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"The Great Modernisers of Le Sirenuse"

Le Sirenuse is not like other hotels. To get there, you have to follow a winding road down the steep, Amalfi coastline of Positano and past the startling array of fine dining establishments. Beyond and below you, you’ll bear witness to unspoiled, crystalline waters and glimpses of the jet black sand from which its idyllic beaches are composed.

The entrance lobby is situated on the fifth floor (each luxurious component of the hotel cascades downwards from that point via a single lift), and you’re immediately greeted by a perfectly curated blend of polished ceramic floors, impeccably upholstered period furniture and vibrant plants. Oh and there’s a good chance that the jovial warmth of the staff who greet you aren’t the staff at all – they’re just as likely to be Antonio and Carla Sersale, the owners of a family-run hotel that is now widely regarded as perhaps the finest in the world.

You see, Le Sirenuse doesn’t only occupy a dream-like position between the cliffs and the ocean. It also sits at that perfect sweet spot between luxury and familial; between modern comforts and old world charm. It is clear from talking to Carla that each unique ingredient that goes into crafting the Sirenuse experience is the result of a distinctive ethos spanning many years and generations. At first she reels of a list of attributes that whilst undoubtedly enticing are what you might expect from any five star hotel: “It’s a very sophisticated place full of comfort. We have a Michelin star restaurant, a champagne and oyster bar upstairs, we have a spa that offers massages and facials and all the rest of it…” It is when you begin to delve into the rich history of the hotel however, which was opened in 1951 by husband Antonio’s father and his two brothers, that you begin to see how special the place is.

Take the spa for example. Antonio – who became the great moderniser of Le Sirenuse and the perfect foil to the open mind and creative impulses of his father Franco – was adamant by the late nineties that they had to install a spa, a gym. Antonio convinced his father of its worth and then, rather than build something generic, they worked with the late, great Italian architect Gae Aulenti to craft something truly special. “It was built in a space that used to be a large nightclub in the sixties before being made into a convention room that was never used,” says Carla, before adding with a laugh, “ because who wants to come to Positano for a convention? It just didn’t make any sense. Why would you want to have all these people in blue jackets and ties wandering around while everybody else is by the pool having drinks?” Gae Alulenti took the space and crafted a very special sanctuary, defined by its symmetry and striking plunge pool.

Photography by Giada Mariani

Timelines, such as that of the nightclub/conference room/spa, are important to Le Sirenuse. Carla talks at length about the history of the hotel, and the always loving, often idiosyncratic nurture that it was shown by the Sersale family. Originally comprised of eight rooms (compared to the 58 it now has), the first visitors were a mixture of returning US veterans who had grown to love the area during their stationing in World War 2 and a thriving group of renowned writers and artists. Famously, John Steinbeck wrote of his stay at Le Sirenuse for Harper’s Bazaar in 1953:

“Nearly always when you find a place as beautiful as Positano, your impulse is to conceal it. You think, “If I tell, it will be crowded with tourists and they will ruin it, turn it into a honky-tonk and then the local people will get touristy and there’s your lovely place gone to hell”. There isn’t the slightest chance of this in Positano […] The cliffs are all taken. Except for the half ruinous houses very high up, all space is utilized.”

  • Inside Le Sirenuse photographed by Giada Mariani for Semaine

This has proved a prescient observation. Whilst so many comparable hotspots have burned out in a flame of over-development, the geography of Positano has meant that even as the clientele have become increasingly elite over the years, the unspoilt charm of the place remains in tact.

Le Sirenuse remains the jewel in this crown of the Italian coast, at once a summation of the years, the culture, the clientele and a vision of how to move things forwards. The late Franco (for whom Antonio recently named his new bar) was a great lover of art and antiquities, handpicking every individual piece of furniture that adorns the rooms and communal areas alike. This commitment to contemporary art (which flies in the face of the old-fashioned decor one might expect to find) continues today. In fact, Antonio and Carla commission special pieces exclusively for the hotel – most recently, the Turner Prize-winning Martin Creed made a bold, neon sign for the bar. “We didn’t have a say [in what he was creating] and that’s how we wanted it to be,” says Carla of the unusual installation. “And you know what? It looks amazing, fantastic.” Carla also founded a clothing line in recent years that channels the essence of the Sirenuse lifestyle into beautifully rendered womenswear and menswear, inspired by the exotic textiles of her husband’s childhood in Tehran and beyond. The Michelin-starred restaurant that graces the hotel is now headed up by a precociously talented 29-year-old chef who, despite his innovative approach, is “always focusing on local ingredients; local traditions.”

Most remarkably is how everything comes together in a way that never distracts from the simple pleasures of a stay at Le Sirenuse. Perhaps the entire experience is best summed up by bridging the words of two seemingly disparate artistic masters, each of whom fell in love with the place during their stay at the hotel. For John Steinbeck, it was “a dream place that isn’t quite real when you are there and becomes beckoningly real after you have gone.” For Martin Creed, the comforting, homely sense of luxury that visitors experience was encapsulated even more concisely in the wording of his neon sign that now greets newcomers: Don’t Worry.

By Marie Winckler for Semaine.
Envisioning an optimistic future

Sit back, relax, and watch a film on the Amalfi Coast. The only dilemma… which will you choose?



The Daily Podcast
NY Times


Twenty minutes a day of how news should be listened to, hosted by some of the best journalists out there.



Michael Curtiz, 1942


“Of All The Gin Joints In All The Towns In All The World, She Walks Into Mine.” A film very much worth watching.



BBC Daily Podcast


Just like the New York Times daily, it’s one of the only channels you need to listen to.



The Ezra Klein Show
The New York Times


Ezra Klein’s podcast discusses everything, from race and identity to envisioning an optimistic future.



The Godfather
Francis Ford Coppola


The story, spanning from 1945 to 1955, chronicles the Corleone family under patriarch Vito Corleone, transforming his youngest son from reluctant family outsider to ruthless mafia boss.



Atomic Blonde
David Leitch


The film centres around a spy who has to find a list of double agents that is being smuggled into the West on the eve of the collapse of the Berlin Wall in 1989, a must watch inspired by the graphic novel itself.



Bong Joon-ho


One of the best, and weirdest, films you’ll watch this year. It’s more than a film but rather an experience.



The Queen’s Gambit
Scott Frank


In a 1950s orphanage, a young girl reveals an astonishing talent for chess and begins an unlikely journey to stardom. Compelling, even if you’re not a chess enthusiast.





Narcos, a Netflix must see, is based on the story of drug kingpin Pablo Escobar, who became a billionaire through the production and distribution of cocaine.



Faulty Towers
John Howard Davies; ‎Bob Spiers‎


A British TV sitcom that focuses on the most unlikely duo in hospitality.

"Poolside Chic"

Essentials any discerning holidaymakers.

Work No. 2325
Martin Creed
The Diplomat Hatbox
Steamline Luggage
Square-neck Crinkle-knit Swimsuit
Hunza G
Seahorse Glass Decanter
Massimo Lunardon
Round the World Again Sunglasses
Lucy Folk
White Bath Robe
Le Sirenuse
70th Anniversary Ashtray
Le Sirenuse
Pasta Machine
Boat Charter
"Amalfi dreaming"

“No one is better placed to help you live out the perfect Positano experience than Carla. Living and working there (their home is near to Le Sirenuse and they dine in the hotel’s Michelin-starred restaurant three times a day), Carla admits that ‘sometimes it can feel like you are always on holiday…”

Casa e Bottega
Viale Pasitea, 100
“Go for an ice cream and a piece of homemade cake at this small coffee shop and décor store open from 10am to 6pm.”

Da Adolfo
Via Laurito, 40
84017 Positano
“Hop on the shuttle boat with the red fish on the mast and go for lunch at Da Adolfo in Laurito. You will not regret it. The most delicious food on the Amalfi Coast. A shack on the beach where you can spend your day swimming, drinking, eating the best food.”

Le Tre Sorelle
Via del Brigantino, 27/29
84017 Positano
“Eat a pizza at Le Tre Sorelle on the beach.”

Lo Scoglio
Piazza Delle Sirene, 15
80061 Massa
Lubrense, Napoli
Delicious restaurant that specializes in fish cuisine, in full respect of the culinary tradition of Bari, among the most renowned because it enhances the aromas, flavors and colors of the specific ingredients of the Mediterranean diet. Order the Spaghetti alla nerano.

Lucibello Boats
Via Marina Grande
Lucibello offers to his customers a wide choice, from small dinghy up to luxury yachts suitable for even weekly cruises. Because what is a trip to the Amalfi without a boat trip?

Safari Sandals
Via Della Tartana, 2
84017 Positano
“Make a pair of Positano sandals–they’re made on your feet on the spot. Many different styles and many different little workshops all over the small streets of the village, have fun!”

Piazza dei Mulini
84017 Positano
“Indulge on a lemon granita in Piazza dei Mulini–the best lemon granita of your life! Made with real lemons, sugar and shaved ice, it is serve from a small boat shaped cart in the middle of the central Piazza dei Mulini in small plastic cups.”
"A good book, a good holiday"

A good book: it may be a humble item but one that can prove the piece d’resistance of any successful holiday. Carla’s dream bookshelf is as diverse as you might expect, finding room for both classic Russian literature and the edgier heroes of twentieth-century American writing. Of course, a couple of titles that explore the majesty of the Amalfi coast don’t go amiss either.

Carla and Antonio Sersale choose H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald for their read section
H is for Hawk
by Helen Macdonald
H is for Hawk is a 2014 memoir by British author Helen Macdonald. It won the Samuel Johnson Prize and Costa Book of the Year award, among other honours.



Carla and Antonio Sersale choose Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov for their Semaine bookshelf
by Vladimir Nabokov
Lolita is a 1955 novel written by Russian-American novelist Vladimir Nabokov. The novel is notable for its controversial subject: the protagonist and unreliable narrator, a French middle-aged literature professor under the pseudonym Humbert Humbert, is obsessed with an American 12-year-old girl, Dolores Haze.



Carla and Antonio Sersale choose My Amalfi Coast Recipes by Amanda Tabberer for their Semaine bookshelf
My Amalfi Coast Recipes
by Amanda Tabberer
Amanda Tabberer spent two decades living on the Amalfi Coast and was made welcome at the tables and in the kitchens of passionate local cooks. Here she shares authentic Amalfi recipes that have been passed down through the generations.



Carla and Antonio Sersale choose Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight by Alexandra Fuller for their Semaine bookshelf
Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight
by Alexandra Fuller
Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight, a memoir of life with Alexandra Fuller and her family on a farm in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe).



Carla and Antonio Sersale choose Disgrace by J.M. Coetzee for their Semaine bookshelf
by J.M. Coetzee
Set in post-apartheid South Africa, J. M. Coetzee’s searing novel tells the story of David Lurie, a twice divorced, 52-year-old professor of communications.



Carla and Antonio Sersale choose On the Road by Jack Kerouac for their Semaine bookshelf
On the Road
by Jack Kerouac
Jack Kerouac’s On the Road has become a classic text in American literary counterculture. Set in the aftermath of the Second World War, Sal Paradise’s account of his travels across America has become emblematic of the struggle to retain the freedom of the American dream in a more sober historical moment.



"Life life to its fullest."
Get to know Tastemaker Antonio Sersale like you never have before.

What does the word “taste” mean to you?
Something elegant, that is thought out and encompasses beauty..

Do you have a life motto that you live by?
Live life to it’s fullest

What was the last thing that made you laugh?
Knowing that a pasta dish I prepared in a friends house was loved…

What are your favourite qualities in a human being?
Honesty, kindness, tenderness.

Who is your hero?
The person who stands up and gives his seat to an elderly person.

What is your biggest flaw?
I get stressed.

What is your best quality?
I like looking ahead.

What would your last meal on earth be?
Spaghetti al pomodoro e piccata al limone.

What does success mean to you?
Being happy.

If you had the power to change anything you wanted in the world, what would you change?
Climate change.

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