Italy Now, Safely

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sunny vineyard in Italy (photo courtesy of Yosika @ happy holiday.travel )

Picture yourself sitting outside in a balmy breeze…ever so slightly buzzed with a glass of wine from a small Italian vineyard, of which only the cognoscenti have heard.

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under-the-radar vineyard in Tuscany (photo courtesy of Poggio Rubino Winery)

Wine from the Gods

You have cleverly chosen a bottle from Poggio Rubino, a winery in Tuscany recommended by Mary Ervolina, my friend who goes to Italy every year to find the best food, wine and hotels. It’s her business! More about Mary in our next post.

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Montalcino, Italy (photo courtesy of Poggio Rubino)

Basking in the warmth of the sun, you are contemplating…Montalcino…ancient, hilltop town, with big green views of Tuscany. Can you see the vineyard that produced your wine?

Music Transports You

Gently playing in the background is lilting, Italian music. You are transported to those heady post-WWII days made for dancing, when Italian consumption boomed and life was beautiful.

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Domenico Modugno sings, “Volare!” (photo courtesy of issimoissimo.com)

“After exiting the war in shambles and starting from that moment, Italy boomed…mothers decided that each kitchen needed a refrigerator, fathers lined up in front of the Fiat dealers…an age made for dancing, playing pinball, drinking Coca-Cola and listening to music in the jukebox. This is the soundtrack of the miracolo italiano (Italian miracle).” (from issimoissimo.com)

Tuscany Food Bliss

Montalcino’s hills are alive with vineyards, cheese makers and olive groves, owned by families who’ve been lovingly perfecting their products for generations.

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Tuscany’s hills (photo courtesy of Travel Across Italy)

Cheese from Heaven

A second glass of the Poggio Rubino? Certo! Who can resist? A little cheese would taste sooo good with this. How about some Pecorino from Fior di Montalcino?

I wonder how they make cheese, you muse. After watching this lovely, short video, you now know, and are inspired. “I want to go meet the goat from whence this glorious Pecorino was produced!” Surrounded by sunflowers, Fior di Montalcino is near “your” winery. No wonder they go so well together!

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Sunflowers surrounding our Pecorino cheese producer (photo courtesy of Fior di Montalcino)

Olive Oil with Clout

Homemade bread and olive oil would be perfect right now. The Frantoio Franci family has been producing olive oil in these hills for generations. And won over 500 awards!

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olive groves in Tuscany (photo courtesy of Frantoio Franci)

Saffron and Pasta

By now, you’re contemplating your third glass of wine.

Basta!” It’s time for pasta…with saffron, of course! Why saffron? Because it’s a product of Tuscany.  You’re going to have trofie with saffron and zucchini, a recipe from Pura Crocus, a saffron producer in nearby Val d’Orcia.

Buy the Best 

And this is how we go to Italy now, safely: We buy the best wine, olive oil, cheese and saffron from the best small producers in Italy! We create a little bit of Italy in our homes now, after downloading that great playlist

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Because it’s a whole lot more fun to buy from a small producer in Italy than Whole Foods (photo courtesy of Discover Italy)

Click here to buy, buy, buy! And, remember, Mimi’s Travel File makes nothing on your orders…although, I would be happy to come over for dinner.

Italy Later, Safely

My next post will feature a great itinerary by Mary Ervolina for our in person trip to Italy!

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Amalfi Coast, Mi Amore

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(photo courtesy of Getty Images)

The Amalfi Coast is a UNESCO World Heritage sight for many reasons…mountains shooting up out of the deep, blue sea; pastel villages on the two-lane road that hugs the mountains along the water; long, languorous, al fresco lunches of fish just-plucked from the sea; lemon groves; medieval villages rich in history; colorful ceramics galore; water gazing and big, bright views. Let’s go!

Stay

BOOK NOW: “By March, the best hotels start to sell out.” (I can personally vouch for this great advice from Andrew Harper)

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Il San Pietro di Positano: Definitely go for a drink on one of the world’s more beautiful terraces!

  • Il San Pietro and Le Sirenuse hotels are the two grandes dames of the Amalfi Coast, and both are in Positano. While Positano is crowded, these hotels are glorious.
    • Il San Pietro di Positano   Il San Pietro sits by itself just outside of Positano, clinging to a cliff overlooking the sea.  Decor is classic Italian. Definitely go for a drink on this spectacular terrace, as I did. This uber-glamorous hotel is recommended by Vogue and Andrew Harper, although you will probably run into a lot of Americans.

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Il San Pietro di Positano

  • Positano
    • Le Sirenuse (recommended by Andrew Harper, the NYTimes, goop.com & me) is super glam, with a lemon tree scented terrace overlooking the deep, blue sea; you will run into lots of Americans here. Decor is old world Italian. An extremely well-traveled and good friend of mine recently stayed at Le Sirenuse and loved it! Read the Sirenuse Journal on their website for excellent tips on the Amalfi Coast. (58 rooms and suites)

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Le Sirenuse

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Le Sirenuse’ beautiful dining room overlooking the water

  • also in Positano
    • Villa Treville looks beautiful and stylishly decorated. No wonder Gwyneth Paltrow (see her goop.com) recommended it! This is your place if you are afraid of heights because it is not as high up as some of the other hotels.

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Villa Treville

  • in Ravello (relaxed pace, less crowded than Amalfi & Positano)
    • Belmond Hotel Caruso , former 11th century palace recommended by impeccable sources: Town & Country, Vogue, Gwyneth Paltrow’s goop.com, and Andrew Harper
    • Palazzo Avino (formerly Palazzo Sasso) Travel aficionado Andrew Harper recommends this 33 room hotel with a Michelin-starred restaurant in a former 12th century private villa
    • Villa Cimbrone Recommended by Elle Décor, Vogue & NY Times, the Villa Cimbrone is noted for its beautiful gardens

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Villa Cimbrone

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Villa Cimbrone

  • In Conca dei Marini (not crowded)
    • Monastero Santa Rosa (recommended by the NY Times, Town & Country, Bazaar, How to Spend It, & Vogue–pretty impressive!) — This is the place to stay if you want to get away from the crowds in Positano and Amalfi. This former 17th century monastery, whose decor is not overly sophisticated, is in a tiny town with a charming little church, breathtaking views AND a great-looking Michelin-starred restaurant. I think it would be a peaceful, beautiful experience. (20 rooms and suites)

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Monastero Santa Rosa – a former monastery – reminds me of those monasteries sitting atop cliffs in Tibet – but with waaaay more services

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Pretty hard to beat this view from Monastero Santa Rosa’s pool!

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Oh, waiter! I’d like a Limoncello mojito, por favore. (photo courtesy of Monastero Santa Rosa)

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Let’s order lemon risotto for lunch! (photo courtesy of Casa Angelina)

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Casa Angelina’s jr. suite terrace

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Take an elevator down through the cliffs (so cool!) to sit on Casa Angelina’s beach.

Mangia, Mangia

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Il Refettorio — This has to be the most fun Michelin-starred restaurant in the world. Nothing stuffy here!

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Il Pirata

In an excellent article in Food & Wine, Mario Batali recommends:

  • in hard-to-find Massa Lubrense, La Scoglio, Taverna del Capitano, and Quattro Passi
  • La Tagliate in Montepertuso – “
I love this town dearly as a relief from the chichi beach and Armani crowd,” said Mario Battali in Food & Wine.Vogue likes it, too!
  • in Positano, Il Capitano (“high above the sea”), Chez Black (“right on the water” & Vogue magazine also likes Chez Black), and “the restaurant in Le Sirenuse is quite tasty.”

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(photo courtesy of Le Sirenuse

 

da Adolfo, “a hippie spot” on Laurito Beach where Carla Sersale, who runs Emporio, the boutique at her family’s hotel (the fab Le Sirenuse), spends some of her time off, according to an interview in Veranda Magazine. Click here for details. This place looks like so much fun! The Financial Times‘ excellent “How to Spend It” magazine also recommended it, as do goop.com and Vogue magazine.

See the Sights

Drive the Drive: The drive from Vietri to Positano along the Amalfi Coast is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. That’s how spectacular it is!!! While nerve-wracking at times, you MUST do the  drive as it is gorgeous. We had to back up on this narrow, two-lane road with STEEP drop-off to make room for a truck; take your time!).

Village Hop along the Way: For a great article by Elle Decor on which towns to visit along the Amalfi Coast, click here

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(photo courtesy of Casa Angelina)

Boat the Coast: For a  different perspective, see the Amalfi Coast by boat! Take the Travelmar ferry to points along the coast

Hike for Views: An alternative way to take in the stunning sea views is suggested by the NYT: “For better views and less congestion, head to Bomerano, a mountaintop hamlet, to hike Il Sentiero degli Dei, or the Path of the Gods. As the name suggests, the up-in-the-clouds views are spectacular along this well-marked trail. Though not recommended for anyone prone to vertigo, it’s a relatively easy three-hour hike to the town of Nocelle, where hundreds of steps then lead down to the beach at Arienzo and a well-deserved dip in the sea.”

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(photo courtesy of Le Sirenuse)

See Amalfi’s Duomo’s façade of mosaics and striped arches and Chiostro del Paradiso, a 13th-century cloister

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(photo courtesy of Le Sirenuse)

 

BTW, have I mentioned that Positano and Amalfi are crowded?! The NYTimes  (“36 Hours on the Amalfi Coast” ), Vogue and/or Elle Décor (recommend seeking out these following charming smaller towns:

  • Cetara (medieval village, anchovy sauce)
  • Vietri sul Mare (ceramics, majolicas)
  • Praiano (click here to read the NYTimes‘ article on Praiano & click here to read Vogue‘s article)
  • Conca dei Marini
  • Maiori (has a sand beach, unlike most of the other AC beaches, which are all pebbles; Collegiate di Santa Maria a Mare)
  • Minori (Villa Marittima, a first-century Roman villa ruins)
  • Ravello (Click here to read Vogue‘s article on Ravello; Villa Cimbrone’s gardens; Villa Rufolo — the inspiration for the magic garden of Klingsor in Wagner’s “Parsifal;” Ravello Festival attracts world class music talent from July-September)

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Ravello Music Festival (photo courtesy of Le Sirenuse)

 

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(photo courtesy of Le Sirenuse)

Day trips

  • Pompeii is an easy day trip by train from Sorrento
  • Capri — Take a day-trip on a Riva speedboat

SHOP

Lucio Liguori, Via San Vito 49, Raito, 84019 Vietri sul Mare. Tel +39 339 310 7071. Studio visits on request.

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(photo courtesy of Le Sirenuse)

in Positano

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(photo courtesy of Emporio Le Sirenuse)

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(photo courtesy of Emporio Le Sirenuse)

For more shopping opp’s, see goop.com

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You  will see lots of beautiful tiles like this for sale in boutiques along the Amalfi Coast. (photo courtesy of Villa Treville)

When to Visit

Elle Décor recommends May-June and Sept-Oct, when the weather is slightly cooler.

My husband and I spent part of our  honeymoon on the Amalfi Coast 20 years ago, so I thought it would be the perfect location for a Valentine’s Day post.

Happy Valentine’s Day!