Buongiorno a tutti!
I hope August has been treating you well. We are back from our Italian holiday. I’m quite sold on summering in Europe. I was a cottage person when the kids were younger but I’m very much enjoying heading overseas as everyone gets older.
Italy was lovely. We went to Rome and the Amalfi Coast. You can take a bus or the train between the two places, or hire a driver. We took a combination of routes there, which took forever, and hired a private driver to get back from the coast to Rome, which took about 3 hours but was pricey. In the end, I thought the direct route was worth it though.
Rome was charming, as always. It’s quite empty in August as so many places are closed for the holidays.
If you are staying in Rome and don’t want to bust the budget, I recommend the Tribune Hotel, which is along the old Roman walls off the Villa Borghese. It’s new and has a lovely roof bar, and you can walk anywhere you’d want to go in 20 minutes or less.
(If you insist on five star hotels, Hotel de Russie or Hotel de la Ville are in wonderful locations.)
We visited my beloved Doria Pamphilj Gallery. It’s never very busy and has such a wonderful collection. You can also tour the family apartments if they are not in use. The history of the place is fascinating (this FT article is a good primer.)
The Vatican is a marvel. I prebooked tickets to the museum and Sistine Chapel through City Wonders so we did not have to wait in line since, even in August, when Rome is quite empty except for the tourist spots, the Vatican was very crowded. You can access the Basilica from the Sistine Chapel so you skip the lines there too. If you just want to see the Basilica, it’s not too busy first thing in the morning (we were there in the afternoon and the lines were long.)
I popped into Savelli and bought a few new pieces to add to the shrine. I started out quite low church Anglican, but as I age, I become more Anglo-Catholic. I think I’m drawn to the ritual and the beauty.
Sorrento and Capri
We travelled from Rome to Pompeii since we’ve never visited it. It’s quite a distance but it’s amazing to walk in the footsteps of the Romans. You just have to mentally distance yourself from all of the people taking selfies and the guide’s interpretation of events (I was an English and Classics major in my undergraduate program and some of the guide’s version of things had to be taken with a grain of salt.)
Sorrento is a charming seaside town and the views are wonderful. It’s oddly British. We encountered very few Italians on our travels.
Capri was magical and is an easy ferry ride from Sorrento. It kicked off my vertigo a little, but was not too bad. And it was well worth it. We had a private guide taking us through Capri and she got us to the Blue Grotto first thing in the morning. It’s Tiberius’s old swimming haunt and Heidi Klum had been fined for swimming in it the week before we arrived. (Apparently, you can get in trouble for a lot of things in Italy.)
If you get a chance to see the blue grotto, see it. It’s quite amazing.
The town of Capri is stunning. Our guide also took us to the quieter Anacapri, which is on the hill and has gorgeous views.
The shopping is excellent. All the big names are on Via Camerelle and you can get sandals made at Canfora where Jackie got hers. I’m not a big jewelled sandal person, but I picked up a Capri souvenir from Moschino to hold my cards.
The dining is wonderful in Capri. There are restaurants and cafes and bars everywhere.
We just day-tripped since I was not sure I’d be able to make the boat ride over when we booked things. I’d like to have spent longer in Capri. The Grand Hotel Quisisana looked gorgeous and was in a wonderful location. If I was to return anywhere on this trip outside Rome, it would be here. I’d probably stay in Anacapri where it’s quieter.
From Sorrento, we wound our way down to the Amalfi Coast. It takes hours to get from town to town as it’s high season and the coastal roads are narrow and busy. All of the towns are charming.
Positano and Amalfi get all the press since they are filled with luxury spots like Le Sireneuse but we stayed in Minori, which is mainly frequented by Italian families since the sand beach is very calm. It’s very charming and shockingly inexpensive. We stayed for four hours at a beach club, eating and drinking and I think the total cost was 24 euros, which is what we paid for one drink in Rome! You could buy a huge plate of seafood fritto misto for 6 euros. We did not indulge but it was very popular with the young families.
Minori gave me a new perspective since it’s a true holiday town. Nobody was on their phones except the young teens. Everyone seemed to unplug. People were unhurried. One man lay like a starfish on an air mattress in the sea for hours.
We stayed at Santa Lucia hotel which is two minutes from the beach. It’s a charming family-run place. It’s very reasonably priced and they were so helpful and friendly. Our window looked onto an ancient 1st century Roman villa that you can tour for free.
Minori is also know for pastry chef Sal de Riso’s bakery.
I wasn’t able to indulge there, but luckily I was able to eat everywhere in Italy. They label all foods well and the chefs were very accommodating even though I worried with my citrus, egg, corn, and salmon allergies, and alcohol, onion, garlic and gluten intolerance, they’d think I was a witch (the Amalfi coast is known for lemons and Minori for its pasta, and, of course, limoncello.) I had a bit of wheat but did not find it as agreeable as the French wheat. So I had a LOT of Caprese salads (the best was at Giardiniello in Minori.) The coffee was exceptional. And when you want a decaf espresso, they let you know it’s decaf.
It feels strange to be back. I keep saying Grazie and Merci and longing for the feeling I had in Italy and in France. I think that September will hit like a shock. But I take that all as a sign it was a true vacation and I’m already planning where I go to next.
I love it when a vacation changes you in some way.
Where did you go on your summer vacation?