Saturday 31 August 2013

Adapting to Italian Summer Living (2)

Santa Maria spiaggia
In my earlier blog, Cilento Fairy Tales: Adapting to Italian Summer Living (1), I talked about how we keep Il Sogno cool during the summer months. Today I'm giving an insight into how we survive the busy summer months, especially August, when the Cilento is flooded with Napolitani.

Santa Maria, San Marco, Ogliastro Marina, Case del Conte & even Castellabate itself are all full of 'second homes' & holiday apartments. The 'second homers' will first visit at Easter and then sporadically at the weekends until the beginning of August, when
they come for at least 3 weeks, if not the whole month.
That is when the real craziness starts.

Our rules for surviving this craziness are:-

1. Stock up on bottled water before the end of July -
    whichever brand is on offer during August will fly out of the
    supermarket like there is no tomorrow & supplies will run low
    pretty quickly.

2. DO NOT even attempt to go to the beach; not only is it
    impossible to park unless you leave home at 8 am at the
    latest, playing sardines with overweight Napolitani
    who spend a lot of the day stuffing themselves with huge packets
    of crisps (even toddlers are given a whole packet to themselves)
    is not my idea of a fun day.

Beach umbrellas abound on Marina Piccola

3. Get to the supermarket before 10 am - after that it will be
    impossible to park in the car park & if you were foolhardy
    enough to even try, there is no guarantee that your car will
    not be damaged by the time you return to it. For most
    southern Italians, a car is merely a means of getting from
    A to B, is meant to run until it dies & the more dents &
    scratches it has, the better.

4. Adopt the Italian 'rules of the road': only ever let 3 cars pass
    when you are either waiting to pull out at a junction, waiting
    at a roundabout, entering the Autostrade from a slip road or
    entering traffic after a 'pitstop'. Even local drivers have a very
    'blinkered' approach as regards looking out for oncoming traffic
     - some often pull out from side roads without even slowing
    down. And the number of 'Sunday drivers' increases
    dramatically (I'm pretty sure many of them only drive twice a
    year - to come on holiday & to go home again a few weeks

5. Buy in lots of Magnum Minis for the freezer. We have to accept
    that getting into town for a gelato probably won't happen for
    most of August - again because of the parking issue. Those
    holidaymakers who were parking up at 8 am will still be parked
    at 9 pm or even later - the beachfront Lidos & town restaurants
    will be packed out most evenings.

6. Avoid going out between 6.30 pm & 7.30 pm - that's when the
    roads are busiest & the Polizia Comunale come out to direct the
    traffic at San Marco roundabout & merely help add to the chaos
    rather than keep the traffic flowing.

7. Stay up the mountain as much as possible; take 2 or 3 showers a
    day to combat the heat; relax on a sunlounger with a good book
    & end the day with a glass of wine or two.

Perfect way to end the day


Thursday 29 August 2013

Lunch at Caffe dell'Arte

The simply stunning Caffe dell'Arte

It started to rain almost as soon as we'd finished breakfast, so we set off for our walk armed with one of the Palazzo Avino's distinctive blue umbrellas, although the rain had stopped as we stepped into Via San Giovanni del Toro. As we approached Viale Richard Wagner we heard classical music being played, and the first rumbles of thunder - nature's music competing with man's. Beyond the Piazza Duomo we discovered a marching band was playing from the shelter of the tunnel along Via Giovanni Boccaccio, so we stopped to listen & watch for a while before they set off for the piazza & the few of us about at 10 am on a Sunday morning followed them to where they stopped directly in front of the Duomo. When they finished, we all applauded them before they dispersed and hubby & I set off to hunt for a ceramic bowl for me to bring home as a memento of this particular weekend.
'Live happilly'
Souvenir found, we sat in the piazza & had a coffee - illy, of course. I then stood in the doorway of the Duomo & enjoyed Mass for a while, before we set off down Via della Marra for a bit of 'window shopping' (which turned into 'real' shopping - hubby bought a pair of casual shoes). As we did so, the heavens opened, and I mean TRULY opened. We decided not to wait for it to stop but paddled our way back along the Via & up Viale Richard Wagner to the Palazzo Avino to dry out, pack & think about having lunch - last meal at the hotel before leaving for home. And oh, what a perfect lunch we had......

Il Salmone
Firstly, as there was a storm raging, lunch was being served in Caffe dell'Arte, rather than on the Terrazza Belvedere. So no fantastic view to look at while we ate, but how elegant the decor we sat in as we dined. And the lunch itself? Hubby & I both chose Il Salmone for starters - marinated with salt, sugar & citrus, served with vegetable oil dip, exotic fruit, champagne vinegar & oil scented with vanilla. For our mains, I chose Le Penne con Pomodoro, Basilico e Olio Extravergine & hubby chose Pesce dalla Griglia, accompagnato da verdure grigliate e Salsa Mediterranea. Presentation was a delight & the flavours of such simple ingredients once again exploded on our tongues.
La Spada dalla Griglia

Accompanied by a bottle of acqua frizzante and a glass of Marisa Cuomo Costa d'Amalfi 2012
once again, we certainly ended our stay in Ravello with yet another memorable meal.
Le Penne

Tuesday 27 August 2013

August 2007 in Ravello II

Pic courtesy Hotel Caruso website
Apart from the awesome champagne & caviar breakfast we had on our terrace at the Hotel Caruso (see my August 2007 in Ravello I blog)  Cilento Fairy Tales: August 2007 in Ravello I
and the 'mouthgasmic' meal we had that night at Rossellinis (the menu appears to have been lost in the move to Il Sogno, all I can remember is the Dolce Grande which, basically, was a chocoholic's fantasy come true), my abiding memory will be of swimming in the Hotel Caruso's infinity pool - it really IS breathtaking in the extreme.

Normally I hate swimming in hotel pools - I much prefer 'God's Big Pond' - but at 300m above sea level and with a view along the Amalfi coast & across the Gulf of Salerno, swimming in the Caruso's pool is one of those 'Bucket List' moments. The pool staff, Iolanda, Vito & Marco, were attentive to our every need - from bringing our drinks orders, fresh fruit & facial spritzers throughout the day, to re-positioning our sunloungers to follow the path of the sun.

I set myself a goal of swimming 50 lengths of the pool each day - one for each year of my age (I'd reached the 'milestone' back in July). But this soon turned into 50 lengths each time I went in the
pool, simply because swimming it was really one of the most awesome experiences ever. And at the end of each swim, I'd float at the infinity edge, drinking in the view & feeling like I truly was in heaven.

Our last day at the Hotel Caruso

Monday 26 August 2013

Rossellinis - Food To Die For

When you arrive in Ravello you truly think that you have died & gone to heaven.
When you eat at Rossellinis you KNOW that you have died & gone to heaven.
And so, on Saturday 24th August, hubby & I 'died & went to 
heaven' for the fourth time in 6 years......

Waking up in Ravello on our Wedding Anniversary is something 
we've now done on 3 occasions, and eating at Rossellinis 
is how we celebrated our Silver Anniversary in 2007.
The ambience is wonderful, the views are amazing & the food
really is 'to die for'.

As soon as we stepped from the bar to the restaurant, we knew we
were going to have a great evening - the Maitre d' on duty  
recognised us from our visits in 2007 & '08 and so we
received exceptional service from the moment we were shown 
to our table.
Menus to hand, I promptly decided I wanted to order 4 starters
- all mouthwatering & L'Astice Reale was locally caught, but
hubby was ordering that, so I settled for La Conchiglia Saint Jacques.

La Conchiglia Saint Jacques
L'Astice Reale

The decision as to what to order for my main was much easier - there was a dish with Red Shrimp, so
it was 'no contest'. Hubby settled on Suckling Pig & the Sommelier duly recommended a Marisa Cuomo Costa D'Amalfi Rosato 2012 to complement my dishes (hubby's teetotal - I have learnt to ignore the looks of disapproval).
Marisa Cuomo Costa D'Amalfi
Il Maialino da Latte

Of course, eating 2 Michelin starred food means lots of tasting of each other's dishes - hubby's Astice was just mouthwatering & he agreed that
my Conchiglie were of 'melt in the mouth' standard. Morsels of main courses were also exchanged, but no way would I have swapped my Veal & Red Shrimp for anything else on the menu.
La Guancia di Vitello e Il Gambero Rosso

Then came the REALLY important part of the evening - choosing 
dessert. If the Italians do one thing  exquisitely - besides gelato, 
that is - it's 'il dolce'. Hubby soon chose 'Dolce e esotico' - 
Coconut Cake with Mango & Papaya heart, covered in Poached Chocolate Mousse, Mojito Foam with Coconut and Fruit Salad with Extra Virgin Olive Oil Ice cream. After great deliberation, I 
finally settled on La mia Crostatina al Contrario - 
Almond & Lemon Crumble, Lemon Chiboust, Smoked Lemon Meringue, Milk & Lemon Ice Cream, Lemon Flavoured Biscuit & Iced Mint - it was pure
La mia Crostatina al Contrario
Dolce e esotico
          perfection in a sexy black dish!

Saturday 24 August 2013

August 2007 in Ravello I

'La Passione' - theme of Ravello Festival 2007
"The enchanted garden of Klingsor has been found" - Richard Wagner Spring 1880

We first arrived in Ravello on the evening of Friday 24th August 2007. The next day we would be celebrating our Silver Wedding Anniversary in style at the stunning Hotel Caruso

Dusk was falling quickly as we checked in and by the time we'd had a 'mini guided tour' of the hotel, it was dark when we were finally shown to Suite 34. The suite itself was beautiful - HUGE bathroom with the biggest shower I've ever seen, marble double wash basins, Bulgari toiletries; huge walk-in wardrobe; queensize bed with a 'rise & fall' TV at the end; sofa, comfy chairs, coffee table, dining table & chairs, dresser, writing desk & chair; full width patio doors with the exquisite curtains drawn against the dark.....and then the curtains were pulled back for us and I was totally blown away by what lay beyond. We had a terrace with a dining table, our own garden edged with with rose bushes, 2 sunloungers on the lawns & a patio with a coffee table, chairs & parasol. And the nighttime view was just awesome - looking across the Gulf of Salerno, we could see lights for miles. It was so perfect, I burst into tears.

A garden with a view
We set to unpacking & then decided to order a champagne breakfast for the following morning - to be served on our terrace in the glorious August sunshine. The lovely Marianna came to take our order & there was a fair amount of laughter as we decided just how much to order for our €75 a head brekkie - lots, as turned out to be the case the next morning.
Champagne, smoked salmon & caviar - mouthgasmic!

Me being me, I was awake early on the morning of the 25th, but for once I just lay in bed, savouring the feel of the crisp 100% linen sheets & watching hubby slowly wake from his slumbers. Anniversary cards were opened - as were the curtains to that beautiful garden & the awesome view beyond. And at 8.30 am breakfast arrived - it took 3 staff to bring it to the suite!
Buon anniversario!
Breakfast laid out, the staff left us to enjoy; hubby poured me a Buck's Fizz and then we both discovered a liking for caviar - we'd never even tried it before & now we had 3 different types sitting before us, and we loved them all! This breakfast is the most memorable one we've ever shared - I've relived it in my head every anniversary since - and tomorrow we will be celebrating in similar style, albeit this time at Palazzo Avino

Friday 23 August 2013

Yes, I Write Poetry Too

For those of you who may not visit any of my other pages apart from my blog posts, here's the first poem I've added to my 'Words' page.

Inspired by unexpected love, it's simply entitled 'You':-


You came, you saw, you conquered,
Seduced my intrigued mind
Our souls they knew each other
And would not be denied

You came, you saw, you conquered
This heart that sought not love
Our eyes searched for each other, 
Our hands, they yearned to touch

You came, you saw, you conquered,
Whispered 'til early dawn
Our lips they found each other
In the stillness of the morn

You came, you saw, you conquered
My body and my soul
Our hearts beat for each other
Together we are whole

© Alison Jackson 2013

Monday 19 August 2013

The Brit Pack

Pic courtesy of @BritInItaly
In my previous blog,'The Tweep Meet', I confessed my addiction to Twitter. One of the things I've missed since we made the move to Italy is the daily office banter & my Thursdays off, when I would do the supermarket shop in the morning & spend the afternoon catching up with one of my girlfriends. Here in the Cilento it is very difficult to make 'real friends' - everyone wants to be your friend up to a certain point (mostly for 'bragging rights' methinks), but the friendship never develops into that comfortable one where you know you could go knock on the door if you were feeling down & needed to pour your heart out to someone other than your OH. Hubby & I have been 'adopted' by the Russo family, who live in Ogliastro Marina, and we spent Christmas & New Year with them, as well as celebrating family birthdays but we rarely see them on a daily basis. They are a wonderful family & we love them all dearly, but there's still that something missing & that's where Twitter came in.

So now I have a huge circle of internet friends and my 'inner circle' who mean the world to me & within that 'inner circle' I also have the tweeps who have become known affectionately as 'The Brit Pack' - a group of Expats who have all made the move to Italy & have gelled in that wonderful way that internet friendships can. We say 'hi' on Twitter every morning, most of us blog & we all share ideas, problems & experiences and have become a 'virtual' support network for each other. So I guess I best make the introductions:-

Firstly there's Amy, @BritInItaly, the gorgeous girlie we got to meet on Saturday. She lives near Foggia in Puglia & teaches English.Her blogs have been the building blocks of our friendship. Blog:

Then there's Claire, @runbritchickrun, the 'yummy mummy-to-be' who lives in Roma. Currently blogging about impending motherhood, Claire has seriously missed her running during her pregnancy.


Then we move to Milano, where we have 2 tweeps: Nerys, @welshieinitaly, & Andy, @andyinmilan, who both blog: and

Nerys hunts out Italian classics for Sunday listening & also teaches us a new word each week and Andy...well Andy is a great guy, lives with his OH, F, and paints a picture of life in Italy from a male perspective.

Then we move back to Roma, to the 'newbie', Yasmin, aka @PPSortida. She's a teacher who moved out here in February. She doesn't blog (as far as I'm aware) - think she's been too busy settling into her new life.
And finally we have Andria, @ExpatToscana, who lives on the outskirts of Firenze, along with a house bunny, a rescue dog & her BF and is a teacher, an Italophile & majors in all things Tuscan - a true lover of 'Chiantishire'.

So there we are, introductions made - these are the members of 'The Brit Pack'. Now go read their blogs, follow them on Twitter & find out more about them.

All pics of 'The Brit Pack' are their Twitter avi's, which they kindly agreed I could 'lift' for this blog post.

Sunday 18 August 2013

The Tweep Meet

Hi, my name is Alison & I am a Twitterholic. I opened a twitter account in September 2012 and I have already tweeted over 48000 tweets. Hubby thinks I have a huge problem - I just think I have a huge circle of friends. A global circle of friends, stretching from New Zealand & Australia, through Macau & India, Europe & to the USA & Canada. I currently follow 362 'tweeps' but some of those are celebrities, rugby players, authors & my favourite artistes. But there is an 'inner circle' of tweeps who I consider to be family - people I've bonded with very quickly, who I've connected with intellectually who share my sense of humour & my outlook on life, as well as some of my life experiences. One of those people is the lovely Amy, who tweets as @BritInItaly; Amy made the move from the UK to Puglia at about the same time that we came to the Cilento & her blog posts have often had me saying "OMG, I can SO relate to that" - she has affectionately become known as our 'surrogate daughter'.

Last Friday a tweet from Amy appeared on my TL:'On route to Cilento...seriously amazed at how many lorries there are transporting tomatoes #pugliapomodoriarethebest'. Was I excited, or was I excited???!!!! OK, I admit it I was excited, just a little.....well maybe a bit more than a little.....maybe a lot more than a little.....OK, I was unbearably excited! Here was an opportunity to have my first ever 'tweep meet', right on our own doorstep. DMs & Google chats followed to find where Amy & her BF were staying and to arrange to meet up at La Torretta on Saturday evening before moving onto La Fattoria for dinner. Amy tweeted a pic of what she'd be wearing so that we could spot her among the crowd that would undoubtedly be thronging around at that time of the evening (hubby had joked that he'd only recognise her if she posed exactly as in her Twitter avi).
The lovely Amy is even lovelier 'in the flesh'

We were a little late arriving - the queue of traffic leaving the beach & heading for home was horrendous in both directions - but we were there first. We sat outside watching the world go by & then suddenly spotted the gorgeous Amy & her Italian BF across the road, a huge grin appearing on her face as she spotted us. Greetings & introductions were made in true Italian style - BIG hugs between us girls - we were both equally excited (on scale of 1 to 10, I'm guessing at least 15). And so began a fantastic evening hubby & I are never going to forget.

Thanx Amy & F for sharing our evening, we hope there'll many more visits to come.

PS: Find Amy's blog here:

Friday 16 August 2013

Ferragosto Fireworks

It may or may not have escaped your notice that yesterday, the 15th August, was Ferragosto - a Bank Holiday, as well as the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. This traditional holiday dates back to the year 18 BC & I guess that's why the early Christians chose the date to celebrate Mary's assumption into heaven, in an effort to gain more converts to the faith. Here in the Cilento, 'The Land of the Madonna', we witness the processing of the statue of the Virgin Mary & Child on a circuitous tour from the Santuario di Santa Maria a Mare, along Marina Piccola, stopping at La Torre Perrotti to be venerated before meandering through the narrow alleyways and returning to her rightful place within the church. Yesterday evening, hubby & I watched this from the terrace of Bar L'Ancora before going to dine at Lo Sparviero (yes, we ate there again!).

By the time we'd eaten dinner it was 11 pm & the streets were thronging with people trying to gain a good position to watch the midnight fireworks. Hubby & I decided that our best option would be to sit on the beach, but the picnic blanket was in the car, so we trooped back along Corso Matarazzo & back up the hill to where we'd parked at the side of the main road (parking within Santa Maria itself during August is nigh on impossible). Blanket retrieved, we set off back to Marina Piccola & managed to secure ourselves a 'front row' spot, feet almost being tickled by the gentle lapping waves of the incoming tide. 15 minutes later, a large boom announced that it was midnight & the fireworks were about to begin.

But, this being Italy - and southern Italy at that - nothing happened for another 5 minutes. And then began an amazing pyrotechnics display, which had the thousands of us watching clapping our hands, whistling & whooping with appreciation.

Thursday 15 August 2013

The Visit - Days 1 & 2

Our daughter and her BF flew out on Saturday to spend 5 nights with us at Il Sogno. Flight landed 10 minutes early, so we were back home by 11 pm.  Being typically English, the kettle went on for a cuppa as soon as we walked through the door, the suitcase was thrown into the second bedroom & we all sat out on the terrace so that Flik & the BF could be introduced to Cupcake.  Normally wary of new people, Cupcake obviously sensed that Flik is a 'cat person' & within 5 minutes she was lying in her lap, enjoying all the fuss.

Sunday morning & we started it slowly, cuppa to wake everyone up, breakfast on the terrace,  La Torretta for a coffee - the place was heaving, as usual.  Back to Il Sogno for R & R, a leisurely lunch 'fuori', followed by another cuppa & an afternoon spent reading.  It was agreed that we'd go into town for dinner - Flik & the BF needed to go see Natalino at Cilento Sub to arrange the 4 dives they hoped to do over the next 2 days.  Dives were sorted - kitting up would take place at 9 am Monday - & we took a
passeggiata down to Lo Sparviero to enjoy a marvellous dinner (see my last blog).
Castellabate viewed from San Marco 

Monday morning meant an early start to be at the Dive Centre for 9 am. I was going to go on the boat trip with them but hubby doesn't 'do' boats so he planned to go for his Monday morning yoga lesson as usual. Kit sorted, we hitched a lift with Roberto, one of the instructors, down to San Marco port, boarded the boat, waited for Natalino to arrive (probably made a 'pitstop' to buy more cigarettes) & eventually set out to sea. The more experienced divers were to make a deeper dive first, out beyond Punta Licosa, then we headed back closer to shore for Flik & the BF to make their 15-20m dive.
Wet suited & ready to dive

Wet suits were donned, weights sorted, flippers & masks put on as they sat on the edge of the boat, tanks put on backs & entries into the water were made. Natalino was last to enter the water, ran through the hand signals once more & they slowly descended into 'il profondo blu'. When they eventually surfaced, Flik had the hugest grin on her face - she really does love her scuba diving - they'd seen a huge jellyfish & held a sea anemone. Verdict was it had been a good dive & they couldn't wait for their second dive at 4pm that afternoon.

Monday 12 August 2013

Lo Sparviero

Our daughter & BF flew in on Saturday evening for a 5-night stay with us, landing at Naples 10 minutes earlier than their scheduled 8.25 pm arrival, so we were back at Il Sogno by 11 pm & sitting on the terrace having a cuppa & making introductions to Cupcake. It was a late night for everyone (except for me, the insomniac of the family) as we all saw midnight before hubby turned in, closely followed by Flik's BF &, finally, Flik herself. I was last to go in search of Morpheus, as usual.

Sunday was set to be a lazy day - apart from a quick dash to La Torretta for a coffee, we spent the day on the terrace, chatting, reading & having a leisurely lunch & planning our evening. Flik & the BF are big on scuba diving so we'd got to go into town to see Natalino at Cilento Sub dive centre & check that they'd still be OK to dive on Monday & Tuesday, so the plan was to go in just after 7 pm, see if Natalino was about, then head to Lo Sparviero for dinner. Lo Spaviero is the newest fish restaurant to open Santa Maria(apologies for calling it 'La Cuopperia' in an earlier blog, we didn't spot the high level sign on our first visit & the menu doesn't have the restaurant's name on it) & has a lovely location on Marina Piccola, ideal for watching the summer sunset.
Linguine, zucchine e scampi
Having had a bit of difficulty finding somewhere to park (always a nightmare in August), we walked down to the dive centre to find it in darkness so carried on to Marina Piccola & Lo Sparviero. Yet again we were the first to arrive & could have the pick of whichever 4 seater table we wanted. Sitting upstairs affords a better view of the setting sun, so we duly chose a table by the huge floor standing fan - bliss on a hot August evening!

There ensued great debate over what to order from the menu, asking the waiter for his recommendation and my stipulation that we each try a different dish so that I'd have 4 dishes to photograph for my blog. I decided to 'play safe' and stick with the linguine dish I'd had on our first visit. Hubby & I both love swordfish, so he went with the waiter's recommendation of Spada alla Cilentana - swordfish cooked with olives & tomatoes in a bain marie.
Spada alla Cilentana
Flik chose Orata al Limone - sea bream in lemon sauce - & her BF was persuaded by the waiter to try the Scialatelle e Scoglio - handmade fresh spaghetti-like pasta with a selection of shellfish.
Orata al Limone

Peroni & a glass of vino bianco to hand for the BF & myself, 2 bottles of acqua gassata for all 4 of us to share, we sat to chatting & waiting for our meals to arrive. The wait seemed interminable; after a while a complimentary dish of zeppole was placed before us (deep fried batter 'puff balls'). Of course, the long wait was down to the fact that everything is freshly prepared & we had each ordered a different dish - the sign of a good restaurant.
Scialiatelle e Scoglio
A huge basket of fresh bread & a plate of grilled zucchine e melanzane arrived at the table, another Peroni & a glass of wine were ordered, 'buon appetito' was said by one & all and we duly tucked into what we all agreed was one of the best dinners we'd ever had.

Saturday 10 August 2013

The Storm

The clouds began to gather mid afternoon - some white, some grey & menacing - but we weren't totally convinced the forecast storm was going to happen. However, just as hubby began to dish up dinner, the first rumble of thunder could be heard out beyond Ogliastro Marina. We took our meals & our drinks (a glass of rosé for me, apple juice for hubby) out to the dining table on the terrace & I dashed back inside to grab my camera. It has been ambition of mine to capture a lightning bolt on camera for a while now & I was hopeful this evening I might be lucky.

The thunder rumbled louder and after a few minutes the lightning began to flash out at sea. During dinner I picked up the camera more than once but wasn't quite quick enough to 'bag' a great shot. I was prepared to persevere however, and after a while I knew I'd finally 'ticked the box' on my Bucket List.....not just one lightning bolt captured on camera, but three within 5 minutes. How excited was I? (Very, as hubby can vouch for if asked).

My first ever lightning bolt shot

My 'perfect moment' pic of the day

Final successful shot

The storm raged on for more than 5 hours, rumbling around the valley, the lightning flashing above the menacing low clouds beyond San Marco & Castellabate, affording me this atmospheric shot to end my day......