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.

 

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.

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.

 

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.

 

 

Echoes of Italy

Madonna cleaningIt feels like we’ve been home for ages but every so often something reminds you of holiday times.

Like the photo above. We were having breakfast at the villa one morning and two ladies arrived to clean up the madonna next door. It was our madonna apparently – because it was on the villa property – but locals take the responsibility to sweep, clean and polish it.

It was also a useful landmark if we needed to describe which vila we were in – the one next to the madonna – ahh, si la madonna. Bene.

 

Vintage Vespa

Vintage VespaThere is no shortage of Vespas in Italy, in fact the soundtrack of the country is the buzz of two stroke engines. In Positano, where parking is a nightmare, Vespas are all pervasive.

And every so often you see one that catches your eye.

I believe this is a Vespa Sprint VLB made between 1965 and 1974. Don’t you love the split seat with the vintage helmets resting on them.

We saw this one parked outside the Galli Bar most afternoons while it’s owners took a break and had an espresso enjoying the view across the bay.

Bellissimo.

Positano – the way it was

Positano historyA recent article in the Daily Mail included some photos of Italy in the 1950s and earlier. One was of Positano (a Getty image) when it was more fishing village than tourist centre.

But even in this photograph there are clearly recognisable landmarks – the Church of Santa Maria Assunta up from the beach, and the steps down to the beach with those iconic bronze lions sitting at each end.