Have you ever been to a place for the first time and as soon as you arrived you felt at home?
You felt this strange yet amazing feeling of belonging. I had never stepped foot in this part of the world but the moment we arrived I knew I was ‘home.’
We arrived in Sorrento late in the day after a long car trip from Rome. Standing outside in the gardens of our hotel I took in the incredible views over the Gulf of Naples. Pretty pink bougainvillea was all around, the ocean at my fingertips and a relaxed vibe so different from the cities we had just visited. Our time in Sorrento was spent soaking up the summer atmosphere, visiting many Lemoncello shops, and having our fair share of pasta, pizza and fish.
Next up was a day trip to Capri. What can I say, I fell even more in love. Away from the glitz of Capri town, up the mountain and towards the Bay of Naples, we entered the gorgeous Gardens of Augustus. The views over the Bay are breathtaking. To the west we could see the three Faraglioni surrounded by the bluest of blue waters. To the east, the winding Via Krupp hugs the rugged cliffs all the way down to Marina Piccola.
On the western side of the island, high up in the hills, sits the tiny commune of Anacapri. A short walk from the centre brought us to Villa San Michele, built by Swedish doctor and author Axel Munthe in the early 20th century. The Villa is surrounded by gorgeous gardens with views over the town of Capri, the Sorrentine Peninsula and Mount Vesuvius.
I had read a little about the Villa and Axel Munthe and was really looking forward to walking through its gardens. What I was really surprised to find out was that Munthe was a determined advocate of animal rights and that he purchased land in Italy to create a bird sanctuary (still operational to this day!). Munthe was also a great lover of dogs.
In Munthe’s memoir book, The Story of San Michele, he says “But at least in one regard I can say I haven’t fooled my readers, in my love for animals. I have loved them and suffered with them all my life. I have loved them far more than I ever loved my fellow humans.” I thought this was beautiful. It really struck a chord with me.
Our next destination and first stop on the Amalfi Coast was Positano. The tiny town is absolutely gorgeous, a photographer’s dream. Colourful, steeply-stacked houses line the hills overlooking the coast, narrow stairs that lead down to the beach, alleyways draped with vines and flowers, and a peaceful and calm, but at the same time lively, atmosphere.
I am not the best writer so I’ll borrow John Steinbeck’s words to tell you just how beautiful this place is. In 1953, Steinbeck, in an essay published in Harper’s Bazaar, wrote “It is a dream place that isn’t quite real when you are there and becomes beckoningly real after you have gone.”
Positano was our base for a few days and from there we explored the coast and visited the villages of Amalfi and Ravello. We walked Amalfi’s tiny streets, took in the views from the beach and had giant gelatos in the town square just opposite the Amalfi cathedral. Ravello was gorgeous. A quiet village high up in the hills overlooking the Amalfi Coast, dotted with lemon groves and wrought iron gates.
In Ravello we also visited Villa Cimbrone, the original having been built in the 11th century. The Villa is surrounded by stunning gardens which lead to the Terrace of Infinity where you can see the blue Gulf of Sorrento stretch on forever. The writer Gore Vidal put if perfectly when he said “the sky and the sea were each so vividly blue that it was not possible to tell one from the other.”
I don’t have the words to describe just how magical this part of the world is so I can only hope that the pictures below capture the stunning beauty we were lucky enough to experience.