn’t free. The only downside, and again this is because we visited in April is that the pool was FREEZING; I mean turn your legs blue freezing as it is not heated in the winter months. The weather, for the most part, was lovely (high teens/low twenties) whilst we were there just not lovely enough to heat the pool to a reasonable temperature. Not to worry, the hotel also has 3 large hot tubs available for guests to use and even though they were big enough to seat 6/8 people comfortably, my husband and I were always lucky enough to get one to ourselves. Perfect opportunity to grab a bottle of Prosecco from the bar and chill out. Don’t forget to ask for a plastic glass from the poolside bar if you are taking your drink poolside or in the hot tub.
So I’ve already mentioned the pool bar above. The main bar in the hotel is the reception bar which I believe is open 24 hours (although I never tested them on this!) Again very modern and lit up using the same mood lighting that is used in the bedrooms. All spirits used are branded, nothing worse than cheap vodka! There is also an extensive cocktail menu and I’m sure if something you like is not listed the barman would have a go at making it. And the best part – because this is an all-inclusive hotel, all drinks are included! There is also the Sunset Bar at this hotel and from other people’s photographs the views from here look amazing. Unfortunately, it is only open during the summer months and we arrived a little too early to experience it.
Food, glorious food! I’ll be honest I struggle sometimes when visiting foreign lands however that has never been a problem any of the previous times I’ve visited Italy and it certainly wasn’t at this hotel.
Breakfast – I’m not really a morning person so breakfast, if eaten at all was a bowl of bran flakes. There was a wide and varied selection of hot and cold food available if you wanted all served on a buffet basis. Breakfast was served in the main restaurant opposite reception in the main block of the hotel.
Lunch – lunch was served in the poolside restaurant, again on a buffet basis with all the usual Italian fairings on offer – pizza, pasta, fresh salads, meat from the BBQ, fruits, gelato etc. and all absolutely delicious. So much so I had to stop myself getting another slice of home-made, stone oven cooked pizza on a number of occasions.
Afternoon tea – I never had afternoon tea during my stay as I was always too full from lunch or out and about somewhere but by all accounts it is what the name suggests – tea (and coffee) served with an assortment of cakes and sweet treats. This was also served in the poolside restaurant.
Dinner – the dinner was again served in the main restaurant. At normal all-inclusive hotels this is where people take the opportunity to pile their plates sky-high, eat until they are going to burst and still leave loads untouched therefore wasting enough food to feed a small country. This is not a normal all-inclusive hotel. Here appetisers and sides are buffet style however you are given a menu as you are seated every evening which lists 5/6 starters and 5/6 main courses. You then order what you would like the same way in which you would at a restaurant. Bottles of wine can also be ordered (within your AI package) which saves having to keep asking for a refill. Deserts again are buffet style although I very rarely had room to fit one in.
The grounds and those views!
The grounds are lovely, spacious and green. As we visited at the start of the season there were plenty of gardeners and workmen busying themselves painting, replanting, tidying in preparation for the summer season. There are numerous tables and chairs, sun loungers and places to chill out around the complex. I found the gardens a great place to go and relax to enjoy my book (Please note this hotel is split level so if you have walking difficulties this may not be the place for you). And of course what’s better than chilling out in lovely surrounding? Surely chilling out in lovely surroundings with a great view! Every side of this hotel brings a beautiful view of the Sorrentine landscape.
There are plenty of activities to keep you busy at this hotel if you want to partake in them. The hotel has a dedicated person (Holly when we visited) who is responsible for leading all activities. On the notice board in the reception area you will find a day bay day list of everything available from wellness sessions and learning Italian to wine and cheese taster sessions and Italian cookery lessons. I’ll be honest we were out and about a lot during our stay and when we weren’t it was full on chill out time therefore we didn’t engage in any of the activities on offer. But listening to others who did they sound very enjoyable.
Getting out and about
This hotel is up in the mountains so if visiting please do not expect that you can simply walk into town, this is not easily achievable. The hotel does however run regular minibuses down to Sorrento (takes around 20 minutes, traffic dependant). However, if the bus you want is fully booked tough(!) you have to book on another. Also, don’t forget to book your return transfer as the bus driver will not let you on without a ticket. Thomson’s also offer a number of organised tours of the surrounding area including trips to Pompeii, Mt Vesuvius, Capri etc. however most are doable via local trains, ferries etc. if you don’t fancy paying the premium Thomson charge.
Lovely 4* hotel in lovely surroundings. Some people said that it was the nicest hotel they had ever stayed in with a few couples actually staying there on their honeymoon. I personally have stayed in nicer hotels but have course paid for that pleasure. At £1800 for 2 for 10 nights (AI) I feel that this was great value for money especially because you can pay in excess of £1000 each per week in the height of the summer season. Would I recommend this hotel – definitely. This hotel is perfect for long lazy days at the pool but also as a base if your main aim is to discover the local area with second to none customer service!