Hotel Weber Ambassador, Capri – our review
About the Hotel Weber Ambassador
The Hotel Weber Ambassador is a long-established four-star hotel on the island of Capri, down by the sea in the little settlement of Marina Piccola. As you can see from my photo on the right, the hotel itself looks rather like a yellow cake – but its setting and views must be among the best in the world.
We were spending four nights on Capri in July 2008, and our plan was to stay in a costly four-star hotel in Capri town for two nights, then to economise by heading out of town to the Hotel Weber Ambassador for two nights at half the price. We made an online booking several months in advance – which is advisable for Capri. Our “standard double room (no sea view)” cost 142 per night. It was a cheap price for any kind of accommodation in Capri, let alone a four-star hotel. What was wrong with it?
We had already gathered that the Weber Ambassador was somewhat out of step with the other hotels on Capri. These smart, intimate white-washed hostelries are all very similar, and charge similarly extortionate prices. The Weber Ambassador is different in style and different in ambition. It is a more ‘standard’ international hotel with an unusual (for Capri) interesting in marketing and competitive pricing. A quick trawl of the web will find many references to the hotel’s manager who is a real character on hotel review pages, responding with eccentric flights of rhetoric. We weren’t sure whether we wanted to meet this character or not…we were certainly intrigued by what we might find at his hotel.
Arrival and customer service
Arriving was fantastic. A friendly driver brought us and our cases down from Capri town in the hotel’s shuttle. We marvelled at the views as the road zigzagged its descent towards Marina Piccola. Urged to leave our cases for the staff, we walked up the slope to the hotel’s entrance, our eyes not on the building but on the blue sea and lovely views. Once inside, we were enthusiastically welcomed and presented with glasses of sparkling wine served at a table laden with snacks for guests to nibble. A friendly receptionist showed us to our room, explained the safe and air-conditioning controls, and our cases followed.
The staff were obviously highly-drilled in customer service, and there were always several employees at the reception desk who could help with queries and assistance. It took two or three reminders before our room was converted to twin beds as we’d requested, but otherwise there was nothing to fault. Staff were always talking on walkie-talkies – I imagined the omnipotent manager sitting in some rooftop eyrie controlling everything like a Bond character.
The hotel concierges repeatedly recommended the restaurant in Capri town run by the same management – hotel guests can choose a special half-board option, but we preferred the normal a la carte menu. It was actually already one of our favourite Capri restaurants – reliable, with decent food and reasonable prices.
We had gone for the cheap option of a room at the back of the building without a sea-view. We were expecting a shoebox looking onto a brick wall, but were pleasantly surprised by a decent-sized double room – not generous, but quite normal for a European hotel. There was a double bed made of single beds pushed together and enough space to walk around the bed. After we’d reminded the staff a couple of times, the beds were made up as twin beds. The window, true, did look out onto some scrubby grass and a wall, but overall the room was better than expected.
The decor and fittings too were decent – the greeny-coloured sponged wall decoration was not to my taste but everything was clean and fresh and pale. The furniture included a wardrobe, mini bar (reasonable prices), a desk and chair, little cupboards, a suitcase stand, bedside cabinets with drawers, a mirror (not full-length) and a television. The en-suite bathroom was narrow but adequate, with a shower cubicle and the usual fittings, as well as basic toiletries.
We were entertained by the folder full of information, including personal messages from the manager warning us to beware of Neapolitan pickpockets on the bathing rocks (illustrated by a photo with an arrow to said rocks), and his explanations of the hotel’s reasonably-priced food and drink – unlike other places that would rip us off, the Weber Ambassador would spare the environment by saving us the need to travel to Capri for affordable provisions.
The hotel’s more expensive rooms have views over the bay, and some have their own small terraces. Note though, that some of the room’s terraces open out onto the driveway, or below the breakfast terrace and so are not totally secluded.
Breakfast and other meals
Breakfast – included in our room rate – was a very extensive buffet, surprisingly large and varied for Italy. It included treats like cakes, as well as the normal cereals, croissants and rolls. There was salad and also eggs and meat. We even spotted a bottle of sparkling wine. Breakfast was served in the restaurant and on the terrace alongside. Breakfast with a view of the Faraglioni!
The hotel also offers a brief menu for those who fancy eating lunch or dinner here. We ate a sandwich and Caprese salad for lunch and thought it was fine – though we didn’t try the hot dishes on offer.
Swimming pool, sun terrace and public spaces
The hotel has a very small swimming pool on a narrow terrace below the main hotel building. There are a few sunbeds by the pool, and a row of sun-loungers lined along the path leading to it. I’m not a sunbathing fan, but relaxing here with a book, under a shade, looking over the bay, was a wonderful holiday experience. It was a July weekend, and as well as posh yachts, the blue waters were filling up with boats of every size and description, moored in the sun with swimmers bobbing alongside. Although the hotel accommodates around 200 guests, it never felt crowded and we found a couple of sunloungers with a view to die for on the narrow terrace leading to the pool, with a sunshade and sea views. Presumably other guests were luxuriating on their private terraces, down at the beach, or exploring the island.
The hotel’s bar was a pleasant, large and cool air-conditioned space, with a terrace outside where you could sit with your caraffe of local wine and gaze at the Faraglioni. There was a huge television screen; when we hoped to watch Wimbledon we found it was broken. However, my only real negative impression of the hotel was on our last day, when we walked into the bar and found it full of cigarette smoke. Since it is generally illegal in Italy to smoke in public spaces, this was a very unpleasant surprise when we’d been looking forward to a nice air-conditioned hour of relaxation. Presumably the hotel has some special categorisation for this room: several guests were smoking and the ashtrays on the tables implied that this was the norm.
The hotel had an internet point in a quiet corner of the bar-lounge area. There were charges for this, and for the use of the hotel’s wireless connection, which was a pity.
Marina Piccola is a small scattered settlement: several beach cafe/bathing establishments down by the sea, a little bus terminus, and smart villas behind gates and hedges. As well as bathing establishments where you pay to use sunbeds (including the elegant Canzone del Mare), there are also two very small shingle beaches, one each side of a rocky promontory. In the height of summer, these were a mass of sunbrowned bodies and the crowded water was slick with oil. If you pick a less busy time, or want to brave the crowds, the hotel can supply thick beach mats. There are high slopes and cliffs above Marina Piccola, so visitors soon realise that the sun is only on the beaches and hotel for part of the day.
Shuttle service and directions for arrival
For a small charge per person (€3.50 at the time of writing), the hotel will arrange for you to be picked up at the port in Marina Grande. This is the easiest option. If you want to save a euro or two, you could buy a public transport ticket, catch the funicular up to Capri town, then walk down the road in Capri to meet the free shuttle service to the hotel. This free shuttle service runs almost constantly during the day, back and forth between the hotel and Capri town. It departs from a car-park area – often busy with vans unloading and little tourist minibuses – down the main street. We only once had to wait more than a couple of minutes to be picked up – and each time we walked out the front of the hotel, staff were alert – with their walkie-talkies – to ready the car in case we wanted to be driven up to town.
Every time I walked onto the glorious terrace outside the hotel, I liked the hotel more. I just can’t rave enough about the wonderful views – Capri is one of the most beautiful places in the world and this view includes its best features. While this doesn’t have the same white-painted intimate atmosphere of most Capri hotels, it is run with efficiency and eagerness. And the character that might be lacking in the building is easily compensated for by the glorious views outside. I didn’t think I’d say this, but I would be keen to return, and perhaps on our next visit to Capri we will again spend half our stay enjoying the atmosphere in the town, and the other half down in Marina Piccola basking on the terraces of the Hotel Weber. The apparent drawback of not being in Capri town turned out to be no problem at all, thanks to the frequent shuttle service. And we paid a price that was half of what other hotels were charging for the same nights. We felt it was a sensible economy, having a cheap view-less room, given that the hotel has such good public spaces to enjoy (apart from the cigarette smoke). For a really special or romantic holiday, though, you should really consider paying to have a view of your very own.
We never did meet the dynamo manager – but we realised afterwards that he was the perfectly normal and affable chap we’d seen on many occasions at the hotel and the restaurant. We thought he ran an admirably tight ship, anyway.
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