The Amalfi Coast

With towns tumbling down to the sea, towering cliffs, and views to die for, this is Italy at its most dramatic. Yesterday’s literati and today’s glitterati flock to the Amalfi coast, set in the midst of Campania.

There are enough secluded coves for everyone, Love Heart-coloured villas are proudly poised in precarious positions and only the brave or desperate dare to drive along the white-knuckle Amalfi Drive, a road only just built into the cliffs.

The coastline is Italy’s most spectacular and stretches 50 kilometres from Positano in the west to Vietri Sul Mare in the east. There are numerous gravity-defying towns and villages all worthy of a visit due to their beauty and amazing locations. They include lofty Ravello that hovers at the top of a 1000-foot clifftop, and picture-perfect Positano is also a must-see as the beautiful setting of John Steinbeck’s 1950s novel of the same name.

The Amalfi Coast has also been regularly seen on the silver screen as well as in print. Talented Mr Ripley, Under the Tuscan Sun, Goodbye Mr Chips and Agatha Christie’s Endless Night were all shot here.

The region’s islands Capri and Ischia are glamorous, beautiful and easily accessed by a boat or hydrofoil from Naples. Alternatively float your way across to Mount Vesuvius or Pompeii, both remarkable places.

Sorrento, just outside the region, was believed by the ancients to be home to mythical temptresses who lured mariners towards the islands and cliffs with their beautiful songs. It is still as seductive today thanks to its stunning views over the Bay of Naples. Besides, anywhere that has its regional day on Valentine’s Day has got to be romantic.

Although mid-summer is when the Amalfi Coast is most crowded, it is also the time at which the region is host to a spectacular open-air opera festival, Ravello Festival. It’s the perfect way to spend a romantic summer’s eve.

Naples is the gateway to the region so is the perfect place to begin and end a holiday here. It offers a wealth of art museums, Italianate squares and narrow-laned centro storico. Nearby Cilento national park and Paestum beaches are great places to see as well.

Any visit to Naples is incomplete without a sampling of calzone (stuffed pizza) and of its wealth of seafood including clams, squid and octopus. Great food is certainly not scarce in the depths of the Amalfi Coast region either. The region’s dinner tables are as abundant in citrus fruits, olives and grapes as the landscape is, and wonderful seafood dishes include lobster boiled or in tomatoes, octopus casserole, spider crab soup and shrimp sautéed or lightly fried in breadcrumbs.

Be sure to wash all of that down with limoncello, an alcoholic digestif made from lemon rinds, alcohol, water and sugar that is the region’s most popular tipple.

Your tummies and your eyes certainly won’t go hungry in this beautiful region that will stay in your memories long after you’ve travelled the precarious coast road home (if you dare).


Costantinopoli 104

This captivating 19th century villa hides its charms behind a peaceful gated courtyard in the heart of old Naples. Outside a jewel-coloured stained glass window sets off the façade’s pretty terrace while inside plump cream sofas and oriental kilims are set off by striking art and fresh flowers.

One room features a wrought iron bed and a marble bathroom stocked with designer toiletries. A fabulous duplex suite showcases bold modern art, a four-poster and a deep mosaic-tiled whirlpool bath for two. After a hard day’s sightseeing and a twilight dip in the guitar-shaped pool we were happy to relax with a glass of the hotel’s home-distilled limoncello.

Overlooking the Bay of Naples, film lovers will be inspired by director Luchino Visconti’s five-star former villa. The focal point is a beautifully restored 15th century Saracen watchtower and Moorish archways invite you into elegant sitting rooms and bedrooms with dazzling Med views.

One room is furnished with warm coral tones, cool blues and classic Neapolitan Majolica tiles and marble, while open plan suites have private gardens and whirlpools. Get steamy in the bubbling thermal waters of the spa and beauty centre, indulge in a massage or get messy with the famous volcanic Ischian mud. We loved the warm cliff-edge seawater pool with its private beach below.

Maison La Minervetta
Step inside this 1950s villa on Sorrento’s cliffside and you could have walked into the pages of an interior design magazine. Architect Marco de Luca has created a stunning contemporary address that feels more like a loft apartment than a hotel.

Floor-to-ceiling windows capture views of the stunning Bay of Naples and vibrant colours give visual pizzazz that’s set off by sleek modern furniture and smart lighting. There’s no minimalism here; walls are loaded with flamboyant art and ceramics, retro 60s armchairs and lampshades lend a classic edge and still-lifes fascinate. Every room is a winner here, though number 8 is perhaps the best thanks to its wrap-around window through which only the waves can watch you.

Villa Cimbrone

Arriving at Villa Cimbrone is rather like walking into a living temple of art. Its sublime hilltop location, fabulous gardens, extravaganza of artworks and heart-stopping views sweeping down from Ravello to the sea indicate that you’re somewhere very special. Temples, gazebos, crumbling cloisters, pillars mantled in vines make it a must for anyone passionate about art.

Some rooms have frescoed ceilings, huge stone fireplaces and original Majolica floor tiles and all are strewn with antiques and ample old-time comforts. There’s a terrific pool-terrace framed with cliff-edge views, and you can have the park to yourself at dusk after visitors have gone.

Naples airport

BMI Baby
fly from London Heathrow

British Airways
fly from London Gatwick

Easyjet fly from London Stansted

fly from Manchester

This feature was written for Italy Magazine
Photo by Alaskan Dude

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Rave for Life

Last week my Mum and I ran our Race for Life which, as ever I really enjoyed it. I am a huge fan of Cancer Research and just became an even bigger fan after I heard about the next line of events...

Rave for Life will be an all-day DJ marathon featuring 25 of the UK's finest DJs at Feet East in London. If running isn't your bag then get yourself to this brilliant event. Come on, having fun is the least you can do.

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A runner's life is never easy

Do you ever wish you didn't bother? Don't get me wrong. I have the best intentions when it comes to running and generally love it.

Lately though it seems as though someone is seriously trying to stop me running. Here’s the evidence:

1. On the day of my last race there was a heat wave. Now before you ask yes this was in England, hard to believe I know. That's what makes it so frustrating. Every other day of our so called summer it has been piddling it down and then on the one day I'm racing there's a blummin' heat wave which leaves me struggling to complete the race and suffering with heat stroke when I finally do.

2. Whilst on holiday in France it did nothing but rain. Now, when you're camping in the rain the last thing you can do and want to do is go for a run. So that was two weeks out the window.

3. When I went for my first run since said holiday I was struck by a nasty sickness bug which meant that not only did I have to walk back through the centre of Bath looking rather green, but I then had to clamber back in to bed and call in sick at work.

4. Once feeling better I got up bright and early and raring to go only to find that biblical stylee rain is falling outside and that I would be better off going for a row than a run. Needless to say I went back to bed. Again.

5. Later that day the rain has temporarily stopped so high on Starbucks cake and coffee I decide now is time for my run. All is going well and I'm enjoying myself until I catch a glimpse at my arm and discover that somehow a very ill bird has managed to poo all over my arm, shoulder and top. How long I had been running along with said excrement all over my upper body I don't know. Again I find myself shamefully plodding through the centre of Bath.

So next time you see a runner and enviously mutter, "Smug git!" under your breathe, just bear in mind that it sometimes takes a lot to lace up your trainers and take to the road. It's a tough world for the lowly runner.

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