The frozen northerner has just returned from his third holiday of the year, which took me and my wife the Contessa di la Proctero to the island of Ischia. Situated in the Bay of Naples, Ischia is the largest island in the bay alongside the more famous isle of Capri and the enchanting island of Procida. It is well documented that I have a long standing love affair with all things Italian so it was going to interesting to see what I made of my first trip to this volcanic isle. We stayed at the Hotel Durrelli which was located about 10 minutes from Ischia Town in one direction and about 10 minutes from Ischia Ponte in the other. The view from our balcony offered us a panoramic view of the islands as well as the north of Naples and Sorrento as well the island’s own Castello Aragonese which was quite spectacular. Although the hotel had a more than adequate pool area, the frozen northerner and his wife tended to wile away their hours at Maronti beach which, was about 20 minutes away from the hotel by bus. Prior to my holiday I had been informed that transport on the island was poor but I found this not to be the case with local bus service both regular and frequent. If like me sunbathing and reading is your bag then Maroni Beach is a must, with its beautiful unspoilt beach and that gentle breeze wafting in off the sea I could have stayed there forever. In the evening I tended to alternate between going to the Town and Porte. If you head to the town wander up and down via Colonna and savour some of best Italian fashion on offer or just sit in some café with a nice glass of red wine and people watch like I tend to do. Both areas as you would expect are bustling with a huge amount of restaurants and bars, personally my two favourites were the Caffe Morelli where I tended to enjoy a Campari Spritz and the bar/delicatessen Ischia Sulumi, as well as serving up some of the best hams and cheeses I have ever tasted this little gem offered great alternatives to beers like Peroni and Moretti by offering a great range of beers made by the Neapolitan micro-brewery Birra Maneba which were absolutely outstanding. Sundays in the shadow of the Castello Aragonese were spent watching the locals play water polo surrounding by yachts of all shapes and sizes, with sun beating down on that flawless blue sea, your mind is entitled to stray to thoughts of retiring and give up the rat race, god I am so tempted when I am in places like this. I could probably talk endlessly about Ischia because it a place I really loved, but no good talking about it, you must go and discover it for yourself, you won’t be disappointed.
I have just returned from my fourth and final continental holiday of the year, as normal it took me to Italy, to the small town of Maori on the Amalfi coast (my third holiday of the year saw me return to Taormina in Sicily for a second time this year, which I reviewed in Blog Notes 49, so fairly pointless covering it again). Lying to the south of Naples, the Amalfi coast is one of the most beautiful pieces of coastal landscape that you will find anywhere in the world, it has some fairly fabulous places to stay, such as Sorrento, Positano, Amalfi, Ravello, Minori and Maori as well the picturesque islands of Capri and Ischia. Nowadays I tend to stay in Maori mainly because it is little bit quieter and less expensive than the other resorts, which is great because the frozen northerner is always on a tight budget. Among the many charms on offer along this coastline are places with great history such as Pompeii and Vesuvius, there is also great scenery, which can viewed with awe from both the sea and the shore, there is great food and wine and if your wife likes a bit of retail therapy there is some great shopping for the ladies (especially on Capri), add to this a normally very pleasant climate and you have in my opinion, a place as close to heaven as it is going to get. In truth I am becoming more and captivated by Capri, this island for me now ranks alongside Sicily as one of my favourite destinations, although whether or not I can afford to stop there is another matter. Capri, once the home to the roman emperor Tiberius, is absolutely stunning with a breath-taking allure, that has in the past proved to be a very popular place for writers’ and artists to live and work, nowadays it is very popular with celebrities from all walks of life, with some like Sophia Loren owing villas on the isle. Among the many attractions on the island are the gardens of Augustus (which was the brainchild of the very wealthy German industrialist Friedrich Krupp, who spent a considerable amount of time on the island) the grounds are laid out in terraces with all sorts of decorative plants on display and look down to the sea and the Faraglioni (rock stacks).
But if sightseeing is not for you and you prefer the coffee culture to these botanical delights then you can always sit in the Piazza Umberto near to Capri’s famous clock tower, wiling away the days and nights in one the many bars and restaurants hoping to catch a glimpse of someone rich and famous. Then again you might want to sail around the island exploring the enchanting Blue Grotto and its dazzling blue waters or the Green Grotto with its glittering green water.
The list of places and things to do on Capri are too many for me to do them adequate justice in this blog and that is before I have talked about the rest of the beautiful area in southern Italy The Amalfi coast is an example of the stunning beauty that can be found in bucketful’s whenever I visit Italy, but it is no good just sitting there listening to me prattle on about its splendour you really have to visit this area for to really appreciate what I am talking about. Please go you won’t be disappointed.
Having left my office (the chateau d’if) in the capable hands of Abbe Faria (the mad priest), I find myself lying on the beach at Giardini Naxos which, is just outside Taormina on the beautiful of island of Sicily, alongside me is my wife the Contessa Di La Proctero, the temperature is a very pleasant 79c and the sound of George Michael is swaying around the both of us. Am I in paradise, your damn right I am, lately Sicily has become the chosen destination for the frozen northerner and his beautiful wife to holiday. For our second holiday of the year we have returned to the island and are showing signs of tiring of the place, built into the rock face, Taormina overlooks the gulf of Naxos towards the Ionian sea and beyond, this stunning town and the surrounding coastline around it is now very much at the top of the frozen northerner’s list of places to go on holiday. Much as I love mainland Italy, Sicily and in particular Taormina has captivated me like no other place I have ever been, with breath-taking views of Mount Etna and the delightful Isolo Bella it has everything for me. Taormina itself is now becoming more and more popular and it is easy to see why with its amazing Teatro Greco (Greek Theatre} and its humbling churches. Wandering its cobbled streets the town is full of quaint little shops selling all sorts of merchandise, some of which no doubt will be purchased by the Contessa. Eventually you will reach Piazza IX Aprile, this exquisite main square has an endless amount of café’s bars and restaurants and for me personally there is nothing better than sitting at a bar sipping a Campari spritz (Prosecco for the lady) watching the Sicilians take their evening stroll. The Sicilians will ramble endlessly up and down Corso Umberto (the main thoroughfare) Sicilians like most Italians love to strut their stuff and this very classy street is perfect for them, this stylish area is filled with a wide range of high end well-known Italian shops and boutiques selling brands such as Gucci, Pal Zileri, Zegna and Canali. I could talk endlessly about the food and wine, but that’s for you to find out when you visit the place, I am sure there a better places in the world to visit but not for the frozen northerner.
Easter is normally the first holiday of the year for the frozen northerner, January, February and March are probably the months that I like the least so, Easter brings an opportunity for me to relax away from the drudgery of everyday life and that normally means a trip abroad to replenish the batteries. The frozen northerner is self-confessed Italophile which requires him to attempt a minimum of three pilgrimages a year to her shores. Italy has everything for me, great cities, wonderful architecture, breath-taking scenery, fantastic beaches, the list is pretty much endless, and since I first visited it about ten years ago, I have never went anywhere else on holiday. Fairly often you will see that most tourist guides will tell you blend in and act like a local, so when in Italy this should be a fairly simple task for the frozen northerner who is rather dark skinned and tans very easily, are you kidding me, despite tanning to an extremely dark shade of brown the frozen northerner has never once been mistakenly identified as an Italian and here is the reason why. Last week I had the good fortune to spend the week in Palermo, Sicily, for a little bit of sightseeing, the weather was good with the temperature ranging from around 70 to 75 so, that meant that the frozen northerner was going to wander the city in nothing more than a polo shirt (be very careful here) a pair of chinos (even more care required) and inevitably sunglasses (no mistakes here please) in attempt to look and stay cool at all times. The Sicilians tended to take a different approach to yours truly and were frequently observed wearing scarfs, full length raincoats (notably Burberry) quilted jackets (also Burberry) and all sorts of attire that I tend to regard as winter clothing. By the end of each day the game was very much up, me looking dishevelled with the heat, and the Sicilians still looking cool and stylish in spite of the humidity, admitting defeat the frozen northerner retired each afternoon to Spinnato’s Caffe to relax with an aperitif and gaze up the fast talking, gesticulating Sicilians, as they wandered up and down their crumbling streets. Palermo is certainly not as flashy as say Milan or Florence, but that’s not the point, Palermo like most places in the south is poor and is in need of restoration but that does mean you should not visit, it has some breath-taking building such as the fantastic Quattro Canti, the stunning Theatro Massimo and the splendid fountain in Piazza Pretoria. If sightseeing is not for you there is enough shops to keep any woman happy, or you could do what I tend to do and just sit in small café and people watch. The frozen northerner and his wife, the Contessa di Proctoro will, I suspect never tire of Italy, the Italian economy may be in a perilous state, which could see them ending up in the same situation as Greece, knowing the Italian mentality this is not something that they will take too lightly, but rest assured if they are going go down they are going to do with a style that you and I can only dream of.