Nina Campbell’s Positano

by Nina Campbell

Whenever I go on holiday I gain inspiration for my designs. Positano in Italy not only provides me with this, but offers the perfect setting to relax, swim and explore

I visit Positano at least once a year. My favourite time to go is at the end of September when the mass of tourists has disappeared and the sea is beautifully warm and perfect to swim in.

I love the atmosphere there and the way I am forced to slow down my pace of life as I amble from shop to shop with parcels in my arms. Positano is a very old town with a beautiful Baroque cathedral and lovely colourful buildings. Recently a frescoed room was discovered under one of the buildings in the town and it is currently being restored. I find it fascinating that there is probably something amazing like that room underneath every building.

The whole point of Positano, for me, is to explore and I wander around poking my nose into places. The town is built on a hillside so when I am there I have to walk a lot; this is a good thing as it works off all of the food I have eaten! I often weave down the hill from my hotel, Le Sirenuse, to the volcanic-sandy beach and then wander back up on another path. There are lots of paths winding up and down the steep hill but there is such a good village atmosphere that I never get lost. All I need to know is the name of my hotel and someone will help me to find it.

There are lots of things to stop and look at on the way down the hill, from local churches to little stalls. Every walk is a discovery for me and I love finding new shops on each trip. You can have a pair of leather sandals custom made for you - just get measured up and then pick them up the next day. I buy much of my summer wardrobe while I am visiting as I love the designs. I recently bought a beautiful printed silk outfit.

One of my daughter’s lasting memories is from a shopping trip in Positano about 22 years ago. We had ventured out in the evening to buy an ice cream and to join the throngs of people promenading. After we had eaten, I bought my daughter an outfit covered in yellow ladybirds; she wore that outfit to death. However, what stuck with my daughter was the fact that it was possible to go shopping at night, she was in total disbelief and told everyone when we were home!

Where to stay

I always stay in Le Sirenuse in Positano. It is a wonderful, comfortable and cosy house and is one of a kind. The hotel used to be a family house and when I arrive it is almost like I have come home. I am so well treated here and the staff are always happy to see me. The hotel is perfect, but is not so perfect that it is intimidating. It has a soul as it has been put together by the people who own it.

All of the rooms in the hotel are wonderful and each one is unique. There are marvellous pictures and drawings on the walls that have been collected by the Sersale family over generations. Each room contains beautiful fabrics with hand-made tiles on the floor as well as some exquisite pieces of old Italian furniture.

One of my favourite bedrooms in Le Sirenuse has a bath at the end of the bed in an alcove. I enjoy having scented baths and it is a treat to have one in such a big open space, rather than being confined to a small bathroom; it gives the feeling of sitting on a sofa. Another room that I love has a round bath in the window overlooking the sparkling sea. I can look out but no one can see me.

Palazzo Murat Hotel is another good hotel in Positano. It has a fabulous courtyard and I sometimes eat there. Slightly out of town, there is also Il San Pietro di Positano, which has a stunning interior.

Where to eat

The food in Positano is utterly delicious. I always try new dishes and love the fact that the food is seasonal with lots of wonderful fish options. The meals in Le Sirenuse are amazing. They have a night called Fiesta de Pasta where they serve a range of pasta dishes for guests to sample and have recently collaborated with Alfonso Iaccarino who was the first chef in the south of Italy to be awarded three Michelin stars.

I am not a sunbather so I rarely visit the beach. I often go out during the day on a friend’s boat. We sail round the coast to Nerano for lunch and eat in one of the restaurants there. There are rows of inviting cafés in Nerano and I love getting off the boat and sitting in a café on the beach with a delicious granita de café.

If I am feeling adventurous – and energetic – I walk up the hill to the restaurants there.

Where to visit

On my trips I tend to fly to Naples and then drive to Positano which allows me to shop there on my way. There is a fabulous tiny tie shop in Naples called Marinella (Riviera di Chiara, 287; +39 081/7644214; that I visit and I often spend a few hours in the art galleries before setting off.

From Positano it is possible to go on a day trip to Capri or sail to the Amalfi Coast. I usually go on a friend’s boat but visitors can also go on arranged boat trips ( However, I have to admit that when I am in Positano I am often lazy and stay on my balcony after a breakfast reading a book. I am often only there for three days so complete relaxation surrounded by stunning scenery is very welcome.

Nina Campbell

Nina Campbell is one of the world’s most respected and influential interior designers. She opened her design studio and showroom on London’s Walton Street in 1984. The interior design side of the business continued to flourish with notable projects including The Savoy Lobby (with David Linley), The Hotel Parc Victor Hugo in Paris and The Groucho Club in London. Her latest range of furniture launched at Decorex in London in September 2009 and features a range of upholstered furniture.