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.

The house on the cliff

Cliff top houseEvery time we walked from the villa to the village of Positano we passed a house that simply had to be photographed. It is actually three apartments that are built, quite literally, on the side of a cliff overlooking the sea and above a private beach.

The setting is stunning and the way the house is fitted into the hill seems to sum up the relationship Positano has with its surroundings. They work in harmony, like that’s the way things have always been. The Italians have a word for this – simpatico.

Si, simpatico.


A day on Ortygia


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Ortygia is a small island separated from Syracuse by a narrow canal. It was the site of the original ancient Greek settlement which later became the bustling trading and fishing port of Syracuse. In fact the population of Syracuse around the … Continue reading

Family advice


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My nephew’s girlfriend and her sister are planning a trip to Tuscany in September. We have been asked for some advice on where to stay and what to do in and around Tuscany. It sounds as if the girls are … Continue reading

Out and about in the village

There are a number of notable buildings in and around Aspley Guise. One worth mentioning is “The Rookery”. Although it is now a private home, during World War 2 this secluded Victorian mansion was the home of Australian Dennis Delmer. He was involved in “black ops” which included broadcasting radio propaganda and programmes to Germany which, among other things, suggested that Hitler had Jewish ancestry.

In fact there was much covert activity in and around Aspley Guise during the war with Bletchley Park, the home of the World War 2 Enigma code crackers, only a few minutes down the road.

Another notable house in the area is Aspley House. This is a splendid property set in grounds near the entrance to the village. It was built around 1650 and remains the largest house in the village.

The “meant to be” dress – a modern fairytale concludes


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The pretty girl visited the shop run by the wicked shopkeeper and discovered that the wicked shopkeeper was, in fact, her fairy godmother and had many, many magically beautiful dresses.  So many in fact that the pretty girl couldn’t decide … Continue reading

Amalfi, Ravello and dinner


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On Sunday we took our visitors to Amalfi and Ravello.  This a drive of only 25kms from Positano but it takes the best part of 50 minutes given the narrow winding road along the coast.  You pass through picturesque villages … Continue reading

Tuscany in three and a half days – day two


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When thinking about where to take Isabel and Charlie, we decided to focus on the smaller places.  They had already spent some time in Florence before arriving at our place and we felt that most people equated Tuscany with rural … Continue reading

Tuscany in three and a half days

Arch in Monteriggioni overlooking Tuscan countryside

Gentle readers, you may have noticed a brief pause in posts to toscanakiwi.  We have had visitors from home staying at our place and have taken the last few days to show them some of Tuscany.

We have revisited some places we went with others and explored some places that are new.  Old favourites like San Gimignano have impressed and new places like Monteriggioni have surprised.

Autumn is an ideal time to sightsee as the days are still warm, but not too hot. In summer you sit in the shade at cafes avoiding the sun, but in Autumn you sit in the sun and savour the last of the good weather.

Pictures and stories of our travels will be added over the next few days.

A trip through the Chianti hills

Yesterday we went for a drive to Castellina in Chianti.  We have been there a number of times, both with others and by ourselves over the last few months, but this time we abandoned the autostrade for the backroads.

The trip from Siena to Castellina is a winding road through the lower slopes of the Chianti hills which then climbs up towards Castellina.

Everywhere you look there are classic Italian scences – even when you take a break to let Daisy the dog have a comfort stop.  “Good girl Daisy” and you turn around and this is the view.

Answers to questions

Never let it be said that Toscanakiwi doesn’t respond to it’s readers comments.  The recent post about our day at the beach raised a number of questions.

Here, we answer them.

That Ferrari

I didn’t have a photograph of the Ferrari yesterday but “Tina of Texas” wanted to see the car.  Today I wandered up the road to take a shot and, being Italy, the car was still there.  In fact it hadn’t moved an inch.

What you can’t see from the photo is the steepness of the drive the car is parked on.  Clearly the car’s owner doesn’t trust the handbrake and has used what I assume is a Ferrari aftermarket accessory to ensure the car stays put.

Obviously it must be a Ferrari branded brick although I couldn’t get close enough to confirm this.

The turntable

The turntable is covered in a very stylish faux grass finish.  Not really sure the logic of this but I guess it’s an Italian thing.

The beach

Geoffman asked about the makeup of the beach.  Asienzo beach is mostly a pebble beach.  There is a small area of sand but from where we were it was a stony walk to the water.

Also the stones were incredibly hot so part of the entertainment was watching people do a funny little dance when a stone or two worked it’s way into their shoes or sandals.  From experience I can say  – ouch.


Those of you who have stayed at Eden Roc Hotel will know Tony and the experience of breakfast.  When we were staying in the hotel, we would stumble down to breakast – usually late – and be met by Tony’s smiling greeting across the restaurant and cups of his famous Cappuccino.

I am not a coffee drinker except for Eden Roc and only because of Tony.  My record is 3 cups by which time I was bouncing off the walls.

When we booked the villa we were told we would have full use of all the hotel facilities – including the ability to pop down for breakfast.  While this has proved to be the case we were a little nervous as we wandered down the road to the hotel the first morning.

We needn’t have worried.  When we arrived Tony was nowhere to be seen but within a minute we heard his traditional greeting “good morning sir and lady” across the restaurant and he arrived at our table with two cups of his famous cappuccino.

He then proceeded to ply us with croissants (the last two kept just for us), watermelon (fresh from the Eden Roc garden), toast (toasted both sides – past guests please note) and slices of breakfast pizza/quiche all prepared especially for us.

We don’t normally eat breakfast so working through the mountain of food that arrived required concentration and complete disregard for the effect on our waistlines.

Girls out and about in Positano

Today the girls got their first taste of Positano with a walk from our villa to Eden Roc Hotel and back.

The stop at the hotel was an excellent chance for a drink and to catch up with Carlo who manages the bar and restaurant.  As always he had some great tips for places to eat in and around Positano although tomorrow evening we will be enjoying his hospitality with dinner on the terrace overlooking the bay.

On the way back to the villa Jean and the girls posed for the classic Positano photo.

White Roads

This was a phrase we had not heard before we started motoring around Tuscany. While it sounds quite exotic, it is simply the local name for dirt roads.

In Tuscany there are quite a few.

On a map you will see many roads criss-crossing Tuscany and the distance between places seems small by New Zealand standards. It’s only when you drive that you realise what sort of road it is and the trip time changes accordingly.

Clean me - please.

The road to the cottage is a white road 3kms long. As you can see by the back of the mighty Peugeot (which is a black car, honestly) in summer the roads can get quite dusty. Today, in honour of it’s impending trip to Positano, the Pug is getting it’s first serious clean.

I’ve even bought a sponge and some carwash from the local supermercato.

I’ll just wait until the temperature outside drops below 30 degrees before I start. Ah, that gives me time for a beer.