Capri day trip

I’m not sure why but I thought I’d never see the Island of Capri. You see, it is a luxury destination where world-known celebrities hang out and overpaid footballers buy enormous mansions with personal football pitches.

It is the island where Sophia Loren swam in the Grotta Azzura (Blue Cave) with Clark Gable in the film, ‘It Started in Naples’. This tiny dot of limestone rock, I’d just assumed to be impossible to ever visit.

So should you ever be taking a short break in Sorrento and you have some spare time, I would wholeheartedly recommend a day trip to the Island of Capri.

The ferry runs a few times a day and tickets can be bought down near the harbour in Sorrento. We strolled down one morning and queued up alongside a melting pot of tourists from every corner of the planet.Those armed with guidebooks, who with cameras and some with just a curious mind.

Day trip Island of Capri

Giuseppe our Italian guide – note the license around his neck.

Day Trip to the Island of Capri

As we hung around the piazza waiting for our ferry, an Italian gentleman approached. Giuseppe asked if we would be interested in his services for the day. He explained he had been a licensed guide for 50 odd years and had been accompanying people to the island since. He explained the route he would take, the places we would visit, the places we could eat and his price which was reasonable. I managed to convince our group and we were taken under Giuseppe’s wing.

It was the best decision, his advice started on the crossing. On spotting the choppy sea, he indicated to sit towards the back for a better ride. We did as we were instructed and survived a crossing that made many others very ill indeed.

capri day trip

Arrival to the island is in the bustling port of Marina Grande. I found it fascinating, there were bellboys from the luxury hotels, collecting guests and their luggage from the various, ferries, yachts and water taxis. The customers were taken in open top taxis to their destinations and their luggage followed.

Capri day trip

Everything on the island has to be imported from the mainland, the food and drink even the buses and building materials.

Capri luggage taxis

Chambermaids, barmen, waiters and shop assistants all travel over daily to work on the island as there is nowhere to stay overnight. Property is way too expensive to put staff up in!
Giuseppe shuffled us and another ten guests onto a bus and we drove off to our first sightseeing point along a narrow and winding road with a sheer drop to one side.

Anacapri

day trip island of capri

Those green stickers on our t-shirts Giuseppe gave us so he could remember his customers :) 

There is a short walk from where the bus drops you at Anacapri and you follow a path through souvenir shops up around the side of the highest point until you stand and look down over Capri. It is a breathtaking moment,  below you can make out the mansions with their football pitches I was telling you about earlier. You can see the dot of a harbour that we had been in half an hour ago and you can take in the lush green vegetation against the blue of the Mediterranean Sea.

If you wish, you can walk down 100s steps past the mansions, back to the harbour. We didn’t, Giuseppe had arranged for us to continue our journey after a stop for lunch. ‘Pausa pranzo’

The lunch was in a busy restaurant on the walk we had taken up and the menu was basic but cheap. There wasn’t any time in Giuseppe’s schedule for luxurious long lunches which would have been very nice, so we obliged and enjoyed a decent meal with wine for a few euros before making our way back to the meeting point.

Now it was time to drive over to Capri the second main town on the island.

Capri

On the way over to the town Capri, Giuseppe asked the driver to stop after one of the bends in the winding road. He’d been telling us about famous people who had lived on the island or who had a holiday home here. Property prices are eye watering but the views are stunning. Fortunately for us, the sun came out at this point. That is Punta di Tragara in the distance.

Marina Piccola Capri

We drove on to our last stop. Giuseppe would be leaving us here but included in his fee were tickets to catch the cable car from Capri down to the harbour, Marina Grande where we would catch our ferry home. We had some time to explore the town during our day trip and what a beautiful place it is.

Piazzetta Capri

Designer shops line the cobbled stone streets, posh hotels, world class restaurants and pizzerias with photos of Simon Cowell and other famous faces in the window. The buildings are whitewashed and the shops are full of luxurious items. It’s another world.

Capri day trip

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Carthusia

Carthusia perfume CApri

When you visit Capri, you will see the word Carthusia everywhere. It’s the name of the perfume company from Capri and you will spot signs everywhere. They sponsored the town’s flower displays, they have scent smelling stations set up and there are shops where you can choose and buy your personal favourite. I wish I had! I shall return to Capri one day to visit Carthusia. Note the small table with jars in the photo above, they are the scents to smell and decide.

Town square

Piazzetta Capri

Sit in one of the squares long enough and sooner or later you will spot a celebrity stopping for an espresso, an aperitivo or just to savour the moment, maybe with a limonata, the soft drink that is so popular in this part of the world. We didn’t stop at this bar as we were curious to walk around the town and see what we could discover. We weren’t disappointed.

Capri cable car

Piazzetta in Capri

One exciting way to get back down to Marina Grande is by the cable car. Just by the main Piazzetta there is a wonderful terrace with garlands around the pillars. Right next to that you will see the word funiculare, and that is the entrance to the cable car. As you descend you have a fantastic view of the harbour below and the sea stretching out in front.

capri cable car

Capri aperitivo

If there is one last tip I must pass on it is to make time to sit in one of the bars in the Marina Grande harbour, order a Capri aperitivo (which you can see here  – Blue for the Grotto Azure) and watch the world go by. There is a hive of activity passing right in front of you and people from all walks of life walking and looking at the cheap souvenir shops lining the streets.

Bar Aprea Capri

Capri is well worth a visit and I look forward to returning one day … maybe even staying over one night and going for a pizza…

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

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!


Florence at Sunset” by Jon Rawlinson licensed under CC BY 2.0

Florence is recognised as one of the most beautfiul cities in the world, for a reason. Teeming with art around every corner, the city is an art lover’s playground. It’s easy to understand, as the city’s streets seem to have a certain artistic charm.

Here’s why there’s no better place than Florence for art lovers.

The view of the city

Most large, European cities have a pretty skyline, but Florence puts them all to shame. The most outstanding views of the city can be seen from above, from the outskirts of the city center. Take the short climb up the steps leading to the Piazza Michelangelo and you’ll be rewarded with panoramic views of Florence.

You can gaze upon the Ponte Vecchio, the glowing Duomo of the Florence Cathedral, or the Arno River from this piazza. After enjoying the view, go and visit the replicas of some of Michelangelo’s most famous sculptures, including the statue of David, which are situated throughout the plaza. If you’re looking for a vacation steeped in history, it’s worth considering a city break to Florence.

The museums

Florence was the birthplace of the Renaissance, so of course it’s going to be home to some of the most impressive displays of art in the world. Obviously there is Michelangelo, but there are also many other, both Rennaisance, and modern artists to discover!

To experience more famous (and infamous) works of art, head to the Uffizi Gallery. One of the most famous museums in the world, it features works by Michelangelo, Da Vinci, Gotto, and many others.

The Florence Duomo 

Florence Duomo by xiquinhosilva licensed under CC BY 2.0

Also known as the Cathedral di Santa Maria del Fiore, or Saint Mary of the Flower, the Duomo is one of the most striking pieces of modern architecture. The largest in the world, it shines with ornate carvings and striking colours that decorate it’s exterior.

For those lucky enough to visit Florence, a trip that will last a lifetime awaits. Ask anyone who has been and they’ll tell you, Florence is for art lovers.