The Amalfi Coast from Capo d’Orso to Atrani

We leave behind Capo d’Orso and its beautiful beaches to reaquaint ourselves with the curves before reaching the long beach of Maiori, the largest in this part of the Amalfi Coast. Today the city is very well equipped for the tourism industry, which has of course distorted the original beauty a bit, but there are still opportunities to take a step back in time to when, with the birth of the Amalfi Republic, the city was home to several arsenals and the Admiralty, as well as the Customs House and Salt deposit.

Click HERE to read the first part of our mini-guided tour to visiting the Amalfi Coast.

Maiori, the beach - photo from flickr user Adrian Scottow

Maiori, the beach – photo from flickr user Adrian Scottow

It seems among other things that it was in the arsenals themselves that the name ‘Tramontana’ was born, the word used in Italian to indicate the wind coming from the north, taking the name from the nearby town of Tramonti, from which the wind came funneled by the valley. And if you want to extend your visit, here is a proposal among many of a visit created especially for those wishing to explore the castles and fortifications of Maiori: HERE. Another curiosity about Maiori is linked to the film “Paisa” by Roberto Rossellini, which was shot mainly here, in spite of the fact that it is a film that traces the advance of the allies from Sicily to the north. In the Norman Tower the Sicilian scene was filmed and the street urchin from the Neopolitan scene was actually a boy from Maiori who happened to be wandering around the set in those days. It was Federico Fellini, then assistant director, who chose the local boy to star in this particular scene.

Maiori, Norman tower - photo from flickr user pululante

Maiori, Norman tower – photo from flickr user pululante

But it’s already time to leave again, and a few turns later, proceeding in the direction of Amalfi, you will see Minori, which once upon a time was just a small fishing village.

Minori, the 'spiaggetta' beach - photo from foto flickr user Uljana Egli

Minori, the ‘spiaggetta’ beach – photo from flickr user Uljana Egli

In the past it was an active center of production of handmade pasta, before everything was transferred to Gragnano, but the memories of the bounty of the land are still alive here today. From the famous lemons growing on the terraces, which were sculpted from the hillsides by the tenacity of the local farmers, to the sweet delicacies of the area, led by the well-known confectioner by the name of Sal De Riso (taste the eggplant with chocolate at least once before you die!) and the typical ndunderi, a sort of giant dumpling with ricotta cheese in the dough that still are one of the specialties of Minori today, you will not find it hard to understand why the city is the proud owner of the title of City of taste (Città del gusto). Do not miss a walk through the charming narrow streets, a visit to the Basilica of Santa Trofimena and the splendid Roman villa dating back to the 1st AD, a confirmation of how even the wealthy Romans knew how to appreciate the beauty of these places a couple of millennia ago.

Minori by night - photo from flickr user Eugene Regis

Minori by night – photo from flickr user Eugene Regis

By continuing for some kilometers, and turning right climbing your way up the mountain, you can enjoy some clear examples of the splendor of these places throughout history. Just take a trip to Ravello to breathe the history and culture, and enjoy both the stunning scenery and the architecture of its beautiful villas.

The gardens of Villa Rufolo, Ravello - photo from flickr user Greg Willis

The gardens of Villa Rufolo, Ravello – photo from flickr user Greg Willis

From the 11th century Cathedral to a tour of incredible palaces, like Villa Rufolo and Villa Cimbrone, you can breathe the same air that has fascinated and inspired artists throughout history, and still makes Ravello a place which attracts celebrities of all kinds, as well as crowds of future husbands and wives who select it as the “beautiful setting” for their special day.

Villa Cimbrone, Ravello - photo from flickr user Ronnie Macdonald

Villa Cimbrone, Ravello – photo from flickr user Ronnie Macdonald

And if you are not lucky enough to dine at one of the two Michelin-starred restaurants located in Ravello – ‘Rossellinis’ and ‘Il Flauto di Pan’, who along with four other Michelin-starred restaurants in the area make these 40 kilometers of Amalfi a real oasis of gastronomic taste – you can console yourself with the many other proposals that this place has to offer. Here you’ll find every thing you need: the beauty of nature, the wonders of the architecture and works of art, so all you have to do is let yourself go, relax and enjoy.
Let’s go back to the coast, and head towards Amalfi. We will stop just before, Atrani, where you can find the house of the maternal family of Masaniello, and a cave that was apparently used by the hero of the Neapolitan revolt of 1647 to hide from soldiers of the viceroy of Naples. Here you can see very tangible signs of the fishing village that it was in the past, with the town square that still has direct access to the beach, well protected from storm surges, which was used to keep the fishing boats safe.

Atrani, view from the sea - photo from flickr user Uljana Egli

Atrani, view from the sea – photo from flickr user Uljana Egli

Atrani is an ideal place to stop before diving in the uber-tourist hotspots of Amalfi and Positano. Just a short visit will conjure up images of the past when the inhabitants of these places mainly supported themselves by fishing and crafts: Atrani was particularly known for its precious fabrics. Today it is a village well worth preserving: a little gem, and it’s a real pleasure to stroll through its narrow streets, between the houses resting one top of each other.

Originally published in Italian

Translation and adaptation for English by Ciarán Durkan

A visit to the National Park of Abruzzo: Opi and Val Fondillo

Leaving Pescasseroli behind you and taking the SS 83 Marsicana in the direction of Lake Barrea, you will find yourself immediately surrounded by a valley where in the warmest months of the summer a large number of animals graze, before reaching a junction that leads to the Forca d’Acero pass on the right, and on the left the road climbs up in a series of hairpin turns to the small town of Opi. Around here the atmosphere is a bit more authentic, less touristy than Pescasseroli, which certainly helps the visitor to envisage a time in the not so distant past when the local residents dedicated themselves almost exclusively to the care of their livestock.

The references to the past are all clearly legible, both in the shape of the landscape in this area and in the local gastronomic traditions, all of which have been more or less inspired by the kind of cucina povera, a rustic style of cooking using cheap, local ingredients, literally ‘poor cusine’ (and in some cases very poor indeed) from the times of transhumance. For thousands of years farmers have started out on long journeys to move the heards of cattle along grassy tracks south to Puglia, where they would winter during the coldest months of the year. In fact the creation of these tratturi (tracks), some of which would have originally stretched for over 300km (approx. 190 miles), has shaped the landscape which can be seen from the air if flying from Puglia to the north of Italy. The significant historical, cultural, and geographical impact of this transhumance route, known as The Royal Shepherd’s Track has meant that large areas of the tracks through the valleys and mountain side of the Appennines have been designated a UNESCO World Heritage site. In the region of Molise, along the shepherd’s track are the remains of the 1st century AD town of Saephinum (Sepino) complete with temples, basillicas, baths, and cemetary. The ruins of the ancient roman buildings were later used as farm buildings to shelter animals. This provides evidence that the tracks have been in continual use for at least 2,000 years. For more information or to visit the town of Sepino contact personal travels HERE.

 

opi camosci

Chamois goats with a view of Opi (Photo from parcoabruzzo.it)

OPIOpi is a tiny hamlet, and the historic town centre seems to cling to the top of a hill. To get to the town you have to run a guantlet of hairpin turns, curving their way up the mountain and narrow, tangled streets, which even people who live in the neighboring towns find daunting. We met a local man called Michael, who formerly worked as a bus driver in the area and today is a hotel concierge in the town of Pescasseroli. He who told us the drive to Opi was a kind of daily nightmare that still haunts him. From the top you can enjoy a wonderful view of the mountains in the area, including Mount Marsicano and the amphitheater of Camosciara. In the town itself you can visit the Chamois Museum, this goat-antelope is just one of the many wild inhabitants of the National Park of Abruzzo. Around here in fact, walking along the paths that surround the town or going on toward the pass of Forca d’Acero through large beech woods or even to Val Fondillo and Camosciara, you will probably be lucky enough to encounter many of the small and large animals that inhabit this beautiful protected area.

FOR TOURISTS – For the tourists who usually find themselves shunted around these parts, we recommend consulting the tourist information points in the area, which will indicate footpaths and walks (remember that some areas are called “strict nature reserves”, so you can not access them) or hiring a local guide to discover these places. In winter, the Macchiarvana Fund Center is well equipped to combine the pleasure of skiing with time to admire such a picturesque and charming area.

val fondillo e camosciara

Val Fondillo and the Camosciara(photo from parcoabruzzo.it)

VAL Fondillo – Driving back onto State Road 83 and heading towards Lake Barrea, after some curves in the road, watch out for the junction on the right leading to the car park of the Val Fondillo, another of the places you should not miss if you are touring around the area. Here, in the small building at the entrance of the valley, you will find all the helpfullness and expertise of Roberto and the rest of the team of CoopSort, who will guide you in discovering a beautiful and unspoilt area, rich in flora and fauna. It is important to remember, in fact, that your behavior can have a strong and sometimes devastating impact on the balance of these places. In order to help protect the rights of the animals in this wildlife preservation area, here are some basic rule to remember:

  • When you are ready to go, after a day exploring or a picnic, be careful not to leave any trash lying around.
  • Don’t be tempted to take home a memorable selfie with you and the local wildlife residents. The animals should not be approached by humans, and should not, in particular, be enticed towards you by offering them food.
  • If you have the good fortune to meet one of the wild animals in the area, enjoy it in silence, as you would do with similar precious and magical experiences.

Don’t hesitate to ask for all the information you need, and a good sugggestion would be to start with a guide to discover the routes in the area (there are various paths, with difficulty levels running from beginners to experienced to suit all ranges of experience, some even designed specifically for day or nighttime strolls). During the warmer months you can have your fill of delicious grilled meat in the square and then take a wonderful horseback ride. One thing to keep in mind is that in this part of Italy they do tourism a little differently. Here, sometimes with a display of “muscles” and patience on the part of young people who are investing their lives in extremely commendable projects, such as the Val Fondillo example, they have created a different model, which inevitably requires the active participation and involvement of the tourist. And who knows: perhaps all this can really benefit the flora and fauna of the area, the real stars of this unique, breathtaking scenery.

 

val fondillo

La Val Fondillo (photo from giorgiodicesare.wordpress.com)

For all the advice on where to stay in this part of the National Park of Abruzzo, Lazio and Molise, please contact Personal Travels!

 

Originally published in Italian by Francesco in February, 2015.

English translation and adaptation by Ciarán Durkan

Around Barcelona, amid arts and entertainment

If there is a destination that can be defined as dynamic, it’s the city of Barcelona. Here, all year round, there are all kinds of celebrations and festivals to be enjoyed and the Catalan city stands out as an ideal tourist destination. With so much to be enjoyed, from architecture to food, music and fashion, to the hospitality of its people.

Sagrada Familia - photo by flickr user Chris Yunker

Sagrada Familia – photo by flickr user Chris Yunker

If you have a few days to spend in Barcelona, ​​keep in mind that the city is equally lively day and night, and it would be impossible to list all the possible attractions. As for night-life, the city offers everything and anything: bars, restaurants and nightclubs. During the day, you can tour the city starting with the discovery of Barcelona’s architectural wonders, the Catalan Modernism of which Antoni Gaudí is one of the prominent exponents. Take in the Sagrada Familia, Casa Mila and Casa Batllo, just to mention some of the works of Gaudi. Barcelona remains testimony to the genius of other well-known modernist architects, such as Josep Puig i Cadafalch – he designed the ancient Fàbrica Casaramona, today the cultural center CaixaForum, at the foot of Montjuïc – or Gaudi’s own rival, Lluis Domenech i Montaner, who designed the Palau de la Música Catalana.

Palau de la Música Catalana - photo by flickr user MARIA ROSA FERRE

Palau de la Música Catalana – photo by flickr user MARIA ROSA FERRE

Of course a trip to Barcelona can’t be limited only to its architecture. So a ride to Montserrat, to visit the Royal Basilica to admire the works of Picasso and Dali, is a must as is a visit to the Montjuïc hill, where you can enjoy a spectacular view of the city. Views can also be enjoyed from the Ferris wheel of the Tibidabo, the oldest amusement park in Spain and in Europe second only to the Prater of Vienna. But the character of the town is really appreciated by visiting Barcelona’s Parallel Avenue, where already one hundred years ago people lined up in front of the many recreation and leisure facilities, or the historic site of the Coctelería Boadas, near the Rambla, founded in 1933 and recognized as the oldest in the city.

Tibidabo - photo by flickr user Adriano Amalfi

Tibidabo – photo by flickr user Adriano Amalfi

And if you want to relax a while on the beach, Barceloneta is waiting for you, as well as the coastal town of Sitges, 35 Km from Barcelona, ​​and one of the most popular destinations for gay travelers, with a full calendar of events.

Barceloneta - photo by flickr user Ronny Siegel

Barceloneta – photo by flickr user Ronny Siegel

In short, the tourist is spoiled for choice when exploring the Catalan city. Here are our choice picks for you to explore the city: you can opt for public transport, for a segway tour or a bike excursion complete with a visit of the best tapas bars. Whatever way, the result is still assured, and that is a great day around Barcelona.

Alloggi vicino a Giffoni Valle Piana

Soluzioni abitative nei pressi di Giffoni Valle Piana, dal 17 al 26 Luglio. Ricerca per due adulti e due bambini.

Viaggio a Parigi

Ecco altri hotel 4 stelle intorno al budget di 500 Euro:

 

Viaggio a Praga

Ciao Cristiana, ecco le proposte per il vostro soggiorno a Praga:

Cominciamo con un B&B centralissimo vicino al ponte Carlo. Prendendo oggi la tariffa non rimborsabile (i soldi vengono prelevati subito) si vanno a spendere 276 EURO, che è una delle soluzioni più economiche, senza andare a contare ostelli e camere senza bagno privato.

Invece a 288 EURO si può prenotare un bell’appartamento con ottime recensioni sempre nel cuore di Praga, vicino Piazza San Venceslao. Questa soluzione prevede una tariffa che si paga sul posto, con cancellazione gratuita fino al 18 Aprile.

Per 286 EURO c’è invece una camera matrimoniale molto ampia con uso cucina e soggiorno in comune. Si trova a soli 200 metri dal Museo Nazionale.

Se invece volete approfittare di un forte sconto pur spendendo qualcosa in più, vi potete concedere un residence 4 stelle che costa 328 EURO pagando subito, e 386 EURO pagando quando arrivate.