A Few of my Favourite Things in Italy
by Allison Spiegel, PFI New York Office
When people ask me what my favourite thing about Italy is…. the song from The Sound of Music begins to play in my head. It is a nearly impossible question to answer because it is not just one thing or one place or one moment. It is the experience in its entirety that I love and that all-encompassing awakening of the senses that you feel the moment your plane lands on Italian soil.
Italy for me is experiential because my love for the country is made up of all the places I have been, the people I have met, the food I have eaten and the feelings I have when I am living in those moments. While it is hard to put into words, I will try to list my top ten:
1. Sinking my teeth into a fresh fig while eating breakfast in the hills of Tuscany and watching the goats being herded into the fields for their morning graze.
2. Visiting my favourite sandal maker on the Amalfi Coast who always greets me with a smile.
3. The look in my children’s eyes the first time they took a gondola ride or how it felt watching them run through vineyards in Tuscany or hold hands with their tour guide in Pompeii as they listened to his stories.
4. The feeling I get when I touch a surface or a building that has been there for a thousand years, and the reminder of how small I am, in the face of history and time, and all those who have come before me.
5. The sheer pleasure of a beautiful sunrise welcoming the day over the Bay of Naples, with the mighty Mount Vesuvius looming large in the distance.
6. The laughter that envelopes the air when my friend Enzo, the barista, makes me one of his special drinks at my favorite hotel on Ischia.
7. My sense of curiosity when I step into a new village wanting to learn all about its history, its place in the world and the people who live there.
8. The awe – and maybe a bit of jealousy – I feel when I watch cliff divers in Puglia take a plunge that I would never dream of taking.
9. The taste of olive oil on freshly baked bread, of church bells ringing in an early light, the smell of Jasmine in the air.
10. The people. I love the people of Italy who are always willing to share with me “their Italy.” From the owners of my beloved beach club on the Amalfi Coast who welcome us with open arms each year; to all of the tour guides who love to tell us everything they know about what we are seeing, and then some; to the leather craftsman in a tiny Tuscan hilltop village who crafted a custom leather belt for my husband right before my eyes… These are the people who give Italy a place in my heart.
And that is just the first ten things that come to mind…. There are most likely a hundred more but as the song goes, …. “These are a few of my favourite things.”
What are your favourite things to do in Italy? CONTACT US to let us know or to plan your Italian experience today.
The Flavian Roman Ancient Amphitheater located in Pozzuoli, Campania to the east of Naples, is the third largest in Italy seating up to 50,000 spectators. The gladiators fought here as they did in the Colosseum in Rome. Completed in the late 1st century of the Flavian dynasty.
In 305, the arena was the setting for the murder of seven Christians ordered by the Roman Emperor Docletian, including the patron of Pozzuoli, Saint Proculo, and the patron saint of Naples, Saint Genaro. Legend tells that, after a blessing from Genaro, the animals refused to eat their prey and bowed down before them. In the wake of this miracle, the martyrs were instead beheaded in the nearby volcano of Solfatara. The elliptical structure measures 147 x 117 meters (482 x 384 feet), with the arena floor measuring 72.22 x 42.33 meters (237 x 139 feet).
The Flavian Amphitheater is the second of two Roman amphitheaters built in Pozzuoli. The smaller and older amphitheater (Anfiteatro minore) has been almost totally destroyed by the construction of the Rome to Naples railway line. Only a dozen arches of this earlier work still exist. This lesser amphitheater measured 130 x 95 meters (427 x 312 feet).
The site of the structure was chosen at the nearby crossing of roads from Naples, Capua and Cumae. It was abandoned when it was partially buried by eruptions from the Solfatara volcano. During the Middle Ages, the marble used on the exterior was stripped, but the interior was left alone and is perfectly preserved. Excavations of the site were performed 1839 to 1845, 1880 to 1882, and finally in 1947.
Wine Lunch in the Vineyards of Mt. Vesuvius: After touring Pompeii, I always find myself ready for a nice, relaxing glass of wine! Maybe it’s because of all the pots we’ve just seen used to store the wine in ancient times, or maybe the tired feet!
Either way, there is no better way to rejuvenate the body and absorb what you’ve just seen than to treat yourself to lunch at a nearby winery.
Having witnessed the destruction caused by Mt. Vesuvius, it’s amazing to then experience the abundance of flavors produced by the same volcano.
Not far from the site, you find an enchanting winery that celebrates the volcanic soil from Vesuvius, and the ancient traditions of wine making.
The family will show you around, introduce you to their vines, and even to their new experiment using the ancient technique of aging in terracotta vats inside the ground.
As you learn about the vines and how they thrive here, notice the rose bushes planted on the end of each row. Your guide may explain to you that these are a sort of guardian of the vines.
Roses are fragile, so if something is attacking them, the wine makers then have a warning before it gets to the vines. Very clever!
After a brief and beautiful introduction, take your seat under a grapevine draped pergola and let the sound of the mandolin sooth your soul.
You are in Italy, there’s no forgetting it here!
Soon your majolica tile table is being covered in fresh mozzarella, pecorino, prosciutto, vegetables to make you forget you’ve ever had vegetables before, and of course the wines unique to this area.
This is: “Il Dolce Far Niente”, the sweetness of doing nothing.
It’s in moments like these where passion is born. O Sole Mio playing softly, sunlight dancing on the grapes and in the wine, a gentle, rose scented breeze to cool and calm, and the family inviting you in, laughing, smiling, sharing.
A taste of pure joy to remember forever.
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Passion for Italy Travel, USA
Treat yourself to a breathtaking journey from Naples to the Amalfi Coast with your own private driver!
Getting to the Amalfi Coast from Naples can be either the most stressful part, or the most enjoyable part of your vacation. To make sure it’s the best part, let us book you a wonderful, friendly driver and a few stops along the way.
Leaving from Naples, it takes about 30 minutes to reach Pompeii. With a private driver, you’ll be delivered right at the entrance and picked up outside the exit… and the best part? Your bags can remain safely in the car while you tour!
Pompeii is incredible, but can make for tired feet at the end! A refreshing lunch and wine tasting make the perfect follow up!
During the Pompeii tour, see how Vesuvius destroyed the city raining down terror over everyone there. However, the same volcano that destroyed the city also gives it great riches!
After seeing the dark side of the volcano, sample some of its gifts, the wines produced from grapes that thrive in this volcanic soil.
The most famous wine is the Lacryma Christi. As the legend goes, when Satan was cast out of Heaven, he grabbed a piece of it, which fell where Mt. Vesuvius now lies. Jesus cried in sorrow. His tears fell down the mountain, creating the vines that produce this wine. The vines produce grapes with incredible flavors because they were born from Christ’s Tears, Lacryma Christi.
Get to know this wine, and several others accompanied by excellent local food (again, more on this in a later blog). And then enjoy the rest of your journey down the coast with your driver.
A knowledgeable driver will be able to show you all the points of interest along the way, and even let you stop for some beautiful photographs of the iconic coastline and sea sparkling below.
It is an unforgettable day! But, my favourite thing about hiring a driver is not the convenience, or the information, or even the beauty, but the feeling that you’ve begun your day as a tourist, and ended it as a friend.
Take the opportunity to get to know your driver. Before you know it, in the same moment he’s telling you on your right is the Isle of Capri, and what he’s having for dinner with his wife and kids later that evening. You get a little glimpse of life there, today, and the people that make this place so special.
We’ve just returned. Our driver was Emilio. Along the way, we were exchanging family photos, chatting about what each of our families did for fun, and then he’d say, “Oh, over there you see Positano! Let’s stop for a photo!”
During a day like this, you learn about the history, the legends, the products, but a true passion for the place cannot come from that alone. It comes from the people who welcome you with open arms and offer you a taste of what it’s like not only to visit, but to belong.
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Passion for Italy Travel, USA
Private Guided Tour of Cuma Archaeological Park at Cuma, Campi Flegrei west of Naples in the province of Bacoli, is a huge archaeological park the site of the first Greek colony on mainland Italy (Sicily is older) thought to be around 800-1200 BC.
The site is away from the tourist crowds – a peaceful and isolated place to visit. A car or transfer from Napoli or Pozzuoli is recommended as public transport is limited.
For lovers of ancient history and archaeology this is a must visit. I highly recommend a guide to explain the vast ruins of the Greek, Etruscan and Roman villages as signs in English are limited.
Located on a hill next to the sea, the park has spectacular views over the sea and nearby island of Ischia. The atmosphere is magical and for some reason I just love this place – it is almost overwhelming with the sense of history and ancient myths which makes one want to study all the stories from Greek mythology. You will see the remains of the temples of Jupiter and Apollo.
It is a step back into the ancient past where the Greek and Roman mythologies take you into another world and when you step into Sibylla’s cave (Antro di Sibilla) built by the Romans – an amazing construction feat for its time – one descends into a long tunnel to be swept away by an ancient Priestess presiding over the Apollos oracle who told one’s fortune and wrote them on oak leaves.
The ancient Greek word – Sibylla means prophetess. She was mentioned in Virgil’s Aeneid VI and she was very much honoured by the Romans. Well – to build such a massive cave underground – she was worth it! If you are interested read more about the Sibyl from Cuma and the Roman mythologies surrounding her. They are indeed fascinating.
I like the fact that she was taken seriously by the Romans as in the middle ages those that could see the future were burned at the stake accused of being witches in the inquisition by the Catholic Church.
Open 9.00 am to an hour before sunset every day. Closed: Christmas day, 1 Jan, 1 May.