Book Review | The Amalfi Coast Up Close & Personal by Chantal Kelly

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The Amalfi Coast seduces everyone who sets eyes on it. It is a rare destination guaranteed to give you a rush – the giddy kind you get when you can’t believe you are standing there. From the sea to the hills, from Positano to Vietri, it is a spectacular subject to photograph.   – Chantal Kelly

 

The seductive beauty of the Amalfi Coast has mesmerized travelers (including me!) for centuries, drawing them back again and again to experience that unique rush that comes from being surrounded by such a spectacular, impossibly gorgeous natural setting. I’ve had the pleasure to meet many of those return visitors over the years, including writer Chantal Kelly, who some of you might remember from Gelato Sisterhood on the Amalfi Shore. Chantal has been traveling and escorting tours to the Amalfi Coast for years and has a deep love for this area.

Her latest book, The Amalfi Coast Up Close & Personal, is a photographic and narrative journey of Sorrento and the Amalfi Coast, with stops along the way in the most iconic locations. What makes this journey so captivating is how the story is woven into her photography to create a captivating portrait of the Amalfi Coast.

Throughout the book, Chantal narrates a journey along the Amalfi Coast, interspersed with travel experiences, stories from locals and fascinating historical details. You’ll feel like you’ve had a personal tour along the Amalfi Coast after reading the book! I enjoyed the conversational narrative style, and felt like I was sipping cappuccino in Amalfi, meandering through lemon groves in Minori and shopping for colorful ceramics in Vietri sul Mare with the author. She has a friendly way of drawing you into a story and sharing a depth of history all while adding a personal touch – the hallmarks of a good guide!

For those of you missing the flavors of the Amalfi Coast, the book ends with a recipe section so you can enjoy local dishes mentioned throughout the book at home. Start with the traditional melanzane alla parmigiana (eggplant parmesan), then try Ndunderi (ricotta dumplings – a classic dish from Minori) and complete the meal with a slice of torta al limone (lemon cake). Delizioso!

The beauty of the Amalfi Coast shines through, not just in the photographs but also Chantal’s way of capturing how that beauty reaches deep into your soul and lingers. If you love the Amalfi Coast or know someone who does, The Amalfi Coast Up Close & Personal will bring back fond memories – and inspire you to book your next trip!

 

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DISCLOSURE: I received a copy of this book as a gift from the author. (Inside you’ll find a few photos by yours truly!) The opinions expressed here are wholeheartedly my own.

NOTE: The links in the post are Amazon affiliate links, which means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will earn a small commission. You will not pay more when buying a product through my link. Thank you in advance for your support!

Book Review | Only in Naples by Katherine Wilson

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Given my passion for reading and great love of the Amalfi Coast, as soon as I saw the title of Katherine Wilson’s book Only in Naples: Lessons in Food and Famiglia from my Italian Mother-in-Law I knew it would be a book I would enjoy. And I certainly did! With Katherine’s engaging writing style and lighthearted yet perceptive look at her experiences in Italy, it was the perfect beach read this summer.

The book follows Katherine from her arrival in Naples as an intern at the U.S. Consulate in Naples to meeting her husband and being welcomed into his family. As the title suggests, there are many lessons along the way, and I enjoyed seeing how her relationship with her mother-in-law grew and developed over the years. Naples has always fascinated me, and I loved the glimpse behind the scenes of family life and the author’s impressions of the city over the years. She captured the spirit of Naples when she wrote, “I should have realized by then that in Italy, and particularly in Naples, anything is possible. Magic happens.” Some of that magic filters through her stories and fills the pages with that intoxicating blend of light, chaos and vibrancy that is Naples.

The “Lessons in Food” part of the title carries through the entire book, and will most certainly have you hungry along the way. Knowing that readers would be tempted the stories of her mother-in-law’s cooking, Katherine painstakingly documented some of her best recipes that she lovingly writes about in the book. So as soon as you’re done reading you’ll be ready to tie on your apron and get to work whipping up the dishes in your own kitchen!

While sometimes the Amalfi Coast feels very different from Naples, some of Katherine’s stories really resonated with my life here and had me laughing out loud. For those of you Amalfi Coast fans, there are even some stories about the author’s summer holidays in Positano.

If you love Italy, and especially the Naples area, put this book on your reading list. Food, family, Naples – what’s not to love?

Book Review | Italy Explained: Italian Trains by Jessica Spiegel

Italian Trains Jessica SpiegelIf you’re planning a trip to Italy and thinking of getting around by train, then I’ve got a book you’ll want to read. But first, I’m going to let you in on an embarrassing little travel secret.

The first time I took a train in Italy it was very nearly a disaster. Back in 2001, on my first trip to Italy, I wanted to take a day trip from Venice. I stumbled across a travel office and somehow purchased train tickets. The trip in the morning went well, but it was the return that was tricky.

It started with sudden hail storm that set an ominous tone and left me dashing through the train station and arriving at the Bologna station 1 minute before the last train to Venice departed. Run! I collapsed on the train and felt relieved until the ticket conductor came along and explained the wet ticket I was clutching in my hand was only a one way. I was never so relieved to get off a train in my life as I was late that night in Venice.

Let me tell you another secret. That’s not how train travel in Italy has to be. Keep in mind that I was 21, spoke no Italian and had never traveled abroad. But even if you’re an experienced traveler, navigating the train system in Italy can be tricky.

That’s where Jessica Spiegel’s new ebook Italy Explained: Italian Trains comes in so very handy. Think of it as your well traveled best friend telling you the ins and outs so you’re already a pro before you even set foot in a train station in Italy. With detailed information, useful images and an easy to read style, Italian Trains is an excellent resource for travelers new to taking the train in Italy who want vacation memories and stories to be about something other than train mishaps.

Even if you’re a newbie to train travel in general, you’ll feel confident taking the train in Italy after reading Jessica’s tips on everything from the difference between classes, how to tell when you need a reservation and ticket (they’re not the same!), different types of trains, reading the train schedule, booking tickets, how to choose a rail pass and what to do if a train strike happens while you’re in Italy. For those not sure on pronunciation or concerned about not knowing a binario from a biglietto, the last section of Italian Trains features a glossary of Italian train words. If you’re taking the train in Italy, download this book before you go!

For more Italy travel tips, visit Jessica’s website Italy Explained and get your copy of Italy Explained: Italian Trains here.

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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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)