Thursday, December 1, 2011

Itching for a Trip? Go to Ischia!

Every once in awhile it's great to unplug.  Matt and I enjoy  staying connected through the blog, our Facebook status, and checking in on FourSquare but sometimes is great to not let anyone know where you are going.  Which is why two months ago when we were blessed with a four day weekend after Ramadan, Matt's nimble fingers found their way to and snagged a last minute deal for us to go mingle with the awesome Italians.  Blissfully unaware of all the trip details, I only asked that we actually find some time to relax (our vacations generally tend to be shall we say...aggressively scheduled).  As with all things touched by Matt, the trip began to take on a life of it's own.  We needed to book a car to drive down the coast to Naples (he naturally chose a convertible, despite having no trunk for the luggage), catch a ferry with our car to the island, and then upon return he threw in another night in Rome, before returning to Dubai.  Matt's motto - if you can't do in 4 days, what you could accomplish in 8 - why bother?

Our little getaway was looking a bit more complicated, but as they say: when in Rome!  We checked in with our parents when we touched down ("you are where?" my Mom says exasperated) and headed down the coast to enjoy some fun in the sun.

A little bit about Ischia.  It's on the West coast of Italy, off the coast from Naples.  Most people know her much more famous cousin Capri, but she can hold her own.  The volcanic island is home to natural hot springs that mix with the sea water on the coast and her very own castle.  The island has shown up throughout history since about 730 BC in literature as a major trading point and as land of strategic importance between warring city-states.  And is absolutely beautiful!
Happy as a clam driving to Naples.

Italians think that people who don't eat carbs are crazy - I tend to agree!

These people can definitely do food right.  This was a little "snack" of lemon sorbetti, they promised us it was not too big.
We stayed at the fantastic Terme Manzi hotel on the island.  It comes highly recommended.  This was this indoor hot springs pool, the mineral water on the island is known for it's healthy and restorative properties.

On our first night I really wanted to try this local restaurant that was recommended but it was on the other side of the island.  We called to inquire about reservations and the guy on the other end said - "Where are you?  Be ready in 20 minutes I'll come and get you."  Nice!  Door-to-door service from the youngest brother of five who own the family run business.  They sat us in the lemon grove, where the trees are literally dripping with lemons, they were falling on our table all night! 
Yeah, we'll have the pizza.
Mamma Mia!  My hand is fully extended over my head and this string of cheese from the pizza will not break.  Don't worry I wasn't afraid to use my teeth.  But who says you can't play with your food?
The next morning we had plenty of stored energy to explore the island.  So my Prince Charming and I headed strait for the castle.  The Castello Aragonese is a medieval castle which stands on a volcanic rock, it is the most impressive historical monument in Ischia, built by Hiero I of Syracuse in 474 BC. In 1441, Alfonso V of Aragon built a stone bridge which connected the rock to the island, and fortified the walls in order to defend the inhabitants from the raids of pirates.  Here we are standing on the stone bridge that connects the island to the castle rock.
The walk to the castle is filled with all kinds of fantastic stores!  When life gives the Italians lemons - they make limoncello!
Finally at the top of the castle you can see the island behind us and the stone bridge below.  If you have any sense of how far this camera is from us for a self timed picture, you'll appreciate how fast Matt had to run in 10 seconds (and down a flight of stairs) to be in it!
Going to the hot springs was such a unique experience!  This is a rocky outcropping at the southern point of the island where the soil under the water hides cracks where the thermal water comes up.  It mixes with the sea water and the end result is a natural jacuzzi in the ocean!
You have to be careful!  If you slip and fall in you could be severely burned.  Some of the water closest to the shore is almost near boiling so you have to gingerly make your way out to cooler temperatures.

The Terme Manzi has a Michelin starred restaurant the Gli Ulivi and we decided that our anniversary was close enough around the corner for a treat.  This was truly a 'feast for the eyes'.  It was some of the most stunning presentation that I've seen.

The sunset on the last day in Ischia gave the impression that now, the island was just showing off!
If this isn't a testament to accruing hotel points, I don't know what is!  We stayed for one glorious night at the St. Regis Rome (on points!)  It is classic and beautiful, and a total jewel from a bygone era.  When it opened on January 11, 1894, it was Le Grand Hotel, the newest venture of Cesar Ritz, the Swiss hotelier whose name was to become a synonym for high style and found its way, some decades hence, in the Irving Berlin tune: “Puttin’ on the Ritz.”  The inaugural gala which featured a concert conducted by a leading maestro of the time.
Each room is named for the hand painted mural that sits behind the bed.  And while I could have laid in bed for the rest of the afternoon just staring at the room - it was time to hit the streets!
Rome has a very special place in our hearts.  Matt and I took our first trip together here six years ago.  Three months after meeting he whisked me away to the Eternal City and we both tossed a coin in the Trevi Fountain.  
 Six years ago (almost to the day)!
 Our wishes must have come true, as we celebrate six happy years and our second wedding anniversary!
Love it.  Every time.  The incomparable Pantheon.

Summer night in the Piazza della Rotonda (the Pantheon).
No trip to Rome is complete without a trip to Giolitti.  We always skip dessert and come here for gelatti.
Piazza Navona.
Wonder if the Pope lets you make house calls this time of night?
Spanish Steps.
We are a little obsessed with Bernini's sculptures and this fountain was no exception.  The hotel fittingly decided to go with the brand.
The Arch of Constantine built 315AD.
This one needs to introduction.

Amo l'Italia!!

1 comment:

jimdad said...

It's easy to see why artists are still inspired by Italy. And with all that romantic scenery, you can understand why I thought you celebrated your anniversary there.