In the "better late than never" category, I'm finally posting about our trip to Italy in May.
We went to Positano on the Amalfi Coast with friends David and Jil Cohen for the first week. Our original hotel was named Hotel Marincanto, but should have been named the Hotel of Stairs. Our room was clean and freshly whitewashed, although the shower was tiny and the towels and linens were thin. It was lovely to open the tall windows and listen to the ocean all night and the view was unbeatable -- but the stairs were crazy. We were in the old section of the hotel instead of the shiny new part pictured on the internet, so after a day we moved to the famous Positano hotel Le Sirenuse which is named for the sirens who mythically lived in this region. We played lots of fun tennis and had massages and lots of naps and some great meals, as always. The first night Brad and I had an easier jet lag adjustment than David and Jil, perhaps because of the espresso shot we had in the afternoon. We ate at the Risorante al Palazzo in a lovely outdoor garden area. They served a cuttle fish amuse-bouche, which sounds terrifying but was wonderful, warm and lemony. I had a roasted potato stuffed with fennel puree and served on a bed of lentils, and a white fish that was called carpaccio but was served warm under a bed of cherry tomatoes and arugula. Not a pizza in sight. Italian service is what you would expect, friendly and welcoming and slow. We had another memorable meal at Donna Rosa which is located way up high on the hill above Positano. The big Barolo made it extra fun for all those other lucky people who aren't allergic to wine. Brad and I aren't big boat or water or sun people, but still loved Positano. Here are some reasons why:
One of my very favorite things no matter where I am in the world is to be served breakfast. In Italy they do morning coffee very well, with a pitcher of steaming hot milk served with the coffee. This is the view from the lovely terrace at the Hotel Marincanto.
For the second part of the trip we departed the sunny Amalfi coast and headed to Mezzegra in the Lake Como region. We were to discover that the town's main claim to fame is that it's where Mussolini and his girlfriend were shot at the end of WWII. It took us almost as long to get from Positano to Lake Como as it did to get to Italy from the U.S. A long day, beginning with the $50/person breakfast to go ordered from the hotel, consisting of a meat and cheese sandwich, piece of fruit, and bottle of water. Don't order those. We drove through the garbage lined streets of Naples to the train station in plenty of time for our train, which was clean and shiny and departed on time. And then stopped. Train tracks tend to run through the unlovely parts, so we had a view of an Air Liquide pump station while our train waited for something. After an Italian announcement, lots of people got off the train onto a small platform. We hauled our luggage out, too, until some kind Italian person said that we should get back on our original train to Milan, at which point the train started to move while we were trying to get our selves and our luggage back on the train. More excitement than I like. And then the train seemed like it was going backward for a long time, but still ended up in Rome, and then continued on to Milan two hours late. We were supposed to meet our friends Jeff and Judy Herman in Florence, but they had wisely caught an earlier train to Milan. Our driver was kindly still waiting for us in the pouring rain and drove us to our lovely rented house through crazy rush hour traffic and even crazier pouring rain. It was a long day. And here is what it was like in Mezzegra:
You get the idea.
Luckily we're very self-entertaining.
And when the sun did come out, even temporarily, it was lovely:
We refused to be daunted. See us smiling in the rain.
I think that the most daunting thing was the scorpion. Yes, scorpion. I think of Arizona as being scorpion territory, but have since learned that they're distributed all over the planet except New Zealand and Antarctica. This one was resting on the hallway wall of the house. I captured it in a wine carafe and Jeff kindly relocated to a neighbor's yard. It's funny when you see something that you've only seen representations of in books or movies. I assure you that my first real-life scorpion was much bigger than it looks in David's photo.
Chinese food in the rain -- after a week of Italian food, you want something different. Even mediocre Chinese was a nice break from pasta and pizza and gelato and more pasta and such. They mysteriously gave us scarves with the check, which we were happy to wear. Look at those American teeth, ruining our Russian babushka disguise.
We had a truly fantastic meal at Antica Trattoria del Risorgimento with spectacular 17th century Murano glass chandeliers and a wonderful Dutch host and it turns out, a terrific website. It's definitely worth seeking out this place if you're in the Lake Como area.
We had a great trip and think that it's really great to travel with friends, but a week is about all the vacation I can take, especially in the rain. So we came home a couple of days early. I love having the opportunity to see such beautiful parts of the world, and get to bond with new friends; but it's always wonderful to come home.
And the real reason we take vacation: