Saturday, 27 September 2014


I have always had a soft spot for Pizzetiello and even more so since this summer when one evening in July I was lucky enough to go to a concert at sundown right there on top of the hill. With the notes of  Vivaldi 's Four Seasons drifting on the wind,  pink fluffy clouds floating across the horizon, the backdrop of the sea and the coastline as dusk approached, it was ethereal and sublime.

Pizzetiello, or Malacoccola as it is frequently called, was always there, as were the paths to get to it, but in September 2013 it became part of the Sentiero delle #Sirenuse (Sirenuse Trail), newly named in an attempt to promote and turn it into a local Path of the Gods.  I doubt that this will ever happen, but the trail is now generally better maintained and the signage has  improved. 
Pizzetiello, at 489 metres above sea-level, is not that high. However the outstanding views are an intrinsic part of what makes it special.

Facing west, Capri’s Faraglioni rocks peep out from behind the peaks of the bay of Marina del Cantone and Monte San Costanzo. Facing east, you can enjoy a glimpse of the Amalfi Coast, the little white houses of Praiano clinging to the hillside, Positano fashion. Straight down below, you can wonder at the Li Galli islands, seemingly adrift at sea.

To get there you have a choice. You can set off from the village of Torca, following the path high above the sea before tackling the final short but very steep climb to the top, or you can walk more gently up from the main road on the other side, going back the same way if you don't fancy the fairly slippery downhill stretch. It is entirely up to you. Whichever way you choose, you will not be disappointed.

For a more detailed description of the hike:!sentiero-delle-sirenuse/cpjq

Monday, 22 September 2014


I hadn’t walked down to the Cala di #Mitigliano since June 2010. My first disappointment along the way was the state of the ancient church of Santa Maria, now completely hidden by scaffolding and securely locked. No longer a good photo opportunity, but an eyesore. 
Once off the road, the path was in a reasonable state,  clearly signed and free of vegetation. The ceramic tile was intact and all was looking good.The wooden “hand” rails were generally rather wobbly, but actually a great help in negotiating the deeper and more irregular steps, although now and then they had given up and toppled over. It wasn’t until I came to the two steepest and most slithery stretches, (of course completely rail-less), that I contemplated turning back, worried it could degenerate and that the further I went down, the further I would have to go back up again!
However meantime one of the local hounds had decided to accompany me and his reproachful look spurred me on.
At some time over the intervening years my memory had evidently pressed its delete button since I didn’t remember it being either so far down, or so steep . But maybe I was just younger and braver.
I finally came out into a little clearing and lo and behold an open gate with cars and scooters parked the other side. Also a row of rubbish bins strategically placed at the top of another, better flight of steps. So this is where the new private access road comes out, I thought to myself.
I made my way down the remaining steps (still quite a few) to the beach. A few families were under their sun umbrellas enjoying a relaxing Sunday, watching their children splashing in the shallows.  Boats were bobbing up and down further out to sea. Capri was ghostlike, shrouded in mist on the horizon. A quick swim and time to set off again. But this time I took advantage of the private road. I enjoyed its smooth surface, its width and its gentle loops. Definitely getting old.

Wednesday, 17 September 2014


On Sunday we went to Capri. I know it was a Sunday and I know it was September, but I have never ever seen so many people down at the Marina Grande. It was chaos.
Luckily the tourist masses stick to a very limited circuit, mainly heading up to the Piazzetta and Capri Town or taking one of the boat trips to the Grotta Azzurra. 

We were going to Anacapri and then on to the Sentiero dei  Fortini (Bourbon Blockhouses Trail) and it proved to be a wise choice. Rather than risking our health and sanity packed like sardines into the tiny buses, we decided to walk up the Scala Fenicia, 900 steps which originally were the only way of getting from the port to Anacapri.
It was hot work, but we made it fairly painlessly, meeting just one other person, going the opposite way.
Anacapri was also busy, but we were soon away from the crowds and walking down towards Punta Carena and the lighthouse.We had decided to walk northbound  towards the Grotta Azzurra, and not the other way round which is more usual.
This kept the sun out of our eyes and in the right direction for the many photo opportunities along the trail.
We walked steadily – the sun was bright, the white rocks dazzling, the sea azure. We ate our sandwiches sitting on the blocks of the Fortino di Mezzo looking out to sea.A solitary lizard tried to capture one of our grapes.
It was a far cry from the inferno down at the port.

More photos

Thursday, 11 September 2014


Having been here for rather a long time and having, in that time, spent quite a lot of it hiking the trails of the Sorrento Peninsula and the Amalfi Coast, I have obviously acquired some favourite spots along the way.
One of these is the Sella di Arola, a small grassy plain between Monte Vico Alvano and Monte Comune. Sella means saddle and this one straddles the peninsula with the Bay of Naples on one side and the Amalfi Coast on the other. 
In any season it is beautiful and sometimes, when the wind is in the right direction, clouds will swirl up and across it, creating a cloud dance that hides the incredible views before suddenly parting to give you a fleeting glimpse of what is below and beyond.
At other times the air is clear and you don’t know where to look first: over towards Arola and the distinctive humps of Monte Sant’Angelo and Monte Crocione, up towards the tree-clad slopes of Monte Vico Alvano and its iron cross, or down at the craggy rock formations clinging precariously to the cliff face above the sea and beyond to the Galli
islands or over towards Praiano.  
In spring the Sella is a festival of flowers, a botanist’s paradise. Often you will find clumps of rocket growing wild and there is nothing better than picking a few of its leaves and enjoying its tangy taste as you stroll along.!monte-vico-alvano---monte-comune/c1vtz


Tuesday, 9 September 2014


Mothers throughout Italy are rejoicing today as the interminable school summer holidays, 3 months long, finally draw to a close.
The shops have been full of school merchandise for weeks – rucksacks, exercise books, pencil cases, bright pink Princess, Winx and Hello Kitty designs for the girls and the latest blue Super-heroes for the boys. It is big business and costs, but not nearly as much as the school text books, which from Middle school (aged 11 upwards) have to be purchased by the parents. These have a tendency to be changed yearly so that the second-hand market is virtually non-existent and elder siblings can’t pass theirs on. We are looking at an annual cost of at the very least 300 euros, considerably more at the secondary schools.
However we save on uniforms - there are none as such here. The nursery and primary school children wear “grembiuli”, school smocks or overalls, generally white for the girls and blue for the boys (as if little girls don’t get dirty too…). The older children wear their own clothes which is fine until they create their own uniforms according to the fashion trend of the moment. We had the bare-midriff period of the girls (yes even at school..), regardless of how many spare tyres they were sporting, and the ridiculously extra low-hung, baggy trousers of the boys, exposing a far too generous expanse of fake Calvin Klein underpants.
When my boys were school-age, the school was just down the road from where we lived. It was a large, ugly modern building, purpose built, that now stands empty. Most village schools have been shut down over the past few years, not enough children to justify the costs.
Even 30 years ago, my eldest was in a class of just 4 children. When there was an outbreak of mumps, he was the only one who didn’t fall ill. The teacher decided to solve the problem by taking him with her to the houses of the 4 convalescents, an hour per child per day. Poor Luca got the short straw, having to do the full round.  We hoped he would get mumps too. He didn’t.

Thursday, 4 September 2014


August 1968 was the first time I came to Nerano. We drove all the way from the UK in a great big Volvo – my parents and 4 children, aged 9 to 16.
We had rented Villa Griselda, now the Relais Vittoria, which at the time belonged to a British couple. My father noticed the advert in his daily paper, contacted the owners by phone (no emails in that era) and the rent was exchanged for the driving instructions and information sheets on a windy British railway platform as the owners travelled north.
My father was always meticulous with his summer holiday planning. It started at Christmas. Even so he had underestimated the difficulty of driving a large right hand drive car along the narrow and twisting roads from Castellammare to the village. It was dark by the time we finally crossed the small wooden bridge into Nerano, the weight of the car and its contents causing  it to shudder and creak alarmingly as we passed.
The next morning, the sun was bright and dazzling as we admired what we had been unable to see the night before: the bright purple bougainvillea, the pink and white oleanders, the olive trees, the azure sea, the distinctive 3 peaks of the bay of Marina del Cantone to our right.
Time to explore. Off we went down the hill through the olive groves to find the beach, the noise of crickets accompanying us along the way.
It was August. It was high season.  We were virtually by ourselves on the beach apart from a few local fishermen chatting, their small wooden boats bobbing up and down moored to the planks that formed the jetty. There were more cats than people, a couple of deck-chairs and a sun umbrella.
Most of what you see now didn't exist. What was there, was smaller. The beach was long and empty. The Scoglio restaurant ended on its rock “scoglio”, the Cantuccio was a group of boulders to dive off. No Mary’s Beach, no L'Africano, no beach establishments at all. The Certosa opened directly onto the beach and still harboured fishing nets. It had a juke box in one corner. I can still hear the strains of  "A Whiter Shade of Pale" drifting out to sea.
Other times..