And so, back to the Amalfi Coast. D. and I arrived in Ravello on a cloudy day in mid-August, after a short drive through the mountains from Naples. We visited Ravello for the first time last year and fell in love with the place - compared to the glitz of the seaside towns below, Ravello, sitting high above the coast, has a magical atmosphere - refined, elegant and enchanting.
On Sunday we paid a visit to the Villa Cimbrone - a heavenly place - all long avenues, fragrant gardens and balconies fringed with marble busts.
We had lunch at the villa and I spent the afternoon by the pool, sketching.
On Monday we headed down the coast to Amalfi. We spent a couple of days not doing very much at all. We swam in the sea and read our books on the beach. How perfect are these neat rows of red and white parasols? We ate lunch a couple of times at the brilliant Lido Azzurro, which hangs over the water a few metres down from the beach. I had the same thing both times - anchovies and fried tomatoes from Sorrento, stuffed with cheese and simple, superb ravioli.
Vongole for lunch on another day.
I spent some time dreaming up ideas for my future beach club. A colour scheme of pale pink and bright yellow could work, perhaps?
We took a boat out on Wednesday. Our main priority was lunch at Da Adolfo, which is pretty much our favourite restaurant in the world. We didn't quite know what to do with our boat when nobody was around to help us at 10am - D. ended up swimming to shore in order to book a table. That's how seriously we take lunch! Mozzarella on lemon leaves, pasta with lobster, white wine and peaches...
Afterwards we hotfooted it over to Capri. We didn't park up this time, but winded our way through the Faraglioni - three towering rock formations - before heading back to the mainland.
Another end of the beach at Amalfi - I mean, I just love Italians.
It was my Birthday on Thursday. We started the day slowly with coffee in Amalfi's Piazza del Duomo, and by 10:30am we were on a ferry, bound for Capri. We spent a lazy afternoon on the island last year but this time around I wanted to do more exploring. We climbed the 900 ancient steps to Anacapri, with the Villa San Michele in our sights. The villa was built around the turn of the 20th century by the Swedish physician and author Axel Munthe. Between 1919 and 1920, Munthe was an unwilling landlord to the outrageous heiress and muse Luisa Casati, who took possession of the villa and furnished it according to her theatrical tastes. Artists, photographers and sculptors stood in line to interpret Casati, who paraded around with tame cheetahs, snakes and crocodiles. The view was worth those 900 steps.
The original of this mosaic floor in the villa's Dining Room is Pompeian and was covered by ashes when Vesuvius exploded in 79 A.D.
I found this book in the gift shop - have you ever seen a more perfect cover?
We spent the afternoon relaxing at Il Riccio - a heavenly beach club and restaurant, set on a dramatic cliff face with incredible views. A delicious Birthday meal followed (we even got to choose our own fish from the counter), and by this time we'd decided to spend the night on the island...
Another sketch - from the Villa Cimbrone, actually.
Sunset over Ischia.
We moved to our final hotel on Friday, even further down the Amalfi Coast and nestled into a charming little cove next door to Praiano. We lunched for a second time at Da Adolfo. The rest of the day was spent on the beach, recovering from Birthday excesses, and more swimming and sketching.
On Saturday we caught a water taxi a few bays over to Positano, full of excitement and expectation. It was Ferragosto, an Italian water festival, very special to the town of Positano because locals re-enact the salvaging of a Byzantine icon of the Madonna that was washed up on the beach there in 1117. We made our way through dozens of winding lanes before pitching up at Le Sirenuse for cocktails.
Le Sirenuse - I became quite envious of their side table collection.
More cocktails at another hotel... Afterwards we had a very good dinner (scallops, squid) and watched fireworks explode above the sea at midnight. We'd been fairly lucky with weather so far, give or take the odd storm, but on Saturday night the sky erupted - fireworks on one side, lightning striking the water on the other. It was magnificent!
Even more sketching.
On Sunday we headed back to Capri for two reasons. We'd planned to meet up with one of D.'s friends for a drink in the afternoon, and beforehand we were hoping to make a pilgrimage to the Villa Lysis, built by the eccentric French industrialist and poet Jacques d'Adelswärd-Fersen in 1905. The villa was a refuge for Fersen; he lived here in self-chosen exile from Paris after an alleged sex scandal. Architecturally, the house was built mainly in an Art Nouveau style with Neoclassical elements, a style which might be called 'Neoclassical decadent'. The villa was dedicated to the youth of love and the Latin inscription above the front steps reads AMORI ET DOLORI SACRVM (a shrine to love and sorrow). Obviously I adored the place.
Beautiful pale blue floors at the Villa Lysis.
Lunch. I love this restaurant (we went last year too) - everything is either pink or green and the waiters wear cummerbunds.
We caught a ferry from Capri to Sorrento in the early evening and afterwards had supper in the town. Over drinks we marvelled at how lovely the place was, with its incredible view of Vesuvius across the Gulf of Naples. Monday, sadly, was our last day on the coast. We had lunch with friends over from the UK at the Il San Pietro, one of our favourite hotels. Afterwards we took off, with heavy hearts, and visited Herculaneum on the way to the airport - quite a sight. By midnight we were at home and in bed, dreaming of our next adventure. Is Venice calling?