Italian Holiday

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

Rome was charming, as always. It’s quite empty in August as so many places are closed for the holidays.

Rome from the Tiber
Piazza Colonna
Carousel near the Vatican.
Piazza Navona
Piazza Navona
Spanish Steps
Spanish Steps from the top looking onto Keats-Shelley museum worth visiting.
Trevi Fountain
Forum
Piazza del Popolo
Colosseum

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.

Roman Walls built in 275AD across from hotel.
Strong pillow game

(If you insist on five star hotels, Hotel de Russie or Hotel de la Ville are in wonderful locations.)

Stravinskij Bar at Hotel de Russie

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.)

Hall of mirrors rivals Versailles.
The walls are filled with paintings.
Frescoes everywhere
Caravaggio’s The Rest on the Flight into Egypt

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.)

St. Peter’s Square
The Papal Apartments
Apartments
Museum walls
The Basilica in the distance
Fontana della Pigna
Interior courtyard
Courtyard statues
Frescoes leading to Sistine Chapel
View from the interior of the museum
Inside St. Peter’s Basilica
Bronze Papal doors leading to Basilica
Statues looking onto St Peter’s Square
Papal Balcony
Pieta (I have a Santini replica in my office. I find this gives me such peace.)
St. Peter (Of course we rubbed his toe. He’s in my book a little and his image make me smile.)

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.)

Pompeii

Sorrento is a charming seaside town and the views are wonderful. It’s oddly British. We encountered very few Italians on our travels.

The Hillsides of Sorrento
View from Dry Martini bar
Coastline Views
The Excelsior Vittoria
Gardens

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.)

We entered the grotto area by foot, which is usually quicker than by boat.
You are rowed in a rowboat to the grotto’s opening and must limbo under the chain. They close the grotto if the sea is wavy.
The water is naturally this blue (no filter)
Blue Grotto interior

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.

Shops on the Via Camerelle

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.

Enjoying Cafe Freddo with a view.
My aunt Shirley would have approve of nuts in a dish with a spoon. They talked about her marvellous hostessing abilities at her memorial service and specifically mentioned having nuts and a serving spoon on hand at all times lest company pop in.
The view.
I need one of the Capri open air taxis.

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.

Minori

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.

Amalfi beach bar
Amalfi

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.

View of villa from hotel.
Because the villa was not unearthed until the mid-1800s, it’s in remarkable shape.
Intact mosaics
The ancient swimming pool

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.

Espresso in Capri

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?

Xx

2 comments

  1. Good grief, now all I want to do is book a trip to Italy! This is a lovely collection of photos. I’m Italian but up till now, I never had the urge to visit my home country. I don’t know why but I’ve always wanted to visit other places first before going to Italy. But yeah, after seeing all these photos, all I want to do is go to Italy NOW.

    Like

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