Over the span of many decades and over 100 countries visited, there are some moments that stick out. For us, our first visit to Amalfi was one of those. It was 25 years ago. We were on a cruise ship and had just tendered from our ship to Amalfi. It was…as is true of most of the Amalfi Coast…striking as one approached from the sea. But, it was when we docked and strolled across the coastal road into the town itself that the magic of the place struck us.
A beautiful cathedral, sidewalk cafes, and charming shops unfolded before us as we entered the town. Walking down the street we were drawn to a storefront advertising villa rentals. Could we? Should we?
And thus began a couple of decades of regular visits to Italy—Rome, Venice, Florence, the Piemonte, Lake Como, and more. Every region is distinct and each offers unique treasures, but the Amalfi Coast always beckons. The towns are impossibly beautiful and built on improbable mountainsides that tumble to the sea, with villas, cafes, and stylish shops lining the winding streets.
This time we located a villa in Positano, and brought along our son, daughter-in-law, and a good friend—Alex, Aly, and Alison, the three A’s. We worked closely with two of our regional partners, IC Bellagio and FORADAY, experts in all things Italian. As we have said before, when we plan our clients’ travel, we rely on industry partnerships in over 100 countries, where we collaborate with those companies with local knowledge and insider access. IC Bellagio, located in Lake Como, was founded by our good friend Andrea Grisdale and is, in our estimation, unrivaled in their ability to offer our clients exceptional experiences throughout Italy. FORADAY, founded by our friend Alessandro Mattera, specializes in the Amalfi Coast, Capri and Ischia. Comprised primarily of specialists in various fields of science, FORADAY offers our clients a deep dive (literally, should you prefer) into the ecology, art, and cultural beauty of this area of Italy.
The overall experience of working with these two companies afforded us a seamless, stress-free, and enriching visit. Without making this a play-by-play, we ate at fantastic restaurants; shopped for unique ceramics, olive oils, balsamic vinegar, and limoncello in places that might be missed by most; hiked the stunning Path of the Gods; and, overall, visited some of the most beautiful places imaginable. Each night we returned to our beautiful villa overlooking Positano. We cooked our own breakfasts, made a dinner or two, and had professional chefs come in one night for an unforgettable meal.
Interspersed among these adventures, we took a culinary tour of Sorrento, visited Pompeii, trekked to an agriturismo where we helped prepare a sumptuous meal (and met the goats), and toured local towns, including stunning Ravello.
Equally unforgettable—our “Wow!” experience was a cruise to Ischia and Capri aboard a stunning yacht, accompanied by our long-time friend Andrea Grisdale. We visited Alessandro, took a tour of Ischia aboard tiny APE three-wheelers, and met his staff for a truly home-cooked meal at the home of some local acquaintances.
Of course, trips like this are, at least for us, focused on discovering and evaluating experiences we can recommend for our clients. We were able to return to Positano’s revered hotel, Le Sirenuse, and can report that she remains one of the world’s finest hotels, with a level of luxury, service, and attention to detail that remains at the highest level. Dining al fresco at Le Sirenuse was, as one should expect, a wonderful experience, marked by exceptional service and food prepared to perfection.
Likewise, the tours we arranged through IC Bellagio were perfect in every way. Our guides—all local, certified experts—were uniformly excellent. The fellow who met us at Pompeii was not only an archaeologist, but, maybe more importantly, still giddy with enthusiasm over sharing his knowledge of the ancient city after decades of working as a guide. On a day when the crowds might have been a bit intimidating for the casual visitor, he maneuvered us to uncrowded areas of the city and shared details and insights that most visitors never experience.
Our guide along the Path of the Gods…again a local…shared not only her knowledge of the history of the ancient path, but also provided insight into her personal journey as lifelong resident. It bears mention that hiking this path, while a bit physically demanding, affords vistas and a connection to nature that one misses completely if they stick to the towns.
The agriturismo? A remote little slice of Heaven. We were greeted with a glass of wine, then took a brief tour of the farm, including the gardens, the pigs, and the goats. After the tour, we learned how to make pastas (including gnocchi), and enjoyed a sumptuous meal. It all ended in hilarity as the husband explained his first date with his wife, during which she struggled to cook him an egg. The poor guy could barely make it through the story, nearly doubled over with laughter. And now, of course, she’s a master of the kitchen.
That’s really the great reward for us. The beautiful scenery, the fine restaurants, and the lovely villas and hotels are all truly fantastic. But, it’s in the moments of genuine human connection that one experiences the joy of travel.
Ultimately, it had to come to an end. Leaving our villa, we left for Naples, where we enjoyed some of the best pizza on the planet in the place that invented pizza, and followed up with a visit to some extraordinary sites in Naples.
It was, for all of us, unforgettable…a time to unwind in one of the most beautiful places imaginable, tasting a wide range of the experiences of the type that we hope to craft for our clients. It was one of those magical times when everything was so perfect that we truly did not want to come home. Please enjoy a few photos from our visit.