Let the fun begin

Our guest room has taken on a new role – the packing room. It’s Sunday night so the bags are being filled with many things we won’t need and some that we will.

This afternoon we dropped the girls at their home for the next 4 weeks – Waglands Dogs’ Holiday Retreat. I kid you not, that’s what it’s called. When we left there were tears, a lot of barking and a very quiet drive home.

Tomorrow starts early at the airport at 7am and then we spend the next 34 hours travelling to Rome.

Welcome home

We have been home for just over a week and things are returning to normal. No longer is 3am our preferred waking time and we can now stay up well past 8 at night.

Spring is definitely in the air – not the 30 degree temperatures we have become used to, but certainly temperatures warmer than those we left behind at the start of August.

The grape vine that runs the length of our boundary fence is showing signs of life with green shoots growing on a daily basis.

Poppie and Bella were pleased to see us although Vicki did a great job of pampering them in our absence. They are both asleep on the floor beside the desk as I write, recovering from a day barking at the front gate.

The holiday memories are still close and there are stories to tell.

 

 

Dinner at Buca di Bacco

One night in Positano we wandered down to the beach for a late dinner, no reservation, just figuring we would be able to find a table somewhere.

It was peak season and our options turned out to be limited.

We ended up at one of our less favourite places – Buca di Bacco. We have eaten there before and the food is excellent but the service can be less than friendly and has always felt rushed.

This time, however, we discovered their terrazzo – the roof of the restaurant where we had our own private balcony – and enjoyed a leisurely meal, excellent food and wine (we must talk about Sicilian Chardonnay at some point) and service that couldn’t have been better.

Grazie Buca di Bacco. Delizioso.

 

It’s odd what you can find in Italy sometimes

When visiting Matera we discovered that it was a town obsessed with beer – craft beer to be precise. Every bar and restaurant had a range of craft beers which were proudly displayed on its menu.

The task of finding a simple Peroni or a Nastro Azzurro at our hotel was impossible – but they could supply three types of wheat beer and a gaggle of obscure IPAs.

One beer that we were surprised to find was “New Zealand” IPA from Motueka. Who would have thought you could find a kiwi beer in, of all places, Matera. And of course, once we spotted it, we had to try it.

That night we drank Matera’s entire supply of New Zealand IPA dry – both bottles. So, gentle travellers, if you are looking for a taste of home in Matera – you’re too late. Cheers.

Our red Ferrari

We drove from the Amalfi Coast to Matera and back in a rental car. We picked the smallest and cheapest class of car Avis offered so it came as no surprise when we were presented with a bright red Fiat Panda at the rental car office in Sorrento.

The gentleman from Avis joked with us that it was a “red Ferrari” as he helped us shoe-horn our two large suitcases and various other bags into the car.

But our little Ferrari did us proud on the roads to and from Matera – far surpassing the Ford Focus we had earlier in the trip in Chianti – for both power and comfort. It was only when you saw other Panda’s on the road that you realised you were effectively driving an oversized roller skate.

The Fiat was full of useful and thoughtful features to make the trip easier. For example, it came with a holder for a phone on the dashboard which made it easy to follow the GPS directions to Matera and back to Sorrento.

Three days later we returned the car intact to Avis in Sorrento – to what must be the most attractive rental car depot in the world.

If Steve Jobs and Philippe Starck designed a super yacht, what would it look like?

A recent visitor to Positano was the super yacht commissioned by Steve Jobs prior to his death and designed by Philippe Starck. The yacht Venus is rumoured to have cost around $120 million to design and build and is now owned by his widow Laurene Powell Jobs.

It is quite a statement when you see it moored alongside other super yachts. There are very few, if any, pictures of the interior but word is it continues Apple’s minimalist approach throughout.

We are in Matera

Saturday we picked up a rental car in Sorrento and drove the three and a half hours to Matera – south and east of Napoli and towards the heel of Italy’s boot.

Matera known for its cave houses called “sassi”. The sassi are carved into the cliffs of a rocky ravine created by what was once a big river but is now a small stream. These cave dwellings are believed to be among the first human settlements in Italy dating back to the Paleolithic era, some 9,000 years ago.

Since then, until as recently as the 1950s, the caves were continuously inhabited.

Until the late 20th century, the Matera region was one of the poorest in Italy. There was no electricity or running water or sewage disposal facility. The extreme poverty of these people during Benito Mussolini’s fascist rule was exposed in the book “Christ stopped at Eboli” by an Italian doctor Carlo Levi.

After the Second World War, the new government tried to move the city’s cave residents into modern dwellings but many people were reluctant to move. Eventually, the government had to forcibly relocate the inhabitants to the new town on top of the cliff.

Matera’s fortune changed after 1993 when UNESCO declared Matera’s sassi and cave churches a world heritage site, bringing a wave of curious tourists. Since then, many of Matera’s crumbling caves has been restored and transformed into homes, stylish hotels and restaurants.

Matera surprised us. It is a tourist mecca, bustling now in late August, but almost all the visitors are Italian. We have seen one other English speaking couple in two days – who happen to be staying at the same hotel as us. All the menus and signs are exclusively in Italian and the majority of the locals speak little English, if any. This is truly a taste of authentic Italy.

We are spoilt staying at The Palazzo Gattini Hotel in the Piazza Duomo. It is built in an old residence which has been extensively renovated and modernised – all within the constraints of the original building as there are strict laws about making changes to significant buildings in the town.

Our room has a small outdoor pool which is has seen much use of the last few days as the temperature is currently hovering around 30 to 33 degrees during the day.

The town comes alive in the evening – after siesta and when the temperature drops. Locals come out for dinner and deserted streets and filled by outdoor bars and restaurants – and the inevitable flow of locals out for an evening stroll.

Note: Thanks to amusingplanet.com for some of the information contained in this post.

 

 

All Blacks in Italy

Last Saturday morning life at the villa ground to a halt as we watched the All Blacks play Australia in the first Bledisloe Cup rugby match.

We found the broadcast on Sky Italia with the only downside being a choice of Italian or Australian commentary. Sadly no Justin Marshall for us, just Aussie commentators who became more depressed as the first half developed. Even they were struggling to find anything good to say about their local team until after the 50 minute mark. In the end of the game the best they could do was talk up the second half which, apparently, the Australian team won.

Aussies, no surprises there.

Too much pool time?

Our friend Fernando who looks after us when we spend time at the Eden Roc pool is just too good. As we arrive towels are laid out and drinks are delivered almost by magic. It makes spending time in the sun too easy.

Positano festival night

One of the reasons we came to Positano in mid August is because of the festival of Ferragosto on August 15. It is a public holiday and is celebrated in Positano by, among other things, fireworks at midnight.

We attended the festival dinner on the terrace at Eden Roc and had a perfect position to view the fireworks. The bay was full of boats of all sizes, all there to view the spectacular display.

After the display there were the usual traffic problems as people tried to leave and go home – but unlike the traffic jams we experience at home after events, this was more of a “Vespa jam”.

 

Rush hour in Positano

One thing we have noticed this visit is that Positano is busy. Much busier than we remember – even in the middle of August during festival week – which is peak season.

Everywhere there are people, people and more people.

Last week when we went to restock our groceries we ran into this midday crush of people trying to negotiate the narrow pathway to the beach.

Our advice – visit in late August and September. The weather is still warm and settled but the number of visitors drops quite dramatically as August comes to an end. Even now – 23 August – the village feels calmer, emptier and more inviting.

 

Earthquake in Ischia

Tonight there was an earthquake centred on the island of Ischia. This is about 60 kms from Positano on the other side of the Bay of Naples. There has clearly been damage and tragically some loss of life.

In Positano we felt no shaking at all.

But as residents of our own “shaky isles”, our thoughts are with all those affected.

 

Cloud puppy

Staring at the sky the other day (we have nothing much else to do folks) Jean noticed one cloud that looked familiar. Either that or we are missing the dogs more than we realise.


Waterslides never go out of fashion

View from our balcony – Wednesday 16 August

For me as a kid a waterslide was a long piece of plastic and the garden hose in the backyard. For others it has become a bit more sophisticated.

We spotted our first super yacht waterslide a couple of years ago – good to see they are still in vogue.

 

Welcome to Positano

Last Saturday we travelled from Chianti to Positano. A journey that involved driving to Firenze and dropping off our rental car, cabbing to Santa Maria Novella train station, taking the high speed train to Napoli and then being driven over the hill to Positano.

A long day, but well rewarded when we arrived at Eden Roc Hotel’s reception and were greeted by Lorenzo, Pascale and the rest of the team.

For those who don’t know, we stay at a villa (Casetta Arienzo) owned by the hotel which is located about 800 metres down the road. It means we can use the hotel facilities – pool, restaurant, breakfast – but be self contained in a villa with a kitchen, laundry, etc. The best of both worlds really.

We also got the chance to catch up with kiwi friends who were visiting Positano. They had been staying in Casetta Arienzo but moved to the hotel for a short stay when we arrived.

Sunday was spent on the water with them – slowly working our way down the coast towards Amalfi – swimming in the ocean and lunching at a restaurant on the beach. A great day out – despite a choppy return to Positano in the evening as the wind and waves had got up a bit. Our Captain Enzo was an absolute master steering the boat using his left leg against the tiller as he stood proudly looking ahead – like Ahab searching for the white whale.

Speaking of seafood, we dined with our friends on Monday night at Ristorante Da Constantino high above Positano on the road to Nochelle  – a view to die for.