A Summer Night at the Festival of La Maddalena in Atrani

Every summer on July 22nd, the small town of Atrani celebrates Santa Maria Maddalena, or La Maddalena, with an evening of festivities that includes a religious procession, band concerts and a wonderful fireworks display over the sea after dark. Last year I followed the procession of the statue of La Maddalena in Atrani, but took few pictures after dark of the celebrations and the fireworks. This year, armed with a new point and shoot Nikon I always carry with me, I was able to take some fun photos of the festivities to share. The sun has set and the marching band is already playing Puccini in Atrani’s crowded central piazza. Come along and enjoy this lively summer night in Atrani!

Festival of La Maddelena in Atrani 2011

Church of La Maddelana in Atrani with festival lights

Piazza of Atrani

Band concert and celebrations in Atrani's piazza

Ciao Amalfi Coast Blog Atrani La Maddalena 2011 Band

Band concert in Atrani for the Festival of La Maddalena

Ciao Amalfi Coast Blog Atrani La Maddalena 2011 Festival

Enjoying the concert in Atrani's main piazza

Ciao Amalfi Coast Blog Atrani La Maddalena 2011 Lights

Festival lights in Atrani for La Maddalena

Church of La Maddalena in Atrani

Stepping inside the nave of the church

Ciao Amalfi Coast Blog Atrani La Maddalena 2011 Statue

La Maddalena in Atrani

Ciao Amalfi Coast Blog Atrani La Maddalena 2011 Beach

Atrani's beautiful beach at night

As the hour for the fireworks display nears, the road through Atrani becomes crowded with people jostling for the best spot. The fireworks in Atrani never fail to impress, and it seems like they come up with something to surprise me each year. This year they launched fireworks from the beach that glowed a funny green under the sea, while others exploded directly out of the water casting a beautiful light across the sea!

The finale was a striking event, with fireworks shot off from the jetty and from a boat nearby. A bright and extravagent ending to  a beautiful summer evening in Atrani!

Book Review | The French Gardener by Santa Montefiore

The French Gardener by Santa MontefioreI’ve just finished reading a delicious book, with a story so good that it lingers in my thoughts and I don’t want to let it go. I picked up The French Gardener by Santa Montefiore on a whim in the Omaha airport last March, when my carry on was already loaded down with too many books. I had heard rave reviews of her writing style from my mother, and I reasoned there was always room to squeeze just one more book into my bag.

On another whim last weekend, I tossed the book into my beach bag before heading out to Positano. I’m so glad I did! Using the book to shield out the too hot sun, I was easily lost in the story from the captivating prologue that sets the scene for this romantic tale in the English countryside.

The story takes place in one very special garden, and moves back in forth in time to reveal how it changes the lives of two families, at first so strikingly different, but moved in many ways by the same need for love and family. Miranda and David Claybourne are the stereotypical city couple moving to the country for all the stereotypical reasons. As Miranda’s husband drifts apart with his busy work schedule in the city during the week, she finds herself discovering the beauty of her children and family life in the country. Intent and bringing the estate’s gardens back to their former glory, she is helped by one very charming French gardener who shows up mysteriously one day. As her own marriage falls apart, she is lost in the romantic story of Ava Lightly, the former owner of the house who had created the beautiful gardens … and left behind a scrapbook telling the story of her intense love affair many years before with that same enigmatic Frenchman tending her gardens.

You’ll have to pick it up for yourself to find out what happens next, as it’s too enjoyable a read to give away more details. I can easily say that this won’t be the last book that I read by Santa Montefiore, and next on my list is her book the Last Voyage of the Valentina that is set in part on the Amalfi Coast.

One of the aspects of Montefiore’s writing that struck me the most were her vivid characters. The talented Maeve Binchy wrote once about the importance of creating characters that are interesting to readers. She wrote, “We have to care enough about the people to follow them through to the last page.” (From The Maeve Binchy Writers’ Club.) I agree wholeheartedly. But, as someone who is constitutionally incapable of not finishing a book, I’d had to add one more thing. For me, good characters have to do more than just carry me to the end of the book. I’ve followed many a dull character to the end of a mediocre book, and then watched as they easily slipped away from my memory without any sadness.

Santa Montefiore has the gift as a writer to create characters I would want to get to know were they real. While I was reading The French Gardener, the characters popped up in my thoughts throughout the day, and I found myself wondering how they were doing and what they would do next. Now that is character driven plot, I realized! I didn’t wonder what would happen next, but instead I found myself emotionally connecting with them and worrying about what they would do next. I felt a sadness come over me when I turned the last page of the book, not ready yet to let go of the characters and their stories.

In addition to inspiring me to get out in the garden more, the wonderful characters and a beautiful love story that will linger in your memory are just two reasons I would recommend Santa Montefiore’s The French Gardener!

Photo Friday: Big Clouds

Big clouds over Maiori and Minori

Even from high in Ravello, it’s easy to spot that the beaches in Maiori and Minori are busy this time of the summer. I stopped the other day for a moment to watch the big clouds looming over the mountains, and I hoped they would get stuck there so as not to ruin the sunny afternoon for all the people enjoying the beach and the sea. Wishing you a weekend filled with sunshine!

The Broken Shoe

Bougainvillea and White Shoes

While I didn’t buy them for their practicality or durability, I do like these fun and inexpensive shoes. The steps on the Amalfi Coast can be tough on shoes, even if you take them carefully. Anyone have any ideas or tips on how I might fix this little problem on the right toe? Grazie!

Buon Ferragosto from the Amalfi Coast!

Ferragosto in Positano

Yesterday I took a quick hop over to Positano, which was filled with a festive air in preparation for the Ferragosto celebrations last night and today. As the bright balloons floated in the sea breeze, I looked up to see the colorful dome of the Church of Santa Maria Assunta, seeming to catch both the religious and secular side of the celebrations in once glance. As I sat on the beach, I could hear the marching band playing in the distance as the noon bells began to ring. Such a festive summer setting!

Buon ferragosto from the Amalfi Coast!