Honeymoon, part 3: The Amalfi Coast

Honestly, where do I even start? The Amalfi Coast was one of the most effortlessly stunning, luxurious, romantic places I have ever seen. Neither my photos nor words will do our experience there justice, but here are the highlights anyway:

We stayed at…
The Hotel Pellegrino in Praiano, an independently-owned and family-run hotel with an in-house restaurant and views of the sea. We paid approx 160 euros per night — which was a steal for the quality of hospitality we received — and were within easy walking distance to downtown Praiano and a short public bus ride to Positano (tickets for which were free of charge, courtesy of the hotel). Luigi and Sandra upgraded our room when we mentioned we were traveling on our honeymoon, as well as greeted us with a free dessert at the restaurant upon our arrival. For the price, quality (of service and of food), and views, the Hotel Pellegrino went above and beyond.

Note: Praiano worked for us because we wanted something smaller and less touristy than the nearby Positano, and we didn’t mine walking or bussing. But Positano is where a lot of the Amalfi Coast attractions are. If we were to go back, we’ve agreed that we’d splurge on the indulgent San Pietro di Positano, which would be more relaxing and more central.

We ate at…
1. Da Adolfo, a hidden gem on its own beach that forces patrons to jump through proverbial hoops to score a table. If you can get a reservation — and I am honestly still thanking the food gods that we did — don’t try to order for yourself. Let the waiter give you his recommendations and go with those. We ended up with mussel soup, grilled mozzarella on lemon leaves, linguini and clam sauce, tuna carpaccio, and panna cotta to finish. It was up there with Frenchie as one of the top three meals best meals of my life.

2. Ristorante Santa Croce, after a long, extremely difficult hike. This was a recommendation from Luiggi (remember, he’s the owner of Hotel Pellegrino) and we managed to get there just before they started to close for a few hours between lunch and dinner.  We didn’t want to eat much since Jake knew I’d spoil my appetite we knew we had reservations at La Sponda later on, so we split a shrimp scampi and salmon carpaccio to keep it light. Unfortunately, this was one of the only times I remembered to order an Aperol Spritz  — a traditionally Italian cocktail — and I barely drank it. I was so exhausted and dehydrated from the hike that alcohol was the last thing on my mind.

3. La Sponda, the Michelin-star restaurant inside Le Sirenuse. We had certainly worked up an appettite that day, so we ordered two tasting menus and a wine pairing to share. Honestly, I can’t even remember what we ate except that there were so many incredible courses I lost count…and that the wine pairing for one was more than enough to drink for the two of us.

We spent the evening enjoying some of the best food in the world while overlooking the ocean and reminiscing about our 11 years together. All I could think about was how happy and lucky I was. I will treasure that memory for as long as we live.

We hiked…
Il Sentiero degli Dei, also known as Path of the Gods, which was recommeded to me by a friend who had just done it. Traditionally, hikers start at Agerola and work towards Nocelle in Positano. We…sort of did that, but we started at our hotel in Praiano, which means we tacked on an extremely strenuous hike up to the Convent of San Domenico (where we popped in to say our vows again). It was one of the only times I’ve ever been legitimately concerned about throwing up or passing out from heat. That said, it was 100000000% worth it. The views were stunning, the workout was great, and it was just an all-around awesome experience. Word to the wise: pack sunscreen and a ton of water.

We took day trips to…
Capri. And only Capri. There was so much do to do nearby that it seemed silly to stray too far, but we happened across a tour company on Spaggia Grande, the main beach in Positano. We paid 70 euros per person which included a lazy, sunny, round-trip boat ride to the island, several stops to swim, drinks, and visits to the various grottos along the way. It technically included a stop at the Blue Grotto, but we ended up not doing that because the wait was several hours, which is apparently something that happens all the time. Still, we saw plenty of other grottos that were equally impressive.

We shopped at…
Schettino di Capri. This was part of our day trip (in Capri, obviously), and was not planned. Truthfully, and especially if you ask Jake, you will find that the last things I need are more shoes, but I couldn’t help but fall in love with a few pairs in the window. So in we went. Turns out that Aldo and Lydia, the owners and shoemakers, have been making shoes for decades — including several pairs for Jackie Kennedy and countless other fashion icons. I bought myself some 70 euro sandals and wore them every day for the rest of the summer.

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Warning: they stretch! Buy your usual size and don’t be deterred if they’re tight at first.

We also made a stop at Ceramiche Casola. One of the things we registered for as part of our honeymoon fund (thanks, Zola!) was ceramic, Italian servingware. My aunt kindly donated to that part of the registry, so we spent an hour picking out our favorite pieces from this iconic Positano destination. The quality here is truly unbeatable, the business is family-owned, and the customer service is outstanding. We left with several gorgeous trivets and a spoon tray, all of which serve as both practical pieces and decor when they aren’t in use.

There were a few other shops of, of course — for limoncello, linen, and lunch — but I found so many of them overpriced and indistinguishable from the others. Seemed prudent to whittle this list down to my favorites, in order to be the most helpful for those with limited time and budgets.

So that’s that for the Amalfi coast. We left full of seafood pasta, vitamin D, and a deep wish for more time.

I had actually forgotten this, but we stopped in Pompeii and Naples during our last 24 hours in Italy, so I’ll have one more post. And then also probably one or two others about getting to Da Adolfo and maybe how I packed for the whole thing. Any preference? Ideas? Am I being insufferable? Let me know.

Love, me.

Honeymoon: part 2, Rome

Full disclosure: this was not my favorite part of the trip. It was 90+ degrees, Jake and I argued, and the city felt extremely overwhelmed by tourists. Not to mention the smell was garbage was exacerbated by the heat, etc.

In any case, there were parts I loved. After driving through the traffic and speeding hellscape that is the city entrance, our first day looked something like this:

  1. We stayed at the Hotel Modigliani and really enjoyed it. We got a room with a balcony (as you can see by this blog post’s main image); however, the air conditioning from the room above us was blowing hot air directly down onto the seating, so that…wasn’t ideal. Also a baby bird had apparently fallen from an overheard space and died, so we had to call housekeeping to come clean it up. BUT, once we were over the heartbreak of seeing the bird, we found the room to be clean and quiet. It was also small, which worked for us since we were out and about all day.
  2. We stopped at Pinsa ‘MPo for dinner on our way to Vatican City. It’s a little hole in the wall around the corner from the city entrance and we had found it on some food blog beforehand. We split two personal pizzas and it was plenty of food. Needless to say,  we were not disappointed.

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    I mean.

  3. After that, we had night tickets to Vatican City and the Sistine Chapel. I highly, highly recommend this for people who want to experience a few hours of history without the insanity of crowds. You won’t be able to get into St. Peter’s Basilica — it closes earlier than the chapel — but you’ll still be able to wander through the absolutely gorgeous museum and grounds. It’s also great for (and this is embarrassing) people like me who have a limited attention span and only have a few hours of focus in them at a time. Warning: bare shoulders (including tank tops, sleeveless shirts, etc) are not allowed inside the Chapel and you will be expected to cover up. They have paper shawls there that are available, but you’re probably better off just packing a summer scarf.

Our second day was a little rougher. I was miserable in the heat as we spent the afternoon looking at ruins (which I likely would have appreciated more if it hadn’t been 100 degrees). But heat made me cranky, tensions flared, and Jake and I had our first fight as a married couple. I was extremely grateful when we got back to our hotel and heard that our concierge booked us a table at Il Gabriello for dinner.

Il Gabriello, for me, was the highlight of our entire Roman weekend. Despite its mediocre ranking on TripAdvisor, our meal there salvaged an otherwise pretty crummy day. This might have been colored by the 70-euro bottle of wine we split — I have never loved Jake more than when he pointed at the price tag, shrugged and smiled, “When in Rome!” — but now I recommend this spot to anyone who’s traveling nearby. Picture this: exposed brick, candlelit tables, an entire wall of wine as the backdrop. Then add classic Roman cacio e pepe followed by panna cotta topped with fresh fruit. Finish it off by walking home through the gorgeous cities of Rome with a light buzz and your new spouse. It is perfection.

The only other thing that kept my sweaty attitude in check throughout the weekend was the history we found on every street. We’d turn a corner and suddenly be faced with a fountain that had been there for centuries. It’s nice to have a break from being crabby because you’re surrounded by stuff that’s so cool.

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Anyway, to recap: do not drive in Rome! Maybe I didn’t emphasize this enough at the beginning, but “hellscape” is honestly an understatement. Try and do things (esp things like The Trevi Fountain or Spanish steps) early or later in the day when the crowds have dispersed a bit. Have your concierge book you a table at Il Gabriello. Prepare to find gorgeous bits of history around every corner. Maybe also don’t go in July.

Stay tuned for the final — and favorite — installment of my posts about our time in Italy. It’s time for Honeymoon diaries: Amalfi Coast edition. 

Love, me.

Our honeymoon: part 1, Tuscany

I’m not even going to try and catch you all up on the last 10 months. I couldn’t possibly remember it all and I suck at this blog.

But I will say: wedding was a success, Jake has kicked off his clinical rotations (almost 2 weeks down of family med!), and yes we are still fostering kittens. What I really want to accomplish with this entry is get all my favorite Honeymoon spots from the first half of the trip down in writing. There are a lot of them, so hold tight:

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We kicked things off with a few (maybe four?) nights at Casa Portagioia in Tuscany. The property is breathtaking — views of the country, a clean and refreshing pool, comfortable and luxurious bedrooms, etc. I am so, so glad we started here because it gave us a chance to recover from the chaos of the wedding and 20 hours of travel. The owners — Terry and Marcello — are absolutely fantastic. Upon arrival, they greeted us with a complimentary bottle of champagne as a congratulations, and spent the entire week making us restaurant reservations, chatting with us about American & international politics (largely because of my career), and being otherwise phenomenal hosts. Also, the breakfast buffet is great, but what you really want is for Marcello to make you eggs with tomatoes, even if you think that you don’t like tomatoes. And a caffé latte.

Brief side note: do not drink half a bottle of champagne on a near-empty stomach when you haven’t slept in 2 days unless you want the hangover of a lifetime. 

Fave restaurant from that part of the trip was Antica Pieve. Killer wine, pasta, and patio seating. And reasonably priced! The pasta in the photo is a truffle tortellini, basically. I’ve been trying to track down a similar wine because I loved the pairing so much, but no luck. The whole evening was delightfully romantic and delicious.

Terry and Marcello also sent us on day trips to Castiglione Fiorentino, Arezzo, and Florence. Most of those days consisted of wandering and eating, but the three meals I really wanted to mention are:

The ragu we ate at La Divina Bottega. The place doesn’t look like much; it’s basically a deli with a grocery store in back. But it was literally some of the best pasta I’ve ever had in my life. None of the employees speak English, so prepare to do a lot of gesturing and smiling, which is definitely a part of the charm. I think we had a full lunch for like 15 euros? Anyway, this place is wonderfully authentic, affordable, and yummy.

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In Florence, we went the opposite route and booked a tasting menu dinner at Osteria Personale.  I wish I could remember what we ate. I just know that it was very chic and extremely flavorful! And romantic. This is how happy I was all day:

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Hat from a street vendor, romper from Ann Taylor Loft, crossbody bag from Nordstrom.

Can someone tell me what magic Italy has in the water and air so that my skin can always look this way?

Finally, on our very scenic drive from Tuscany to Rome (that Jake planned himself), we stopped in Orvieto for lunch and another walk. We happened to be there during the lunch hours when most things are closed, but Jake found Le Grotte del Funaro. Good food, pretty outdoor seating, etc. What made this place really interesting was the spiral staircase down to an old grotto and cave underneath the restaurant. Just kind of a cool find.

Jake’s favorite, non-food part of that pit stop was, without a doubt, the breathtaking cathedral we stumbled upon. There are no words to describe how enormous, stunning, and really freaking gold this place of worship is.  We couldn’t figure out why the place wasn’t swarming with people, or how we had missed it while Googling the town. If you are ever nearby, it is truly a sight to behold. I feel very, very lucky to have witnessed it.

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And that was Tuscany. Next post will be quite short since it’s just Rome, and that wasn’t my fave part of the trip, but stay tuned! And, as always, feel free to comment or reach out with any questions. Happy to offer more recs (since these are just my favorites) and rave about our bed and breakfast some more.

Love, me.