Ciao Bella! I’m in Italy, one of the most beautiful, historically profound, vibrant and interesting countries to visit in Europe. It also has very friendly locals, great food and wine, beautiful cities, stunning beaches, and a rustic countryside – what’s not to love about Italy!?!
First stop the capital Rome (Roma in Italian). Capital of the Roman Empire centuries ago, it’s known as the Eternal City as the ancient Romans believed that it would go on forever. Rolling over seven hills, this incredible city is where the ancient collides with the contemporary. I felt great stepping into a classy black Mercedes waiting for me at the airport – thanks to our excellent Italian partners who make sure all Sikeleli clients travel in style.
Romes’ ancient sites and cobble-stone streets
The spring weather was sunny and perfect for a walking tour of Rome’s ancient sites. This city is the ultimate history-rich destination from Roman emperor Julius Caesar to, a few centuries later, schools of Renaissance sculptures and artists working to decorate cathedrals for popes. With my good friend @Julesthemega, we threw a coin and made a wish at the Fontana di Trevi (Trevi Fountain), explored the ancient ruins of the Roman Forum, and imagined the crowds cheering as gladiators fought to the death at the Colosseum.
Among Roma’s ancient relics is a humming contemporary city, full of fabulous restaurants, fascinating shops, and fun bars and clubs. Street entertainers sing modern jazz as you wonder over the magnificent River Tiber on ornate antique bridges, marveling at this beautiful city. We had a delicious meal at Da Fortunato Parthenon, just a stone’s throw from the Pantheon, a pagan temple and one best preserved and most important buildings of ancient Rome. This restaurant was great, with passionate Italian hospitality – Ciao Bella! – and a long tradition of excellent food, yum! We danced till our feet hurt to a brilliant DJ at the Alcazar Live. This vibey club venue also has restaurant, a theatre and lots of live music shows.
Also, we’re in Italy – so wine! The wine was superb, I recommend trying a bottle of Brunello di Montalcino. Is there anything better than sitting in a café on a charming street in Rome sipping great red wine with your good friend – at lunchtime! I don’t think so 🙂 ! My final feast in Roma was at the Rome Cavalieri Waldorf Astoria with its mesmerizing panorama and 3-star Michelin dining – brunch done right, I’d say!
On a train to Naples & onto to Sorrento
Jules and I took at train to Naples (Napoli to the Italians) where a handsome and articulate driver told us all about the city. We were headed to Pompei. In 79AD, this thriving and sophisticated Roman city was totally destroyed and buried under ash and rock when Mount Vesuvius erupted. Archeologists have made incredible discoveries here, digging up the houses, ancient pottery and even remains of people who died entombed in larva. I was totally taken by the colorful, intricate frescos painted on the houses. This is something everyone must see. A good guide is essential to show you all the different interesting parts and explain how they made these discoveries. What a fascinating experience!
We moved further south to Sorrento, a stunning beach town on the Bay of Naples. It sits on top of steep cliffs, so you look down onto the ocean. The centre is the beautiful Piazza Tasso, lined with restaurants and cafés. I loved strolling along the promenade watching the sunset.
Boating to beautiful Capri!
We took a gorgeous mahogany speed boat to Capri. We floated right through the iconic faraglioni, the huge rocks rising out of the sea next to the island. It was too fabulous.. the turquoise water, yachts everywhere and the stunning island views. We felt like celebrities arriving at the island’s harbor. This island is pure paradise, the views, the ocean, the shops, the restaurants overlooking the water – my happy place *insert sigh here ;)*
On to Positano – another jewel on the Italian coast, just south of Napoli and Sorrento on the cliffs of the Amalfi coastline. Mosaics and limoncello everywhere! Words fail me when I try to describe the views, but Ill do my best!
The beauty of the sheer cliffs dropping down into the blue ocean and the colorful towns built on the slopes – it is just wow. Postcard = real life, honestly just breathtaking and charming beyond..
We had lunch at a charming restaurant on the water. As usual in Italy, the food and wine were great.
Jewels on the Italian coastline & interesting cities
Ravello is further south on the Amalfi coast, another beautiful village dominated by the Villa Rufolo that overlooks the Piazza Vescovado in the historical center of the town. This old Villa was built in the 13th century and appears in the classic 14th century Italian novel ‘Decameron’. In 1880 the German composer Richard Wagner stayed here. He was so impressed by the place that he stayed long enough to write the second act of Parsifal, an opera that he had been working on for over two decades.. (He died only three years later, so thank goodness he finished it) . Now centuries later they host the Wagner Festival here in honour of him. Quaint, charming, steeped in history, you can’t ask for more.
Moving north I headed to Florence – Firenze to the locals – the birthplace of the Renaissance and probably my favorite city on earth! On this trip I focused on visiting some of the famous Italian artisans and artists. Leather makers, stonework, sculptures and book restorers all housed in Renaissance buildings – just my favorite things! I saw some beautiful work done by talented artists using old family traditions passed down generation to generation. I was totally in love.
Mosaics, food, wine & more!
My excellent guide also took me to Studio Musivo Lastrucci, traditional mosaic makers. It’s like stepping back in time when you visit these master mosaic makers. They make ‘Florentine commesso’, a particular kind of mosaic, developed in the 16th century in Florence. I loved visiting their studio, full of mosaics, just near the Basilica di Santa Croce. An unforgettable experience.
I was definitely rediscovering my love for Italian food on this trip, and my waist knows it… One of the highlights was eating at Chef Marco Stabile’s 2-star Michelin, gourmet restaurant Ora d’Aria in central Firenze. The menu is a culinary delight, each heavenly bite was perfection. Tuscan cuisine paired with excellent wines, Tormaresca from Puglia and South Italy’s Kratos, followed by the most delicious strawberry dessert. I was also fortunate enough to meet the legend, Chef Marco Stabile in person. What a place to get fatter… and happier!
One morning I went on a vintage vespa tour through the Tuscan countryside… my vespa was turquoise and a little beast.. such fun to ride. We finished with a divine lunch overlooking this beautiful part of Italy. Heart = lost!
I just loved Firenze.. waking up in the shadow of the majestic Duomo, strolling along the Ponte Vecchio. My very last early-morning run along River Arno had me in tears… because it was time to leave. One of the few places in the world that has moved me so.. long may this continue.
Wow Italia, Be still my heart!
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