Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Italian charm on the Tyrrhenian Sea, Vietri Ceramics....

I loved the richly painted ceramics that decorated the table for our meals on the cruise. Each of the pieces beautifully mixmatched with one another. These ceramics can be found in restaurants, cafes and shops all along the Amalfi coast. The brightly painted pottery, dishes, wall hangings, table tops and panels originate from Vietri sul Mare the first {or last} of the Thirteen pearls of the Amalfi . Each "pearl" has it's own personality, attractions and speciality. By land, Vietri sul Mare is just over 50 kilometers from Naples. 

As lovely as they were on their own, I couldn't help the urge to find a little something more for our table settings. On a stop to the island of Limpari I came across these massive, mottled and misshapen lemons and knew it was just what we needed to add a little more life to the table. 

I also found this classic blue and white striped linen scarf to serve as a runner. There are several volcanic islands in the Aeolians and many emit pumice stones {you can see some natural pumice stones in the basket behind the lemons in the image above}. 

The decorative blue and white stones below are also made of pumice, each one is hand carved with a sea creature and painted with the name of the town, a nice little memento from our visit and a perfect addition to our Tyrrhenian Sea dinner table. 

The classic motifs for this pottery are simple images from the country side and the sea in bright, sunny colors, but you can also find more complex patterns. 

Visiting this popular coast by boat during the peak of the season provided us a welcome retreat from the crowds. 

Someday I'd love to return by car, off season, and visit Vietre sul Mare, and the other 11 pearls to see what I can find.

But until that opportunity arises, the good news is that you don't have to go to Italy to enjoy these dishes in your own abode.

 There are a number craftsmen willing to create custom plates and dishes and ship them to you. I brought home a few small pieces from Ceramiche Parlato, they have a great comprehensive website and will ship all over the world, they also offer workshops so visitors can learn more about their art. 

Absolute Positano has a big presence in town, the following shots of informative plates are from their store front. Click on the name to send them a message, if any of these images catch your fancy.

Caio Bellas!

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Hotel Il San Pietro di Positano, Amalfi, Italy....

I wasn't the only one taking a walk down memory lane on our Italian cruise.  Our dear friends with whom we were travelling had spent their honeymoon on the Amalfi coast and were excited to bring the group, including their children, back to the hotel where it all began, the lovely Hotel Il San Pietro di Positano  which offered an endless feast to our senses.

The positioning of this classic beauty is reason enough to stay there. The expansive terrace is perched high up on the hills, offering dramatic views of the mountains that tumble down to the Tyrrhenian Sea, a great place to survey the beach clubs and villas along this famed coastline. 

But there is actually so many more details worth noting, for instance the Blinni's that tasted like fresh ripe peaches just picked from the tree and the beautiful, thick scrolling benches along the perimeter of the terrace, embedded with hand painted Italian tiles. 

A little added security as we enjoyed the warm, fragrant breeze and gazed at the awe~inspiring views so far below.

Flavorful creamy herb dip filled cones of crudité arrived to go with our cocktails and the napkin rack filled with soft cotton coral cocktail napkins added to the traditional charm of the experience.

A stroll around the terrace led us to arbors laden with ripe lemons,

beds of colorful hibiscus,

and creatively potted succulents. 

We also had a chance to peek at the narrow terraces of the restaurant and rooms below, crawling with Bougainvillea.

When the sun set we left this delightful nirvana for another,

the exquisite Ristorante Zass that features produce grown on the terraced gardens built into the rocks alongside the hotel. 

The burning fire and the display of blue and white themed dishes were just the beginning of this delicious evening. 

Caio for now!

More to come.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Daytripping the blue fantastic, Capri....

Oh! The panic that ensued as our herd of cats embarked upon the Isle de Capri, 

"let's hike up to La Piazetta, no, Funicular, no the line is too long, let's cab, Anacapri or Capri? oh we should have hiked, oh we should have waited for the Funicular, etc., etc., etc." 

It's tough to figure out a plan when you only have one afternoon in Capri and there are SANDALS and lunch involved. Very hard, but somehow we made the most of it. 

The person who lives in this incredible villa certainly wouldn't understand because they are perfectly situated to enjoy Capri any day of the week and I am sure they were absolutely avoiding it on the busy Sunday we came to shore {but I'm not taking it personally}.

As it turns out, all options to get up the hill from the Port of Marina Grande were good options, there are stairs that cut up through the mountain for hikers (though you have to walk a few sections of windy roads). The trail actually continues on and heads higher up in the hills to even more stunning and peaceful views, gardens and historical buildings.  I think this would be a lovely option, if you have the time.

The Funicular requires some patience but it still reportedly offers the breathtaking views of the homes, mountains and sea I recall from my first visit to the island, many blue moons ago. 

Sentiero per Cetrella, Capri, Italy

The cool~blue open air cabs are another good option. Our driver helped us to maximize our limited time there, 

and we saw some incredible views as we twisted and turned around the edge of this monstrous rock. Below is the Marina Grande and you can just make out the Funicular cable heading up to La Piazzetta.

Port of Marina Grande, Capri, Italy

First stop, via Vittorio Emanuele III, a curvaceous route filled with lovely boutiques and sandal shops. The clock was ticking. 

The driver pointed us in the direction of the lovely linen shop 100% Capri, filled with beautifully crafted clothing and housewares and this inviting bed that has a waterfall trickling down for the headboard, my kind of cooling white noise.

And then there were the sandal shops....  here's how it works: you walk in, figure out your size and what sort of heel you'd like; then browse through the hundreds of offerings to decide on colors, straps, jewels and such and then let them know what exactly suits your fancy. In 15 minutes, your custom sandals are ready. I went all out, just couldn't leave the island without these beauties to remind me of the day I swam in the Blue Grotto. 

Custom seahorse sandals, Capri, Italy

By then the men were calling,

their stomachs were growling and the "they are buying more sandals" radar was sending out a red alert, 

So we had to rush by some of the remaining yummies of Capri to meet them in Anacapri, the quieter retail section of the island

Tile map, Anacapri, Italy

for lunch. 

A rather fabulous lunch actually. 

Somewhere, in my unsorted files from the trip, I have the receipt with the name of this exceptional, casual open air restaurant in Anacapri and the sandal shop in Capri, I just can't put my finger on it right now.

But if you are heading that way soon and need more details, just contact me directly and I'll be there, at your service. You know you that right? That you can always contact me with any questions about recipes, travel, flower ideas, life, etc?

Of course you can.

Now, back to the sea, 

the adventure continues. 

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Grotta Azzurra, the Blue Grotto, Capri...

We only had a day to "do" Capri, it was a stopping point on our way to cruise the Aeolian Islands, an Archipelago north of Sicily. I first came to Capri when I was my daughters age, and I was so excited to now be able to share with her an experience I have always remembered from that famous island, The Blue Grotto. 

On our first night we anchored just off the Faraglioni, these amazing formations that rise out of the sea. The "stack" to the left is called Scopolo and the one with the hole, which a small boat can motor through, is Mezzo.

Grotta Azzurra is a major attraction you can get to by land or by sea. At the port of Capri there are plenty of boats available for hire.

The larger boats pull up and wait for smaller rowboats to pick up visitors to bring them through the small opening you can see between these 2 boats, you can also see part of the line of people coming down from the street waiting for rowboats.

The grotto experience was just as I recalled, once you get into the rowboat you have to lie down on the floor. The rower has to time the entry perfectly with the waves. As the wave drops the driver grabs the chain that goes under the opening and pulls the boat through into the giant cavern. 

As with many things that you go back to, the grotto looked a little smaller than I remember. But the brilliant blue glow and the echo of the rowers singing every Italian song an American might know as they circled around the cave was absolutely familiar. 

But then this visit took a delightfully different turn....  our rower asked if anyone wanted to go for a swim....   um, #dreamcometru, yes! There was a bit of a back up so they pulled over to the side and let me jump out of the boat to swim. I didn't care that I got a jelly fish sting when I first jumped in, or that when I heaved myself back into the boat they said they had caught a tuna instead of a Serena, I was was just beyond elated to be freely swimming around in the astoundingly beautiful blue waters that I have been dreaming about for decades.

Here's a snippet from inside, I had to stop taping when the oarsman said "Lady, dress off"!
The glow of the water is caused by the sun coming through the small opening that the boats come through and a second, larger opening below the water surface that allows the light to shine up through the sea water. 

Note to fellow boaters: after 6 pm the tourist trade is over and one can swim, dive and snorkel through to your hearts content.