A trip around the Amalfi Coast: from the hinterland to Capo d’Orso

One of those trips that can only be called unforgettable is a trip around the Amalfi Coast. The beauty of the landscape and views, has been carefully preserved in this area, and not only in the smaller, more unknown and difficult to reach coves. The journey outlined in this mini-guide to the area, is designed for those who have decided to take a trip around these parts, during the summer holidays. However, it should be mentioned that during the off-season, these places take on a different kind of magic, equally worth experiencing, with the added benefit of being able to do so without the crush the masses who flock here during the summer months.

We will start the journey a few kilometers before the junction that leads to Vietri sul Mare, the gateway to the curves of the Amalfi coast, and specifically from Cava de’ Tirreni. A walk under the shady porticos of this town, which is steeped in history, accompanied by a visit to the Cathedral and the Abbey dating from 1011, are only some of the possible ways to discover the wonders of this part of Italy, and are a good warmup before facing the many curves ahead before we reach the heart of the Amalfi Coast.

The porticos of Cava de Tirreni - photo from flickr user Chiara Marra

The porticos of Cava de Tirreni – photo from flickr user Chiara Marra

Here, until a couple of decades ago, you would have found in the grounds of the town hall, a cart that sold paper cones filled with nose of pork and boiled corn on the cob, and in all likelihood they would have been our ‘what to eat’ recommendations for the place. Now that the old traditions have given way to new habits, the city boasts more than one proposal to stop and eat, with a good attitude to street food, to sink you teeth into as wander through its alleyways.

And if  there are some keen walkers among you, from the mountains surrounding Cava de’ Tirreni it is possible to set off and explore the Amalfi coast with a backpack and a great desire to walk, to see the scenery from the top down and have the opportunity to appreciate a hidden, but no less impressive side of this dramatic landscape. There is no shortage of proposals and itineraries online, selected according to the distance you feel you can manage, but it will certainly be a unique way of experiencing the area.

Driving by car in the direction of Salerno, after a few kilometers you will reach Molina di Vietri, a small village where you can stop to enjoy a hot ‘zeppola’ (Italian style donut), before getting lost among the many proposals that you will find for traditional pottery stopping in Vietri sul mare, a UNESCO world heritage site, as are all the other towns along the Amalfi Coast. Here, after a walk in the upper area of the town and a stroll down again, as far as the Marina, you will start to breathe a holiday atmosphere. And once you’ve re-energized yourself with a slice of thick crust pizza with sliced tomato (according to tradition it should be more than one fingers’ width high), and cooled off with an italian Gelato, you can enjoy a legitimate break dedicated to finding the hand-painted china set you’ve so often dreamed about.

Vietri sul Mare - photo from flickr user Elicus

Vietri sul Mare – photo from flickr user Elicus

If you suffer from the car sickness, hold on tight, because from here on there will be curves a plenty, all the way Positano, the end of our mini-guided tour, located approximately 40 km from Vietri.

Taking the state road 163 (strada statale 163 Amalfitana), from the very first curve you will be able to enjoy the magnificent scenery, stretching from the port of Salerno, in the background, to the points that can be seen beyond the bends, with mountains that descend steeply down to the sea.

Cetara by night - photo from flickr user Alessandro Bonvini

Cetara by night – photo from flickr user Alessandro Bonvini

After a few more hair raising curves we arrive at the small port of Cetara, with the town that extends behind it, at the foot of Mount Falerio. Once a place dedicated solely to fishing, Cetara today deserves its status as a tourist attraction, thanks to products such as Colatura di alici (a traditional, salted anchovy sauce), a real gastronomic gem of this place, which is none other than the modern version of the “garum” much used by the ancient Romans in their kitchen. A stroll along the arms of the port is a must, with fishermen preparing nets for fishing, and a wander through the lanes of the village, to discover small bars that have sprung up just behind the Via Marina. From Cetara itself you take a boat to explore the beaches and coves in the area, which are difficult to reach by land. From the ‘beach of lemons’, so called because it is surrounded by lemon trees that grow on terraces on the mountainside, to that of Cauco, in Erchie, there are plenty of distinctive places take a dip surrounded by beautiful scenery, admiring from the sea the breathtaking landscape of these very special places, with the Lattari mountains that plunge straight into the sea and the small towns that dot the territory.

Cetara, the tower - photo from flickr user Paolo Salmaso

Cetara, the tower – photo from flickr user Paolo Salmaso

After rounding the promontory headland of Capo d’Orso, we will take a visit to Maiori and Minori before arriving in Amalfi. But we will continue our mini-guided tour in part 2. If you want to book your next vacation on the Amalfi Coast, please contact Personal Travels HERE.


Originally published in Italian

Translation and adaptation for English by Ciarán Durkan

The Giant of the Medici Park at Pratolino

Love is one of the driving forces in great art. How many times in history have we come across works of art dictated by the desire to celebrate a romance or to impress a loved one? The Medici Park of Pratolino (Parco Mediceo di Pratolino), in the town of Vaglia, in Tuscany is no exception, and what remains of today tells the story of a passionate and turbulent romance, that propels us back to the mid-sixteenth century, when Francis 1st Medici bought the estate in 1568, entrusting the building works of the beautiful villa to the multi-talented Bernardo Buontalenti.

Parco Mediceo di Pratolino

The Medici Park at Pratolino

The villa and the park, today a UNESCO World Heritage Site, were indeed dedicated to Francis 1st Medici’s lover, and later wife, Bianca Cappello, and everything you encounter was designed, with no expense spared, to evoke the fantasy world of the imagination, through ornamental water features alternated with ancient statues, paths and grottos, to immortalize the guilty passion, which blossomed from two failed marriages. A colossal passion, as is the size of the colossal structure, the symbol of the Medici Park at Pratolino: the Appennine Colossus the masterpiece of the Flemish sculptor Giambologna.

Il Colosso dell’Appennino

The Appennine Colossus

And if most of the structures have been destroyed over time (the house no longer exists), or have been stolen, the Giant is still there, fresh from a recent restoration, to welcome the many visitors, towering over everyone at 14 meters in height. A sculpture which has a saying attached to it that runs, “Giambologna made the Appennino / but he is sorry he did so in Pratolino“, to emphasize that the same work of art, perhaps built in the center of Florence, would certainly have raised a much greater clamor, and would have been celebrated with several honors. Even as it is, the park and its Colossus still remain a place that is well worth a visit, which is full of surprises.

Inside the statue there are rooms, decorated caves and internal corridoors, as well as two working fountains and a room inside the head, which was lit by sunlight coming in through the eyes and could hold a small orchestra. Through the mouth of the serpent, under the left hand of the Giant, a stream of water flows down into the pool below.

Colosso dell'Appennino

The Appennine Colossus

Today only a few elements remain of all the original architecutral magic of the park. However, they are sufficient to conjour up a romantic and visionary atmosphere for the visitor. As confirmed by the director Gennaro Giliberti, when asked why this is remembered in history as the “park of wonders“: “It would be enough to take a look at the famous “lunette” by the painter Justus Utens from 1600 to get a sense of the wonder that would have enveloped the visitor of the time, or read the famous “Journal de voyage en Italie” by de Montaigne: an impressive carousel of sculptures of famous personages, animals, gods and epic heroes; grottos, fountains and waterworks; theaters of propelled automatons powered by water, hydraulic equipment that reproduced music sweet, automatic machines that reproduce the birds singing; “Magnificent inventions”, “miraculous works”, “stupendous artifices”, which Buontalenti was able to create with unparalleled mastery. Not surprisingly, the park of Pratolino was one of the most imitated parks in the world. ”

La lunetta di Justus Utens

The ‘lunette’ by Justus Utens

In closing, we leave you with a 360 ° navigable photo of the Fountain of Jupiter, another of the wonders of the park. Click HERE.

A visit to the Lagoon for Venice Carnival 2015

Rosalba is from Pescara, and when, by chance, she finds herself catapulted to splendid Venice she cannot but be impressed, partly because this city where she’s spending a period away from the maddening normality of everyday married life, is far removed from the tourist stereotypes that surround the masterly Lagoon City. In a very tangible way, she experiences the “real” Venice that throbs in its “calli” (the typical Venetian streets) and its districts (the six divisions of the historic part of the city).

Pane e tulipani

“Pane e tulipani” – Licia Maglietta as Rosalba

In fact, the eyes of the director of “Bread and Tulips”, the film to which our introduction is dedicated, discover something of the purest essence of the City that was declared a World Heritage by UNESCO in 1979. The director’s eyes dig into the soul of a place that intoxicates and stuns us from our first sight of it. “Venice is like eating an entire box of liqueur chocolates all at once”, is how Truman Capote described the impact the Lagoon had on him.

Photo by flickr user Igor

Photo by flickr user Igor

The 118 islands that make up Venice are connected by more than 400 bridges, many of which are real masterpieces, to be admired during a tour of the city. To take in the wonderful Cà Venetian houses of the noble families, the best way is probably to walk the streets or take the public transport boat. One should always keep in mind, however, that in winter the weather may be particularly cold.

But it’s only at this time of the year that the lagoon rhymes with Carnival of Venice, whose inauguration is scheduled for January 31 along the Cannaregio Canal. A magnificent show starts from 6 pm entitled: “The magical banquet – A tale of food in Venice.” And after the opening show, on Sunday 1 February the Coordination of Venetian Rowing Clubs Associations water parade will set out from Punta della Dogana along the Canal Grande, to the popular Rio di Cannaregio, where it will row past a blaze of public thronged on the banks.

Here are our proposals to stay in Venice:

Photo by flickr user Frank Kovalchek

Photo by flickr user Frank Kovalchek

That’s just the beginning of a hectic program of events, including the not-to-be-missed Competition for the Most Beautiful Mask, or the Flight of the Eagle, before the “Svolo del Leon” concludes the Venice Carnival.