From Ravello to Vesuvius – on High in Italy!

From Ravello to Vesuvius – on High in Italy!

Thursday, July 16, 2015, part one
Ravello, Italy

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How about celebrating Mozart in the matchless city of Bath, England in November?

We start and end the day above it all…first, Ravello, the elegantly dazzling rather removed-from-it-all haunt of those who prefer their glamour subdued and quiet. We park, then continue climbing via steps and ramps to the beautiful old town. 07161501am ravelloAlong the clifftop a row of gorgeous old palazzos, homes of captains and merchants of old when Amalfi ruled the seas centuries ago, are now luxury hotels, 07161506 additionalwith one of the prettiest public gardens ever tucked along the cliff edge as well. 07161506 public gardenRising from the main piazza, stairs lead into the Duomo (dating from 1087!), cool and white, with a couple of spectacular pulpits. Twisted, gold-enhanced pillars atop lions support the Pulpit of the Evangels, 07161506 r churchand precious mosaics, depicting a cheery Jonah waving goodbye as he’s swallowed by the fish, decorate the lesser Pulpit of the Epistles. 07161506 pulpit jonahOn the opposite edge of town from the palazzos we visited first, Villa Cimbrone’s glorious gardens07161501beautiful cimbrone stretch to the Balcony of Infinity, high above the sea.07161501k and girlsA shady refuge on yet another blistering hot day, the cool paths lead to rose gardens,07161501lush gardens and private area for hotel greta garbo grottoes, pergolas and bloom-surrounded statues. The Villa itself is a prestigious hotel, so areas of the extensive gardens are private. 07161501 flowers and statuaryFar below we spy Maiori, the Reginna Palace Hotel, headquarters of the Amalfi Coast Music Festival, right in the center by the beach.07161501 hotel far belowThe views continue at lunch on the terrace of Villa Rufolo. 07161501 views at lunch tooAlthough it’s been a few years since we’ve been here, the long-time staff recognizes us and we them. Fresh from the waters far below, here are the catch of the day choices.07161502 catch of the dayFirst courses arrive with a flourish,07161502 presented with a flourish

and the salt-crusted seabass, which several of us share, is expertly filleted before our eyes.07161502 salt crusted fishWe’ve been “bragging” about the marvelous Delizia di Limone, a creamy, tart Amalfi Coast specialty,07161503 delizia and one is enough to share after this delicious lunch…it disappears quickly!
To be continued…


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

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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

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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.

Duemilladodici (2012)  begins in Florence

Duemilladodici (2012) begins in Florence

Sunday, January 1, 2012
Florence, Italy

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Next on the itinerary: Visions of Venice

We begin the New Year lazily, sleeping in after our very late night. The streets of Florence are so quiet – few cars, people walking around, but plenty of room to meander, unlike the packed streets and piazzas of last night. It’s always a delight to catch sight of Brunelleschi’s dome rising down a lane.
Today’s one of the few days of the year that the outdoor stalls around San Lorenzo are closed…. how unusual to see these streets as we’ve never seen them, no crowds, no leather jackets, purses, belts or gloves, no silk scarves, no florentine paper. Cosimo de Medici reigns over his quiet kingdom.
Both Rachel (of Florentine Flats) and Gloria (who recommended these apartments to us) have told us not to miss Trattoria Roberto, just around the corner from the apartment. As we walk in we see lots of paintings of the Amalfi Coast, and not just the renowned spots such as Positano and Amalfi, but off the beaten track hamlets such as Scala, where we enjoyed a mountainside walk years ago. We’re shown to a table by a smiling gent and ask if he’s Franco (the owner, who kept the Roberto name since it has been called thus for generations). No – Franco’s in the kitchen. He reaches out a hand to shake from the kitchen window, and we tell him that we’re in Rachel’s apartment. He welcomes us and tells our waiter to take good care of us.
It’s rare to find a fish restaurant in Florence, but Franco has brought all of the local flavors of the Amalfi Coast with him, and the menu’s full of tempting seafood dishes, such as this Spaghetti allo Scoglio. We couldn’t resist all the wonderful seafood, ordering stuffed calamari, a carpaccio of tuna, octopus Amalfitana… and I asked if by any chance they had fried artichokes, although they weren’t on the menu. Our friendly waiter said he would see, and after our main dishes came out, Franco brought a platter of crispy lightly battered artichokes – fabulous! We wanted to continue the Amalfi tastes and chose the lemon tart for dessert…. then were told it was “finito” . Too bad…. nothing else grabbed our fancy. Then Franco brought a small bowl of creamy lemon filling to our table – “This is all that’s left – enjoy!” Yum!
Every other table was filled with Italian speakers – families, “ladies who lunch”, a sister from a nearby convent… and no wonder! The food is the best, and very well priced – no credit cards, though – cash only. I see by the Trip Advisor reviews of Trattoria Roberto that it is definitely “discovered” – but it remains truly Italian and unspoiled, and a great value!

Goodbye Amalfi, Hello Orvieto

Goodbye Amalfi, Hello Orvieto

Thursday, July 8, 2010
Orvieto, Italy

Interested in a Music and Markets Tour? We’d love to hear from you!Italic
A few hours drive north, past Rome, and we scale the heights to arrive atop the cliff in the beautiful town of Orvieto.
er dropping our luggage at Hotel Palazzo Piccolomini, (our room is beside a lovely terrace this time – I think Jill had this room a few years ago!) we walk to Antico Bucchero for lunch.
It just LOOKS different here, no more
bright colored façades, but somber stone.
And tastes different too – no more seafood, but farro (
spelt) risotto with asparagus, drizzled with grassy and peppery olive oil from a nearby village. A world of difference from the Amalfi Coast.
Kirk orders a favorite Tuscan dessert to share: Biscotti Vin Santo, and we tell the story of requesting it for dessert far northwest of here, in San Remo just before the French border, and receiving a scoffing scold “This is not Tuscany!”
Dipping lessons follow
and we all taste the crisp biscotti

(these filled with toasted hazelnuts
rather than almonds – delicious!)

soaked in the sweet golden dessert wine.

As we tour the town, pointing out ancient palazzos, towers, and monuments, snatches of a Bach cello suite draw us around corner after corner

and we find Peter, a New York cellist who spends his summers in favorite spots in Europe, playing his way across the continent.

Orvieto’s stellar sight is the majestic Duomo
(cathedral), a triptych towering high in colorful mosaic, sparkling gold, and intricate carving.

We’re missing those ocean breezes – it’s hot up here on the tufa plateau!
A cafe across the piazza is the perfe
ct spot to cool off with an Aperol Spritz and listen to tales of the Duomo.
Then Kirk takes Steve and Martha inside to see the wonderful carvings and mosaics, and Jacqueline takes me to a jewelry store where she had spied a beautiful ring as we wal
ked by earlier. She had seen one years ago in Capri, the shimmering blue stone reminding her of the surrounding sea, and although it wasn’t available there this year, here is just the perfect ring, in her much-loved town of Orvieto!
It is just gorgeous, and will be such a wonderful reminder of beautiful Italy.

Dinner this evening is a
multi- course feast in
the garden of Sette Consoli.

One after the other, the dishes delight –
and dessert is absolutely plate- scrapingly delicious!