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?

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How to Enjoy Summer on the Amalfi Coast

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August has arrived and with it the peak summer season on the Amalfi Coast. The beaches are crowded and colorful, the water is refreshing and the days perfect for heading to the beach. Whether you’re packing your bag for a summer holiday on the Amalfi Coast or simply dreaming of your next getaway, here’s a look at some of my favorite ways to enjoy this splendid time of year on the Amalfi Coast!

 

Grab A Beach Chair

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The beaches of the Amalfi Coast are justifiable famous for their dramatic shores and incredibly blue sea that changes in color from deep cobalt to brilliant turquoise and every shade in between. Yet there’s another thing you should know about the beaches before you arrive ready to relax – they are rocky. It’s better to come prepared, which definitely means packing a pair of flip flops (preferably a pair you don’t particularly love) or beach shoes. A lot of people wear them just to the edge of the water to protect their feet from the hot hot hot hot stones that are for some people (even locals!) uncomfortable to walk on.

So with all those rocky beaches, just throwing a towel down isn’t always very comfortable. The way around that is to rent a sunbed and umbrella for the day. It’s very much worth it! The local beaches all are well equipped to ensure a comfortable day at the beach. The other advantage of renting a sunbed from a stabilimento balneare is that it generally means you can take a shower and take advantage of the changing cabins as well. They area also usually attached to restaurants or have a beach bar where you can get sandwiches and drinks. Very handy!

Not sure where to go? Check out my guides to the Beaches of Amalfi and Beaches of Positano for some ideas!

 

Bring a Good Book

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Got a sunbed? Got an umbrella? Perfect! Now all that you need is a good book and you’re set. Why not make it a book set on the Amalfi Coast or nearby to really immerse yourself in the area? I made a list awhile back of great Summer Reads for Amalfi Coast Lovers. You can dip into that list for inspiration, but it does need a bit of updating. For instance, I just finished reading Only in Naples: Lessons in Food and Famiglia from my Italian Mother-in-Law by Katherine Wilson. And I didn’t want to put it down even to take a swim in the sea just steps away! Put it on your summer reading list if you love the Amalfi Coast, Naples, Campania, Italy … or all of the above. You won’t regret it!

 

Get Out on the Water

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(Image courtesy Exclusive Cruises)

A day (or two or three or four …) spent relaxing by the sea is a must while visiting the Amalfi Coast during the summer. Yet if you’re here this time of year there’s another way to enjoy the beauty of the Amalfi Coast – from the sea. One of the best ways to get around is to take the ferry on the Amalfi Coast, since you get to see the epic coastline and avoid all the traffic and crowded buses. However, if you have the time and love the sea, there’s no better way to see the Amalfi Coast than by getting out on a private boat.

With a small boat you can cruise along very close to the rocky cliffs, discover little coves and beaches only accessible by boat, go into stunning caves and grottoes and swim in the most incredible spots like around the Li Galli islands. All at your own pace! If this sounds like heaven, you’ll want to drop my friend Valeria at Exclusive Cruises a line. They know all the best spots and can help you plan an incredible day out on the sea on the Amalfi Coast or anywhere in the area!

 

Dining By the Sea

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If your normal idea of going out to eat means getting in your car and driving to a restaurant, then there’s something fun you can do on the Amalfi Coast. There are a lot of amazing restaurants near Amalfi, Positano, Conca dei Marini and other towns that are only reachable by boat (or sometimes a ton of steps). This is a fun way to get out on the water and dine right on the beach overlooking the sea. Most restaurants have complementary boat service from the largest town nearby. You might like to try Da Adolfo in Positano or Santa Croce in Amalfi – two of my favorites!

 

Don’t Miss White Wine with Peaches

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Perhaps you’re thinking that you can put peaches in your white wine at home, and that’s certainly true. But what you can’t quite capture is that delicious combination of Amalfi Coast Falanghina wine with ripe peaches mixed with the salty breeze from the beach and sound of waves tumbling onto a rocky shore. Heck I can’t even recreate it in my own home here! While you can find this heavenly concoction at many beachside restaurants, my favorite is at Ristorante Da Teresa at the Santa Croce beach just west of Amalfi.

 

Evenings Are Magic

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After the summer day tripping crowds reluctantly leave, something magical happens. I love the Amalfi Coast any time of the day, but during the summer when the days are long and hot there’s nothing quite like heading out in the evening. Sunset is particularly gorgeous from Praiano and Positano, but in Amalfi the evening hours are very special, too. The town turns pink, families bring their kids out to play along the the waterfront and the sea becomes an Impressionist painting of shimmering colors. Most of all, compared to the hustle and bustle of the day, there’s a peace that settles over the villages. These are the long, languid days of summer that we never want to end!

 

What do you do to enjoy the best of summer on the Amalfi Coast?

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)

Summer Reads for Amalfi Coast Lovers

Last Voyage of the Valentina by Santa Montefiore

The summer has arrived and with it comes some much needed beach time with a great book. I hope your summer brings you travels to a warm and sunny destination … perhaps even the Amalfi Coast! If you can’t make it to the Amalfi Coast this summer, I’ve put together a list of books set on or about the Amalfi Coast to inspire your summer travel dreams. These aren’t your guide books to tell you where to eat or park your sun umbrella. These are the books that make you dream of sailing off to explore the Amalfi Coast when you close your eyes. I’ve included some of my favorite novels, travel books and memoirs set here, along with some excellent works of non-fiction and some cookbooks if you’re feeling hungry for something Amalfi Coast inspired after all that reading!


Novels Set on the Amalfi Coast

My perfect beach read is a novel, one that captures the beauty of a place and weaves a story that you don’t want to leave behind when you finish. One of my favorite authors, Santa Montefiore, has set two of her books on a fictional town of Incantelleria – an enchanting place you won’t ever want to leave!

The House in Amalfi by Elizabeth Adler

Sailing to Capri by Elizabeth Adler

The Night Villa by Carol Goodman (Capri)

Stones of the Madonna by Jan Mazzoni (Positano)

Last Voyage of the Valentina by Santa Montefiore

The Italian Matchmaker by Santa Montefiore (sequel to Last Voyage of the Valentina)

The Deep Blue Sea for Beginners by Luanne Rice (Capri)

Brava, Valentine by Adriana Trigiani (Tuscany, New York City, Buenos Aires and the island Capri)


Travel Writing About the Amalfi Coast

If you’ve got the Amalfi Coast travel bug, you’ll enjoy following Chantal Kelly on her travels along the Amalfi Coast in Gelato Sisterhood on the Amalfi Shore. Here are a few other choices to enjoy, too!

Amalfi Blue: Lost & Found in the South of Italy by Lisa Fantino

Gelato Sisterhood on the Amalfi Shore by Chantal Kelly

Capri and No Longer Capri by Raffaele La Capria

My Amalfi Coast by Amanda Tabberer


Non-Fiction About the Amalfi Coast

Not a fiction fan or just curious to find out more about the history of the Amalfi Coast?

The Mystery of the Duchess of Malfi by Barbara Banks Amendola

Art and Patronage in the Medieval Mediterranean: Merchant Culture in the Region of Amalfi by Jill Caskey

Positano: La città verticale by Romolo Ercolino (I have the Italian, but it’s available in English as Positano: The Vertical City)


Amalfi Coast Cookbooks

How about a slice of Mamma Agata’s famous lemon cake while you’re reading? Here are some cookbooks that highlight the local cuisine in easy to follow recipes so you can enjoy the flavors of the Amalfi Coast at home.

The Lemon of the Amalfi Coast: Recipes History Art by Ezio Falcone and Maurizio Apicella

The Amalfi Coast: A Collection of Italian Recipes by Katie and Giancarlo Caldesi

Mamma Agata: Simple and Genuine by Chiara Lima

Amalfi Coast Recipes by Amanda Tabberer


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You may have noticed that I’ve included books set on Capri in this list, but not Naples, Ischia and other spots in Campania. I wanted to keep this list focused just on the Amalfi Coast, but I love Capri so much that I had to squeeze it in. If you’re interested in more books set in this beautiful part of Italy, check out this fuller list of Books Set in Campania that I put together for My Bella Vita. My summer read just arrived in the mail, and I look forward to diving in. When I spotted That Summer in Ischia by Penny Feeny online, I knew it was a must read. I’ll be sure to report back with a review when I’ve finished. Enjoy your summer reading!

Book Review | InterRail by Alessandro Gallenzi

Italy Book Reviews InterRail Alessandro Gallenzi
There is something inspiring in a train station. The coming, the going, the energy of the crowds or the sadness of an empty platform – everything adds to the air of possibility and adventure. And freedom, of course. It’s all three of these that entice Francesco, a university student living outside Rome, to buy a month long InterRail pass and set off to explore Europe. Based in part on the author Alessandro Gallenzi’s  adventures traveling around Europe by train, InterRail follows Francesco’s journey as he travels from Italy to Germany, Denmark, Sweden, to disaster in Amsterdam, sleeping on the streets and falling in love in London and the most unusual experiences in Paris before arriving back home in Italy again.

Although Francesco visits some of the most popular travel spots in Europe, InterRail is a novel more about the people you meet and experiences you have while traveling more than a travelogue about place. While Francesco criss-crosses Europe, it’s the chance encounters, new friends and strange acquaintances he meets that guide his travels and teach him the most.

The tagline on the cover of the book caught my attention before I even started the story: “A novel about the joy of being young and the infinite paths our lives can take.” Since I’m constitutionally incapable of simply jumping on a train and traveling across countries with little information and even less planning, I enjoyed traveling vicariously through Francesco’s mishaps and adventures. His openness to exploring some of those “infinite paths” that life spreads out before us was certainly an inspiration.

As an expat who was drawn to Italy for love, I know just how unexpected those paths in life can be. While my unexpected pathway didn’t happen while traveling by train, it certainly did happen while traveling. There are infinite paths that surround us every day, but when you travel they spread out to horizons you may have never imagined. Sometimes the only way to see that there really are an infinite number of directions life can take is to get out there, take a good look around and be brave enough to walk down a path when it feels right. It takes courage to pack up a bag like Francesco and set off with only an InterRail pass, a few changes of clothes, a map of Europe and a small amount of money – all of which he loses, except, of course, for his InterRail pass!

Whatever it takes, you’ve got to go. If you’re open to change and discovery, life’s adventures might just change the rest of your life. That’s the beauty of travel. The passion for travel and a sense of discovery is just one of the undercurrents in InterRail by Alessandro Gallenzi. If traveling is part of your life, or you simply enjoy a good armchair travel read, you’ll have fun following Francesco’s adventures in InterRail.

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Find out more and purchase InterRail by Alessandro Gallenzi on the Alma Books website.