A gem in an authentic Italian mountain hamlet

“Italy is a dream that keeps returning for the rest of your life” – Anna Akhmatova

Choosing a favourite part of Italy is almost impossible

We’ve visited the northern lakes of Lombardy; the north-eastern glories of Venice; awesome Tuscany and Florence; the southern Amalfi Coast; the Italian Riviera; the Isle of Capri; the Emila-Romagna region of Northern Italy; ancient Rome and the Vatican City – to name just a few.

Each is a treasure in its own right.

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Courtyard view

However, one of our favourites is Tramonti, a collection of 13 hamlets scattered among the rugged hills above the Amalfi Coast.

These hamlets largely retain a traditional Italian way of life. Here you’ll find vineyards, chestnut woods, olive trees, grazing sheep and scented lemon groves, set in a stunning landscape just eight kilometers from the sea.

Tramonti’s communities offer a buffer from the crowded Amalfi Coast and a glimpse of rural life just a short distance from hectic tourist resorts.

Regional products like Limonchello, the area’s famous liqueur; home-made cheeses, jams and pastries and other specialty foods are still produced there.

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Church Paterno Sant’Arcangelo

In one of the hilltop hamlets, we were introduced to Casa Cavo 15, a 200-year-old olive farm.

Perched on a steep mountainside, this charming house – the word Casa means ‘at home’ in Italian – is an ideal way to immerse yourself in traditional atmosphere largely untouched by today’s mass tourism.

We love the authentic Italian experience – and now you can too.

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Traditional terraced Italian gardens

Casa Cavo 15 is located in Paterno Sant’Arcangelo, a quiet and unpretentious hamlet, where gardens stagger up the hillsides, bursting with vegetables and citrus trees.

Traditional in every sense of the word, Paterno Sant’Archangelo is like a step back in time, with a clutch of narrow streets, the scent of flowers and plants and terraced hillsides.

And all around is the breath-taking majesty of the Lattari Mountains.

There is a small grocery shop in the hamlet – and only seven kilometres away through the mountains is the coastal town of Maiori with its retail facilities.

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Authentic Italian lifestyle

Casa Cavo 15 has been renovated to provide you with today’s conveniences.

On the top floor, the house has two standard double bedrooms – one with air conditioning – and a third room where mattresses can be placed on the floor if needed.

The authentic Italian feel continues down the stone steps to the ground floor where there is a big dining kitchen with an old fireplace and a table capable of seating about 12 people.

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The kitchen

Modern facilities to allow self-sufficiency include a cooker, oven, kettle, dishwasher, crockery and cutlery, utensils, drying rack and washing machine.

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The library

We were able to can relax on the sofa and watch TV, browse the Internet on the free wifi or take in the panoramic mountain views from the cosy courtyard under its spreading lemon trees.

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Relaxing and rustic courtyard

This courtyard is a wonderful space; shady and comfortable with an awe-inspiring view over the hamlet, gardens and across the mountains.

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Stunning mountain view

Studio flat

As an added attraction, the top floor of Casa Cavo 15 can be configured to offer a self-contained studio flat, with its own entrance from the garden; a kitchenette; bathroom and incorporating one of the bedrooms.

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A double bed

Behind the house, there are sweeping terraced areas and walking trails where you can either explore or just relax beneath the trees.

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Second room with a double bed

Casa Cavo 15’s location in a traditional mountain hamlet with narrow streets means that only tiny vehicles can drive to the front door.

Most guests park on the ancient street and then walk about 50 metres – including a section of very steep stone steps. For this reason, there is no real disabled access.

Exploring the mountain hamlets and coastal resorts requires a car. For example, the nearest supermarket is on the coast at Maiori, where there are also restaurants, beaches, playgrounds and other shops.

Maiori has been a coastal resort since ancient Roman times and boasts the longest stretch of beach on the Amalfi Coast

The house is also about 50 kilometres from the city of Naples and its airport.

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Room with a view ….. but most have!

Annette, the delightful Danish owner of Casa Cavo 15, lives only about 30 minutes from the house and couldn’t have been more helpful.

With her guidance, we were able to feel part of the community when we attended celebrations to mark the Feast Day of the village patron, Saint Michael the Archangel.

Enjoying Italian life

And, judging by the comments of previous visitors in the Guest Book, we certainly weren’t the first to enjoy the Italian way of living; Annette’s friendly hospitality and crucial advice; and revel in the more traditional values and lifestyle of the mountain hamlets – while within easy reach of the Amalfi Coast.

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Grand entrance

Casa Cavo 15 is normally let for holidays during the summer months between May and November. The rent is 2,500 Danish kroner (about 335 Euros depending on exchange rates) a week, plus an 80 Euro cleaning fee.

Annette is prepared to talk to prospective tenants during other months, but even in such a beautiful part of the planet, winter tends to dampen spirits.

If you are interested, Annette can be contacted by email at casacavo@ohl.dk.

Tramonti

An encounter with a brazen lady

Naples: the skin tingles.

Description: chaotic but edgy and sensual.

Question: How could we have avoided her for so long?

Answer: In past visits, we’d stuck to the well-worn tourist trails leading to Italy’s Sorrentine peninsula, Capri and the Amalfi Coast.

Result: I was always curious about Napoli and its reputation for being exactly the opposite of elegant Florence, tendy Milan and stately Rome.

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My curiousity increased with tales of cruise ship tourists refusing to disembark there, apparently rattled by fears of pickpockets, mafia and drug wars.

This city had long intrigued me. It is often described as “beautiful chaos”. But, what exactly did that mean?

Sorrento and the Amalfi, I was told, were like the southern belles of Italy – alluring in their pastel colours and genteel manners. Naples flirted openly – suggestive and gritty.

Yet, intriguing or not, we never found our way to the city under Mount Vesuvius until Gert’s car GPS experienced problems on the way from the ruins of Herculaneum.

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Suddenly, we were tangled in the urban canyons of suburban Naples – and our senses were on overload.

Street drama

The area was the very epicentre of Neopolitan life played out on crowded and dilapidated streets, with just a hint of danger.  Sue gently pushed her handbag out of sight beneath her car seat.

It was in-your-face and overwhelmingly loud – a warren of narrow roads and lanes, confusing street signs, poverty, drying laundry, rubbish and graffiti.

Neopolitan men in sweaty singlets, trucks overladen with fresh fruit, kamikaze motorcyclists on footpaths; women in traffic-stopping tight shorts and heels, road signals that no one seemed to obey – all wrapped in the smells of coffee and pizza.

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The streets were a bewildering maze of traffic, charging heater skelter everywhere, without  the semblance of order or marked lanes.

We’ve survived the craziness of New York City taxis; the insanity of downtown Bankok; the wall-to-wall vehicles of Los Angeles; and the free-for-all that is Paris traffic, but we’d never seen anything like the streets of Naples.  This was a whole new league.

The streets were  a knock-down, winner-takes-all competition, where the first person to blink lost.

How, I wondered, could anyone be indifferent to this raucous streetscape. Surely, it was either appalling or captivating!

Either way, it was a remarkable experience and, unlike those cruise ship tourists, I was excited by the intense, heaving humanity around me – and keen to see more.

Later, we sat in a quiet hillside coffee shop where a shrine to the Madonna looked down on us from a roadside tree and the city spread out below – from the Bay of Naples to Vesuvius and the Lattari Mountains.

Admittedly, the cityscape was somewhat blurred by a soupy smog not uncommon in Naples.

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Young boys kicked a football on the concrete beside us and the rich sound of Italian voices provided a soundtrack that was somehow perfect.

We had been thoroughly enjoying the solitude and intoxicating traditions of the Lattari villages. These are our type of places.

However, the contrast of Naples and its gritty excitement also touched something inside us – possibly a yearning for a long-passed youth.

I made a mental note to return if possible – to ‘See Naples and Live”.

Note: the writer was flown to Europe by Scoot Airlines

 

 

Anti pickpocket products Naples

Pompeii: extraordinary and unforgettable

When visiting the ruins of Pompeii, our advice is to watch your step.

Pomeii’s excavated streets are narrow, with massive cobblestones waiting to trip the unwary.

But then, the city is thought to date back to at least the First Century – and the streets were made ruggedly to withstand heavy traffic from the nearby sea port.

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In places, the roadway is also astonishingly rutted with wheel tracks made by ancient carts and chariots.

However, if you are mobile enough to safely make your way around the excavations, a visit to Pompeii is unforgettable.

It’s quite sobering to wander among the ruins of a city utterly destroyed by a massive fire storm of molten rock and gases?

Pompeii and nearby Herculaneum were cities under the shadow of Mount Vesuvius, near modern-day Naples in the Campania region of Italy.

Already well established before the arrival of the ancient Romans, the area became prosperous in part because of its location around a seaport and on the fertile slopes of Vesuvius.

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However, something of a premonition of tragedy occurred in 62 AD, when an earthquake left large parts of Pompeii and neighbouring Herculaneum in ruins.

Reconstruction was still underway on August 24, in 74 AD, when all hell let loose.

The mountain unexpectedly awoke, submerging much of the surrounding countryside under a hurricane of ash and cinder.

The eruption was apparently so violent that the top of the mountain collapsed, sending deadly rivers of lava and mud down its sides.

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After the eruption, Pompeii remained buried under a layer of ash more than six metres deep.

This suffocated the city, but also protected evidence of life at the moment of the tragedy – evidence that came to light more than two centuries ago.

We entered the excavations through the Porta Marina or Sea Gate, which faces towards the sea. There are two stone arches at the gate, one apparently reserved for people and the other for animals.

In front of us unfolded the Forum Plaza, an open area from which narrow streets lead off in a grid-like pattern near the sites of the temple of Venus and Apollo.

From here we wandered past the area where the Basilica stood to signify the centre of the city’s economic life.

Many of the excavated pillars of these former substantial buildings are quite eye-catching and hint at the glory that once was Pompeii. So do the Forum and Central Baths and the many residential areas.

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As we toured the various sections of the ruins, from time to time, we came across plaster casts of victims of the volcanic eruption.

These remarkable casts were created by excavators who poured liquid plaster into the spaces left in the layer of ash by 1,100 human bodies, as well as trees, animals and wooden objects.

This ingenious method of excavation – which worked for just about everything organic that was imprisoned in the ash – apparently began in 1860 and continued into the 20th Century.

Our all-too-brief visit to Pompeii showed not only public buildings and breathtaking villas, but also humble town block with houses, shops, and the bits and pieces of everyday life at the time.

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The darkness that descended from Vesuvius may have snuffed out an era in Pompeii, but it also preserved a slice of Roman life for people to explore.

The buildings, art, artifacts, and bodies forever frozen offer a unique window on this ancient world.

Pompeii is close enough to Rome to be reached in a day trip. See details.

We wholeheartedly recommend a visit.

Pompeii

Magical Sorrento, Capri and the Amalfi Coast

Who could fail to fall in love with Italy’s Sorrentine Peninsula, Isle of Capri and Amalfi Coast.IMG_0533

I’ve never met anyone who could resist the charms of this stunning area, which is often described as the most beautiful coastline in the world.

Located in southern Italy, the peninsula separates the Gulf of Naples to the north from the Gulf of Salerno to the south.

The peninsula is named after its main town, Sorrento, which is located on the north coast.

On the southern side is the jaw-dropping Amalfi Coast, while the island of Capri sits off the western tip of the peninsula.IMG_0460

Serene Sorrento

Perched like a bird’s nest on a cliff overlooking the Mediterranean, this lovely town is a mixture of old and new, with elegant historical sections and a bustling shopping and cafe area around the Piazza Tasso.

Sorrento even has its own tangy liquor for toasting the area’s many wonders.

Limoncello, a smooth drop made from local lemons,  has long been a staple in this area, but in recent times, its popularity has spread throughout Italy and beyond.IMG_0463

And, to add to the romance of Sorrento, the Piazza Tasso is also a popular spot for travellers to start a horse and carriage tour of the town area.

Standing high on Sorrento’s cliffs and watching the sun’s rays sweep across the Mediterranean is an experience to be treasured.

There are also remarkable views across the Bay of Naples to Mount Vesuvius.

Captivating Capri

IMG_0494Sorrento’s busy port area is ideal for catching a ferry to the beautiful Isle of Capri.

And Capri is truly a glittering jewell in a crown of treasures. As well as exploring the sights of this magical isle, it’s certainly an experience to circle it by boat.

One of the highlights of this boat tour is the Faraglionj, three spurs of rock that rise out of the sea and include a central cavity big enough to pass through.

The various grottos around the island are also popular with tourists and, back on dry land, you can take a funicular railway to the old town; explore the picturesque village of Anacapri; or stroll past the many trendy boutiques.IMG_0526

Amalfi Coast and Positano

From Sorrento, you can also travel easily to the famous Amalfi Coast, with its amazing communities such as Positano, Amalfi and Ravello.

Positano, for example, is a stunning seaside community built into the side of a mountain. It offers breath-taking, picture-postcard scenery.

These communities are reached by travelling on renown Amalfi Drive, which provides some of the most astonishing coastal scenery in the world from its twisting, cliff-hugging route.IMG_0527

Like a ribbon twirling in the Italian breeze, the road gives breath-taking views down incredibly steep cliffs to the coast.

Pompeii

Heading north, the traveller can also visit the ruins of ancient Roman Pompeii, near modern day Naples.

Along with Herculaneum and many villas in the surrounding area, Pompeii was mostly destroyed and buried under four to six metres (13 to 20 ft) of ash and pumice in the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD.

The  thought of life locked in time has long attracted hordes of visitors keen to catch a glimpse of what remains  amid the ruins.

IMG_0547Getting there and accommodation

See how to get to Sorrento from Rome by bus, car or ferry.

Find accommodation at Positano and information about travelling around the town.

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