Castles and Ceramics

Castles and Ceramics

Sunday, July 19, 2015
Maiori, Vietri-sul-Mare, Italy

Interested in a Music and Markets Tour? We’d love to hear from you!
How about celebrating Mozart in the matchless city of Bath, England in November?

After that August interlude in France with our grandaughter, let’s return to Italy, picking up where we left off on the Amalfi Coast.
On this summer Sunday, a few of us want to fit in a morning hike07191501 am hike to the Castle of San Nicola de Thoro-Plano above Maiori. In reality the old ruins cannot be considered a castle in the literal sense, but a protected area consisting of a fortress built (beginning in the 800s!) as a bulwark and refuge for the population against the frequent attacks of the outlaws from Lombardy and later the Barbary pirates.07191501 am fortress 1

The three of us are joined by a couple of playful pups,07191501 dogs and as we pause for a look at the town and sea below,07191501 paused for view they rest for the final climb.07191501 took a break Inside the fortified perimeter there were once barracks and shelters able to house a large battalion and hundreds of citizens seeking shelter, but today just one man lives there  – here’s his mailbox. 07191502 castle ceramic and mailboxWe pass him on his way down for morning coffee and newspaper. Wow – he must stay in shape with this at-least-once-a-day trek up and down!
Kirk and Jenny go all the way up,07191502 two went all the way and walk around the fortress as far as there is a passable path. 07191502 walked around as far as possibleI chicken out on the last part of the hike, and enjoy the view, along with a cat taking a morning stretch. 07191502 catAs I sit, a young teen comes up, unlocks the storage shed under the stretching cat, and hefts out several jugs of red wine, then takes them down, two at a time, multiple flights to a car parked below. 07191502 wine under the catSoon Jenny and Kirk join me, and as we begin our descent, we’re stopped in our tracks as sunlight tinges the town below 07191503 bells and sun tingedand Sunday bells ring out over the valley.
The descent goes more quickly, of course, than the ascent, and soon we’re back in Maiori,07191503 flat ground maiori where it’s time to pile in the car for the winding drive to Vietri sul Mare,07191503 go to vietri famous for ceramics since Roman times. 07191504 ceramics since roman timesOne artisan has designed a wall of tiles telling of the history of the village, pirate attacks and all. 07191503 tale of the townA bit of shopping, a bit of posing,07191504 shopped and posed then back to Maiori for lunch by the sea.07191505 el dorado El Dorado has quickly become a favorite, and although I plan on a healthy salad for lunch, I can not resist the lemon ricotta ravioli. 07191505 el lemon ricotta ravioliWe’ll soon be leaving the coast, and where else would I find such luscious lemon pasta?!
The smoked swordfish and eggplant parmesan is also delicious – as is everything we order. 07191505 el smoked swordfish eggplant parmWe’re celebrating today – it’s Olga’s birthday, and her daughter has traveled long and far to join us for a few days. More festivities this evening…to be continued-

Seaside Beauties of the Amalfi Coast

Seaside Beauties of the Amalfi Coast

Friday, July 17, 2015
Amalfi and Positano, Italy

Interested in a Music and Markets Tour? We’d love to hear from you!
How about celebrating Mozart in the matchless city of Bath, England in November?

Our favorite aspect of the Hotel Reginna Palace, headquarters of the festival, is the beautiful pool area and garden, where we enjoy breakfast and dinner each day. Sheltered by lush wisteria vines and lemon trees, the terrace is such an inviting place to start each day. 07171501 breakfast garden under lemonsWe’re heading for Positano today, and to get there from Maiori, we take a small boat to Amalfi, 07171501 ferry to amalfitaking in the views of yesterday’s destination, Ravello, high on a rocky point (that white contemporary hanging on the side is Gore Vidal’s former home),07171501 ravello above passing adorable little Atrani – one of our favorite authentic Amalfi coast lovelies, 07171502 adorable atrani

and taking advantage of the hour before our next ferry to walk into Amalfi, bravely crossing the two lane Amalfi Coast Highway in between buses and cars. 07171502 awe inspiring amalfiAmalfi’s relatively quiet this early in the morning, and it’s fun to peek into whitewashed corridors (Arab baths from the 1300s) and note how stairs rise immediately on either side of the one street through town.07171502 awed by arab baths narrow lane and steps up on both sides Friends who’ve rented an apartment here talked of descending 80 plus steps each morning to the bakery, then UP again!
Filling our bottles with cold water from the hills above,07171502 bottles filled we board the larger ferry for the half hour cruise to Positano.07171502 ferry larger to posGorgeous sailboats are moored offshore- the eye-catching pastels of the town must be a lovely sight from there – 07171502 yachts offshoreand one yacht even has a water slide off the upper deck – looks like fun!07171502 slide on yachtWhile the ladies started shopping,07171503 as some shoppedKirk bought tart lemon granitas for all from our favorite lady-and-the-boat at the top of Positano’s winding lanes – 07171503 kirk bought lemon granitas from the girl and the boat at top of townthis is where the Amalfi Coast road comes through Positano, and where the only bus stop is-  quite a hike above the shore. 07171503 l by top of townThen Kirk doctored the icy treat with his little bottle of limoncello – wow what a taste! 07171503 then doctored them up with his stash of limoncelloCheers!07171504 cheersWe’ll consider that treat our aperitif – now on to lunch, along the cliffside path, past the Saracen tower that’s been nicely renovated into a vacation rental. 07171504 cliff path by saracen tower now rentalPerched on the cliffside, O Guaracino has our table ready, along with a chilled pitcher of crisp local white, and plenty of cold water (yes, it’s still HOT!)07171504 cold water and crisp white at guarWith views from one side to another,07171504 either side views friendly, welcoming staff, and the freshest of seafood cooked on an open fire, 07171504 feast with viewit’s our favorite Positano restaurant.
And a little more lemon is the perfect finish to our feast.07171504 refreshing sorbet perfect finishBack to Maiori on our two-ferry trip, and perhaps there’s time for a dip in the pool before dinner?07171505 fit in a swimThen a stroll down the Corso 07171505 walk to town hallto the town hall for tonight’s concert – 07171506 concertchamber music under the colorful frescoes.


The Music Begins in Maiori

The Music Begins in Maiori

Tuesday-Wednesday, July 14-15, 2015
Maiori, Italy

Interested in a Music and Markets Tour? We’d love to hear from you!
How about celebrating Mozart in the matchless city of Bath, England in November?

Did I mention that we were celebrating a birthday? Kirk’s is actually today, the 14th, but we’ve just celebrated all weekend long! Now the work begins, so we wave goodbye to Capri (that wooded wilderness on the left is where we walked yesterday – the pinkish dot is the unusual home on a rocky point),07141501 Capri goodbye where we walked and head for Maiori, the headquarters of the Amalfi Coast Music and Arts Festival
Our guests arrive tomorrow, and we’ve got a few things to do to get ready for them. After meeting with festival staff, we try out a recommended restaurant on the beach, El Dorado – yes, it’s now on our list too. Cheery professional service, a great view, and delicious food – Prosciutto and Melon, and Caprese with another one of those generous Buffalo Mozzarella balls we only find here, at the source, for the birthday boy,07141501 Dorado lunch for bday boy after meeting w festivaland a smoky grilled Scarmorza (cheese) in radicchio leaves for me.07141501 grilled scarmozaLeaving a suitcase at the Reginna Palace Hotel, where we’ll check in tomorrow with our guests, we take a couple of ferries back to Salerno, walk to old town for dinner,07141502 back to salerno by bus and boat fun dinner and rest well before picking up a car and heading to the Naples airport.
All three guests arrive safely, one from Vienna, and two connecting via Paris, and we drive to Maiori over the twisting road topping the Amalfi Coast peninsula, from the Naples Bay to the Salerno Bay.
It’s past lunch time in Italy, but we find a little deli still open after checking into the hotel, and two of our guests are introduced to the tastes of southern Italy by choosing their own panini fillings…some of the local mozzarella, of course, and some delicious tomatoes probably grown on the slopes of Vesuvius are just a couple of the ingredients they choose. 07151501 airport pickup late lunchA beachside bench makes a perfect picnic spot.07151501 beachsideAfter an introductory stroll around Maiori, 07151501 maiori walka lesser-known Amalfi Coast town that boasts the longest beach on the peninsula, we join the Amalfi Coast Festival participants for a poolside dinner, then walk to an evening concert in Palazzo Mezzocapo. 07151502 concert nancy s after dinnerNow the town hall, the beautifully frescoed upper salon is a perfect place for concerts.07151502 frescoes above Nancy Stagnitta delights us with her flute artistry, as a couple of us seek a cool breeze out on the balcony. 07151503 coolest placeWhat a pleasure it is to join friends at the Amalfi Coast Music and Arts Festival again. Last time we brought guests here was five years ago, when the festival was still headquartered in Vietri sul Mare. Everyone seems quite happy with the new location, with easy beach access and plenty of room for performers, instructors and students, as well as guests.


Ciao Amalfi, Salve Viterbo

Ciao Amalfi, Salve Viterbo

from Maori to Viterbo
Friday, July 20, 2012

Interested in a Music and Markets Tour? We’d love to hear from you!  Join us on our featured (and expanded!) summer Amsterdam/Belgium tour!
Unlike our Music and Markets Tours, when we stay in one area, sink into the culture and really get to know a city or region, we’re flitting from place to place throughout Italy for the next few days, researching for future trips. We set our alarm for an early morning walk, wanting to pack in as much Amalfi Coast beauty as possible while here.

Ravello, jutting over the coast high above us, gleams in the morning sun – the stark white former home of Gore Vidal unmistakeable on the cliffside. Wish we had time to spend an hour or two in that magical village – definitely one of our Amalfi Coast favorites.

But we have a breakfast-by-the-pool appointment with Leslie, who fills us in on festival happenings as we enjoy a cappuccino or two at the gracious Reginna Palace Hotel. This will be a lovely place for our tour guests next year – we’ll have to leave some free time in the schedule for the pool!

We had noticed a fortress on the hill above town, spotlit in the dark last night. It’s the early medieval towered and crenelated Castello Thoro-Plano, which defended the area against marauding Pisans way back when nearby Amalfi was a powerful queen of the seas.
Ciao for now, lovely coast, we’re heading inland and north for the papal retreat of Viterbo, which we’re planning for a daytrip from Orvieto on our New Year’s Jazz Tour. A safe haven for threatened popes from as early as the 11th century, this walled town is home to a grand Palazzo Papale,

which tonight is the setting for a perfor- mance of Elisir d’Amour, part of the Tuscia Opera Festival

we hear rehearsal melodies as we explore the lanes and piazzas of the town.

A distinctive Viterbo archictectural style, steps leading to an entry over an arched portico, makes a perfect shelter for a spiffy Vespa.

Passing through a series of arches, we come to the Pellegrino Quarter, a charming warren of cobbled lanes, balconies, terraces and piazzas.
As soon as we enter the quarter, I’m enchanted – definitely my favorite place in Viterbo.

Sunlight etches a shadow against a church, not far from the museum of the Maquina di Santa Rosa, a Viterbo tradition of a 99 foot illuminated wooden tower paraded through town to honor the saint. A new one’s built every five years or so, commemorating the saint from the 1200s.

The prettiest piazza of all, very Provençal in appearance, is the unikely named Piazza della Morte (of the dead)  – so called since it’s beside a cemetery for the homeless.

I think it’s the first time we’ve had dinner in a restaurant from 1622. The Tre Re, so called because three kings ate here in ancient times, was recommended by our hotel as a simple local place, so we were expecting some good down-home cooking…. and were pleasantly surprised by an exceptional dinner.

We each chose one of the daily specials, for Kirk a lightly battered fried cod smothered with sweetly ripe cherry tomatoes on a bed of peppery arugula and for me, suckling pig porchetta (the whole roast pig you often see sold from a truck) style. With the crispy skin and rosemary stuffing, it was as good as any streetside porchetta we’ve had – and that means terrific!

One more wander through the lamplit lanes, and we bid goodbye to Viterbo – it’ll make a great day trip!

The Sparkling Sea of the Amalfi Coast

The Sparkling Sea of the Amalfi Coast

Amalfi Coast
Thursday, July 19, 2012

Interested in a Music and Markets Tour? We’d love to hear from you!  Join us on our featured (and expanded!) summer Amsterdam/Belgium tour!

Threatened thunderstorms delayed our departure from Dulles, but we were able to just make our connection in Frankfurt, and arrived in Naples as planned, shortly after noon. And this time our luggage arrived with us – always a welcome event:)
In a short time we’re all packed into our little Fiat Panda, and on the road. Exiting at Vietri-sul-Mare, we slope down towards the town, the former headquarters of the Amalfi Coast Music and Arts Festival. The ceramic- topped dome gleams over the ancient rooftops stacked around it like blocks, with the gorgeous Mediterranean glittering beyond.

This is where the famed Amalfi Coast Road begins its snaking cliffside journey, and Kirk, fortified with two cups of espresso from a roadside café, is in his element, loving the curves, the challenge, and the views.
The new festival location is the beachside town of Maori, which we’ve often passed through on previous festival tours, but have never stayed in. One year we enjoyed a Fine Arts Quartet concert in the pretty gardens of the town.

The festival directors have booked us into the Sole Splendid, and first thing we do is check out the balcony view – love it!

Now to get our bearings – we find the partner hotel where we’ll meet the rest of the festival participants for dinner, and the little chapel where tonight’s concert will take place, do a few errands and grab a gelato, then back to the room for a quick nap so we can stay awake for the evening events!

The hotel’s set into a curve of the Amalfi Coast Road, with an ancient Norman tower, defense against marauding Saracen pirates, just beyond on the point before town.

We join Leslie and Sasha, directors of the Amalfi Coast festival, now in its 17th year, for dinner,

beginning with a primi of scrump- tious gnocchi, roasted cherry tomatoes, and smoked Scarmoza cheese.
“Did you see the pool?” Leslie asks – and we walk beyond the dining terrace to check it out – wow! Winding among gardens

and trees heavy with big Amalfi lemons, it’s an inviting beauty!

This evening’s concert, Canzone d’Amore (love songs) is presented in Maiori’s San Giacomo church by nineteen talented soloists, all of whom are here to polish their technique and learn from master teachers. Thanks to that nap we can enjoy the whole concert, and finish our long day with a walk home along the beach.