I’m happy to report the travel arrived home safely over the weekend. We’ll head back into regular programming now — with Nora giving weekend updates while I’ll fill the space with other things — like the Apprentice In Death teasers I have planned for next week.
The way the travelogues work is Nora sends me her updates first thing in the morning while everyone loads up photos in a shared album. I pick and choose what — I think — best illustrates Nora’s words. That can give me a surplus of great photos that don’t quite work in my vision of the layout. Today I’ll share a few of those photos as a final look at Italy.
The first stop was the Capri Palace & Spa. Here are some photos that I didn’t use first go round.
BW found the suite in Sorrento on a most excellent travel website: Luxury Rentals. The specific suite is here: Amalfi Horizon. The company has locations around the world — the photos alone are worth the armchair trip.
Some photos from Sorrento:
And one last time, here’s the link to the list of workouts our intrepid adventurers did over the course of the vacation.
Kat put together a list of the workouts she and Nora have done in the mornings this vacation.
I’ve added hyperlinks so you can explore if you want — some are to retail sites, some are to the instructor’s sites. All of them are meant to be starting points — it’s up to you to do the research. Always look at reviews of the workouts, click on the video samples.
Kat said in her email to me: Everything is either low impact or can be pretty easily adjusted to be low impact. I was very excited to see people getting inspired to workout from hearing about us working out!
Our last day on Capri is both easy and breezy. Pack up what we’ve unpacked, gather our stuff from here and there. Obsessively check drawers and closets. Obsessively check drawers and closets again.
Our days here have been everything we could have asked for.
We’ve timed it so we can enjoy a leisurely lunch poolside before our ride to the docks in Capri Town. We do exactly that and enjoy our last lazy and delicious hour before we’re packed–literally–in our van for the final winding ride down. Offload, reload into our boat with the same captain and mate as our trip in.
This, it turns out, is a bumpier trip. My system questions the wisdom, so I do my best to ignore its whining and watch those high, rugged cliffs as we head out over the water. Big party boats and ferries, elegant sailboats glide along with us as we speed away from Capri.
BW points out Villa Jovis, high, high on its cliff so we can clearly see the long steep climb we did. We’re impressed with us!
Now I see Sorrento. More high cliffs with buildings built onto, and into the rocky walls. Those gorgeous sun-faded colors and bright, bright white, cypress and sweeps of flowers. Restaurants offering dining on platforms over the water, and crowds of people dining or strolling.
Offload, reload into another van. Our charming driver is a native, not only of Sorrento, but of the little village we’re heading toward. He tells us to avoid Fridays, Saturdays and Tuesdays–as the cruise ships come in on those days, and the crowds are massive. Good information!
Lots of shops to explore–on days not Friday, Saturday or Tuesday.
Then we’re heading up, again on skinny, twisting roads. Wicked switchbacks with rock walls on one side, or a small field, or a lucky glimpse of the water. He points out the road along the Almafi Coast, but my system warns me not to look, at least for long. We side-wind our way up. Our cheerful driver tells us there are restaurants in the little village near our villa, and recommends one especially–good food, good people.
It’s a longer drive from Sorrento to the villa than it was from Capri Town to our hotel, and I swear the roads are even snakier. Though we’ve rented a car to be delivered to our villa, we may want our guy once in a while.
Plus I have a feeling my journeys out and about will be few.
I’m more sure of that when we arrive.
The little gate opens to let us in where Bruno and his mama and his young son wait. Bruno and his family manage the villa–and own it. In fact his parents built it, and lived here for many years. They’re justifiably proud, and Mama knows much of the area, its legends. We have to be shown around, instructed on how everything works, but first we must look out. All that blue water below, the shadow of land, the rise of it far out. And three little islands off our shores. We’re told they were once called the Islands of the Sirens–as the Sirens sat and sang and lured the boats.
There’s an infinity pool overlooking the water from the villa’s high perch. I expect we’ll give it a lot of use.
The gracious villa offers gardens–fig trees!–paths and steps leading down to pretty spots to sit, and a hiking trail. We have a big patio off the kitchen, with awnings we can open and close as the sun demands. But the view, honestly, the view is all. I almost hate to go in and see the house itself. I’m going to get a lot of writing and reading done in some of those outdoor spaces.
We have a pretty living room–windows and a terrace to enjoy the view. Two bedrooms on this level, and Kat and Jason decide to take one of them. They’ll love having that terrace.
A big country kitchen with a pretty tiled table. We’ve ordered in a few supplies. We have a bowl of gorgeous tomatoes–Sorrento tomatoes–and basil on the counter.
Two more bedrooms downstairs, and BW and I take the one with the bigger bed–he’s a very tall guy. We’ll enjoy the terrace off the bedroom.
Lots of practical things to be addressed, instructions on the WiFi–which turns out to be pretty wonky, and should be fixed by Monday or Tuesday. On the TVs, the alarm, the gate, the doors and windows, the recycling, and so on.
I need a drink!! I hunt for ice. Kat saves me by finding the little tray in a skinny freezer drawer. Now I can explore a bit, the grassy area by the pool Kat and I decide will be a fine workout spot. The flowers, the paths down. The view, stunning from every level and angle.
Time to unpack, and it feels good to have everything put away, the suitcases stored in the second bedroom.
It’s been a long time since our leisurely lunch on Capri. I slice up a tomato, add some basil, some pepper, some olive oil. Slice up some lovely bread, a variety of cheeses, a gorgeous peach, arrange it all with some grapes on a pretty tray. We have a snack on our patio.
We’ve going to need more from the market, and an actual meal–a little later. More exploring, more just sitting and basking first. Some WiFi frustration, more instructions by text.
We have menus from the local spots, and they’ll deliver. But Jason and Kat will walk to the village, do the marketing and pick up dinner. BW will drive down to fetch them since our car’s been delivered.
I pour a drink, roll back the patio awnings as the sun’s softened its heat. We have olives on a tree–not ripe yet, as Kat quickly discovered, but so pretty. While my family’s dealing with food and supplies, I sit on the patio. A skinny cat wanders out. We’ve been asked not to feed the stray cats or let them in the house, or the grassy area will become a litter box. The cat’s not much interested in me though I try to coax him over for a pet. Maybe later.
Now we have our supplies, and our dinner–and as it’s reported to be a nice walk, I’ll look forward to wandering down myself some time. We have ravioli, pizza, gnocchi on the patio as day fades to night.
Out on the terrace we look up at brilliant stars. They actually twinkle, bright pinpoints against the deep sky. The breeze sounds like the surf.
It’s early to bed for me, and I go out in what seemed like seconds, I wake to soft light just before six, walk out to breezes strong enough for a sweater. Soft blue skys with streaks of clouds, high cliffs, white rock and green trees, flowering bushes blowing in the wind, and the water, spreading wide.
It’s a fine morning view.
I think a restful Sunday’s in order, and maybe we’ll make some pasta in our pretty kitchen for dinner tonight. We have gelato in the freezer!
Note from Laura: Iffy WiFi means the words got through but photos will take a little longer, so I’m adding a few from Capri I didn’t use in other recaps. Enjoy!
In the spirit of mixing things up, we take a lazier day after the day of The Big Hike.
This doesn’t mean skipping the morning workout, and Kat’s got some Piyo DVDs. They aren’t for weenies! A forty-something minute session gets the blood moving and the muscles stretched. Then it’s time for my three companions to get their massages. I opt to do a cardio workout as I’m getting TWO spa treatments.
By the time I get out of the shower, everyone’s back and blissed out. It’s handy I can just wear my robe to go down a couple flights of stairs to the spa. Which is lovely and quiet and friendly. Clearly everyone there wants you to have a perfect time. My hot stone massage was a perfect time. All those muscles I challenged on the hike, and in the morning’s workout get a good, deep rub, and that heat? Ahhhh.
I’m pretty blissed myself by the time I walk back to the room. And there, my fam is preparing to take a trip on the chair lift that runs beside the hotel–and way, way up. The way, way up has already answered the question of whether I’d want to go. I settle down to work for the hour or so before my facial. The minute I start I’m back into it and realize I wouldn’t mind a solid three or four hour session at the keyboard. But I have the spa calling.
It literally flies by, that hour, so I’m surprised when I check on the time and see I have to leave right now! So still in my robe–and it’s an added bonus to spend the bulk of a day in a robe–I head down again. I’ve chosen a facial that involves oxygen being blown onto (into?) your skin. Not sure how it works, but it feels like your face is being quietly airbrushed. It’s lovely and relaxing. It also involves a neck and shoulder massage, a soothing mask, hand massage. All together, more bliss. And after my skin looks and feels amazing.
I can see why celebs come here for a week just for the spa treatments.
My gang had a great time riding high above Capri, have the photos to prove it–and had some gelato to cap it off.
Housekeeping’s here, and one of the ladies apologizes for not speaking English. Then speaks it perfectly in a conversational way–to ask if we’re enjoying our stay, to tell us we’ll love Sorrento and so on. My Italian’s pretty limited to hello, goodbye, good day, evening, night. And various foods. It always impresses me how Europeans have at least a conversational command of so many languages. Americans should do better there.
I’ll add everyone in our hotel has been a delight–friendly, personable, accommodating. Just as the shopkeepers, the waitstaffs around the island have given off that happy, welcoming vibe. More than making a sale, providing a meal, making the bed, checking you in or out, it’s service. Lovely, competent and cheerful service. It makes all the difference.
But now it’s time for me to actually get dressed. We’re going to take ourselves a walk down a quieter area–still shops to play in. A few more gifts to select and friendly shopkeepers to chat with as the light softens toward evening. We can hardly leave Capri without buying a pretty bottle of limoncello. It would just be wrong.
We wind our way back to the restaurant where we ate our first night. I want nothing more in this world than their pizza. Well, maybe some wine to go with it. It’s all as cheerful and delicious as before. Honestly, nobody prepares food like the Italians, or sees to pretty details as flawlessly. We have our easy, fun, yummy meal–pizza for me and my boy, eggplant parm for Kat, a tuna dish for BW. A little dessert. Nobody walked home hungry.
Today, post workout, we have to gather our things, organize, repack what we unpacked. We’ll say goodbye to our amazing home here, and the beautiful island of Capri.
Time for a boat ride. At least, for my shaky system, it’s a short one. And by mid-afternoon we’ll be on Sorrento.
We decided on a challenge. It starts with the wild ride down to Capri Town–that’s after Kat retrieves the guide from the room, and Jason googles where we’re going. BW assumes I knew how to get there. I never know how to get anywhere! Honestly, I can’t even remember the name of the palace. I believe it was built by Tiberius. So that’s a clue.
BW: But you wrote about it!
NR: Over a year ago. Plus, this involves directions of some sort.
Shoulda brought my compass.
In any case, Jason finds things relating to Tiberius and comes up with Villa Jovis.
Yes, that’s it!
Kat comes back with the guide, and we’re off.
The day is beautiful, the views stunning. But I can’t really look at them as we wind down, just slicking past cars winding up. Then the madness that is Capri Town. Throngs of people, skinny roads leading to skinny roads. BW and I remember we have to take a skinny road, and steps are involved.
We wander, and it feels wrong, just wrong that I need to pass all these shops without a peek inside. Farrogamo, Pucci, Piano, and oh, oh, Armani. It stings a bit, but we have a mission.
We don’t find the road we’re after, but we find another, and finally a little sign with an arrow for Villa Jovis.
We climb, hike up the skinny road, haul up the narrow steps. Make turns, up, up, and yes, finally, I remember the area. We’ve converged onto the route we’d taken before. I remember that sweeping view over white walls and red tiles to the blue sea. Pretty gardens on the right. A big fig tree, red tomatoes, lemon trees, long rivers of yellow lantana.
Up, up, up. Garden walls and fancy iron doors showing long shady colonnades into lovely homes. It would be an amazing daily hike to live here, but what a reward.
We pass a gate, and Kat and I both exclaim and stop. Inside the lovely garden is the biggest hibiscus flower we’ve ever seen. Big as a dinner plate and perfect and pink. She starts to take a picture through the gate, and we hear a loud click. The lady of the house steps out, invites us to come in and take the picture. This is so sweet and kind. The plant blooms for a month every year, she tells us. She’s obviously, and justifiably proud of her garden.
On we go, up, up, up. There are some benches built into the wall, often in shade for a reprieve, and so many beautiful distractions along the hike. That blue sea with the white boats gliding, the rugged rise of cliffs, the stunning gardens and the deep Capri green of cypress. And the scents, the lemon, the flowers, the pine.
We pass through a little area with a shop, a market on one side, a little restaurant on the other. BW and I had pizza and wine there last trip on the way down from the ruins.
The way is long and steep, and this time narrow little carts–skinnier than golf carts–rumble by going up or down. There’s barely room for them and hikers to pass. And oh, my quads are starting to feel it!
The estimated time on the sign where we began was 40 minutes. I’m sure it took us all that, and some more. But we reach a point where we can see it, the biscuit colored walls of what had been the emperor’s massive villa, built primarily by slave labor, and those slaves had to haul the supplies up, up, up the route we’ve just hiked carrying no more than a couple backpacks.
Still, we’re not there yet. More steps, more steep road, more gorgeous views. And a lot of sweat.
I see two men–golden hair–doing this same hike. One of them is wearing jeans and a long-sleeved shirt. Who would dress like that for a hike on a hot, sunny, summer day? Why isn’t he dripping with sweat?
And at last we’re there. The guardian of the gate explains to us–in Italian, where we can see Sorrento, Vesuvius, and on the other side Napoli. I look down–for a moment–and the steep drop, the cliffs, the courageous trees that cling to the rock, and the deep blue water.
Much better to look out than down.
More steps! We climb up to walk where emperors, slaves, servants, dignitaries, all long dead walked. Walls of brick and stone, open to the sky, wide chambers, cool from those stones. And arguably the best views on the island so high up. We go all the way to the top, onto a flat wide roof for more views and photos, for the glorious breeze. It’s all more than worth the hike, and there’s a satisfaction knowing just how high we climbed.
The way down is a lot quicker and easier–though it pings the hamstrings a bit now and then.
Along the way we see a cat lounging in the shade. None of us have ever seen his like. Leopard spotted, so,so handsome, with pale, clear green eyes. Eerie green. The cat is pleased to be scratched and petted by Jason, turning his head, flopping over, stretching out. Deigning in his cat way to allow our attention and admiration. Until he’s done with us and rises to walk away and wash.
Down and down, and we stop at a pretty bar/restaurant overlooking the sea. All shady with little tables and chairs–chairs with cushions! We’ve earned those cushions, and a refreshing beverage. And gelato!
I opt for a mimosa and strawberry gelato. Just marvelous.
Down and down again after a lovely respite into the crowds in town. Around and around to the cab stand, and the mad ride up. The driver chats some, and all I can think is: No! Don’t talk. Don’t become distracted. It’s a really long way down!
But we make it, head up to our room.
Time for another refreshing drink. I have over 18,000 steps on my Fitbit. A banner day! And it isn’t over.
Later, after a rest, we clean up, fancy up a bit for our dinner here at the hotel. We have a lovely table by the pool side where the billowy white curtains are pulled back. It’s dining in and out at the same time, with a view of another beautiful sunset.
The food’s plentiful, the service first rate. A bottle of red, trays of lovely bread. Starters–just some salad for me. I get the sea bass–mmmm–and as I don’t like spinach once you cook it, I split mine between BW and Kat. Give Jason my tomatoes (which I only like cooked into sauce!) My fish is perfect, the wine is smooth, soft, the meal slow and easy as it should be.
They bring the cheese cart. I mean to say no, but am talked into trying just a bit. More lovely. Then there’s some little treat–I taste coffee and berries and chocolate. And dessert! I order something with peach and cream and a thin, crunchy cookie. I can’t eat half of it, but it’s wonderful. BW agrees as he eats what I can’t. Then they bring two trays of little sweets. Oh no, more! I can do one bite, of something rich with blueberry.
We all groan our way upstairs. And do a short stretch for those hard-worked muscles.
It’s near midnight before I give it up after a long, full day packed with sights, the smell of flowers and lemons that is Capri, the rich greens, the blue sea, the tumbling cliffs, the crowds, the movement, the sweat, the food and wine.
I sleep late for me–7:30–and the day is again perfect. We’re spending it lazy–though Kat and I did a challenging workout. It’s time for massages as a reward. And I’m tagging on a facial just because. We may do some more walking on our last full day here. Or just sit and look.
Maybe, just maybe, I’ll work for an hour or so. We’ll just have to see what the day brings.
Note from Laura: Bonus photos from Kat! Mouthwatering melon and prosciutto and the tiles from shopping on the first day.
There’s nothing like a long, sunny, breezy day to mark the first full day of vacation.
But the first day had a focused purpose–at least for me and Kat.
There’s surely no lack of opportunity for that mission here, and the August sales are in swing–so all the better. Plus for me, it’s my golden opportunity to scoop up gifts and cross off that Christmas list in high summer.
Still, my first purchase is for me alone.
We wandered into a shop, such pretty colors, pretty shells. And what do I spy but a gorgeous compass. It spoke to me even before I equated it with the Guardian trilogy, Sawyer and Capri. I could see it on a shelf in my library or my office, so treated myself.
As much as a treat was the handsome shopkeeper who flirts outrageously, singing straight into my eyes. That’s a trait I’ve noted in Italian men particularly. How they look right into your eyes–it works!
We wander more, and come upon the striking pottery in a kind of open air shop where I’ve purchased before. I recognize the owner, tell him I used a platter I bought from him only a few days before. He’s gracious, talkative, obviously proud of his wares. I don’t need another platter or bowl, I really, really don’t. But . . . The one with lemons is so cheerful! And the little matching bowl and serving set. And I love this spaghetti bowl, and this one.
Plus he takes my hand, kisses it. What can I do?
He’ll, he assures me, pack all my pieces up very, very well and ship.
The men have deserted us, so we hit a few more shops, and now I’m back on mission. No more for me, it’s Christmas in Capri. And yes, I remember this shop where I found several gifts last time. And do so again, now with Kat’s help.
A few more shops, meet up with the men, separate again because we’re not done!
Well, maybe I can have one more thing because that scarf is absolutely delicious.
More than anything, it’s the cheer and delight of the shopkeepers, the saturation of colors, the clever displays that draw you in. It’s just happy.
We walk and walk. Settle on a pretty restaurant where we can sit outside, enjoy some wine and pasta. And more gifts from the shop right across the narrow street. There the shopkeeper–with beautiful gray eyes–flirts and chats. He has his worktable right there, so customers can watch him make his jewelry, and even, he tells me, give him suggestions. He’ll make a pair of earrings for me while I have lunch!
And lunch is lovely. There is no pasta as fresh, no wine as soft as in Italy. I don’t even have room for my daily gelato after.
More walking, more shopping bags, and a return to the hotel where the men take naps. And I take out my little book, make my gift notes. Nearly done there! It’ll be an Italian Christmas for my pals this year.
Kat and I are made of sterner stuff. We need a few supplies from a market, so head out to find one. And find a purse I don’t need but just want, a few gifts to be crossed off her list. The crowds have thinned by this time, so it’s a little treat to see locals walking home from work, or marketing.
We do our own marketing, and wind our way back. A few words with the gray-eyed craftsman as he stands outside his shop–it was a good day, he tells me. He hopes I had the same.
And a return to the potter where Kat’s debating over some tiles. She’ll make a little table or a pot holder for her kitchen. He shows her several designs of four tiles, how they can be turned to make different pretty patterns. She buys two sets of four, and I can’t wait to see what my clever girl does with them.
Then it’s back home again, a glass of champagne on the terrace with BW, the making of loose plans for the next day. And for me, a swim with Paltrow. The water’s warm and soft, and two gulls perch on our roof, chatting with each other.
We’re all so happy and relaxed we decide to have dinner right here, on the terrace. Another drink, and we enjoy a gorgeous sunset. All pink and gold as the sun turns into a red ball that sinks, sinks, shrinks, shrinks, then slides away into soft, soft light.
A lovely meal, a flickering candle and four contented travelers.
I’m out before eleven, up at my usual six to another lovely day.
We’ve got a serious hike planned for later, but I want a workout first to tune me up.
I’m writing this on a gorgeous morning on the terrace, enjoying light breezes and a view of pretty blue water.
If you can sit here and not say ahhh, you have some serious issues.
But first, we had to get here.
We left Monday evening for an 8 hour plus flight. Happily I slept through about half of it. Even more happily it was pretty smooth for this unenthusiastic flier. Once we land, we shuffle through Customs, then are loaded into a van for the wild drive through Naples. As on my first trip here, this part is mostly a blur. Pretty buildings, soft pinks and bright whites, outrageous traffic, lots of tunnels, zigging and zagging to the docks. So many boats! Big ones, small ones, sail boats, yachts.
We’re unloaded, then reloaded onto a boat. I like looking at boats. I don’t much like being on one–but you gotta get there. The water’s steely blue, and mists swirl around Vesuvius. Rugged cliffs rise high, topped by deep green. It’s beautiful, even if my system’s saying: Please stop this!
Then there it is, the rise of rocks, the boats circling, the pretty marina.
Unload, reload into another van for the even wilder ride up, up, up to our hotel.
The roads are skinny as a snake and just as sinuous. It seems impossible that two cars can pass, but they do. Sweeping up, snaking up, and now my system is shouting: What is happening?? Make it stop!
Water, gorgeous water, far, far below on one side of the narrow, ribboning road, cliffs or buildings on the other, and cars pass with a coat of paint to spare at careless speed. A bus! You have to be kidding me. No way a bus can–but it does, squeaks right by.
We arrive–at last–about the same time a couple groups from a cruise ship disembark at about the same spot. Crowds of people, lots of noise. We wind through to the lobby–blissfully quiet, and best of all, it doesn’t move!
Our suite’s not ready, but we’re taking straight up to another–a kind of luxurious holding pen where we can sit out on the terrace in sun or shade, take a breath. Look out at the views. Water, the fascinating tumble of buildings running down the fall of land, climbing up the rise of it.
We all end up napping. I stretch out on a lounge chair under an umbrella, put my hat over my face, and go out for a good solid hour. Maybe more as I can’t check the time. My watch battery died on the way to the airport. I wake hungry and refreshed, decide to leave my sleeping family and go for a walk.
It’s so pretty, and more Capri is so damn happy. Bustling with people, shops and more shops lining the winding roads, colorful wares displayed, and that wonderful European mix of languages and accents. I don’t walk far as I haven’t oriented myself yet, but it feels good to move, to be out and about for a bit. It feels even better when I buy myself a gelato.
I’m tempted to shop, but it’s so nice just to walk in the sunlight with my gelato. I wander back, work off the gelato by taking the stairs back up where Jason and BW are awake, and Kat’s still down for the count.
We’re taken to our room, which is dedicated to Gwyneth Paltrow. BW and I stayed here before, and I remember fondly the huge outdoor space, the two-level terrace with breathless views, with shrubs and flowers, and a pretty little pool. Since we were here last they’ve painted a very cool picture of Paltrow on the bottom of the pool.
We unpack what we think we’ll need as we’re only on Capri for four days before we move on. Jason’s and Kat’s adjoining room has a cool little pool on a bedroom terrace. We’re going to be very happy here. Why not start the happy with a glass of champagne on the terrace? That’s what I’m talking about.
Later, we walk to a restaurant BW and I remember for its good food and good service. We weren’t disappointed. A bottle of wine, pizza for me and Jason, pasta for BW and Kat. I ask the waiter, who’s already amused us, what is the dessert of the day. He says he can’t tell me until I finish my pizza. LOL.
I actually can’t finish it, though I give it a good try–and it’s delish. But he does allow me dessert. I get lemon gelato, and nearly weep with joy.
A lovely walk back as night’s fallen, and the lights gleam.
I think to check into the world before bed, with my tablet. But just conk.
Slept a solid eight, and woke up at six. The views are just as lovely, and I can hear a dog barking, barking somewhere. Kat comes out, and as she’s the cleverest of the clever, sets up her little DVD machine and monitor. We do a vicious little workout on the terrace–straight cardio to get the blood moving. And a nice yoga session after the stretch it all out again.
BW came out for the pool, and is now bragging he swam with Gwyneth.
Now my gang’s down at breakfast. I may take a swim with Gwyn myself before I get ready for a happy day of wandering, shopping, seeing sites, and whatever else Capri offers.