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Italy 2023

In May 2022, I had my second knee replacement. It was long overdue, and this time I took 9 weeks off from work. If you know me, I am like the energizer bunny, I never stop! I did a lot of reading during this time, and a good friend of mine sent me the book ‘One Italian Summer’ by Rebecca Serle. I read it in 3 days. While it is fiction, the book described Positano in such a way, I knew I had to go spend some time there. I had been there once but briefly, not at all enough to absorb all the beauty it has to offer. The trip was planned over a 16 month time span. I never use any travel companies for my trips, I take enough time to research and do all the planning myself.

If you have ever seen pictures of the Amalfi Coast, you will know that it doesn’t even seem real. Positano is a cliffside village on southern Italy's Amalfi Coast. It's a well-known holiday destination with a pebble beachfront and steep, narrow streets lined with boutiques and cafes. The hills and steps are brutal, but welcome to walk off all the pasta. Speaking of pasta, I pretty much ate pasta twice a day the entire trip, both lunch and dinner, beginning the day with a cappuccino and a pastry. The pasta dishes in Positano are mostly tomato or lemon based, with fresh seafood like shrimp, lobster and mussels. Grilled or seared fish, red juicy tomatoes, basil, mozzarella or Burrata, and of course amazing pizza are on all the menu’s. We stayed at Hotel Punta Regina which was not in the thick of everything but a close enough walk, and I liked that. The staff were kind and helpful, the hotel as well as our villa overlooked the Tyrrhenian Sea. We would sip our coffee with that view in the morning, then sip an Aperol Spritz in the late afternoon while enjoying the pool with the same view. Dinners are late, followed by digestive and dessert, again while enjoying the view. Every restaurant that we dined was terrific, but then again, everything tastes better in Italy! We did go the famous La Tagliata which is way, way up at the top of Positano. The only way I can describe it is like a stone tree house. It’s family owned and operated. You eat what they bring you, and the food just keeps coming, and coming and coming. To me, it was just too much. I was uncomfortable the rest of the night. The breathtaking views in Positano are everywhere, and I mean everywhere, you are surrounded. Even “off season” it was pretty crowded, and the tourists come from all over the world.

Transportation was easy. Luckily we were referred to a local car service in Positano by friends. But there is a multi-national company called Transfeero, and we used it a few times. They have an app, it’s easy and they are reliable. The Mercedes vans are spacious and clean. We also used the trains this time. They are also easy, but you need to pay attention in the station. It all moves fast. Have your ticket pulled down on your app, because you will use a QR code to get through the gate to your track. You put your own luggage on the train, and trust me, your adrenaline kicks in at these train stations. But once you are on, you can relax en route to your destination. There are three classes, standard, premium and business. We chose premium, and it was worth it. The seats were comfortable, and just like the airlines, an attendant comes through with snacks, water and coffee.

When I was in planning stage, I was trying to figure out where we would go after Positano. I didn’t want to get too far from Rome, since we had to fly out of there, so I chose an area called Terni. I tried to book us at a spa and winery, but they were closed for a private event the weekend we were looking at. So they suggested their sister property and I accepted, thinking it was still Terni. As our driver was getting closer to our hotel, I realized we were not in Terni, but a town called San Gemini. It is, however in the Provence of Terni, and in the Umbrian region. We stayed at the Grand Hotel which is a former palace built in 1730 by one of Romes most famous bloodlines, the Santacroce family. The saltwater pool is in the former gardens, surrounded by bushes of rosemary and lavender. The aroma itself will bring you to your knees, but add in the bells ringing from Chiesa di santo Gimine, and I found myself almost dizzy with emotion. The village is small and dates back to 1036. It seemed the tourists there were mostly Italians escaping the big city for the weekend, kind of like we do when we head to the mountains for a quick weekend get away. We were the only Americans that I could see, and we did get some strange looks but we respected their town, were super gracious and tipped well. San Gemini is well known for the “Sangemini” mineral water. Both the spring and the bottling plant are located just outside the town walls. The cuisine in Umbria is more meat based but there was still plenty of pasta to be found!

Of course Rome was a part of this trip because we fly in and out of there. It’s easy and direct from Charlotte. We stayed at the Hotel Barberini which is walking distance to the Trevi Fountain and the Spanish Steps. The rooms were spacious and the hotel had a rooftop bar where we watched the sun set over the Vatican. All I can say is wow. While I don’t love Rome, the shopping is fantastic and the food is amazing. The first night we had dinner at Il Giardino Antica Osteria, we ordered everything….. grilled artichokes, Grecia, Amatriciana, Cacio e Pepe, and Carbonara. Of course with that, bread, bottles of wine, grilled vegetables and the dessert? Oh my, two kinds of Tiramisu, pistachio and traditional.

Our final night we ventured over to Trastevere, a funky, bohemian area that clings to its centuries-old, working-class roots. It’s along the Tiber river, and near the former Jewish ghetto. I had heard quite a lot about this area, so felt the need to see it. However I didn’t love it. It seemed dirty to me and everything was covered in graffiti, while that may seem like art to some, seeing these historic buildings with paint all over them just make my heart hurt a bit.

Every day involved a Spritz, usually around noon. Aperol, or Hugo, it was refreshing after already putting in some walking time. There was always time for a Spritz!

I am already planning my next trip to Italy and that will be to the Piedmont region. Bordering France and Switzerland, the area sits at the foot of the Alps. It’s known for sophisticated cuisine and wines such as Barolo. We will visit Turin, Genoa and Portofino. The plan is to go next year, but my husband and I are going to France and England next fall, a first for both of us, so we will see if I can squeeze two trips to Europe into the same year. In addition to the worst jet lag I have ever had coming back, I seem to have spent twice as much as planned, so I have to recover from that!

While I am very aware there are many other places in the world to visit, they just don’t appeal to me. I am mesmerized by Italy, and not just because I am half Italian. The Italians just know how to live. They celebrate life with zest and passion, take things slow, embrace family, gather as a community, favor quality and simplicity, and savor every moment.

They live La Dolce Vita.

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