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Italy Roundtable: The Rush of the Strange and Unfamiliar

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This month’s Italy Roundtable topic “foreign” brought in a host of interesting topics from the group – all thoughtful, reflective and informative. Be sure to check them all out at the links below! While I am a foreigner living in Italy, there’s another aspect of the word “foreign” that has been rattling around in the back of my mind this week. The secondary meaning of the word is listed as “strange and unfamiliar.” Dictionary example: “I suppose this all feels pretty foreign to you.” Now that sounds about right! It got me thinking. When was the last time you experienced something foreign? There’s a thrill that comes from the strange and unfamiliar. It means stepping out of your comfort zone, whatever the experience might be.

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I don’t know about you, but I thrive in the strange and unfamiliar. Not that I go in search of it. I’m certainly not an adventure seeking sort of person. Perhaps more of the sort that enjoys finding the adventure in everyday life. Whatever it is, I find that I am the happiest when I have quite literally no idea what I’m doing. It probably started with when I fell in love with studying ancient Greek in college. That was remarkable. Then there was that time I was a data analyst for Fannie Mae. (Seriously.) Or when I decided to study art history in graduate school and called up my mom to ask, “Hey, Mom, so I have to include a research paper with my application. What’s a research paper?” Then there was the time 10 years ago when I moved to Italy without speaking any Italian. Or when I started freelance writing and editing. The land of “strange and unfamiliar” is my home.

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So why the wisteria? Well it’s pretty. Besides that, it represents a moment I had recently that reminded me how important those strange and the unfamiliar moments are in our lives. Sure a trip to a new country around the world is exciting, but how can you get out of your comfort zone right now, right where you’re at? When I went to Positano earlier this month to see the wisteria, I decided to make some video clips so I could start learning how to use iMovie. It may have taken me a few weeks to finish that video, but when I uploaded it to YouTube yesterday, I had a rush. There it was. Something strange and unfamiliar. I have quite literally no idea how to make movies, and yet there I go putting one out to the world to see. It’s nothing special. I have a lot to learn. But what is special is that incredible experience of doing something strange and unfamiliar!

Go out and try something foreign this week – a new restaurant, a new drink at your local coffee shop, a new way to drive to work, a new genre that you usually don’t read, a new craft, a new recipe, a different type of creative endeavor. Don’t worry if it doesn’t work out. Let me know how it felt to experience something foreign!

 

Italy Blogging Roundtable

Italy Roundtable
This blog post is part of a series called The Italy Blogging Roundtable. Every month our group of Italy based writers takes on a new theme, and you can read the contributions for this month’s topic – Foreign – at the links below. We’d love to hear your thoughts and comments. Please share the stores if you’ve enjoyed them!

ArtTravRefugees in Tuscany: New Book Questions Preconceptions

At Home in TuscanyForeigners in Tuscany

Italy ExplainedThe 5 Letters of the Alphabet Banned by Mussolini

Girl in Florence50 Shades of “Foreign” in Florence, Italy

ItalofileFrom Foreign Language to Lingua Franca: Italian Immersion Programs in Italy

 

Ravello and Spring on the Amalfi Coast

Visiting the Amalfi Coast in the Spring

Ravello and Spring on the Amalfi Coast

What to See & Do on the Amalfi Coast in the Spring

The weather is warming up, birds are singing every morning when I open the window and the almond trees have started to blossom. That means la primavera has arrived on the Amalfi Coast! Everything is a bit brighter this time of year, and I love watching the trees and plants come to life. Spring brings with it the arrival of the tourist season and travelers from around the world start arriving. Those lucky early spring visitors are in for a treat, too! While it’s true that the weather can be a bit more unpredictable in March and April, the rainy weather usually passes quickly. So for those of you getting ready for your upcoming trip, here’s a look at some of my favorite reasons to visit the Amalfi Coast in the Spring!

 

See the Wisteria Blooming

Wisteria in Positano - Spring on the Amalfi Coast

Ahhh … nothing says spring on the Amalfi Coast more than draping vines of sweet scented wisteria! Since the early spring flowers like daffodils and tulips aren’t very common in this area, I look forward all winter to seeing the wisteria blooming. While you can see wisteria all up and down the coast, my two favorite spots on my annual wisteria pilgrimage are Positano and Ravello. In Positano, you can find the wisteria blooming from right down by the beach and along the main street up into town. See more photos of wisteria in Positano here. In Ravello, you won’t want to miss visiting the Villa Cimbrone, which has pergolas full of wisteria. It’s absolutely heavenly when they’re blooming! The wisteria usually blooms from the end of March to beginning of April, depending on the spring weather.

 

Enjoy the Crisp Colors on a Ferry Ride

Amalfi Ferry - Amalfi Coast in the Spring

Usually around Easter time (or earlier if April is late in the spring) the ferries start running on the Amalfi Coast. This is the best way to get around, especially between Amalfi and Positano. The colors in the spring are often crisper than later in the summer when it tends to be more humid. So it’s a great time to get out your camera and enjoy the views of this gorgeous coastline from the sea.

 

Go Hiking Among the Flowers

Capri Spring Hiking - Amalfi Coast in the Spring

March and April are both great months for hiking on the Amalfi Coast, especially if you aren’t too fond of the heat. The ginestra (yellow broom flowers you can see in the photo above on Capri) starts blooming around this time, and the yellow flowers create quite a punch of color against the blue background of the sea and sky. Enjoy a hike in the mountains around Amalfi or why not tackle the incredible Pathway of the Gods above Positano? Or, if you’re looking for an stunning view without the hike, take the funicular up to Monte Solaro on Capri for the beautiful view above.

 

Get the Beach (Almost) to Yourself!

April Beach in Amalfi - Spring on the Amalfi Coast

When the sun comes out so do all the beach lovers! While the water might be a bit chilly for some people (including me!) this time of year, it’s definitely not for many people. Even if I don’t venture in very far in the spring, I love this time of year at the beach since it’s so much less crowded than the summer. The water is also incredibly clear and oh so tempting!

 

Easter in Amalfi

Neapolitan Pastiera Amalfi Coast

This year Pasqua (Easter) falls on Sunday, April 16th, which is the unofficial start of the season on the Amalfi Coast. If you’re visiting the area for Easter this year, be sure to arrive in time for Good Friday, which is when you’ll be able to experience the incredibly moving religious processions that take place on that day. One of the most impressive on the coast is in Amalfi, where a large procession takes place after dark. The city shuts off the lights in the piazza and it’s lit only by candles. You can get a glimpse of the procession in this video from a few years back.

While on the Amalfi Coast during Easter, don’t miss the chance to try the traditional Neapolitan pastiera. It’s a tart made with ricotta cheese, cooked wheat, eggs and candied orange peels. You’ll find it at every bakery during the Easter season, but my two favorite spots in Amalfi are Pasticceria Pansa or Pasticceria Leone. If you’re planning a visit to the Amalfi Coast this spring, I hope it’s a sweet one!

 

Positano - One of the Most Romantic Spots on the Amalfi Coast

Top 10 Romantic Spots on the Amalfi Coast

Positano - One of the Most Romantic Spots on the Amalfi Coast

A Hopeless Romantic’s Insider Tips for the Most Romantic Spots on the Amalfi Coast

If there’s one thing I love, it’s a good romance. A book, a movie, a sappy card, and I’m hooked. I’m a romantic at heart, and that’s probably why I fell in love with the Amalfi Coast. It was one of those love at first sight stories. As the years pass, I’m ever more sure that it will be a love affair that lasts a lifetime. Every nook and cranny of this beautiful coastline could easily be called romantic. Yet as a lover of all things romance, I’m sharing some of my favorite and most romantic spots on the Amalfi Coast. These are the unforgettable vistas, charming towns and dreamy beaches that you won’t want to miss if you’re planning a romantic getaway on the Amalfi Coast. Please do share the spots that are the most romantic for you in the comments!

 

Amalfi

Romantic Spots on the Amalfi Coast Guide

Amalfi is the town that is closest to my heart on the Amalfi Coast. I’ve noticed that people tend to fall in love with one town more than all the rest, and Amalfi grabbed my heart from the moment I arrived. Just meandering through town, soaking up the sun on the beach or strolling along the waterfront at sunset can still make me weak at the knees. Yet there are a few spots that are some of my favorites on the Amalfi Coast.

For a romantic and secluded day at the beach, my first choice is always the (1) Santa Croce Beach. This small, rocky beach is just a short boat ride west of Amalfi, and the boat ride there is part of the fun. We take the complimentary boat service provided by Ristorante Da Teresa and then settle in for a day under the orange umbrellas, only taking a break from the sun and swimming to enjoy a fabulous lunch overlooking the sea.

If you love hiking and nature, then spend a day exploring the (2) Valle delle Ferriere above Amalfi. As you hike into the valley above town, you’ll pass ruins of old paper mills and follow a path along a crystal clear mountain stream. Don’t forget to pack a picnic to enjoy by the stream! Then keep hiking to the very top of the valley where you’ll find a tropical oasis of waterfalls, cascading water and a landscape that feels miles away from the sunny beaches.

Looking for a romantic spot to enjoy dinner in Amalfi? My favorite is the (3) Ristorante Marina Grande, which has a fabulous location overlooking Amalfi’s main beach. Family run and casually elegant, you’ll enjoy a creative take on local dishes with the finest ingredients. It’s an excellent choice if you’re just passing through Amalfi and want a wonderful lunch or are staying in town and planning a romantic evening out.

 

Atrani

Romantic Spots on the Amalfi Coast - Atrani

Just a short stroll away from Amalfi you’ll find the picturesque little town of (4) Atrani. And when I say “little” I really mean little. By size, Atrani is the smallest town in Italy. And with less than 1,000 inhabitants and slightly off the beaten path setting, it rarely feels as crowded during the summer as some of the other towns along the Amalfi Coast. Get lost in the maze of streets that inspired the labyrinthine artwork of M.C. Escher, enjoy a day at the beach or dine by the sea with the town as your backdrop. As far as romantic spots on the Amalfi Coast go, Atrani is one of the sweetest!

 

Positano

Romantic Spots in Positano

Positano exudes romance. Every time I visit there I feel like I’m on holiday, even though I live here! There’s just something especially romantic about it, which is why it is one of the most popular honeymoon and destination wedding spots on the Amalfi Coast. Positano often tops the list of romantic spots on the Amalfi Coast, and it’s one of my favorites, too. Just walking along the beach at sunset is enough to make most people swoon. If you’re planning a romantic getaway to Positano, wander away from the crowds on the main beach over to (5) Fornillo Beach, set in a pretty cove complete with watchtowers and plenty of sunbeds and umbrellas for a relaxing day at the beach.

For a romantic splurge, book a stay at the incredible (6) Le Sirenuse Hotel in Positano. Remember that romantic movie Only You with Marisa Tomei and Robert Downey Jr.? The pool scene was filmed at this hotel, and you’re just as likely to see a few famous faces around the pool today. If you’re just passing through Positano on a day trip, you can also enjoy the romantic setting at their Michelin-starred restaurant La Sponda or enjoy cocktails the stylish Franco’s Bar.

 

Ravello

Villa Cimbrone - Romantic Spots in Ravello

With sweeping views of the Amalfi coastline and a peaceful setting, romance and Ravello go hand in hand. For music lovers, this is the perfect location for a summer getaway on the Amalfi Coast. Plan a romantic evening out while enjoying a concert at the (7) Ravello Festival, complete with a breathtaking view of the Amalfi Coast as the backdrop. Every summer the Ravello Festival presents concerts from classical to jazz and contemporary performers from around the world, along with dance, theater and opera. A great choice for music and art lovers!

While in Ravello, don’t miss the chance to stroll through the gardens of (8) Villa Cimbrone. At the very end of the garden you’ll find the spectacular Terrace of Infinity. If you’re looking for an incredible spot to propose to your loved on the Amalfi Coast, this would be one of my top picks! Curious for more? Read more about Where to Propose on the Amalfi Coast.

If there’s one spot that gets romantic hearts dreaming, it’s the infinity pool at the (9) Hotel Caruso in Ravello. Every time I see a photo of it, I dream of spending leisurely days at that pool. Why not spoil your loved one with a dream getaway at one of the Amalfi Coast’s most romantic hotels?

 

Praiano – Marina di Praia

Romantic Beaches on the Amalfi Coast

While Praiano is a popular spot to stay on the Amalfi Coast, many people miss the charming (10) Marina di Praia beach. It’s one of my favorites on the Amalfi Coast! Tucked away in a little cove, the beach has an old world feel with its colorful boats, fishing nets and whitewashed church. You’ll find plenty of beachside restaurants to choose from as well as a walkway carved right into the mountainside. Perfect for a romantic evening stroll hand in hand!

 

I hope you have enjoyed this guide to romantic spots on the Amalfi Coast! I look forward to hearing about your favorite romantic places on the Amalfi Coast. Please do share them in the comments below!

 

 

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Finding Home on the Amalfi Coast

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When my mother first set foot in Amalfi’s main piazza and stood gazing up at the Duomo of Amalfi, something deep inside her said, “Home.” It was strong, clear and visceral. She didn’t tell me this story until many years later, long after I had moved to the Amalfi Coast.

My first experience with Amalfi, while not quite so succinct, was just as powerful. It was as a result of my mother’s immediate connection, since I tagged along on her subsequent trip to the Amalfi Coast. The emotions that flooded over me that first time I set foot in Amalfi were overwhelming. Later that day, in late February 2007, I found myself in the hotel room in Vietri sul Mare trying to make sense of it all in my journal. I wrote that when I stepped off the bus and looked up the mountainside at the colorful buildings and the watchtower above, that I had felt so intensely that this would be an important place in my life.

And now it is my home.

Have you experienced that before? That odd yet extremely familiar feeling of finding home in a place you’ve never been before? If you have, you know just what I mean.

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And if my mother and I both falling for Amalfi immediately at different times wasn’t enough, there’s more to this story. When I stepped off that bus in 2007 and knew instinctively that Amalfi would be an important place, I had no clue that my tour guide that day—now my husband—was born and raised in Amalfi. How’s that for destiny?

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Nearly ten years later, I still have moments when I marvel at this place I call home. Travelers come from around the world and fall in love with the Amalfi Coast. Perhaps with the pastel cascade that is Positano or with the dreamy views from Ravello. Or like me and my mother with Amalfi. There’s some reassuring about know that around the world there are countless kindred spirits who have been here—or simply dreamed of being here—and have felt that deep connection with the Amalfi Coast.

What can I say? When your heart says home, you have found your place.

 

Italy Blogging Roundtable

italy-blogging-roundtable
This blog post is part of a series called The Italy Blogging Roundtable. Every month our group of Italy based writers takes on a new theme, and you can read the contributions for this month’s topic – Home – at the links below. We’d love to hear your thoughts and comments. Please share the stores if you’ve enjoyed them!

Bleeding EspressoChristmas in Calabria: Home for the Holidays

BrigolanteThe Humble Art of the Nativity Crèche in Umbria

Italy ExplainedYou’ve Been Gone So Long (On Leaving Home & Finding Ancestral Roots)

Fountain Nativity Scenes in Amalfi

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The nativity scene has a long tradition in Italy. It was St. Francis of Assisi who has been credited with creating the very first presepe, or nativity, way back in the early 13th century. While nativities can take on a variety of shapes and sizes—from a scene created with miniature figures (like ours – it’s up high safe from our cats!) to elaborate living nativity scenes—it’s hard to deny that the most elaborate, creative and, yes let’s just say it, over the top come from the Naples area. That includes the Amalfi Coast! Here a presepe doesn’t just include Mary, Joseph, baby Jesus and host of usual figures like shepherds, wise men and perhaps a donkey and an ox. In the Neapolitan tradition, you’ve got to get the whole village involved. And usually in 18th century style. So that means you’ve got not just shepherds, but whole flocks of sheep. Plus, geese, mules, rabbits, ducks, chickens – the whole shebang. Of course, if you have a village, that village has to eat. So don’t forget the butcher, the baker, (probably a candlestick maker), the fishmonger, the restaurants and because we’re in Italy – the pizzeria. The village often includes houses, churches and, well, everything you can imagine needed to run a village. In the 18th century, that is. It’s a wonderful tradition, and I love how it involves ordinary people and everyday experiences into the holy events of the Christmas scene.

In Amalfi there are several large nativity scenes that are lovingly created each year. Two of them are located in and around fountains! Here’s a look at the two fountain nativity scenes in Amalfi this year. Don’t miss the video at the end!

 

De Cape ‘e Ciucci Fountain Presepe

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Located just off Amalfi’s main street in Piazza dello Spirito Santo is a fountain called De Cape ‘e Ciucci (pictured in the first photo at the top of this post). It was built in the 18th century and takes its colorful name from the donkeys (ciucci) that used to stop and drink there after carrying a heavy load down from the village of Pogerola high above Amalfi. Since 1974 it has been home to a presepe, which now you can see throughout the year since it usually isn’t taken down. This elaborate nativity scene is both above and below the water in the fountain, which is why in the nativity scene above you can see the central part of the scene scattered with coins.

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Above the water you’ll see the regular host of characters. I particularly like the pizzaiolo (pizza maker) reaching into the oven to pull out a pizza. And that woman at the Taberna got a mighty large tip!

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The sheep in this presepe are real mountain climbers. I don’t envy the shepherds who after look over that flock! Below water, there’s one extra character you’re not likely to see in most other nativity scenes. A goldfish!

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Largo Scario Presepe Fountain

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Just off the Amalfi Coast road as it goes through Amalfi is a pretty little square called Largo Scario, which is home to a fountain topped with a column and statue of the Madonna Immacolata. Usually, you’ll find the fountain full of turtles lounging around in the sunshine. For the Christmas season, the fountain is drained and the turtles transferred to a temporary and safe home. A presepe scene completely unique to Amalfi is then constructed in the fountain. This year the angels around the manger have the names of the new grandchildren in the family that creates the nativity scene – such a sweet personal touch!

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What makes this presepe so unique is that it is a representation of Amalfi. If you look close, the names of the shops and restaurants are all those in Amalfi!

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Among the shops you’ll see Pasticceria Leone, for instance, which is a great coffee shop and bakery on Amalfi’s main street.

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Look … there’s even a limoncello shop! How could you have a presepe in Amalfi without a limoncello shop?

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There’s also the Ristorante Marina Grande, which is located just across the street from where this fountain is located. There’s even a local painter and other characters representing Amalfi locals.

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Amalfi Nativity Scenes Video from Positano Daily Photo

 

Last weekend I met up with my friend Nicki from Positano Daily Photo and we strolled around Amalfi looking at the fountain nativity scenes. She had been creating a video of the different nativity scenes that you can see in Positano and Praiano, so it was perfect! I hope you’ll enjoy seeing her video of all the different nativities on the Amalfi Coast. You’ll even spot me toward the end of the video in Amalfi!