Anniversario in Italia

 Milan      Venice     Rome     Amalfi Coast

Thirty is no small feat!  As our wedding anniversary approached, we wanted to celebrate big with a trip abroad but where? When our son's band landed a music festival outside of Milan near our anniversary date, we knew that we were Italy bound.  Although we had traveled with the kids there five years prior (read "European Road Trip") we decided to travel mostly by train and head further south to places we had never ventured -  Rome and the dreamy Amalfi Coast.  Mid September was a good time of year to travel with less crowds and slighly cooler weather. We bought our train tickets ahead online at Italiarail.com, packed one rolling bag each to make it easy on and off the trains and prepared  for a colorful sojourn to one of the most romantic places on earth.

Milan

One of the main things we wanted to see was Leonardo Da Vinci's masterpiece "The Last Supper" which is in the modest little church of Santa Maria delle Grazie.  I booked our tickets using Walks of Italy.  Our tour included the famed fresco and a rooftop tour of the Duomo di Milano plus some other sites in town. Walking along the intricate spires of the cathedral was truly special and our favorite.  At the end of tour you can visit the incredible upscale shopping arcade next door Galleria Vittorio Emmanuelle.  Take a spin on the mosaic floor tiles of the bull for good luck and enjoy an Italian cocktail at Campari as your marvel at the glorious architecture that surrounds you.

 

           

           Excelsior Hotel Gallia

This hotel was in a good location right next to the train station and not too far from the city center.  They have a nice rooftop bar overlooking the square. Click on the reception bell icon for links to the hotels mentioned.

My rock star son
Spinning on the bull's testicles three times for good luck
Venice

Just 2.5 hours away by train, Venice delights no matter how many times you visit. First stop should be the Piazzo San Marco. Have a seat at an outdoor table at La Florian and order a Hugo Spritz. It became our favorite cocktail on the trip. For me Venice is a place to stroll, window shop and soak in its very soul. Plan an early morning visit to the fish market by Rialto Bridge and marvel at all the produce and fresh catches of the day.  If you are nearby at dusk, reserve a rooftop visit time at the shopping mall T Fondaco Dei Tedeshi overlooking the Rialto Bridge.  In the evening we enjoyed an intimate opera of La Traviatta at Palazzo Barbarigo Minotto.  The audience travels with each act to a different hall in the palace.   Musica Palazzo Tickets         

 

            Hotel Flora

Situated just minutes from Piazza San Marco, this charming boutique hotel is a favorite of ours.  I was glad to see Stefano still there offering his genteel service. I recommend upgrading to the larger rooms.  Breakfast is included in the lovely courtyard.

Private taxi to Burano made for some great photos!
Burano

This place is more colorful then a bag full of Skittles! Add cute little canal boats, shops featuring their trademark lace and laundry drying on the line under the Venetian sun and you are in a virtual “Candyland of cuteness!” Getting there can be a bit of work but it’s worth it! Take Vaporetto 12 which departs from Fonddamente Nove (F.te Nove).  It takes 45 minutes for the vaporetto water bus to reach Burano and runs about every 30 minutes.  Be sure to consult this link for times.

Vaporetto schedule  

We ended up getting a bit pressed for time and just paid a personal water taxi to take us there.  Pricey but fun and a great picture op!

Throwing my coins in the fountain
Spanish girl on the Spanish steps
Rome

A historic city on seven hills, Rome is a big, bustling city with many wonders.  We planned on staying for three nights but honestly felt it was one too many and would have preferred the extra day at the Amalfi Coast.  We booked two tours through Walks of Italy.  We did a  Pristine Sistine Tour in the morning where we saw Michelangelo’s famous ceiling fresco and St. Peter's Basilica and a Premium Colosseum Tour in the afternoon. We were fortunate to get an archaeologist as our expert guide which made the Colosseum tour fascinating. If you are longing to escape the business of the city, head to Aventine Hill.  The southernmost of Rome’s seven hills, it is set in an elegant residential area with Basilica Santa Sabina and the Knights of Malta keyhole famous for framing St. Peter’s copula perfectly. For me the best part was the beautiful park  Orange Gardens with some great views of the city. Other must see  attractions are Trevi Fountain, the Pantheon and the Spanish Steps.

             Palazzo Naidi, The Dedica Anthology

Stunning hotel where you will feel like royalty.  Recommend a balcony room facing the round about.

Our balcony view at sunset. The Palazzo Naidi is a semi circle overlooking a fountain and major thoroughfare. 
Playing in the parks.  I loved the romance of Orange Gardens on Aventine Hill 
Sorrento

Sublime Sorrento!  Over an hour by train to Naples, we arrived to this first of our Amalfi Coast locations by way of a 40 minute high speed ferry.  Sorrento was one of our favorite destinations and was made even more perfect because of our stay at the incomparable Bellevue Syrene.  Set high up by the water, the Syrene has an open and fresh décor with accents of turquoise and whimsical statues of nude sunbathers floating upside down that made me laugh.  I took so many photos that I created a montage below. My Lily Pulitzer romper I wore that day fit right into the color scheme. There were exquisite appetizers and drinks available to us as at check in.  My husband popped a mini gatto di patate (potato pie) in his mouth and was instantly transported to a memory of his Italian nona’s gatto. The Bellevue has a restaurant with a sea view that is perfect for a sunset dinner and prosecco for two. Down below and accessible by elevator, there is a swimming area where you can sunbathe on the dock in true European fashion, admire the little boats strung about and take a dip in a surreal  and crisp emerald lagoon. 

Shopping in Sorrento is so much fun!  Known for their sandals, I bought a custom pair of glittery anchor sandals that are truly one of a kind. Marvel at the enormous lemons and get addicted to everything limoncello! Go to the fishing village (see photo montage below) and dine at Bagni Delfino on the water.  Sleepy by day, the fishing village is best appreciated at sunset with the buildings by the port and up on the hillside all aglow.  We were fortunate to catch a Catholic boat procession coming into the harbor to bless the town, all accompanied by fireworks lighting up the night sky.

           Bellevue Syrene

See photos below.

Had to have these custom anchor sandals!
The Bellevue Serene
Sorrento Fishing Village
Capri

Even in September, Capri was crowded.  After a walk in the popular section of town and some of the best gelato on the trip, we rented a scooter and decided to escape the people and retail section and do some exploring.  Hiring a private boat to take us about the island was the best experience.  Our hotel helped us make arrangements. With a Limoncello Freeze in hand, we boarded a small boat with Captain Tony to see the grottos and Faraglioni up close. Since we went in the late afternoon, we got shut out of seeing the famed Blue Grotto.  One of the funniest memories was watching our captain fight in strong Italian fashion with those in charge of the grotto cue.  Apparently, while waiting our turn, the grotto had closed so he was not happy and went to “bat” for us using some colorful language!  It did not faze us in the least, however.  What became the best memory of the trip was swimming to the Green Grotto. No one was there!  Captain Tony anchored close by and me and my husband jumped in and swam into that small cave where the turquoise waters were magically lit beneath its depths. It was like being immersed in an aquamarine gemstone. Absolutely dreamy! We passed the lighthouse and drove right through the opening of the Faraglioni.  

             Relais Maresca. 

Since we were lugging our luggage, we chose a place right by the marina instead of up in the posh retail section on the hill.  Choose the top room with a well-equipped patio for relaxing and enjoying the sea view.  The town is sleepy at night but we liked that and had an excellent dinner at L’Approdo. 

My cute little anchor bikini
Positano

Oh, the grandeur of Positano!  John Steinbeck, who visited in 1953, wrote “Positano bites deep.  It is a dream place that isn’t quite real when you are there and becomes beckoningly real after you have gone.” We again opted to stay right at the marina at Covo Dei Saraceni and that was a great location.  Positano is set on a hillside so there is a lot of climbing in its exploration.  Stop to see the famous Le Sirenuse hotel and take the best pictures of the town overlooking the Tyrrhenian Sea.  One of our days we rented a convertible Smart car and drove along the coast and back to Sorrento to pick up my custom sandals. If you don’t mind the adventure of driving curvy, two lane roads winding around mountains then do it!  It is such a fun way to explore! Put some great tunes on the car Bluetooth, we liked “Italian Cooking Songs” on Pandora radio,  and sing Dean Martin songs as you soak in the exquisite vistas.  We drove back through town and onto Amalfi and what, for me, was the jewel of our entire vacation…the town of Ravello. Oh....Ravello!  I left my heart there!

          Covo Dei Saraceni

The first hotel off the port, it is in a great location.  The restaurant is wonderful, especially the Brasserie that claims the best pizza.  It definitely was the best pizza of the trip! Service is excellent and there is a lovely pool area to relax and enjoy the beach views below.

Ravello

As we drove into Amalfi, we found it impossible to park so we decided to keep going up the mountain to Ravello. Our concierge recommended a visit to Villa Cimbrone to see a vista that “cannot be explained.” As we made our way up the mountain the scenery changed to a woodier landscape, cooler air, and a jewel toned light that lit the dense, rich greenery in the most beautiful fashion.  Parking was easy and we walked to the main square for a break at Al San Domingo.  The restaurant proclaims that Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis visited once and thought their lemon cake the best in the world.  It did not disappoint!  One of the things we noticed is how many weddings we saw on this trip.  There were two in Ravello that day.  I told my husband if I could live and die anywhere it would be in Ravello.  Certainly, a wedding there is a dream destination.  Along the way to Villa Cimbrone we saw beautiful Italian pottery. I picked up a lemon the size of my hand and the shopkeeper quipped that tomorrow he would have an even bigger one from his garden! The view from Villa Cimbrone was truly indescribable and a photo cannot do it justice. My photo below is just a hint because you cannot catch the expanse of the vineyards, towns and roads cascading down the mountain and the neighboring towns framed by the most incredible hue of blue water. On our way back we caught a limoncello truck which I thought was pure genius.  You can never have too much limoncello! The vendor, to my amazement, generously poured me a second cup and we both just laughed at the sheer joy of  it. The end of a perfect day was finished with the best pizza on the beach at the brasserie at our hotel Covo Dei Saraceni

How about them lemons!
Keep pouring Limoncello man!
Florence

We hired a driver to take us back to the Naples train station and decided to make a stop in Florence.  There is a place on the outer part of the station you can pay to hold your bags for a few hours. We had been to Florence before, so we just wanted to have lunch and stroll this beautiful city where art breathes on every corner.  We found the most incredible little restaurant called Cicalone Osteria. It was one of our best meals on the trip! We ended with gelato, gazing at the pristine Duomo before making our way back to Milan.

My favorite place - Piazza Della Signoria
Return to Milan

             Moxy Milan Airport

For convenience sake, we stayed right at the airport.  This modern hotel is designed for the younger generation.  Not to my liking asthetically but it was good for our flight out. 

Food in Italy

I would be remiss to not include the culinary delight as we traveled through Italy. Truffles, zucchini flowers, Hugo Spritz, Aperol Spritz, limoncello, burrata, pizza, Tagliani, gelato, lemon cake, potato pie gato, fresh fish and giant mushrooms…I could go on and on! I end with pictures and recommendations on dining during your stay.

Milan – Motta, Antica Osteria Cavallini

Venice – Antico Martini

Rome – Hostaria de Brunello

Sorrento – Bagni Delfino

Capri – L’Approdo

Positano- Covo Dei Sarceni for pizza

Ravello – Al San Domingo

Florence – Cicalone Osteria