September Sunrise

Ciao Amalfi Coast Travel September Sunrise

Sunrise over Ravello

The sunrise this morning, the first day of September, was warm and soft. The start of a new month on the calendar can mean so little and so much. One day to the next, no big deal, right? But there’s something special for me about the beginning of September. While mindfulness and enjoying the present moment are important parts of my daily life, there’s still a part of me that counts down the days of August. Finally, it’s over.

And it’s not just the heat and chaos of August on the Amalfi Coast that makes me eager to flip the calendar over and see September 1st. I was one of those kids who couldn’t wait for school to start at the end of August. Getting new school supplies (pencils and notebooks … oh my!), the cooler temps and digging my nose into the new textbooks to inhale that distinctive textbooky smell were things I looked forward to. Yes, I actually sat around and thought about the smell of new books.

Even now when autumn arrives with a chilly breeze and crunchy leaves underfoot there’s a part of me that longs to be walking across a college campus, the air full of anticipation and new things to learn. While those days are over, for me there’s still a feeling of endless possibilities in the autumn.

This summer has been extremely busy and very far from relaxing. Yet another reason I’m relieved that it is over, while at the same time appreciating the many things I’ve learned along the way.  I’m eager to dive into new projects–both writing and in other directions that I’ll share here soon–and to enjoy another beautiful autumn season on the Amalfi Coast.

A Summer Swim at Santa Croce

Amalfi Coast Travel Santa Croce Beach Amalfi

Arriving by boat to the tiny Santa Croce beach west of Amalfi

The waves splash against the side of the small boat as it turns toward shore and the brilliant orange umbrellas at the Santa Croce beach. Somewhere in the mountains soaring above the Amalfi Coast road twists and turns its way through Vettica, a hamlet of Amalfi, and closer by the buoys bounce up and down in the waves. This little rocky cove is a piece of heaven on the Amalfi Coast – miles away from all the hubbub in Amalfi just a short boat ride away. I know I’ve written about Santa Croce beach several times here on Ciao Amalfi, but it’s just one of those spots that calls to me again and again. And when you step off the boat and are greeted with this view, how could you not be smitten?

Amalfi Coast Travel Santa Croce Beach Clear Water

Stepping off the boat to quite a view!

The clear water and and rocky beach are two of the reasons this is such a remarkable spot. The restaurants just steps from the water serving fresh fish and Amalfi Coast dishes complete the perfect setting. When we go we take the restaurant boat shuttle for the Ristorante Da Teresa, which departs from the Amalfi harbor near the Hotel Bussola. The boat brings you right to a small pier between the rocks where you can easily debark and find a sun bed nearby. Tip: If you want a bed along the water’s edge, head to Santa Croce earlier in the morning!

Amalfi Coast Travel Santa Croce Beach Ristorante Da Teresa

The landing for the boats from Ristorante Da Teresa

But the view from the second row is pretty darn nice, too. I’ve always been fond of the color orange, and it makes such a striking view against the back drop of the blue sky and sea. This is a view that soothes the soul and relaxes the muscles.

Amalfi Coast Travel Santa Croce Beach Umbrella

Settling in for an afternoon at the beach

Looking west from the beach you can spot the Arco Naturale, a natural arch, that is a popular spot for swimmers and rock climbers who scramble up and dive off the top. Not me, naturally. I’m the one sitting on the sun bed taking photos.

Amalfi Coast Travel Santa Croce Beach Arco Naturale

Looking toward the Arco Naturale from Santa Croce

If you don’t want to take one of the restaurant shuttle boats, there’s a boat service that connects Amalfi with Santa Croce and the nearby Duoglio beach. Every once in awhile the peace is interrupted by the boat ladder flopping down onto the pebbly beach and and the crew calling out the next departure times for Amalfi.

Amalfi Coast Travel Santa Croce Beach Boat

The boat service from Amalfi to Santa Croce

We enjoy going with the Ristorante Da Teresa boat service because we’re always so tempted by the delicious scents wafting out from the restaurant that we either take a break from the sun to enjoy lunch on their gorgeous terrace or have sandwiches or fried calamari right down on the beach. Oh … and don’t forget the local white wine with slices of fresh peaches. Really, this is something you don’t want to miss!

Santa Croce Ristorante Da Teresa

Looking from the Ristorante Da Teresa to the beach

This year in addition to the large, covered dining area there is a new spot (above) with tables and umbrellas that looks like the perfect spot for enjoying a panino or coffee. Nearby the stairs leading down to the beach caught my eye … that’s what you call a stairway to paradise!

Santa Croce Steps

The stairway to paradise

There’s a moment when I just can’t stand it anymore and I grab my camera and go for a stroll to take photos. This is beach where you’ll definitely want to make sure you have flip flops or beach shoes of some kind, because the stones are large and hot after baking in the sun all day.

Amalfi Coast Travel Santa Croce Beach Swimming

A tricky but very rewarding swimming spot

Getting into the water can also be a bit challenging with the stones and rocky beach, but once you do it’s well worth the effort. Sometimes it’s easiest to just get as close to the water as you can, stash your flip flops somewhere nearby where the waves won’t wash them away and just do an oh so elegant … splash! Don’t worry, that’s pretty much what the locals do, too.

Amalfi Coast Travel Santa Croce Beach View

A dreamy view at Santa Croce

Before leaving I had to catch just one more image of the rocky beach and an orange umbrella framing a perfect view of a white sailboat. What did I say? Yes, definitely a slice of heaven!

Pure Meaningless Beauty?

Ciao Amalfi Coast Travel Sunset Ravello

This doesn’t even begin to capture just how beautiful this sunset on a clear June evening really looked or felt. But, it comes close. The sunsets have been lovely the past few weeks, so quietly beautiful. When I see the colors of the sunset so distinctly running in lines across the horizon, it reminds me of a book called How to Use Your Eyes, which I read years and years ago by James Elkins, a writer and professor of Art History at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. There’s a chapter dedicated to the colors of the sunset, earth shadows and twilight that points out all the curious and remarkable things taking place in each beautiful sunset we see. Here’s what Elkins writes:

“Even the colors of sunset, so famous because they are nothing but pure meaningless beauty, can say a great deal about the Earth, the sun, and the path of the sun’s light through the air. And it’s also a wonderful way to spend the evening – looking into the air and trying to find invisible boundaries between colors that mutate slowly and continuously into one another, blending imperceptibly and growing imperceptibly darker.”

In the midst of busy schedules and crazy days, the sunset is one of the ways that nature slows me down to a halt. Colors, in themselves not meaning one thing or another, have the power to evoke such intense emotional responses. Every day nature puts on a show, but it’s up to us to see the beauty and make the meaning.

Belvedere Principessa di Piemonte in Ravello

An alluring garden entrance in Ravello

The Amalfi Coast is made of twists and turns with hidden away staircases, unexpected vistas out to the sea and beautiful spots to discover. If you’re the sort of traveler who likes to wander and explore, this is the place for you! Ravello has two famous villas with gardens you can visit—the Villa Rufolo and Villa Cimbrone—but there are many other lovely spots to discover if you head out to explore the town. Strolling along Via San Giovanni del Toro just past the entrances to the luxe Hotel Caruso and the Palazzo Avino you will spot an arched stone entrance dripping with vines. Peek through the arch to catch just a glimpse of the view and it’s impossible not to walk in to explore the little Belvedere Principessa di Piemonte.

Ciao Amalfi Coast Travel Ravello Garden View

The Belvedere Principessa di Piemonte in Ravello

The small grassy garden is shaded with beautiful trees and planted with seasonal flowers. This is a very popular spot for weddings in Ravello since the city hall is just a short stroll away. There are some very well placed benches where you can sit and relax while enjoying the view. “Belvedere” means “beautiful view” – and that’s most definitely what you’ll find here!

Ciao Amalfi Coast Travel Ravello Panorama

View from the Belvedere Principessa di Piemonte in Ravello

The view overlooks the Amalfi Coast with the picturesque village of Torello below and Minori and Maiori in the distance. The views here are very similar to what you would enjoy from the five star hotels nearby, but for free! In many scenic spots along the Amalfi Coast you’ll find signs that indicate where famous movies were filmed. There’s a sign at the Belvedere Principessa di Piemonte about the 1953 movie Beat the Devil with Humphrey Bogart and the beautiful Gina Lollobrigida.

Ciao Amalfi Coast Travel Ravello Movie Sign

Movies filmed on the Amalfi Coast

The Belvedere Principessa di Piemonte takes its name from a real princess – Marie José of Belgium (1906-2001) who married Prince Umberto, the crown prince of the House of Savoy. Her title after marriage was the Princess of Piedmont, or Principessa di Piemonte in Italian. She became the last Queen of Italy in 1946, and her short 35-day role as Queen consort from May 9th to June 12th earned her the name “The May Queen.” In the 1930s, when what is today called the Ravello Festival was just getting started, the Prince and Princess of Piedmont attended one of the concerts in Ravello, and this belvedere was renamed Belvedere Principessa di Piemonte in honor of the princess.

A view fit for a princess!

Next time you’re in Ravello, take a stroll up to the top of town to enjoy the beautiful views and peaceful garden at the Belvedere Principessa di Piemonte. (Tiaras not required …)


Teeny Tiny Grapes

Ciao Amalfi Coast Travel Tiny Grapes

Grapes just beginning to grow on the Amalfi Coast

Walking home the other day I spotted the first tiny grapes growing on a lush green vine. Spring has been very rainy this year, and the vines and plants seem to be loving it! Below this grape vine the owners had planted fava bean plants very early this spring, which is pretty common in the area. I’ve enjoyed watching the plants growing and the long bean pods forming. Then one day they’re gone! Probably to make a delicious dish of pasta e fave. Yum!  It’s fascinating to watch out how locals use such small terraces of land to produce so much throughout the year. I dream of having my own small plot of land on the Amalfi Coast one day!