Price From $180
Maria Cinque makes a point of chatting with every one of her guests, if not at check-in (which her son Gianni sometimes handles), then at breakfast the next morning.
She's particularly delighted to meet Americans, as she and her husband Antonio lived in the Bronx for nine years, returning to Italy in 1974 to run a family hotel five minutes' walk from the center of Positano—and to teach their children "what it means to be Italian," in Maria's words.
Six of the 15 guestrooms are in the original 1777 Palazzo Bruno, including four upstairs rooms with 18th-century ceiling frescoes.
Many regulars prefer ground-floor rooms 51 to 55 because they open directly onto the magnificent, long entrance terrace and enjoy postcard views of Positano framed by ivy trailing off the shady trellis.
Rooms without sea views (they actually look out to a wall) cost $65 less—an option certainly worth considering, since all guests have access to the terrace.
Each of the California's rooms is spacious, and seems even more so due to minimal furnishings.
At sunset, small groups gather on the terrace to sip wine, plan the next day, and pinch themselves, realizing that they've got the same view as the chichi Le Sirenuse hotel down the street for one-third the price.
Rate includes breakfast. Closed mid-November to mid-March.