Amalfi Coast Travel Faraglioni rocks from Monte Solaro

Finding the Height of Beauty on Capri

Amalfi Coast Travel Capri Monte Solaro View

A view you can get lost in from the top of Monte Solaro on Capri

What started my passion for writing and sharing about the Amalfi Coast is my love for this remarkable place in Italy. There is so much to see and discover, and I want every traveler to experience the stunning natural beauty for themselves. It was a joy to have the chance to write about two of my favorite places on Capri for the Winter 2014 issue of the NIAF Ambassador magazine. I adore Capri and get a bit peeved when I hear people talk about it being too touristy. It takes no more than a few moments from any place that might feel a bit busy to find utter peace and stunning views. In the NIAF article I took readers to the two highest points on Capri to get a nice vantage point. Oh, and some of those stunning views, too!

NIAF Ambassador Capri Article by Laura Thayer

The first stop was Monte Solaro, the peak high above Anacapri, which you can reach by a fun chairlift. (You can also hike up or down or both ways if you’re up to the climb!) Anacapri slowly drifts away behind you as the chairlift glides to the top. The view waiting for you when you alight and climb a short staircase is one you will surely never forget.

Amalfi Coast Travel Capri Chairlift Monte Solaro Anacapri

– Riding the chairlift that goes from the center of Anacapri to Monte Solaro

Atop the viewing area at Monte Solaro you can look straight down to the sparkling sea, across to the village of Capri and feel a refreshing breeze off the sea. There are areas to explore and wander around, a bar with a tremendous view for drinks or a snacks and plenty of photos opportunities.

Amalfi Coast Travel Faraglioni rocks from Monte Solaro

– Looking down from Monte Solaro to the Faraglioni rocks

From Monte Solaro you can see the second highest point on Capri as well. All the way across the island on the top of another peak you’ll spot a large villa. You can even see it in the photo below. That was once the home of none other than the Roman Emperor Tiberius. The peak is still named after him and is called Monte Tiberio today, and you can visit the ruins of the one splendid Roman villa.

Amalfi Coast Travel View of Villa Jovis from Monte Solaro

It’s a bit of a hike, but an absolutely gorgeous one, to reach Villa Jovis from the center of Capri town. If you thought the only Roman ruins to be found in the area were at Pompeii and Herculaneum, then you’re in for a treat. There’s a lot more to discover on Capri than you might think!

Amalfi Coast Travel Villa Jovis Capri

– Exploring the ruins of Villa Jovis

Villa Jovis was the opulent home of Tiberius and was completed in 27 AD. Even today it seems to remote, and it’s hard to image that he ruled the Roman Empire for 10 years from this very spot. Well, he certainly knew how to pick a good view! From Villa Jovis you can see straight across to the very tip of the Sorrento Peninsula. To the right is the Amalfi Coast and to the left the Sorrento coastline.

Amalfi Coast Travel View of the Sorrento Peninsula from Villa Jovis

Looking across to the Sorrento Peninsula from Villa Jovis on Capri

I hope the next time your travels take you to Capri that you’ll spend some time exploring, whether the high spots or the gorgeous coastline and beaches by boat, to see a different side of the island. Thank you to the NIAF Ambassador magazine for the chance to share two of my favorite spots on Capri!

The Italians John Hooper

Book Review | The Italians by John Hooper

The Italians John Hooper

As the time period for my Italian citizenship application to be processed comes to an end, I’ve found myself drawn more often to thoughts about what it means to be Italian. As a foreigner, sometimes it just seems like a jumbled up pile of puzzle pieces – where you’re pretty sure at least a handful of pieces are missing before you even start putting it together. Naturally, I was interested to read The Italians by Rome-based journalist John Hooper, which was released earlier this year.

The Italians really delves into the nitty gritty of Italian history and life, from what happened to Italy’s feminist movement to the veline, the way Italians think of religion, do things and do it. (Ahem … we are talking about Italians here folks.) Because life is full of all these things. Yet, how do all these different things define a people? Hooper shines the spotlight on a series of different aspects of being Italy, whether it’s eating gnocchi in Rome on Thursdays or the importance placed upon una bella figura, and goes behind the to uncover what drives Italians to do what they do.

Throughout The Italians, Hooper presents an impressive number of statistics, surveys and reports to help tell his story. While tremendously researched, I was left wondering whether all the numbers really had helped me feel like I knew the Italians better. Yes and no. Yes, because it presented a surprising amount of information to process through and wonder about that I wouldn’t normally consider. No, because I think for me numbers don’t tell the whole story. It’s always more important to step outside of stereotypes, statistics and reports to remember that Italy is complex and the Italians tantalizing and persistently mysterious people.

There’s nothing that compares to traveling and meeting Italians, living with them, talking and laughing with them and sharing little moments of daily life. The you begin to grasp what it means to be Italian on a more personal, tangible level. After eight years in Italy, just when I think I’m starting to understand what it might mean to be Italian, something happens that turns everything upside down again. And for me that’s the beauty–and challenge–of learning to live in a new country.

Everyone tells their love story for Italy differently, and I felt that the book was true to the description as “an eye-opening, heartfelt true-love story.” This is Hooper’s way of sharing a deep love and fascination with Italy and its people. I enjoyed reading his story, especially picking up the little tidbits of cultural history along the way. I was even able to explain to my Italian husband why soccer coaches in Italy are addressed as “Mister,” which is something he didn’t know all the details about, and when I hear the Italian national anthem I wonder more about its meaning and history thanks to Hooper’s fascinating discussion.

If there’s one thing I know, however, it’s that in the end the Italians don’t fit in a book. The vibrancy, dichotomies, energy, charm and challenges that create a people become infinity diverse at a personal level. But that’s just my approach to understanding the world, which I feel leaves a lot more room for wonder, surprise and discovery. Yet, I learned a great deal reading The Italians by John Hooper, and I would recommend it to anyone interesting in delving a little deeper. It’s another piece of the puzzle that many expats in Italy spend a lifetime putting together.

 

The Italians
by John Hooper
336 pages
Viking (January 29, 2015)

Book Review | Dream of Venice

Dream of Venice

Very few readers of Ciao Amalfi will know that the first spot I visited in Italy was Venice. After dreaming of traveling to Italy for years, my first big trip to Europe and to Italy took me to Venice – and only Venice. With just a side visit to the Ferrari Museum in Maranello. (What did you expect … a day trip to Verona?) I’ve always been one to want to really focus on one place rather than hop, skip and jumping around. It was a marvelous week spent wandering, getting obliviously lost, discovering the quietest piazzas I’ve ever seen and experiencing the first taste of what I would come much later to know – Italy was deep within me.

Dream of Venice 4

Because of that first visit and all that it meant, I’ve always had a soft spot for Venice. So when I first saw the cover of Dream of Venice my heart gave a little flutter. A mini coffee table style book, Dream of Venice is a compilation of writings dedicated to Venice that have been compiled and edited by JoAnn Locktov and beautifully accompanied by photographs by Charles Christopher. Each writing selection is paired with a photograph of the city, and both words and imagery form a story that twists and weaves through the winding canals, nighttime mystery and enchantment that is Venice.

Dream of Venice 2

Dream of Venice opens with a foreword by Frances Mayes, which sets the scene. She writes, “Venice is a state of mind. That is, the scintillating, kaleidoscopic, shifting colors of that watery realm remain alive inside me long after I depart the actual city.” That took me right back to 2001 when I stood on the Ponte dell’Accademia clinging to the wooden railing taking everything in while not quite believing I was actually there. By the time I left it was alive inside me just as Mayes described, and reading the passages in Dream of Venice and getting lost in Charles Christopher’s photos was an immense delight. Anyone who has been to Venice will treasure this book and anyone dreaming of traveling there will adore it!

Dream of Venice 1

One of the parts I enjoyed the most about Dream of Venice was the blend of different voices and and writing styles united by a love of Venice. Rachel Dacus enchants with a poem entitled “Wearing Venice” and the mystery of Venice’s darker sides come alive in the writings of Julie Christie, Linus Roache and Marcella Hazan. The captivating descriptions of winter in Venice have made me want to return to experience that side of La Serenissima.

Dream of Venice 3

When you need a little jolt of Venice, this book is just right. The length of the entries paired with each photo is just right for picking up and enjoying a few with a cup of tea. Well, that’s my style, but there are also some good espresso or cappuccino sized entries, too. You’ll be dreaming of Venice in no time at all!

 

Find out more about Dream of Venice or buy Dream of Venice on Amazon.

 

(All Images by Charles Christopher and used courtesy Bella Figura Communications)

The Amalfi Coast: Walking Through History One Step at a Time

NIAF Ambassador Magazine The Amalfi Coast

This summer I had the pleasure to write about one of my favorite pastimes on the Amalfi Coast — walking and exploring the ancient pathways and hiking trails — for the NIAF Ambassador magazine. This is this quarterly magazine for the National Italian American Foundation, which is a wonderful resource for all things Italy. It was a joy this autumn to virtually flip through the magazine feature and to see my photographs across so many pages!

NIAF Ambassador Magazine The Amalfi Coast Hiking

If you’re a NIAF member then you’ve likely already read through three of my favorite walks on the Amalfi Coast. If you’re not a member but would like to find out more, visit the NIAF website for all the details.

NIAF Ambassador Magazine Fall 2014

A huge grazie to Michelle from Bleeding Espresso for the very kind recommendation for this writing project! Over the coming weeks I’ll share more of the photos of the different walks that I took while doing some of the most pleasurable research I’ve ever done. Stay tuned to the Ambassador magazine winter issue for an article about my two favorite spots on Capri. You will be tempted  … oh so tempted!

Book Review | Dreaming of Laughing Hawk by Linda Katmarian

While my reading time has been quite limited since the summer, I’ve had the pleasure of dipping into a wonderful story every moment I could with Linda Katmarian’s debut novel Dreaming of Laughing Hawk. With deep and fascinating characters and a storyline that drew me into the novel more and more with each page, this was a thoroughly enjoyable read.

On a cold spring day in 1964, with the hope of escaping home and studying art at university filling her heart and head, Elizabeth Leigh skips out of high school early. In a matter of moments everything in her unsettled life changes. Her mother’s packed suitcase, broken promises, more lies, dreams shattered – and no one to tell her why.

With nothing keeping her in the place that wasn’t really ever home, Elizabeth accepts a fortuitous invitation from her cousin to spend the summer in sunny California. Life couldn’t possibly be more different at her aunt Caroline’s house, where Lizzy, as her family insists on calling her, settles into a beautiful home and comfortable lifestyle where she meets new people, led along by her gorgeous and bubbly cousin Melina.

While Melina is more concerned about summer fun, Elizabeth works to save money for university. Through family connections she starts a job as secretary for Collin Greenslade, a handsome and ambitious young man eager to get out from the overbearing grasp of his father’s business. The most unlikely of matches, Elizabeth and Collin both have a hole deep inside–a need to be loved–that draws them together. Collin offers Elizabeth everything she could dream of, love, comfort, beautiful things, and she falls for what is too tempting to resist – security.

But, there’s just one problem. Mark Laughing Hawk. A Native American from South Dakota and studying medicine at UCLA, Hawk is the roommate of Melina’s boyfriend Jake. When Jake gets in trouble with his civil rights activism in Mississippi, he calls in the help of Hawk to come and rescue him and tow his ruined car back home. Never one to miss out on a little fun, Melina concocts a story that allows her and Elizabeth to go with Hawk to Mississippi. This is no average road trip. It’s an adventure that sets in motion unstoppable events in the life of Elizabeth and Hawk.

There are choices to be made by the characters in the story, and they are certainly ones that resonated with me. Do you risk everything to follow where your heart leads you or do you hold on with all your might to the one thing you always thought you wanted? There’s a point in the novel where Mark Laughing Hawk says, “Your destiny is determined by the choices you make and the angels–or demons–you invite to accompany you.” As Collin, Elizabeth and Hawk make their decisions–some followed by angels and others the darkest demons–the story unfolds into one of deep, beautiful and fierce love.

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Find out more about Linda Katmarian and Dreaming of Laughing Hawk by clicking here.