Sorrento ItalyI can’t believe a year has passed since we went to Sorrento and I still haven’t got around to writing about it. That just goes to prove how hard it is juggling a blog and a full-time job… oh and an extended family, a house, a home and all of the other bits and pieces that go in to make the normal run-of-the-mill life. There is never enough time in the day!

We visited last year, just Paul and I, to attend our friend’s wedding. Trust me, Sorrento makes a wonderfully romantic venue for tieing the knot.

Although I lived in Italy for almost 20 years, I never got to see Sorrento and the surrounding area. I had heard of its beauty many times and knew it was extremely popular the world over. Sorrento was firmly on my bucket list and our wedding invitation was the perfect occasion to tick it off.

Cloisters Sorrento

The Cloisters in Sorrento is the perfect wedding venue.

As the wedding was to be held on the Saturday, we decided to ask the grandparents to look after the girls for a few days and make a short break out of it, after all, what’s the point of going all that way to turn around and come straight back? I couldn’t bear the thought of not seeing the places I had heard so much about.

lemon tree sorrento

When anyone speaks of Sorrento in Italy, you hear descriptive words like lemons, music, stunning views and romance – in Italian obviously but I’ll save you that for now. I had conjured up a meraviglioso picture in my mind and I was curious to see how close my thoughts were to reality.

Getting to Sorrento

Getting to Sorrento is fun. We booked flights into Naples – another notorious city I want to return to one day. Then from the city you have a few options – hire a car and drive along the coast, jump on a coach or bus, get a taxi or take the ferry and sail around the coast to the harbour of Sorrento. Guess which option we went for?

The ferry!

Naples to Sorrento ferry

In order to do this, you have to catch a bus from the airport to Naples harbour. It’s not difficult and there are plenty of instructions online in places like TripAdvisor. It’s cheap and easy and on arrival, there are plenty of places where you can buy your ticket. All of them speak English and will be able to direct you to the right dock.

There are various ferries and we caught the one above. It meant we had to sit inside and couldn’t see much out of the windows that were covered in sea salt but there was a great Italian waiter who was selling drinks and snacks, so we bought a couple of beers to get into the holiday mood.

Cheers to being a couple for a few days and cin cin to Italia!

The ferry doesn’t take long and our friends due to marry were waiting in the harbour for us, they had been there a couple of days already, as stated by Italian law when you get married in the country.

Sorrento harbour Italy

Wheeling the suitcase into town – luckily there’s a lift in the cliff!

We stopped for drinks with them and then made our way via a lift in the cliff up to the town and on to our hotel with plans to meet later for dinner.

Hotels in Sorrento

We did what everyone does – pump ‘Hotels in Sorrento’ into the search box and click go. Up came the normal sites and after a few days of research, we decided on Hotel Europa. It was walking distance from the centre, situated on the coast and had some great reviews.

Hotel Europa Palace Sorrento

We weren’t disappointed – apart from the noise from the road, the Sorrentini do love to hit their hooters! The hotel had a charm of years-gone-by. I could imagine being here in the 20’s and being part of the ‘in crowd’. Our bedroom was comfortable and there were some lovely facilities, like the swimming pool and beach.

Hotel Europa Sorrento

Places to eat in Sorrento

We had booked bed and breakfast as we knew we’d be out and about during the days and eating with our friends in the evenings. We needn’t have worried as Sorrento is a town full of restaurants, pizzerias, bars and various eateries to suit all pockets. The streets are lined with choice – fish, pasta, pizza, meat, you name it, you can find it and freshly cooked too with wonderful waiting service. Prices are reasonable plus, if you’re lucky, there is a glass of limoncello offered by the house with the bill. Salute!

eating in Sorrento

Shopping in Sorrento

If like me, you like to buy things to take home that remind you of your time spent in a place, you won’t be disappointed. Sorrento has streets and alleys lined with shops selling everything you’d imagine to buy; leather, limoncello, ceramics, oil paintings and much more. I adored the handmade leather sandals, typical to the area but couldn’t verify spending €100 on a pair no matter how beautiful they were. Reluctantly leaving the overpriced sandals to one side, I filled our suitcase with limoncello, an oil painting, a leather purse, a beautiful scarf and plenty more bits and pieces.

You will love the shopping!

shopping in sorrento

Things to do in Sorrento

There are plenty of romantic things to do in Sorrento – getting married has to be the best by far! But we also enjoyed beautiful walks along the stunning coastline, through the town and stopping on the clifftops to watch the sunset is a must. There’s a wide terrace where people congregate to watch the sun descend over the sea, luckily there is a bar there too, so order an Aperol spritz and enjoy the moment.

sunset in Sorrento

sunset in sorrento

Fun things to do in Sorrento

Sorrento is beautifully positioned as the perfect base for exploring the area and on our 4-night break we managed to fit in Vesuvio, Pompei and the Island of Capri which I shall be writing about separately as they were so impressive.

Enjoy some of my favourite photos that I took in Sorrento.

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short break sorrento

 

Folgaria mountain view

The time has come, I am preparing my ‘valigie’ for a quick trip to Folgaria. Excited doesn’t cover it.

I am going to meet my grandaughter Sophie for the first time. I am going to see Evan and Gracey for the first time in over a year, I am going to hug my kids Tommy and Meggie so hard they pop and a special hug to Oana my daughter in law too who took these wonderful photographs.

La Cantina Folgaria

I can’t wait to meet up with my friends again, you know the ones, you pick off exactly where you left off as if a day hasn’t gone by since you last spoke, let alone a year. And I’m going to revisit my ‘other home’ the place I grew up in, from a teen into an adult and spent the best part of 20 years.

Folgaria street party

I haven’t returned to Folgaria ‘summer season’ since I left and coincidentally I left in the sunny August of 2004.

Folgaria in the summer is beautiful and has so much to offer families, there are lots of things I am looking forward to cramming in during my 5 day break and here are some of them to give you an idea of what to expect from a mountain holiday in the Italian Dolomites.

Folgaria gift shops

  • A cable car to the top of Stella d’Italia which offers spectacular views across the tops of the dolomites. I can also say hello to Francesca (from Manchester) who has lived out there longer than me and her son went to school with Tommy. I saw the other day on Folgaria News she now caters for wedding parties too.
  • Take the girls to drink a proper hot chocolate known as a Cioccolata calda, expect a photo of it on Instagram.
  • Order and eat an Eis Cafe or Iced Coffee, here’s one I made when reminiscing one day.
  • Visit the boutiques in town and buy some gorgeous Italian clothes.
  • Drink some of my very favourite wines and visit La Cantina for an evening out with the girls like old times.
  • Try some of the local restaurants. Ristorante da Ugo, Maso Mittereck,
  • Visit Hotel Post Folgaria to see my brother and sister in-law and eat one of his delicious home made brioche or maybe a slice of his apple strudle.
  • Take a trip up to Malga Millegrobbe say hello to Max and eat some of is delicious food.
  • Take photos of the flower boxes lining every nook and cranny in town.
  • Go to the top of the mountain at night time with a blanket and lie down to watch and count the shooting stars.

folgaria night

There is plenty more and I have every intention to blog daily from my second home but you know how it is, I may get waylaid with the write ups, however I shall be documenting my stay on Instagram so if you’re interested in a Mountain break, summer or winter then please do keep an eye out for what to expect.

My friend Emma from A Bavarian Sojourn went to stay a few days with her family and you can find out how she got on here

Folgaria

A focus on Folgaria

Folgaria Eats

Empty beach at Bibione

Empty beach at Bibione via Shutterstock

I am going to indulge in my love of Italy today as this is the time of year I see all my Italian friends post their holiday photos on Facebook and it takes me back to the holidays I enjoyed whilst living there.

Bibione, such a lovely word to say, is on the northern Adriatic coast not far from Venice. It’s a very popular destination as it is so easy to get to and it is totally geared up for families. Bibione has been celebrating family holidays since the first hotels went up in the 50’s and you’ll find some of them have been passed down through the family from generation to generation.

This family run business has so many pros to offer the guests, a personal and individual touch where the hosts recognise the needs of various families and are quick to satisfy them.

The Beach

Bibione is a long straight flat beach stretching into the distance with fine, soft sand. The hotels and ‘bagnini‘ aka lifeguards have rows and rows of umbrellas laid out for the guests but as the beach is so vast there is a lot of space between one umbrella and the next, plenty of privacy for families to enjoy themselves without feeling crammed in. You’ll be pleased to know that an umbrella and two sun loungers are included in your hotel booking which is a great saving on a family holiday.

A typical day in Bibione

We would choose a family hotel with a swimming pool often by the beach. As we went to breakfast Tommy, my oldest, would run down the beach with a couple of beach towels and place them on the umbrella closest to the water’s edge, a necessary tactic when it is busy and you want to keep your eyes on the kids who of course want to be near the water ;)

Mornings would be spent on the beach, I’d be able to read my book on the sun lounger and watch the kids play by the water’s edge. The beaches are amazingly well equipped with first aid, life guarding, baby changing stations, hot showers, walkways for strollers, play areas for kids and free games and entertainment. A mid morning espresso at the local beach bar with a glass of water was a great way to get myself off the sun lounger.

I must mention the sea at Bibione has obtained it’s 24th blue flag this year. Wooohooo!

When it started to get too hot we’d go back to the swimming pool and rest in the shade as we waited for lunch. Yes, full board includes a three course lunch with a huge choice and a magnificent salad buffet. My tip is watch out as the food is so good you’ll be piling on the pounds. ;)

Italian summers are very hot and straight after lunch is the ideal time to read in your room or make use of the hotel indoor facilities. We would head down to the beach from 3pm onwards and stay till 6 pm or later depending on our evening arrangements.

What else is there to do in Bibione?

Tons.

Sailing, kayaking, playing fields and courts for the sporty. Bike riding inland and around the lagoon, nature watching around the lagoon. Bird watching for heron and storks. Fishing valleys, a lighthouse to visit and century old woods to explore.

Day trips from Bibione

Venice is a stone’s throw away and of course so are Murano and Burano which are incredibly beautiful. Verona, Vicenza, Padova and Treviso are all within a day’s trip and each of these Italian cities of the pianura are beautiful in their own individual ways.

Disclosure: This post is in collaboration with Bibione which I truly recommend as a perfect family holiday.

I am so pleased to see that Italy is becoming more and more popular as a holiday destination, having lived there for nearly 20 years I travelled extensively and fell in love with the whole country. I am asked quite frequently ideas of where to go and what to do in Italy which is really nice for me as it allows me to indulge in my guilty pleasure – Italy.

If there’s something I really love looking forward to in a new year it’s a wedding invitation and this year 2015, we have one! So I wanted to create a post on the top ten honeymoon destinations in Italy, I consulted my ex colleague and Press Officer for the Italian Tourist Board in the UK who you can find on Twitter should you need any advice or ideas.

Top Ten Honeymoon Destinations in Italy

Venice

venice lagoon, venezia

Image credit: archivio fotografico regione Veneto prom. turistica

 

Venice is known as the most romantic city in the world and for good reason too as anyone who’s ever been there will tell you it is enchanting. It is a one of a kind place that you really must visit once in your lifetime.

What to do there:

  • Visit Harry’s Bar, one of Hemingway’s favourite spots and order a Bellini.
  • Take a gondola trip through the canals of Venice
  • Roam the pretty streets, get lost but take a map!
  • Watch the sun set on the beach, walk along the Zattere on the southern coast of Venice.
  • Take the river taxi and visit the beautiful islands in Venice lagoon, Giudecca, Murano, Burano and Torcello, see the amazing views of Venice from them.
  • Have an aperitivo in one of Venice’s bars, ask for a drop of Aperol or Campari to be added to your prosecco or white wine.
  • Try a wine tasting or cicchetti tour
  • Lots of the hotels have rooftop bars, like the Hilton, one I stayed in even had a rooftop swimming pool, perfect location for sunset drinks.
  • Visit a handmade glass factory

Trish from Mum’s Gone to went to Venice read about it here.

Sorrento/ Amalfi Coast / Capri

procida italy campania

Image credit COM.TUR

 

The Amalfi Coast is connected by one of the most scenic roads in Italy. A very dramatic and breathtaking coastline home of the glamorous seaside resorts Sorrento, Positano, Amalfi and Ravello. This part of the world has been described as the closest place on earth to heaven and the olive trees, lemon groves and white buildings set against the deep blue of the sea seem to suggest so.

The town of Amalfi is head resort, Sorrento offers spectacular ocean views and Ravello is famous for it’s gardens. If it’s glamour you are after then head into Positano and see the many world class restaurants and chic boutiques lining the streets. In the image – Procida a small island off the coast of Naples.

The island of Capri is another celebrity holiday destination which has an air of mystery around it. Take long walks around the island, visit the Piazzetta for a coffee. Go to Anacapri and visit Monte Solaro for some of the best views in the world and don’t forget to see the villa of Tiberius the Emperor.

Read about Gretta’s Vespa Tour of Naples or Sorrento and Ravello

Rome

Rome

Image credit: Fototeca ENIT

 

Maybe not everyone’s first choice of honeymoon as Rome is a busy city but the Eternal City is one of the most important destinations in the world, home to works of art, stunning architecture, engineering and ancient history.

Rome is also close enough to Sorrento and the Amalfi coast so you can consider visiting both areas for your honeymoon.

Visit the beautiful rose garden, the Ponte Sisto Bridge that leads to Trastevere and the small island of Tiber. Visit the many museums of the city and its beautiful churches and basilicas and find small trattorias and traditional pizzerias in the medieval lanes of the city where you can find amazing local food along with the best wines.

Read more at Mum’s Gone To Rome

Verona

Verona Juliette's balcony

Image credit: PROVINCIA DI VERONA PHOTO ARCHIVE

 

Home of Romeo and Juliette, the City of Love immortalised by Shakespeare.

Verona also has a breath taking Arena which can be visited, they also show operas in the summer, Aida and La Boheme are two that will stay with me forever. What strikes me every time I walk the streets of Verona is the glass walkways in the roads and pavements displaying the ancient ruins below. It’s a known fact that no pipe work can ever be done in Verona as every time they dig down they come across more ruins and have to stop!

Florence

florence italy tuscany

Florence is the capital region of Tuscany on the banks of the river Arno It is famous the world over as one of the art cities of Italy packed with history, art and culture. Visit the museums and monuments, Walk along Ponte Vecchio, see Brunelleschi’s Dome at the cathedral and the statue of Michelangelo and check out the jewellery boutiques, you will not be disappointed.

Read Trish’s account from Mum’s Gone To

Tuscany

tuscany square

Image credit: fototeca ENIT

 

Florence is the capital of Tuscany and has been called the “jewel in the crown of the Renaissance”. Other important Tuscan towns include Pisa, Siena, Lucca, San Gimignano, Monatlcino, Montepulciano, Chianti oh and yes of course WINE. Tuscany is the heart of excellent Italian wines.

Tuscany is one rolling hill topped with cypress trees and magical medieval towns  the world renowned wines and cheese will tempt you to return ‘under the Tuscan sun’ time and time again.

Visit Saturnia for a thermal spa like you’ve never had before, take a walk through the streets of San Gimignano, cross by ferry to the Island of Elba and walk along the streets of these beautiful towns

Lake Garda – Trentino

lake garda

Lake Garda is surrounded by three regions but as I lived in Trentino at the top we’ll focus on that part. Home to Riva and Torbole, two stunning locations also known internationally for the windsurfing competitions held there. Lake Garda offers a honeymooning couple everything, mountains to climb with spectacular views over the lake and beyond, cycle trips around the lake, boats and ferries across the lake and once again, history, art and culture in abundance.

Find out more by reading our holiday on Lake Garda or Trish’s from Mum’s Gone To

Sardinia or Sardegna

sardegna costa verde

Sardinia or Sardegna as it’s known in Italy is a beautiful island situated to the right of the boot in the Tyrrhenian Sea.

It is home of many quaint medieval fishing villages and also Costa Smeralda the stunning celebrity attraction.

The cities of Cagliari, Alghero and Sassari offer the modern facilities and many museums while the smaller locations like Budoni, San Teodoro, Gabbiani Island and Stintino offer the best of the beaches and many water sport activities.

Find out more from our past holiday to Sardegna

Sicily

tonnara di scopello

Image credit: ASSESSORATO TURISMO REGIONE SICILIANA

 

I visited Sicily back in 1987 and fell in love with it, I have been waiting ever since for the opportunity to return and one day I will. Sicily is home to Etna the volcano that can be visited, Taormina the beautiful coastal resort and Agrigento home of the Greek ruins. There is so much more

Read about Gretta’s Palermo Street Food tour

Puglia

puglia trulli Alberobello

My holiday to Puglia was one of my favourites of all the time I spent in Italy. I fell in love with the Trulli in Alberobello seen in the image above. I swam off the Tremiti Islands and scoured the Gargano for fabulous restaurants. I travelled all the way around the ‘heel’ and enjoyed every part of it. Highlight of the trip was a delicious meal in Otranto in a restaurant called Osteria del Tempo Perso or The restaurant of lost time. Exquisite.

Read more about my Puglia experience or that of A Bavarian Sojourn

What to expect from an Italian honeymoon

Italy is one of the most romantic places in the world and the Italians are passionate, soulful people.

Everywhere you look there is something to take your breath away, beautiful landscapes, picturesque towns and villages, an incredibly rich history and an overwhelming art collection.

If you are passionate about food, you are in the right place, Eating and drinking is an enormous part of Italian life, shops and banks still shut for a 2 hour lunch break.

Souvenirs to remember your holiday are plenty, my guess is you’ll come home with more than one item when faced with the displays of ceramics, art, leather and Made in Italy items. Take time to look at the fashion in the many boutiques, there’s always something a bit special in their clothes that can’t be found anywhere else in the world.

Don’t forget your camera!

 

mulled wine recipe

It’s Mulled Wine time of year and I cannot fail to remember the times we used to prepare cauldrons of it to hang on a tripod in the hotel courtyard and wait for our cold guests to return after a day skiing on the pistes. A recipe for mulled wine that goes back a century and is still as satisfying today.

Mulled wine dolomites

The sight alone of the tripod with it’s log fire under the cauldron is enough to make you smile and as the guests arrived they’d gather around and accept a small cup of mulled wine allowing it to warm them up from head to toes.

mulled wine

Chatter would commence, stories of the day’s skiing, funny things that happened, achievements that were made, who had mastered the snowplough and who had attempted a black run for the first time.

Laughter could be heard as people relayed how their partner had ended up skiing backwards or completely misunderstood the ski instructor with embarrassing consequences

These were the moments of the holiday that sealed our guest’s love for our hotel, Club Hotel Alpino and our resort Folgaria, after a few glasses of mulled wine they’d head up to their rooms to get changed and later the conversation would flow easily as a bond had been made.

So when I see bottles of Mulled Wine for sale in the supermarkets, these are the memories I am filled with, good times.

mulled wine tripod

Lindeman’s Shiraz

However, we used to make our own and it is so simple. Lindeman’s have a delicious Shiraz that suits this recipe perfectly and seeing as the grapes are grown in the hot Australian sun you are adding good health and sunshine to your mulled wine too. Throw a couple of steaks on the barbie!

It’s good for you!

In case you needed an excuse to treat yourself to a delicious glass of mulled wine then please take note of the medicinal qualities of some of the ingredients…

Lindeman’s Shiraz – adds sunshine to your drink

Cinnamon stick – Antiflu properties

Cloves – antibacterial

lemon – antiseptical and good for the respiratory system

Orange – vitamin C

Apple – 1 a day keeps the doctor away

As if you needed that excuse! Cin Cin! as they say in the Dolomites.

 

Recipe for Mulled Wine from the Dolomites
 
Prep time
Cook time
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A recipe for Mulled Wine direct from the Dolomites to warm you from head to toe.
Author:
Recipe type: Drinks
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 12
Ingredients
  • 1 bottle of red wine, Lindeman's Shiraz
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 100g sugar
  • 5 cloves
  • 1 orange, sliced
  • 1 apple, sliced
  • ½ tsp nutmeg
Instructions
  1. Place all of the ingredients in a pan and heat slowly until it is warm but not too hot.
  2. Serve in small cups or mugs.
All photos of vin brulé in Folgaria at Club Hotel Alpino with the kind permission of my daughter in law Oana Dascalul

Find more information on Club Hotel Alpino, the perfect family friendly hotel in the Dolomites.

Find more information on Folgaria