These are the places no one wants you to know about. They are all a stone's throw from the sea and close enough for a quick getaway.
DON FERRANTE, MONOPOLI - PUGLIA, ITALY
Don Ferrante comes as a surprise to even the most seasoned Italophile, its discreet front door opening to reveal a maze of narrow stone steps and corridors all leading to the same Adriatic panorama. If you want a taste of what Capri and St Tropez were like in the 1950s, but for a smidgeon of the price, this is the spot.
CENOBIO DEI DOGI, CAMOGLI - LIGURIA, ITALY
Picture-perfect Camogli is the Ligurian town that tourists missed. At the southern end of its long promenade is Cenobio dei Dogi, a hotel that is old-fashioned and charming, but not remotely grand. Should you tire of reading, swimming in the pool or drinking in the view from the divine terrace, take a boat to San Fruttuoso for lunch, or catch the train to explore the Cinque Terre. Or simply go on a passeggiata to the harbour, stopping off for a gelato at Ghiottoneto.
LA VOILE D'OR, CAP FERRAT - CÔTE D'AZUR, FRANCE
A lovely alternative to the better known (and much pricier) Grand Hotel du Cap Ferrat is La Voile d'Or, established in 1966 in a fantastic position just above the tiny harbour of St Jean. The 19th-century villa feels like a private house, with antique furniture, painted headboards, original parquet floors and wonderful curtains, not that you'd dream of closing them and blocking out the view of the hills of Provence, Beaulieu sparkling around the bay, and the Med below your baby balcony.
KYRIMAI, GEROLIMENAS - PELOPONNESE, GREECE
Voted Best Historic Hotel on the Water in Europe a few years ago, Kyrimai is tricky to find but it is well-worth the drive. A converted warehouse dating back to the 1870s, the hotel sits as close to the water's edge as is possible, with a central tower looking out to sea. The 22 bedrooms, all different, are spread out, some in the tower, others off an interior courtyard or clustered around a spiral stone staircase. Inside, all is silent and pared-back, with wooden beams, exposed stonework, and crisp grey and white linen on the beds.
LA MINERVETTA, SORRENTO - AMALFI COAST, ITALY
With this crazily brilliant, pocket-sized hotel clinging like an eagle's lair to the cliffs just outside Sorrento, owner Marco DeLuca has created somewhere that's so much more than just a place to sleep. The bold red, white and blue colour scheme in the huge open-plan living area could feel a bit Ralph Lauren, but when juxtaposed with Marco's collection of curiosities, icons and design pieces from Sweden it becomes zingy and fresh.
CAN SIMONETA, MALLORCA - BALEARIC ISLANDS, SPAIN
Set on a cliff top in the north-east of the island, Can Simoneta feels fantastically tucked away. The hotel was designed by local architect Toni Esteva, who spread the 28 bedrooms across two mid-19th century stone houses and updated the interiors in calming creams and taupes. There are simple but stylish doubles and the two-room Gran Suite Neptuno, set in a walled garden with a private pool, but the best place to stay is the Beach House, with its sea views.
EKIES ALL SENSES RESORT, VOURVOUROU - HALKIDIKI, GREECE
The emphasis at Ekies is very much on hanging out horizontally. With its oversized, Indian-style daybed in the lobby, Coco-Mat mattresses in the bedrooms, thick-cushioned sun loungers on its small beach, and hammock strung up in the sea, naps - accompanied by the lulling sounds of the waves and the cicadas - are thoroughly encouraged.