'Invisible' hotel shows the seaside

For me, discovery is the essence of travel, and the Hotel San Pietro on the outskirts of Positano, Italy, is a perfect example.

San Pietro features breathtaking scenery, superb cuisine, elegant service and an ambience of pure romance. But aside from all that, this unique family run hotel is...well, invisible!

Whether you approach from the road or the sea, you have to look for the San Pietro to find it. Really look. And that's only the beginning.

About 1 1/4 miles east of Positano, the tiny Chapel of San Pietro (St. Peter) perches at the edge of what is little more than a wide spot in the road that bends along the serpentine rock face of the coast. Use the chapel as a landmark. Otherwise you'll miss the hotel.

Walk behind the church among the bougainvillea, hibiscus and grape arbors that line the stairway to an elevator. Or stroll through terraces of flowers to the lobby.

In moments, you are enveloped by Italian marble, cantilevered terraces, sloping gardens and majestic views that point a perpetual face to the sun.

Conceived in 1962 by Carlo Cinque, Hotel San Pietro is an architectural wonder where each room is literally excavated into the rock to preserve the natural beauty of the coast. Though not an architect, Cinque was a master designer.

Each of the 62 rooms is different and each looks out to the sea. Many have no curtains in the bedroom or the bathroom. One bathroom even features a sunken marble tub flanked by a picture window allowing guests to see out, but no one else to see in. The ambience: being totally alone within nature.

"Special" rooms each have features that set them apart, be it the largest windows, the most sumptuous décor or the most expansive bathroom. Each room is seductively appointed with antiques, hand-painted furniture, terra-cotta floors and porcelain tiles.

San Pietro celebrates a symphony of life, where dawn doesn't break so much as it eases up hillsides, gently caressing each little nook and kissing every tiny contour. Here you can follow celestial rhythms across glittering golden paths of sunlight that yield to sparkling moonbeams that dance like liquid stars on the surface of the sea.

Hotel San Pietro may be invisible, but it is definitely a place where "seeing" is believing.