I recently went on a press trip to the Amalfi and Cilento coasts that dovetailed with a long planned family trip to Ponza. Packing was challenge. Now I knew that the Amalfi Coast has stairs. A lot of stairs. And we that we were going to be moving around a lot. In Ponza, the charming house we rent requires a vigorous hike on a very narrow path to reach. I had to have a dress for a Michelin starred dinner, beach clothes, nature walk clothes and comfortable but chic travel to and from clothes. A few of my fellow travelers asked me how I did it, so I decided to share my secrets to how to pack for the Amalfi Coast here.
"I want an authentic Italian experience." I hear this a lot. I have talked about it before. But what does that really mean?
Here in my Roman neighborhood, I can debate the merits of obscure coves on the island of Ponza with my butcher, I know what time of year to greet my Bangladeshi fruttavendolo with Eid Mbarak, Forgot my wallet at my local bar? No problem, they know I will come back and settle up.
These are authentic experiences indeed, but ones that can only be had because I live here. Because I interact with the same people every day. But what about the visitor who is in Italy for a week or two, trying to make the most of a short time? Maybe they are jet lagged or traveling with small children. Does this make the fourth generation restaurant owner in Amalfi who serves dinner at 6pm inauthentic? Can I fault the bar in Positano for selling bagels? No. They are responding to market forces. The businesses in the towns along the Amalfi Coast have a few short months in which to earn a years worth of income.
So back to the question. What is an authentic experience? What is your responsibility as the visitor to the authentic experience, particularly in a place that relies heavily on tourism? I have been mulling these questions over and have a few thoughts.
I spend a fair amount of time on the Amalfi Coast, but am hesitant to call myself an expert. Sure, I can tell you the best way to get there, where to park and a few of my favorite places to eat, but ultimately I am a visitor too, doing many of the same touristy things everyone else is doing. If the "authentic experience" is what you are seeking it is up to you as the visitor to do a little research. Maybe stay in one of the smaller villages on the coast. Find out about the place you are visiting. Not things like what the historic sites are or where to buy the cutest sandals, that's easy. But things like what are the daily rhythms of a place. (Hint, the Italians are not eating dinner at 6:00pm.) Stop by the local markets and see what is for sale. Those are things you should see on your restaurant menu (the Italians are drinking beer with their pizza, not Chianti). Ask the parking attendant, the pharmacist, the barista where their favorite beach is. It is the simple everyday interactions that will deepen your understanding and experience. And if you feel like a bagel for breakfast or boat tour to Capri, you know what, that's ok too. Relax. It's your vacation after all.
There are 13 towns of the Amalfi Coast. On my most recent trip I was shown many of the smaller places that people miss. Each one Authentic.
Tina Sondergaard has been designing dresses for years. I had walked by her store on via Boschetto oh, about a thousand times. I loved the 1950's vibe of the designs with echoes of an Ossining era Betty Draper, yet somehow just a little more modern. But was intimidated. Would the dresses fit me?, would the designer be annoyed if they didn't? Ridiculous. My pal Elizabeth instructed me to get over myself and go buy a dress. As I always do when she gives me advice, I listened.
It is summer in Rome. My boy is home. The days are hot and lazy. Life here has a markedly slower pace for the next few months.
I have a few trips planned; Back to Capri where I plan on doing not very much; To the Amalfi and Cilento Coasts to visit national parks, ancient ruins, fish for anchovies and eat as much mozzarella as possible; A weekend in Ponza for the festival of San Silverio and a few art filled days in Venice.
I will not be posting here on my regular weekly Wednesday and Friday schedule, but a bit more sporadically. You can still follow along with me on my adventures over on Instagram. Meanwhile here are a few of my favorite summer things.
When we were down in Capri last month, Mark and I managed to squeeze a lot into a small amount of time. This is actually one of my best skills, learned from years of living far away from home and needing to pack in an entire years worth of food, friends and family into a 28 day home leave.
In about 36 hours we managed to have morning coffee with the lovely Holly at one of my favorite bars in Capri, eat pizza and carrots scapece at my favorite pizza place on the island, see a photography exhibit, shop a little, have a snack AND try out two new beach clubs for leisurely lunching and lounging. I told you all about Bagni Internazionale the other day. Today I will share the ins and outs of a day spent at the Lo Scoglio delle Sirene.
People say it all the time. Time Flies. The thing is about a lot of things people say is that it's true. Noah has finished his first year of college. Summer is here again and it is time for the Venice Biennale. Again. Where did two years go?