Nothing says Italia like a little 500 on the Amalfi Coast…
Nothing says Italia like a little 500 on the Amalfi Coast…
The iconic blue road signs along the Amalfi Coast…
From up and coming destinations to alternatives of big tourist spots, here are three ideas on where to summer in Italy…
Camogli (instead of Portofino) – With the popularity of Portofino down the road, and the drowning crush of people visiting Cinque Terre, the fishing town of Camogli is not only where the Italians go, it is quiet literally a breath of fresh air. It also offers a taste of the real Italy which seems to fading more and more wherever you go. You will actually hear Italian being spoken. Quaint little restaurants offer the daily catch brought in that day and for those in search of luxury accommodation the old world style of the Cenobio dei Dogi will offer views of the sea and a stay very much like the grand hotels along the Amalfi Coast. Should you still want to explore the rest of the crowd filled Italian Riviera at Santa Margherita and Portofino they are only a half hour away. With the assurance you get to leave the madness behind and return to truly relax in Camogli.
Palermo (instead of Rome) – Nothing is more on the cusp of the next big thing than Palermo. Its about time as this crossroad of many Mediterranean cultures is one of the most important historical cities yet has been ignored by modern travellers for too long. While it still needs to work on its luxury hotel game, the city is filled with landmark sights worthy of your bucket list. From Monreale to the Vucceria market the buzz is palpable. Plus there is a beach close by. All that along with great food and Sicilian tradition, Palermo is fantastico!
Fasano in Puglia (instead of the Amalfi Coast) – While I agree nothing beats the Amalfi Coast Puglia is quite spectacular as well. Puglia also boasts views of a blue sea for as far as the eye can see, and here there are white washed houses proving this is the land where Italy and Greece meet. Unspoiled beaches, great food and wine, restaurants by the sea are all enjoyed with laid back living. One of the Italy’s most luxurious hotels Borgo Egnazia is truly a magical oasis while the very photogenic (and Instagramable) Masseria Cimino is wonderfully stylish. Not to mention there are lovely towns and villages in the area to visit and explore.
I am by no means saying don’t go to the more popular places in Italy. But with mass tourism becoming more crushing, and the ‘tourist season’ having less defined dates so many people can get exhausting and change how you feel about your vacation. I just got back from Rome in Spring, a trip I was sure would be an easy bit of fun as I have been many times before so there was no pressure to see everything and I could just enjoy myself. However it seemed like all over town there was masses of kids on school trips, and still many tourists groups everywhere. Granted it was not as bad as in the Summer, but if it was that bad in the Spring how bad will it be by the Summer? I thought back to my Spring trip last year when I did a big journey around Sicily and how much I loved it. Crowds were less, the sights were places I hadn’t seen before, i felt like a traveller not a tourist. It was truly one of the best and most satisfying holidays I had ever taken. So definitely go to all our favourite places but when masses of people get too much, branch out and explore the other corners of Italy. Chances are that a few years down the line they will get popular too and you can say you went there before it got run over by tourists!
Great to use now or for your warm weather travel adventures…
Sisley White Ginger Leg Oil – A silky leg gel that invigorates the leg muscles while smoothing the skin. Smells divine of a light refreshing ginger that tingles a bit when first put on. Legs look radiant and even helps with soreness from walking all day long.
Nars WANTED eye shadow palette – The beauty of this makeup selection is not only the range of colours but of the finishes as well. A combination of silky, matte, and iridescent eye shadows in warm pinks and browns can create both dramatic and subtle looks. Great for travel as it gives you many options.
La Roche-Posay sunblock face mist – I discovered this last summer and it was not only a life saver but game changer when it came to sunscreen for my face. While I am always diligent about putting on sun protection in the morning I don’t always reapply as often as I should especially on days I am not on the beach but rather just walking around in the sun. Another problem is that many sun products are greasy. But this small spray can of face mist is a sunblock with SPF 50, easy to apply regularly and leaves your face free of the shine that goes along with most sun protection face products.
Tom Ford Neroli Portofino – In warm weather sometimes fragrance can come off too strong yet if you are like me you always want to smell nice. This is where a lighter version of a fragrance comes in handy as not only is it not as strong, it doesn’t contain alcohol that causes skin to burn. For a fresh yet sophisticates summer scent Tom Ford’s Neroli Portofino body mist is perfect.
Kiehl’s Butterstick tinted treatment – On the go beauty that adds a bit of colour to lips while providing SPF 25 protection and moisturizing treatment. One of Kiehl’s most popular products, if comes in 3 light shades and clear. My favourite is the Rose which is a juicy pink shade.
Dolce & Gabbana Passionate Eyes waterproof mascara – Even if you are not swimming or at the beach, warmer temperatures and humidity in the city causes eye make up to run, smudge and come off. Its a good idea to switch in a waterproof mascara on the hotter days and this one by Dolce & Gabbana is kind to lashes while making eyes stand out.
Nars The Multiple – This multi purpose make up stick has been a summer and travel staple of mine for too many years to count. In a variety of colours, this easy to carry, easy to use, cream stick can be applied to eyes, face, and lips with shimmery effect. The silvery Copacabana is the one I use the most, but peachy Portofino is my go to for summer. If you can’t decide on which shade, he iconic Orgasm is a popular favourite.
Wake up with the gods…
The mystical Valley of the Temples in southern Sicily once belonged to the Greek gods. Centuries old Greek temples still stand majestically in profile on a hill calling to the sea on the edge of the island. Not far from this ancient splendor lies a small luxury hotel fit for the goddess Athena.
Room with a view… and what a view!
The Villa Athena is an oasis of comfort right on the archeological park grounds. Obviously the draw is its ease and access to the temples, but its appeal as a hotel is its sumptuous accommodations of airy design with traditional Sicilian accents throughout. Even with upmarket accents of glass and marble you always feel like you are in Sicily.
The hotel Villa Athena
And that view… From the hotel you get the best panorama of the temples. It would be worth it to splurge a little and get the room with the view as it is an incredible vision like no other hotel. Even if your room isn’t privy to the scene, the outdoor terrace is a great place to admire it over a glass of prosecco.
The property has an outdoor pool, restaurant, bar and spa and makes for a wonderful place to kick back and relax, especially if you have been doing a lot of sightseeing along the way. Once you are ready to explore the archeological site, the hotel desk will give you a key pass to access the hotel’s private path to the park. A short walk through groves of olive trees takes you right to the foot of the temples to explore at your leisure.
Lobby at the Villa Athena and private hotel pathway to the archeological park
Back at the hotel the tranquil rooms are comfortable and equipped with luxury bathrooms and in room coffee makers. Airy white linens in a classic but contemporary setting with black and white neoclassical marble bathrooms complete with the hotel spa products make for a crisp richness. It is worth waking up early to watch the sun come up.
The high end restaurant offers a upmarket menu of regional Sicilian dishes with a sophisticated interpretation to pair with a wine list featuring some of the best wines of the island. In good weather cocktails and dinner are outdoors with that magnificent view of the temples. Here you do feel like one of the gods feasting in splendour, drinking wine and watching the mesmerizing colours of the sunset.
This small hotel was such an enjoyable stay I wish I could have stayed longer. One can really relax here and just enjoy the surroundings, very friendly service, and wonderful food and drink. And while one could leave here completely satisfied with just seeing the Valley of the Temples, there are other sights such as the Scali dei Turchi a wonderful natural wonder of pristine white natural “steps” by the sea or the nearby town of Agrigento. The hotel is very helpful in setting up excursions or dispense information on the region. But if all that seems like too much, just lounge by the pool, or sit on the terrace, look at the Temple of Concordia right in front all while sipping a refreshing elixir and just be a Greek god or goddess if only for a day…
Temple of Concordia
Extras: The hotel has a private entrance and path direct to the archeological park of the Valley of the Temples giving personal access to the site. Please note you cannot take any bags or purses with you to the archeological site. Cameras are of course allowed but you must carry the camera in hand.
Please note I paid for my own stay and my review is based on that stay.
Villa Athena Valle dei Templi, Agrigento
Whats on the radar for exciting places in Italy? Here are a few ideas…
As I write this my mood is one driven from emotional and physical exhaustion. I want to travel and itching to get out and go yet somehow I crave a much easier and more laid back kind of destination. Less tourists and fuss, but still charming and visually appealing. Places that have some authenticity in the era of mass travel yet not so off the beaten path that it will take a while to get there. This usually means going to places before they are on the radar and in the mainstream. Let’s face it, by the time a place is being written about in the New York Times as the “new” place to go to before everyone else does that destination is way past its prime. It is about the quiet hum rather than the loud roar so with that in mind here are my choices of travel inspiration…
Bologna Long overlooked by tourists, Italy’s university town is filled with history and most importantly great food. Its not known as the Stomach of Italy for nothing. Rich in culinary history both through its produce and its cuisine, Bologna makes for an alluring destination for that alone but thankfully it has a great deal to enjoy off the plate as well. With vaulted porticoes, medieval streets and bustling cafe life this is everyday living done right. Of course not to be missed are the markets many with their produce tumbling out into the medieval streets and the elaborate food shops showcasing their goods as if in a painting. Less tourists and more local living make it a true Italian experience.
Procida Often ignored because of the popularity of its glamorous neighbour, Capri, Procida possesses local, small town charm. Colourful houses cascade down the island like pastel marshmallows floating on the azure sea. Its fishing port and little boats are exactly how you imagine a small Italian sea village to be.
Catania Sicily’s other big city and far too often neglected by visitors as a great Sicilian destination. Perilously seated between the sea and imposing volcano Mount Etna it has stood defiantly in the wake of constant volcanic activity. While most people go through Catania on their way to more polished local spots such as Taormina, Catania like much of Sicily’s eastern towns offers grand architecture with decorative baroque polish and a traditional old world Sicilian market. Not as big or overwhelming as Palermo yet possessing true Sicilian spirit.
Ponza Along the west coast between Rome and Naples lies a small island offering laid back elegance. A secret summer getaway known by a few Romans and their friends, Ponza offers a quieter alternative to Capri a bit farther down the coast. It does not offer the glamorous lifestyle because it is not trying to. However that does not mean it is lacking of allure. Its refinement is in the low key, stylishly retro, casual with creature comforts of one staying at an Italian friend’s delightful beach house. If you really want to get away and sleep by the sea, this would be a great pick.
Sorrento Unfortunately many vacationers just drive through Sorrento on their way to more popular Amalfi Coast destinations, which is a shame since Sorrento possesses much to stop and look at. It has more of the energy you find on Capri than other of the towns on the Coast. And when Italians go to the Amalfi Coast they come here, much more going on and equally breathtaking views of the sea.
Matera Last chance to get there before the crowds and the mass tourist push that will come when Matera take on the honour of City of Culture in 2019. Matera is a unique part of Italy unlike any other. A town filled with an almost mythical soul with its Biblical feel in its Sassi cave living and honey coloured streets. Matera is really two parts with an elegant old town that looks over the the ancient Sassi town right below. Together but somehow separate, two different worlds in one town. An easy day trip from Puglia, however Matera really is a jewel lit up at night and merits an overnight stay at one of the Sassi hotels where you can live history.