by Suzanne Goulart
We set out for Italy in the late afternoon on a Sunday, arriving to Rome after a quick stopover in Zurich. Ready for nearly two weeks of touring villas, we picked up our rental car and off we went. Destination:
We arrived to Positano at about 7:30pm, about a four hour drive from Rome. After parking our car, we walked down narrow streets and many steps to the hotel as it is located at the lowest point of Positano, right on the beach. We checked into our rooms and could not have been happier. They were large and comfortable, each with a balcony, gorgeous views and sounds of surf.
We decided to have our first dinner in Italy al fresco on the terrace at the hotel restaurant, taking in the ambience of this beautiful Mediterranean town. I had a fresh pasta with fresh raw Tuna finished with a pepper sauce. Although I didn’t know it at the time, this would end up being one of my favorite meals of the trip.
After dinner, we took a walk and ran into a sweet black dog named Nerone, whose name we discovered from one of the locals. Walking around this lovely town at night was a treat. Just magical.
Our first full day in Italy started with a splendid breakfast at our hotel. Then we were off to our first villa appointment at Torre di Positano. For this villa, we traveled by boat which picked us up just below our hotel, and dropped us off seaside at the villa. Our GQ
captain, Lorenzo, got us to the villa in about five minutes time. The water is certainly the main attraction of this region, whether viewing it from your villa or getting out on the water by boat. We can help you arrange a boat charter or
consider avoiding driving and taking advantage of the local ferries and water taxis.
Built in the 1700s, the villa tower belonged to the family of one of the Popes, and it now houses the master and two other bedrooms. The adjacent building has another five bedrooms. Maid service and cook are included, making this an ideal villa for a celebratory vacation with a big group. Best for groups with older children since there are a lot of steps. Starting at €22,569/week
After several days visiting villas along the Amalfi Coast, from Sorrento to Amalfi to Ravello, it was time for us to move to Capri. We had one last dinner in Positano at Al Palazzo which had great ambiance and the best tiamusu ever! It’s important to remember that the Amalfi coast has a lot of steps—not just at the properties themselves, but throughout the villages: Capri and Anacapri are easier to maneuver in this regard and are better options for those with mobility issues.
In the morning, we snuck in a little shopping in Positano before heading to our ferry in Sorrento. We had lunch by the ferry dock and then caught the twenty minute ferry to Marina Grande, Capri, and then headed to our hotel, Casa Mariantonia. I had stayed at the hotel six years back, and this time around it looked better than ever with a brand new pool and a renovated bar, dotted by a plethora of lemon trees. Rumor has it that limoncello was first created here using lemons from this old lemon grove.
In the midst of a historical setting, naturally we had a few samples of their famous beverage. We were settling into the Capri lifestyle easily, and before dinner that evening we walked all throughout the magical Anacapri village, which is mainly where the locals live, and has few tourists. The town is made up of wonderful old winding streets, lovely architecture and gardens, chic little shops, and family members walking arm in arm. I adore it here. Dinner was at Trattoria Il Solitario - a great discovery! Eclectic in feel, the restaurant was filled with locals and we sampled fresh pasta with swordfish in a pistachio sauce as well as lemon cake for dessert. As we dined, a few geckos decorated the ceiling—our waiter promised they were good luck!
There was so much to see in Capri and we were feeling energized to see as much as possible during our stay. We took the chair lift to the top of Anacapri (Monte Solaro), where we saw mountain goats as well as perfect views of our favorite village from above. Once we got to the top, the views were simply breathtaking: you could see Sorrento, Amalfi Coast, and beyond.
One of our favorite experiences was on the waters around Capri. We took the funicular down to Marina Grande and hopped on a boat for a tour of Capri and all her grottos, and a ride under the Faraglioni. For those who have not done the Blue Grotto before, you actually approach the area via your boat, then get onto a tiny rowboat where you are instructed to lie on your back. When the time is right, the rowboat captain pulls you through a tiny hole into the cave. Once you are in, you won’t be disappointed; I promise you. It’s the most beautiful blue you have ever seen.
Our next adventure was to climb the Phoenician steps. Before completion of the road, this was the only way to get from the port to Anacapri, which is hundreds of feet above sea level. It took about a hour and a half and was worth every step. Plus, it prepared us for another
delicious meal, this time at Il Geranio, which is not far from Parco Agosto and has a lovely setting and excellent food.
Alas, the next day we had to leave Capri to set out for Tuscany. First
a stop for lunch at a small food stand at the port of Sorrento called Salumeria del Port
- it is always at these small hole-in-the-wall spots that you find the best discoveries. We had some of the best sandwiches I’ve ever had in my life—think olives, mozzarella, and eggplant all drizzled with local olive oil. This was our pit stop of the day, and we had our lunch just off the highway as we looked out over the view of
The drive to Villa Aiola in the Val d’Orcia region was done in just under 5 hours. We were greeted by the house manager, who is so warm and gracious, and welcomed us with a delicious chicken dinner. Having stayed at the villa before, I was delighted to see the newly renovated breakfast nook and kitchen.
During our stay in Tuscany, we drove around to various parts of the region, including Pienza, Siena and Montalcino. We visited villas on farms that would be great for families and full service estates, perfect for larger groups and celebrations. Many villas can be arranged with a chef and we were treated to the perfect pick-me-up by one villa chef, of a tasty farro cake and espresso.
We drove to to San Casciano dei Bagni, with its soft, rolling green hills, and had lunch at Daniele, in the heart of this small village. We tried the wild boar, which was quite good. In this region, we loved
Villa Mimmi, which used to be a school. It has cathedral ceilings, lots of white and a terrific all around style—the owner is an interior decorator. Plus, you are only a three minute walk to the village from here. If you do stay in this region, the spa at the Fonteverde is a great place to visit. They offer a variety of spa treatments, wine tasting, and thermal spring pools. Highly suggested! We finished our day with an amazing dinner of steamed mussels, clams and calamari at Osteria del Pesce Rosso, a great seafood restaurant back in the heart of Montaione.
Villa Geggianello wins the “can’t go wrong” award. It’s simply an ideal spot with its Italian architecture, stone walls, and stunning views. Groups of couples will love staying here together. Starting at €12,577/week
Our trip was winding down now and we were making our way towards Florence for our last villa tour at
Villa Imprunetta, located just on the outskirts of Florence. This charming and comfortable house has gorgeous grounds and views and a large pool. The owner is a retired doctor and loves collecting antiques. We stopped for lunch in the heart of the wonderful village of Imprunetta and the food here was suberb—fresh ravioli in a browned butter sage sauce and a caprese salad with freshly picked basil.
We made our way to Florence for our final night in Italy, where we stayed at a hotel just inches from Ponte Vecchio. For our last dinner on the trip, we landed at a small café not far from our hotel, where I had a tasty mushroom pizza. We wandered back to our hotel after taking in the sights and sounds of this beautiful old city.
Overall, we had such a great time traveling together. The weather was perfection and May is a great time to visit Italy, before the summer crowds really kick in.
Before saying our goodbyes to Italy, we had just enough time for a final walk and shop in Florence. Then off to the airport with happy memories of our blissful time spent exploring this diverse country…