Italy calling

We are less than 12 hours away from starting our trip to Italy and there seems to be numerous things still to do and very little time to do them in. We have an early start tomorrow to make sure we catch the flight to Auckland and then on to Hong Kong and Rome.

It is amazing how the amount, size and weight of the technology we take has decreased over the years. The bulky and heavy laptop of 4 years ago is now a MacBook Air weighing next to nothing. The TomTom GPS is left at home as our phones do the same job, and apart from our phones, a bluetooth speaker, noise cancelling headphones for the plane trip and some cables, that’s it.

We have signed up for Vodafone New Zealand’s excellent $5 a day roaming product to avoid any shock roaming charges. Spark have still not matched this product and instead offer a confusion of call rates, text costs, data rates, caps and excess charges for various parts of the world – including Italy.

Our lightweight suitcases (full sized cases that weight barely 3Kgs each) are packed and well underweight. Passports are in order and tickets issued.

It’s a cold, rainy, miserable night in Wellington. Rome is sunny and hot – we are ready to go.

We are going to Matera

Matera in Basilicata

In just under 2 months we head back to Italy for a holiday. This trip we were keen to visit Puglia – the heel of Italy’s boot – and see what this often overlooked province offered.

In the end we will miss by a few kilometres and will be staying, instead, in Matera in the province of Basilicata. So not in the heel of the boot, more in the area between the sole and the heel.

Matera is known as “la Città Sotterranea” (the Subterranean City) because historically many of the dwelling were effectively caves in the hillside. It is one of the longest continuously inhabited places on earth and a UNESCO World Heritage Park.

It is only recently that Matera has become a must-see for visitors to Italy and we will be staying 3 nights at Palazzo Gattini Luxury Hotel – breaking up a fortnight spent staying in Positano which is a two hour drive away on the coast.

Matera at night

Our holiday is completed by a week in Chianti in a beautiful villa organised by our dear friend Olga, and a few days in Rome – a chance to reintroduce ourselves to this eternal city.

We fly out of Wellington at the beginning of August. Watch the blog for holiday updates.

What a great time to fly

tuscan-sunset-crete

Tuscany in October 2011

If you are thinking of heading overseas next year – check out the early bird airfare deals that are available at the moment. We’ve just booked our flights to Italy next August and it cost $600 less than exactly the same flights in 2015.

We’ve also booked Villa Arienzo for two weeks over Positano festival time and plan to spend a week in Tuscany when we will catch up with friends.

The fourth week? We are thinking of heading to the heel of Italy to explore Apulia as we’ve never been to this part of Italy before.

 

Advice for Italian travellers – Part 2

Having had a really good response to Part 1 of my Italian travel tips, here are a few more. These are tips about travelling to, and staying in, the places we know and love.

Our rental and the main roadDriving to Positano

As you drive south from Rome and into Naples you see Mt Vesuvius on the left and the Bay of Naples on the right. Ahead is the Amalfi Coast and the long and windy drive over the hill to Positano. But closer to the highway you’ll see the parts of Naples that don’t appear on the tourist maps. The south of Italy is poor and driving through the suburbs of Naples you can definitely see that, with low cost housing blocks scattered among allotments.

As you approach Sorrento, village living takes over with the houses pushed up against each other and the road narrowing to a single lane in places. After the turn off to Positano you climb up over the peninsular. There are some spectacular views back towards Naples but the best is yet to come. After cresting the hill the Amalfi Coast is laid out in front of you. Sparkling waters, steep cliffs and the string of villages that run towards Amalfi are all visible as you wind along the coast road.

 

Eat in or eat out?

The villa we stay at in Positano has a full kitchen, and whenever we stay there is the dilemma – eat in or eat out. Going out means picking from one of the multitude of restaurants or cafes in Positano and for a short stay the decision is relatively easy. But remember to make a trip to the Alimentary and stock up on the essentials – nibbles, fruit and veg and something to drink – to combat the heat. The good news is that pretty much every grocery store sells alcohol – beer, wine and spirits. Even the butcher sells wine – which adds a whole new dimension to food and wine matching.

 

Villa Greta from streetThat’s our place

We found that taking a photograph of the villa you are staying in on your phone is a great idea, particularly if you are planning to live like a local and get groceries and the like delivered. Walking up the hill from the village on a hot day carrying shopping bags can be a chore – but get them delivered and life become easy.

Villa Arienzo has it’s distinctive windows which all locals recognise so showing a picture of the villa is an easy way of explaining where you want things delivered.



The walkWalking to and from the villa – an adventure

The walk from Villa Arienzo to Positano is about 800 metres. But, as with many things in Italy, it’s an adventure. Why? Because the main road is narrow, cars and scooters are parked in every available spot and there are no pavements – literally none. So walkers have to watch out for cars and buses and trucks and scooters and other walkers.

At night use the torch on your phone to see your way – and be seen by others.

 

swimmingHotels can organise anything – trust them

One of the fantastic advantages of staying at Villa Arienzo over other villas is the “mother ship”. The Casola family own and operate both Hotel Eden Roc and Villa Arienzo. If there are any issues with the villa, or advice you need about anything, the hotel is a phone call away and a two minute vespa ride if assistance is needed. And if cooking is a bit of a chore, the hotel restaurant (with it’s magnificent view across the bay) is always available with service courtesy of our friend Carlo.

Tours of Pompeii? A trip to Sorrento? Or a boat trip along the coast to Capri? No problem – everything is organised for you by Lorenzo and the front desk staff.

And if the day is too hot for you, call into the hotel for a swim or some sunbath in the solarium, no problem – would you like a drink with that?

 

positano from boatDay trips

Our top four top day trips around Positano would be:

  1. A day sailing down the coast with Gennaro and Salvatore towards Amalfi with swimming long the way and lunch at a restaurant on the beach. Visit gennaroesalvatore.it to find out more.
  2. A day at Pompeii to view the ruins. Everyone we’ve gone there with has marvelled at how intact the ruins are. Get your hotel to arrange a private guide for the visit.
  3. A day trip to Capri with Gennaro and Salvatore to explore this beautiful island.
  4. A day in Sorrento shopping and wandering the narrow streets of this wonderful town. Remember to take time and have a drink and something to eat at Il Fauno Bar on the main square – it has been there since 1950 and is “the” meeting place for locals and tourists alike.

In a previous post we’ve covered our favourite day trips around Chianti and Siena – click here for details and enjoy.

 

Lazy afternoons in Positano

Positano from Eden RocThe view from Hotel Eden Roc looking out across the bay is always worth watching. Late one afternoon, on a day the sun had been playing hide and seek, the bay took on shades of pale blue as the sky and the water merged.

We weren’t the only couple watching the view.

Night and day

Over the last few days I’ve spent a bit of time playing around with Photoshop turning day shots to night shots. It’s one of those things that sounds hard but is relatively simple.

The key is to making things look realistic is to work out where the night light is coming from – street lights or the moon or an open window – and to work from that.

See what you think.