In March of 2002, Kay and I along with friend Kathy took a trip to Italy. Unfortunately, I didn’t keep a journal of this trip, so what I’m writing here years later are a few things that I remember. Looking at the photos of the things we saw, memories of the trip have been on my mind.
It was Kathy’s wish to see the Costiera Amalfitana (the Amalfi Coast) that had us go to that lovely stretch on the Mediterranean where we stayed two or three nights at the Hotel Villa Amore in the hilltop town of Ravello.
To get from the coast road up to Ravello, we drove our rental car uphill by switchbacks until we reached a parking lot at the base of the town. From there we had to climb flights of stairs to reach the town proper.
I don’t remember how we decided on the Hotel Villa Amore, but I do remember that the hotel was owned by two aged sisters, who lived on the premises. Nor do I recall details of our room, the dining room or the garden. The hotel employed a man named Bepe, who carried our luggage from the car park up to the hilltop, a strenuous task. In the hotel, we remember a myna bird, whose one word was “prego.” One evening, we were invited into the sisters’ sitting room to watch something on television.
During our days in Ravello, we explored the town’s elegant villas, like the Cimbrone.
It had a large garden with a terrace called the Belvedere that looked out over the Med far below. Along the railing of this terrace were a series of busts of female figures. This was a beautiful spot.
We used Ravello as a base to explore other parts of the Amalfi Coast. One day we drove to the town of Amalfi itself situated along an estuary and built on hillsides. Amalfi, as I recall, is an ancient place that was once famous as a paper making center. We visited an abandoned building that had once housed a paper factory. I seem to recall a visit to a museum where we learned about the ancient paper making process.
The Amalfi Coast is famous for its lemons, which are the size of softballs. Those lemons are used to make Limoncello, the local liqueur that we sampled more than once.
We had picked up our rental car in Naples and used it to explore the coast from Sorrento to Salerno and beyond. We went as far south as Paestum to see the magnificent Greek temples.
Back to Naples to return our rental, it was just by luck that I was able to find my way through the maze of streets to the rental agency. What a relief!
Next, we spent four days in Rome. We stayed at the Casa Kolbe on the Via di S Teodoro, a lodging for visiting priests. It was reasonably priced and quiet, two of any hotel’s greatest virtues.
This was Kathy and Kay’s first visit to Rome, and my single, earlier visit had occurred forty years before so we were in the mood to see the sights. In four days, we exhausted ourselves, visiting
the Spanish Steps,
the Piazza Navona,
the Borghese Gardens,
the Capitoline Museums,
the Trevi Fountain,
the Piazza del Popolo,
the Biblioteca Casanatense,
the Church of the Four Fountains,
the Pantheon, and various other famous monuments.
We fortified ourselves with some great meals, one in a Trastevere restaurant called the Giggetto. As the name implies it was located in what was once Rome’s Jewish ghetto. Kay fell in love with one of the restaurant’s specialties: a whole artichoke, deep-fried, and eaten leaves and all.
One of my favorite moments in Rome was standing inside the Pantheon directly under the oculus and thinking that there, on that very spot, had stood a host of great names from history, including Roman emperors, Charlemagne, and Napoleon. It was a romantic thrill.
The weather wasn’t great most of time we were in Rome. My pictures show cloudy skies and darkness.
We also explored Venice and some cities of the Veneto. In Venice proper we rented an apartment on the lagoon at 1611 Castello. We had learned about this apartment from our neighbors in New York, who had stayed there in the past. It was comfortable, and since we could split the rental between Kathy and Kay and I, reasonably priced.
Of course we visited the Piazza San Marco and the church along with some high-end stores like Venini Glass.
Kay and I were on the trail to look at as many works of the architect Carlo Scarpa as we could find. There were a couple of these on the piazza. One had been the flagship Olivetti store. Another Scarpa sight was the Palazzo Querini-Stampalia, which the architect had restored and added to.
While in Venice we made a trip to the island of Torcello to get a sense of it and visit its ancient churches. This marshy island was the site of the most ancient Venetian settlement.
I think Kay and didn’t feel we had to cram as much into this Venice visit since we had been there the year before and would be there again.
The cities of the Veneto were another story, however. By train we visited Padua, Verona, and Vicenza. Seeing the sights in those cities was thrilling. I remember especially the Loggia del Capitaniato and the Teatro Olimpico in Vicenza, the first covered theater in Europe built in 1580.
Verona was an exciting experience.
There we looked at the Coliseum on the Piazza Bra
and spent some hours in and around the Museum of the Castel Vecchio, Scarpa’s great achievement in museum adaptation.
I don’t remember that Kathy did all of the cities with us. I don’t remember her being in Verona, for instance. And I know she wasn’t with us when Kay and I drove into the Dolomites to the village of Passagno where we visited the Canova Museum.
It was on the return from that trip that we located a walled cemetery plot in which Carlo Scarpa created an entire environment for a wealthy man and his wife. We’d never seen anything like this unique creation.
We feel we only had a taste of the sights and cities of the Veneto. We promise ourselves to return for a more leisurely visit. In the meantime, we have our memories.