Wednesday, 6 August 2014

The Italian Job: Sorrento

Ten days in Sorrento is good for the soul – at least it was good for us.  To have a break after so much travelling and touring was timely – and the addition of a swimming pool in the sticky heat meant that  the boys had reached a state of nirvana.  It didn’t take us long to get settled into the sprawling Villa Giuliapina (named after the two sisters who owned it) in a small village called San Agata.

The friendly agent Carmine (his catch phrase was ‘Hey… it’s no problem’) soon made himself indispensable – which was good, because when we plugged the brand new kettle in we blew the electrics in one of the kitchens (there were two, one with a professional oven, another with both a built in BBQ and a pizza oven). 3 random visiting men later, all of whom sucked their teeth and gabbled madly into their mobiles, it was all ‘fixed’ – but we were given strict instructions not to use the toaster and the kettle at the same time… It may have been coincidence, but at the same time as the kettle incident the wifi went down, and for 5 days Carmine kept us updated as to how it was all proceeding, it had something to do with the bad weather and a tree – resulting in a man in a van who managed to set up two wifi addresses (one worked upstairs and the other downstairs).  Only in Italy…

view of the villa from the top terrace
The villa itself was stunning both in location and as a venue.  There were several terraces from which you could sit with a glass of vino rosso and gaze on an unrivalled view of Vesuvius across the bay, from the first hazy pink sunrise to the dramatic dark clouds of the sunsets, the base of the mountain scattered with the shimmering lights of the buildings and many festas taking place with the occasional burst of fireworks in the distance (we had to reassure Little Man several times that the volcano was not just about to erupt). With 5 different areas which were set up for dining, we were spoiled for choice as to the views, but ended up in the main using the big old farm table on the main terrace, which was a natural central meeting point.

view of Vesuvius from the top terrace
G’s parents joined us on the second day.  In their late seventies they are fairly seasoned travelers, but as their age befits, have started to slow down a little with the odd ache and pain here and there, every now and again.  This enforced laid back approach suited us fine, as we all wanted to relax, and so G and I took on the manqué of parents and went on the hunt for food etc as Grandma and Grandad played endless rounds of cards and table tennis with the boys. G became adept at using the pizza oven as I swirled my homemade dough with all the wrist action of a true Italian mama.  And everyone piled on their own combinations of toppings.

making pizza
sous chefs
Pizza dad
Top of Vesuvius, swathed in cloud
scooters - the sensible way to travel on the narrow Amalfi roads
stunning views of the coastline from Ravello
It was a great family holiday – Carmine had organized (‘No Problem’) a fascinating tour of Pompeii and I even managed the tough walk up Vesuvius with Grandad, G and the boys (we abandoned Grandma about a third of the way up, leaving her on a seat with a bottle of water and strict instructions not to run off with a gigolo).  

We drove along the Amalfi Coast taking in the sights of Positano, Amalfi and our new favourite, Ravello, with its absolutely stunning scenery and mixture of Moorish architecture, big bossy flowers and faux Renaissance courtyards coupled with the hippy atmosphere so beloved of the Bloomsbury set in days gone by. Grandma and I escaped for a few hours one day for some girlie shopping in Sorrento, and we had a fabulous family day in Capri – a private boat trip with a friendly (if not entirely intelligible) driver Mario (yes, the boys had fun with that one) over to the island, then a hair raising bus ride up to the main piazza, and window shopping in the designer stores before jumping back on the boat for swims in the azure sea and in little coral caves.  Bliss.


It all ended in a final joint birthday meal for Grandma and Eldest Son, who have one day between them and has been celebrated as such in the UK for a number of years, as well as Spain and the States.  Our private chef turned up (yes, it was Carmine … ‘No Problem’) and he cooked up an amazing selection of local dishes and wines, complete with Tiramisu cake, disco lights and a full sound system to which with the help of some locally made limoncello, even the grandparents were shaking their booty.

We were all sad to wave goodbye to Carmine and the villa as he took the keys and zoomed off on his scooter.  The car wheezed as we settled into our seats and Garmin fizzed back into life again with some wildly coloured routes from which we could choose.

The journey back to England had begun.  Next stop, a 7 hour drive to Pisa, with its eponymous tower.

No Problem.