In the second part (read first part) of our 2-part series, newly-married Laura Hall discovers an Eden-like paradise in Ischia and wishes on coins bound for the Trevi Fountain in Rome…
So, if you caught the first part, you’ll know New Husband and I are already pretty smitten with Sorrento and all that lies within daytripping distance. And with Positano, Ravello and Amalfi safely stowed in our memories, we cast our net a little wider…
A couple of days after our trip to Amalfi, with expanding waistlines and a growing tolerance to bubbly, we caught the hydrofoil to Ischia. First stop was Ischia Castle. I’m hopeless at long, drawn out sightseeing expeditions so when I was handed a map with about 60 points of interest in store, I considered throwing myself off the ramparts into the sea. But then I heard whispers there was a good café at the top, so off we went, and I have to say it was a really good poke around. Best room is the Weaponry Museum, which has a curious collection of centuries-old torture tools.
Afterwards, we café-hopped our way back to the harbour in Ischia Town, and then had a 3-course meal spread across 3 different restaurants – 1 course in each. There are a couple of good wine bars right by the water’s edge, too. Our favourite had about a zillion bottles of wine lining the shelves, an eccentric local hammering out tunes on a tiny plinky ponk piano, and a knowledgeable owner who helps you choose your tipple.
By far the biggest treat for me in Ischia, though, was a day at La Mortella gardens. They were created by Susana Walton, the Argentinian wife of late British composter, Sir William Walton. The couple made La Mortella their home in 1949. As well as over 1,000 rare plants, there are extras like a Thai pavilion and a water garden dedicated to Susana. The icing on the cake is a tea house tucked among the greenery, which does every type of tea going and, talking of cake, wedges of melt-in-your-mouth lemon drizzle.
Sorrento has fantastic transport links, so we caught the train to Naples and then got the Eurostar to Rome – it took about an hour and 45 minutes from Naples. We spent a couple of nights in the Eternal City, posing for pictures on the Spanish Steps, causing havoc on an electric two-seater bike in Villa Borghese park, and throwing most of our spending money into the Trevi Fountain. The weather was sunny, the gelato was tasty, and the city was as beautiful as it was when we came here for our first and all-important minibreak back in 2008. It seems we have a lot to thank Rome for…
The Finer Details
We stayed at… the magical Grand Royal in Sorrento. It’s a classic hotel, with lounges made for afternoon tea, a classic cocktail bar that demands you make time for pre-dinner bellinis, and a huge clifftop terrace that teams a view of Vesuvius with great clouds of purple wisteria – if there’s a better spot in Italy to watch the sunset, I’m yet to find it. We also stayed at Hotel Mazi in Ischia, a fabulous 5-star spa hotel, and Hotel Nazionale in Rome, whose location is the stuff of city-break dreams – 5 minutes from the Spanish Steps, the Trevi and the Pantheon.
We sank endless glasses of Prosecco in… Bar Fauno in Sorrento. It’s the main bar in Piazza Tasso, and is prime people-watching territory. The dickie-bowed waiters and amazing bar snacks add to the appeal. Six euros will get you a baby bottle of Prosecco, a bowl of olives, a bowl of nuts, a plate of crisps… I could go on.
We drank the best cappuccino in… Di Leva Le 5 Sorelle in Marina Grande. It’s probably the location that swung it for this place rather than the standard of the beans. It’s tucked away down in Marina Grande which, despite the name, is actually the smaller harbour of Sorrento’s two. It’s crammed with a rainbow’s worth of fishing boats and a nice little haul of fish restaurants and seafront cafes. Pretty reasonable, too, with coffee costing a couple of euros.
We splurged on stuff for the house in… a great little kitchen shop on the Corso Italia, Sorrento’s main drag. It’s packed with gadgets and gizmos that are funky and beautiful in equal measure.
We ate too much in… La Macharoni on Piazza delle Coppelle in Rome. The food is out of this world – we had amazing steaks in a traditional Roman sauce, and the portions were huge. The waiters are good fun, too and one looks like Kurt Russell, my childhood crush. Sshh, don’t tell the New Husband…