Posts Tagged ‘living abroad’

If you have never been to Positano, look at how hilly and steep it looks in photos. Then multiply that by about 10. THAT’S how hilly and steep it is. I have to admit; the first day…..we were kind of grumpy. The hotel was not exactly what we had imagined. It looked great on paper, but in person….not so much. It was basically someone’s home that they had converted to a B&B. Of course, they still lived there

as well, which made for close quarters. They had done this recently and it was very obvious that they were very new to being hoteliers. While they were lovely, they were inefficient and also told us way too many of their problems, like how their porter was ripping them off, etc. I barely want people I know to bitch to me about work, much less the people I am paying to stay with.

Our bedroom had a lovely, if terribly overgrown terrace….that it shared with the room next door. So, no chance of sleeping with the doors open to the view and ocean sounds. Not to mention having to close the doors every time you change or want any privacy. It was also decidedly shabby, despite having just been started up. The bed linens and blanket seemed really old and not in a cool way. In a “I just pulled this out of my dead grandmother’s closet and threw it on the bed” kind of way. We decided to spend one night and then decide in the morning about changing hotels. I did feel lucky that at least we had an ensuite bathroom. All the other rooms had to use the one across the hall from us.

Walking to dinner through the heart of town didn’t improve our mood. It seemed to be jammed pack with American senior citizens, all off some cruise ships. I am also a tourist, so it seems silly to begrudge other tourists. But I also go to a place like Italy to see Italy and Italians, and not Nebraskans. So, that made us grumpier. Then at dinner, John confessed he was also grumpy because he was disappointed in us. He always takes pride in the fact that we can make the best of the anything and roll with it, so to speak. But in this instance, we were pouting, in one of the world’s most beautiful places. We decided to suck it up, stay at the hotel, and just make the best of it. How much time would be spent in the room anyway?

First thing in the morning, the proprietess of the B&B comes up to us a breakfast nervously. ” How many days did you say you were saying?” she asks us, looking worried. Apparently, she had accidently given us the “good room” that was meant for an Australian couple with a toddler. They had delayed their arrival by one night, not cancelled it as she had thought. She tells us they have another property, “just up the hill” and would we move there. “Just up the hill” has me worried as this is Positano. But we agree to go look. Turns out they have bought a whole other B&B from another hotel. It is still in the same vein as the first place, but cleaner and fresher. And with an amazing, uncluttered terrace all to ourselves. We quickly agree to move. We later decided that the universe had rewarded us for at least trying to roll with it.

As the days went by, Positano grew on us more and more. We realized that we had to get away from the main section of town where the ferry boats come in. That way, we avoided many of the cruise ship hordes. We found little nooks and crannies of delight. One day we rented a boat all day. I was inspired by another blog to do so and it was AMAZING. We went off by ourselves, exploring the coast line and swimming and lying in the sun. We wanted to do this again and again. But unfortunately the weather didn’t cooperate. Some serious rain came in. As they had terrible wildfires in August, all the sudden rain caused tons of dirt to come down the hills into the ocean. Even once the rain had subsided, the ocean was too churned up for boating.

So, we had several day trips. My favourite was the day we hired a car to go wine tasting. The driver also arranged for us to first go olive oil tasting. It was incredible. It was a locally owned oil maker called Fratoio Ferraro. We tasted all varieties, including lemon, orange, basil, and truffle. I think the lemon oil is my favourite. While all the other flavoured oils are made through infusion, the lemon and the orange are made by pressing the olives along with the peel of the citrus. It is so clean and soft tasting. I am addicted! We ordered a ton of oil to be delivered to our house in Dublin.

We then went wine tasting at a winery on the side of Mt. Vesuvius. The pictures don’t convey how majestic it is. We met the winemaker and he took us into the vines and we tasted grapes off the vine. Then we had an amazing meal from all local products, paired with the various wines. Of course, we bought a ton of wine too. I mean, you can’t buy it in stores, so we had to. Right? On the way home, after wine and a huge lunch….the driver put on this soft opera….well, you can see what happened very quickly……

By the end of the five days, we really had fallen in love with Positano. I can see why it inspires so much tourism and cinematic love. On our last evening, we met an American couple who now spend four months of the year there and said they started off like us, just visiting for a few days. Then each year, they came back for a longer and longer time. Four months a year in Italy, huh? I could get used to that. Hmmmm…………..

 

Here is a full list of my recommendations:

 

Sorrento

La Syrene Hotel– Amazing, high-end restaurant with the most sumptuous wisteria covered terrace. Impeccable service that you definitely pay for.

Grand Hotel La Favorita – Equally nice rooftop bar, but more down to Earth prices and much less stuff. Nice view of the hills as well as the sea.

L’antica Trattoria – AMAZING food and lovely patio setting. If you’re lucky, the waiter will spoon feed you.

I Giardini di Tasso – beautiful garden and you can eat in a Roman Arch with candlelight. Molto romantico!

 

Positano Area

Cantina del Vesuvio – www.cantinadelvesuvio.it

Dona Rosa – in Montepertusa, above Positano – This is where I was given a wine glass as big as my head!

Olive Oil – Fratoio Ferraro www.frantoioferraro.it

Ristorante Max – Lovely, fancy in city center

Villa Maria – Ravello: Great for the view. Lovely outdoor seating.

Cumpa Cosimo – Ravello: Very authentic place for good value. Run by a woman who looks like an Italian nona from the movies!

 

December 10, 2012 - Posted by gothamfamily

A whole delicious week away in Italy with my husband and without the kids? What more could a girl ask for? We decided to have a holiday in September this year to try and avoid the insanity of August that exists on any European coastline from Brighton to Athens. We love Italy and had an amazing time in Rome in the spring. This time we decided to check out the Amalfi Coast. (John did keep trying to re-route our trip through Rome, just to eat at our favourite place there.) Fly direct into Naples, then spend 3 nights in Sorrento and 5 nights in Positano. We arrived on a gorgeous blue-sky day, the kind that makes you forget why you were every stressed or worried about anything. I mean, really! Have another vino  and enjoy la dolce vita!

Enjoying another rooftop bar

Sorrento is a gorgeous little town set on top of a sheer cliff wall, above the Bay of Naples. What it lacks in big-ticket site-seeing items it makes up for in sheer charm. The little narrow streets leading out in big,big views was always amazing and surprising. We had a charming little hotel, just on the edge of the main city, between the Marina Piccolo and the Marina Grande. The irony is that the “big” marina is actually little and the “little” one is big. How very misleading and confusing and well….Italian of them! The hotel had a lovely view from the restaurant on top, where breakfast was served every morning and you could also have a drink at night. We did this the first night before venturing off and eating in the garden of a restaurant in the town center, seated underneath an ancient Roman arch. After that first night, we decided that it was our moral imperative to have a drink each night at a different rooftop bar. There was no shortage to choose from and we could’ve done this for two weeks at least without repeating, if we had been staying that long.

John enjoying some vino

One of the best restaurants we ate at was L’Antica Trattoria, (http://www.lanticatrattoria.com/) . It was one of the few we tried that did not have a view, but the Trip Advisor reviews were so glowing that we had to give it a go. It was definitely an amazing meal and the familial yet professional service was lovely. An older Italian gentleman in a dark suit, obviously well-fed from his own restaurant, served as our host and waiter. At one point he wordlessly pressed a beautiful flower onto the side of my wine glass. At the end of the meal, when John protested that he could not eat the last bite of his dessert, the gentleman took a spoon, filled it from the remnants on the plate and promptly popped it into John’s mouth, with a very self-satisfied air.

While we spent most of the evenings wandering from view to view and fabulous meal to the next, the days were all spent on the water. While there is no beach to speak of, they have overcome that ingeniously with a series of beach clubs: manmade structures jutting out into the ocean, with lounge chairs, changing rooms, and chair-side service.  We made use of these each day, only rousing ourselves for the occasional dip or for lunch in the club’s open air restaurant.

After three lovely nights of Sorrento and all her charm (I can see why William Waldorf Astor built his home there when he was US ambassador to Italy. See  http://www.sanctuare.com/RMI_frame/new/Countries/Europe/tritone.php  for some amazing drool-worthy photos. You can rent it! Invite me if you do.), it was time to move onto Positano. We were excited to head there as we had heard so many good things and we figured if we loved Sorrento, then Positano was REALLY going to knock our socks off. Plus, while our Sorrento hotel was lovely, we had gotten a last minute deal on the room. It turned out to be the cupboard under the stairs, more or less. John barely fit into the shower. So, we were looking forward to a bit more luxury in Positano.

Dinner in the Roman arch

November 5, 2012 - Posted by gothamfamily