Tag Archives | beaches

Venice’s Elite Beaches No Longer Off Limits

Lido di VeneziaAs of today, the elite Lido di Venezia, the summer playground of the Lion City’s elite since the 1900s, will be open to all who wish to visit its shores. In what is being called a “mini-revolution,” Venice’s Mayor Giorgio Orsoni has signed an ordinance that requires that the exclusive, cabana-lined beaches of the Lido be open to the general public.

While regular beach-goers will not have access to the cabanas, which cost up to €9,000 per year to rent, the umbrella or towel service that comes courtesy of several luxury hotels here, or lifeguard service (you know, because some lives are worth more than others to save), they will have the right to bring their own towels, chairs, and umbrellas and set up on the Lido’s white sand shore. Proponents of the measure are naturally elated at the egalitarian overture this new law suggests. Of course, the elites, or “pass holders” as the Ansa news agency calls them, are unhappy that their yearly expenditures have not afforded them the exclusivity they paid for. Some of the headlines I saw while researching this story lamented that the elegant beaches of Thomas Mann’s “Death in Venice” are now being given over to pop culture.

What do you think about the new ordinance in Venice? Do you think you may try to visit the Lido as a non-pass holder on your next vacation to Venice? Please leave a comment below or let me know what you think by contacting me on Twitter @italofileblog.

Scenic Drive on the Amalfi Coast

Positano Amalfi Coast
Italy is full of scenic drives. There are the honey-colored sunsets of Tuscany, sepia-toned ruins of Ostia, and the snow-capped cityscapes of Torino. But if you want a ride with the bluest of blues then the only place to find yourself is along Campania’s La Costiera Amalfitana, The Amalfi Coast. This coastal road links Sorrento with Salerno and is dotted with candy-colored fishing ports and fortified ancient towers. There is so much to see on this magnificent stretch of road that your agenda should include several different itineraries because it is difficult to tackle it in just one day. So, rent a car and explore the road that is sure to take your breath away as you climb the hills out of Sorrento and head toward key stops along the way to Salerno.

Positano Amalfi Coast
1.    Positano – There is a lovely little lemonade stand just before reaching Positano.  It affords those postcard views you always see of this famous cliff-side town.  The rest stop itself caters to tour buses but ignore the masses and climb down the steps for some of the best photo ops you can imagine.  Parking is extremely difficult in the heart of Positano and after taking your great shots from the rest stop you would be much better off bypassing the center and heading further south.

Furore Room with a View Amalfi Coast
2.    Furore – is an ancient municipality highlighted by a beach at the bottom of a towering fjord, which then rises some 550 meters to the village of Agerola. Furore is at once majestic in its raw beauty with mountains that reach toward the sky and waves that crash along the fortified towers which dot the coastline. Furore itself is comprised of several smaller villages, one of which is the pretty port of Praiano.

Praiano San Gennaro Amalfi Coast
3.    Praiano – is an ancient fishing borgo. (OK, so all of these villages offer fishing but that’s just how it is when you’re a coastal community!) Again parking is difficult but a stop in Praiano is worth it if you can climb down to the piazza in front of the oft-photographed Church of San Gennaro.  Its dome rises before you as you come around the bend and is even more spectacular when viewed from a boat on the water.  You should also make your way down the steep and winding road which leads you to the beach. It may be small in size but is enormously full of charm and the warmth of the locals who greet everyone as old friends.

amalfi coast
4.    Amalfi –comes upon you as a pleasant surprise, as the road directs you to the port and the bustling area around the marina. It is hard to imagine that this tourist-filled area was once a major maritime powerhouse for over 400 years. A leading trading port in the Mediterranean between 839 and 1200, Amalfi has kept many of its ancient traditions alive in the 21st century and has been named as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  Parking here, as in most of the ancient Amalfi Coast villages, is difficult but is best found if you turn right at the central taxi stop and head toward the end of the pier. Then journey up the hill and absorb the view that awaits you in Amalfi’s central Piazza del Duomo. Your first glimpse of St. Andrew’s Cathedral is something not easily conveyed in words or photos.

La Costiera Amalfitana is more than just scenic drive in Italy.  It is a road of dreams and I have but barely scratched its surface.

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Lisa Fantino is an award-winning journalist-turned attorney and nearly fanatical vagabond.  Her passport is always at the ready and she is the Italy travel consultant behind Wanderlust Women Travel and the Italy destination wedding site Wanderlust Weddings; she also writes travel features for MNUI Travel Insurance.

Photos © Emilio Labrador, Lisa Fantino (1, 2), nenita_casuga, toastbrot81

Five Favorites: The Amalfi Coast

Amalfi Coast Santa Croce
With its rough coastline, deep blue ocean, and color-drenched markets and hillsides – think bougainvillea, oleander, lemons, and orange blossoms – the Amalfi Coast (Costiera Amalfitana in Italian) is one of the most sought-after seaside destinations in Italy. Similar to Liguria’s Cinque Terre, the Amalfi Coast, just south of Naples, is a series of cliff-side towns linked by culture and geography. Typically, the Amalfi Coast is listed as one entity. But if you’ve heard of any of its towns separately, most likely you will know of Ravello, Positano, and Amalfi. The nearest cities to the Costiera Amalfitana, Sorrento and Salerno, act as bookends to this luscious, Mediterranean zone.

The Amalfi Coast evokes so many gorgeous images for me, so I’m very excited to be able to share more information about this area in a new Five Favorites post by Laura Thayer. Laura runs the excellent Amalfi Coast-focused blog Ciao Amalfi!, which is a chronicle of her life in this wondrous little nook of the Italian peninsula. Her following five favorite reasons for loving the Amalfi Coast are personal but I think they hold some solid tips for anyone who wants to travel there.

View more Five Favorites posts here.

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Five Favorites: The Amalfi Coast

For most people it only takes one quick glance at a photograph of the rocky and dramatic shores of the Amalfi Coast to make it a dream destination. Life’s twists and turns—much like the serpentine roads that wind along the coastline—have brought me to a new life on the Amalfi Coast. It is a place of striking opposites, of both intense and surprisingly simple pleasures, that continue to impress me day by day. Here are five of my favorite experiences about life on the Amalfi Coast.

Amalfi Coast Santa Croce

The Brilliant Blue Sea
Don’t come to the Amalfi Coast expecting wide, sandy beaches. Instead, you’ll find pebbly beaches, rocky coves, and the brilliant blue sea. One of the best ways to see the Amalfi Coast is to rent a small boat and explore the tiny, out of the way beaches and grottoes. Find the most tempting spot – with water the color blue of your dreams – and dive in!

Duomo of Amalfi

Duomo of Amalfi
Many people are shocked when they first step foot into the main piazza of the small seaside town of Amalfi and encounter the Cathedral of Amalfi, called the Duomo. Golden mosaics glitter in the sunlight on this Neo-Byzantine revival façade dating from the late 19th century. Most days the steps are crowded with groups of tourists taking photos, local teenagers lounging about, and children trying to eat gelato faster than it melts in the warmth of the summer sun.

Wine Glass Amalfi Coast

Food & Wine
Living on the Amalfi Coast and learning how to shop and prepare the regional dishes has made food and cooking an integral part of my daily life. The simplicity of good food here has taught me a great deal about enjoying what is fresh and locally produced. Fish that was caught fresh that morning, wine grown and produced on the steep mountain terraces along the Amalfi Coast, cheeses made just up the road, and apricots from my neighbors gardens. When you visit the Amalfi Coast, don’t miss the chance to try some of the excellent wines produced on the small towns of Furore and Tramonti, or the renowned Fior di Latte mozzarella cheese made from cow’s milk in the mountain village of Agerola, or the limoncello (a lemon liqueur) made in most of the villages along the coastline.

Vietri sul Mare Ceramic Mural

Colorful Ceramics
Ceramics are a part of everyday life on the Amalfi Coast. In almost every town you’ll find shops full of colorful hand-painted ceramics. Inside many churches the floors are covered with beautiful ceramic tiles, and the bright majolica-tiled domes of the churches in Positano, Praiano, Cetara, and Vietri sul Mare shine in the sunlight over the towns. Head to Vietri sul Mare, where ceramic production dates back to the 15th century, to find the best shopping.

View of Atrani Hiking - Amalfi Coast Hiking

Hiking on Ancient Pathways
After a few days relaxing by the beach, grab a pair of good walking shoes and explore the mountains – the other side of the Amalfi Coast. Long before the road was built, the only option for getting around on land was to take the stone steps and pathways that still connect all of the towns and villages. Walking is one of the pleasures of my life here, far away from the summer crowds and deep into the sleepy daily life on the Amalfi Coast.

Laura Thayer Sorrento Headshot
Laura Thayer is an art historian and freelance writer living on the Amalfi Coast in Campania, Italy. She writes about travel for MNUI travel insurance and blogs about life on the Amalfi Coast at her own site Ciao Amalfi.

Photos © Laura Thayer, Ciao Amalfi!

Five Favorites: Beaches in Calabria

It seems that I’m not the only one thinking of lazing on a beach right about now. This week, Italofile has another guest blogger, Cherrye Moore, who writes the blog My Bella Vita and runs the Il Cedro B&B with her Calabrese husband. She has chosen to write about the Five Best Beaches in Calabria.

Five Favorites: Beaches in Calabria
If the idea of warm sand rubbing your toes and a fresh Mediterranean breeze blowing in the background makes you dream of warmer days, then it is time to start planning your summer vacation … in Calabria.  With more than 500 miles of coastline, wrapping around seaside villages and swooping cliffs, Calabria is packed with beaches in every shape, size, and color and choosing which ones to visit is tough. As a certifiable beach bum and Calabria connoisseur I’ve made the rounds. And here, in no particular order, are the five best beaches in Calabria.

praia-a-mare

Praia a Mare
Located on the northwest coast of Calabria just south of the Basilicata border, Praia a Mare’s two kilometer-long sand and pebble beach is among the best in the country, but even that’s not the main attraction. Jutting from beneath the shimmering blue waters just off of the shore is Isola di Dino. Once called “Rabbit Island,” Isola di Dino is four kilometers in perimeter and reaches 65 meters into the sky. There are no beaches on the island, so travelers spend the day exploring the island’s sea caves, most notably the Lion’s Grotto, where stalagmites jut from the limestone floor or the Blue Grotto, where lights magically glimmer from beneath the cave.

Diamante

Diamante
Continuing south along the Tyhrranian Coast, Diamante’s sparkling waters and glistening coastline beacon travelers to stop-and once they do, they are hooked. Although Diamante’s beach overflows with bright white sand, the real attraction is just off of the coast. Diamante is famous with foodies throughout Italy for its annual Peperoncini Festival where local vendors spice things up by creating dishes such as chili pepper shrimp, chili pepper chocolate, even chili pepper liquor. The 150 hand-painted murals in Diamante’s historical center have earned it the nickname, “The City of Art.”

Tropea2

Tropea
Tropea is by far the most touristy name in Calabrian beaches and with a strip of coast that is only 500 meters long and 30 meters wide, it is often brimming with beach-goers anxious to bask in the Mezzogiorno sun.  The sand is soft, the cliffs are steep and the water on the edge is a bright Easter egg turquoise-green that slowly fades into light green, then azure blue and finally sapphire. In peak season, the beach is packed with wooden bungalows selling sandwiches, gelato and drinks and there are a dozens of pizzerias, seafood restaurants and bars lining the beach front.

scilla

Scilla
This mystical village is plucked from Greek mythology and was one of the locations featured in The Odyssey.  According to Homer, a six-headed sea monster names Scylla slept on the shores of this town and attacked sailors as they attempted to pass the Straits of Messina. She eventually attacked Ulysses’ crew, capturing six of his men, but he escaped her grasp. Located just 22 kilometers north of Reggio Calabria on Calabria’s west coast, Scilla is still guarded by Ruffo Castle, the 11th Century fortress that sits on the cape that once overshadowed the slumbering Scylla. The soft-sand beach is one kilometer long and 60 meters wide and on a clear day offers easy views of nearby Sicily.

caminia

Caminia
Located on Calabria’s east coast near Catanzaro, Caminia is one in a string of beaches that make the Ionian Coast one of the most beautiful-and untouched-stretches of land in Italy. Caminia, along with neighboring Pietragrande and Copanello beaches, rival Calabria’s west coast beaches in terms of dramatic cliffs, panoramic views and warm, clean water, but are much less developed in terms of tourism and services. The main attraction at Caminia is the beach itself, which features fine, light tan sand, bright sun and relaxation.

cherrye mooreCherrye Moore is a freelance writer and southern Italy travel consultant who has lived in Calabria since 2006. She and her Calabrese husband own Il Cedro Bed and Breakfast in Catanzaro.

Cherrye’s blog My Bella Vita just re-launched with a brand new look. And to celebrate, she’s been doing a week of giveaways. Act quickly and you could win a weekend for two at her bed and breakfast! Head over to My Bella Vita now for details.

Photos © AA904462 , PhotolabXL, Cherrye Moore (Tropea and bio pic), lipeamie, Nico**

Three Best Travel Secrets

Coming up with three of my best travel secrets for Italy is no easy task. Alas, I’ve been tagged by Robin Locker at My Mélange to come up with my list, just as she has over at her blog. In fact, since I had difficulty paring down my favorites, I’ve come up with my non-Italy list over at my personal site Miss Adventures. Have a look at both of them!

Of course, it’s not fair to really call these “secrets,” as there are plenty of other people who have gone before me and recommended the same places. So, just consider these as my current favorites among a bucket-load of tips.

Three Best Travel Secrets for Italy

aventinohillrome

Aventino Hill, Rome
There are so many wonderful places to stay in Rome, but I really like the Aventine Hill which rises just beyond the Circus Maximus. This is one of the most peaceful corners of the city, mostly because it is slightly removed from the constant buzz of the city. And the views from up here are spectacular and even unique. If you are lucky enough to charm the policemen who guard the headquarters of the Knights of Malta, then you can have a glance through their peephole, through which you can see a perfectly framed St. Peter’s Basilica. Though it’s largely a residential area, there are hotels on the Aventine. I like Hotel Villa San Pio for its garden setting, richly decorated rooms, and the fact that its on Via Santa Melania. :-)

ravennamosaics

Ravenna
As a former capital of the Roman and Byzantine Empires, Ravenna is hardly unknown. Nevertheless, I rarely see it on must-visit lists for Italy. True, there’s so much to include that Ravenna is easy to bypass. But I think this little city in eastern Emilia-Romagna is one of Italy’s gems. Indeed, it is on the UNESCO World Heritage list for its incredible Byzantine-era mosaics, such as those decorating the walls and apse of Sant’Apollinare in Classe (above). In total, Ravenna has eight sites featuring spectacular mosaics. Ravenna is also a great place to get piadina, a special flatbread typical of Emilia-Romagna and very much like a Turkish gözleme. Grab one filled with cheese, spinach, or nutella (!) at a piadinerie and enjoy…yum!

argentario

Argentario Promontory, Tuscany
This is a place you probably won’t get a chance to go to unless you have a friend with a house here. The Promontorio dell’Argentario is a popular summer home spot for Romans and Tuscans. It has stretches of empty sand beaches, ideal currents for windsurfing, idyllic resorts at Porto Santo Stefano and Porto Ercole, and views of some of the islands of the Tuscan Archipelago. If you’ve followed this blog, you’ll know that I’m a sucker for ruins and the Argentario promontory has Roman ruins at Ansedonia, known in the Roman world as Cosa. I’m also quite fond of La Parrina, an agriturismo where you can overnight or simply stop by to pick up the farm’s own olive oil, wine, and super fresh provisions on your way to your beach home.

So, those are my “secrets” and I’m also supposed to tag a few other blog friends to see what they come up with.

South of Rome
Flip Florence
The Espresso Break
Bell’Avventura
Katie of Tripbase, who started this whole shebang

If you’ve come up with a list, by all means tag me so I can have a look at your tips, too!

Photos © Patrick Medved, Gregorio Parvus, Alberto Bizzini

The Pontines, Perhaps

Unlike Greece, Italy isn’t a land of islands. Sure, there’s Sicily, Capri, and the Tuscan Archipelago, which includes Elba. But there is also a small set of islands in the Tyrrhenian Sea between Rome and Naples that, according to Guy Dinmore of The Financial Times, “offer a safer and saner way to travel” for those who want a “sedate alternative to dashing around packed piazzas.”

In “Escape to ‘Alcatraz’,” Dinmore explores the Pontine Islands, which were once used as prison islands by the likes of Emperor Augustus and Mussolini. You can still take a tour of Santa Stefano, the main prison island, which is today uninhabited, or stay on Ventotene to visit its subterranean dwellings and Roman cisterns or go snorkeling. Dinmore also touches on Ponza, the most popular of the Pontines, and Ischia, which is not exactly a Pontine island but typically grouped with Capri and Procida.

Ponza, apparently, is having its day in the sun lately, as German In Style magazine included it among its round-up of party islands. In Style suggests the following Ponza haunts:

Need more convincing? Check out these spectacular photos from the Pontine Islands on Flickr.

Photo by RonnyBas

Renaissance Florence According to Rushdie

The Enchantress of Florence by Salman Rushdie

I was browsing a bookstore on the Upper East Side yesterday when I saw that one of the store employees had highlighted Salman Rushdie’s new work The Enchantress of Florence. Yes, the Nobel-prize winning author of Midnight’s Children and The Satanic Verses is now trying his hand at spinning a tale about Florence during the time of the Medici and combines this story with settings in India and the near East. Here’s a short clip from Michael Dirda’s review in The Washington Post (this review is also on Amazon.com):

Set during the 16th century, The Enchantress of Florence is altogether ramshackle as a novel — oddly structured, blithely mixing history and legend and distinctly minor compared to such masterworks as The Moor’s Last Sigh and Midnight’s Children — and it is really not a novel at all. It is a romance, and only a dry-hearted critic would dwell on the flaws in so delightful an homage to Renaissance magic and wonder.

In these languid, languorous pages, the Emperor Akbar the Great dreams his ideal mistress into existence, a Florentine orphan rises to become the military champion of Islam, and a black-eyed beauty casts a spell on every man who sees her. Other characters include Machiavelli and Botticelli, Amerigo Vespucci, Adm. Andrea Doria and Vlad the Impaler (a.k.a. Dracula), not to discount various Medicis and the principal members of the Mughal court of Sikri, India. The action itself covers half the known world: the seacoast of Africa, the Indian subcontinent, the battlefields of the Middle East, Renaissance Italy and the newly discovered New World.

Yet whatever the locale, The Enchantress of Florence is bathed throughout in Mediterranean sunlight and Oriental sensuousness. Its atmosphere derives from the Italian Renaissance epic, especially Ariosto’s magic-filled Orlando Furioso, and from such latter-day reveries of Eastern splendor as Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities (which features Marco Polo and Akbar’s grandfather Kublai Khan).

Here, then, is a gorgeous 16th century that never quite was, except in operas, masques and ballets.

Could this be the summer’s big beach read?

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