View from our villa – hazy weather means Capri is shrouded in the distance
Yesterday we travelled from Camogli (south of Genova) to Positano (just south of Napoli). The 2 hour drive to Firenze to catch the train south was negotiated successfully – including the Firenze one way system which is always a challenge.
It felt like it was going to be a good day.
As it was Saturday the rental car office was frantic (most villa rentals run for a week from Saturday to Saturday) with tourist picking up cars. The queue went out of the office and down the street – quite hard work for those waiting in the 32 degree heat.
We drove past all this chaos, into the garage, was met by a lovely Avis rep who checked the car (no dents this time), helped with our bags, ordered a taxi for us and handed me a receipt in about 3 minutes flat.
It was really looking like a good day.
The taxi dropped us at the organised chaos that is Firenze train station with time to spare for our train. Luckily we could escape the chaos as our tickets included access to the Frecciarossa lounge – an air-conditioned haven of peace, tranquility, free beverages and snacks.
Jean discovered the shopping mall under the station and disappeared for a few minutes returning successfully with “that t-shirt top she’d been looking for” and “something to wear by the pool”.
The train trip south was 3 hours. We arrived in Napoli at 5pm and were greeted by our driver Enzo on the platform. An hour later we were in a warm and slightly muggy Positano being greeted by the Eden Roc team.
Today we leave Camogli and head south to Positano. We have thoroughly enjoyed both our time here at Cenobio Dei Dogi and our time exploring the village.
Would we come back – like a shot.
As always it’s about the place but also the people you meet. After 6 days of turning up at the same places for meals and drinks, exploring the village on foot (it’s not a big village so there’s not much walking involved) and generally settling in we are starting to be recognised. The fact that we are from New Zealand is a surprise and the start of a conversation. And that’s what it’s all about.
It’s a first for us – a trained seagull. Every day this bird turns up at the same window of the building across from the hotel at the same time and waits for its dinner. We know it’s the same bird because he’s clearly lost a foot sometime in the past.
The apartment owner leaves the window open and the bird stands there and waits. Eventually it gets something to eat – much to the disgust of the other seagulls – and then it leaves. Until the next day.
Getting around Italy by high speed train is easy and relaxing. We have regularly used it between Rome, Florence and Naples in the past and this trip is no exception.
The one thing we haven’t done before is try out Trenitalia’s premium class. This is half a carriage of luxury seating – 8 seats in all – right at the front of the train. It costs a bit more but comes with a meal service, a cabin crew member to look after you and your luggage and more legroom than you could want. There is even a conference room in the carriage if a quick meeting is needed en route.
On this leg of our journey from Rome to Florence we treated ourselves and booked seats 2A and 2B.
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.
Rental cars are commodities. You get handed a set of keys, jump in and drive. It was only when we returned to our rental in Radda later in the day that we realised we had no idea what make or model it was.
It’s one of these – thank heaven for remote unlocking.
As part of our break in August we are staying a week in Chianti in Tuscany. Our dear friend Olga with her local contacts managed to find a beautiful villa for us called Il Diaccino. It is a villa located on a vineyard and olive farm and is just down the road from the village on Gaiole in Chianti.
With a pool just a short walk from the terrace and a very local vintage to sample, what more could anyone want?
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.
It’s a well known saying that the best camera you own is the one you have with you. More often than not these days, that will be the one in your phone.
Over the years cameras in phones have got better and better to the point where they can now do almost everything that conventional cameras can.
But there are a few exceptions. One of these is the ability to manage depth of field – to have some parts of a shot in focus and some not.
On our trip to Italy in 2014 I spent a day sightseeing around Syracuse and Ortygia with only my iPhone – a 4S. I’d actually forgotten to take my DSLR camera so the challenge was to get the best shots possible just using the phone. Overall the results were pretty good, but in a bunch of shots everything was in focus (the norm for phone cameras and not a bad thing) but the shots would have looked better if the foreground and background weren’t.
Retouching to the rescue. I used Photoshop to do the work but there are a bunch of other apps that can be used. In fact anything that can reproduce a “tilt shift” effect is ideal.
Tilt shift is a technique which makes a scene look like a miniature or model (an example is below). Not so many years ago this look could only be achieved using a special, and extremely expensive, camera lens. But with the advent of digital retouching it became much easier. It is also great for adding in depth of field to a shot where none exists.
I’ve included a couple of examples in the gallery.
Peaches and Pears – Ortygia market
Peaches and Pears after tilt shifting
Fish in Ortygia market
Fish in Ortygia market after tilt shifting
Positano beach in Autumn
Positano Beach in Autumn with a tilt/shift effect added
So let me be clear, this post is a bit obscure – unless you were there. The photo is of a swimming pool in Sicily. We stayed in a lovely villa in Syracuse – that included this pool – with our friends Gill and Andre and the family in 2014. We spent a great week in and around the pool.
It was the centre of daily activity, but after the sun had dropped below the horizon and everyone headed off to dinner it took on that wonderful Italian evening glow. A mix of pale sky blues, harsh sunset yellows and every shade of pink imaginable. All contrasting with the bright blue of the somewhat ordered loungers.
It 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.
A 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.
At the end of our holiday we had two days in Rome. It was a chance to visit some favourite places of ours as well as some new places. We stayed at Hotel Barocco in one of their junior suites – which meant we had an outdoor patio to relax on – four floors above Piazza Barberini. It was a real luxury.
As always we were looked after superbly with nothing being too much trouble. Which made it even harder to say goodbye and start the long trip home. The good thing is that we threw a coin into the Trevi fountain (well sort of as you can see from the photo) so we’ll be back.