Something Old, Something New - Amalfi Coast
I'm not sure that any cultural globe trotter could complete that must-see-list without a visit to Pompeii.
A brief Overview
The origins of Pompeii are as ancient as those of Rome, and since it lay on the route between the north and the south, and between the sea and the fertile hinterland, it rapidly became more than a junction. It evolved into one of the most exceptional cities on earth. From a modest farming town it developed into an important industrial and trading centre. Most of us know that the wrath of Vesuvius destroyed life and limb burying a city within 58 hours in 79 AD; but few, perhaps, know that a massive earthquake, only 17 years prior to this, almost wiped out Pompeii. However, the surviving Pompeian's set about restoring the city with extraordinary style and remarkable energy. It was during this extensive period of finely crafted restoration on magnificent temples that Vesuvius let rip.
For years the mountain was considered dormant and a place of tranquillity where many wealthy villa owners lived on its lush slopes, with vineyards and grazing cattle. However, on August 24, 79A.D, shortly after midday, Pompeii and the surrounding areas were destroyed in one of the most savage eruptions Nature can lay claim to. One survivor, Pliny the Younger, witnessed the horrors unfolding and described them in harrowing detail. He describes how soaring flames leapt skywards, followed by an immense black cloud, which obscured the sun. After this, the deadliest rain of all time poured down; red-hot volcanic matter, lapilli and scoriae scorched Pompeii. The majestic city crumbled, defenceless against Vesuvius' intent to destroy, and all life form, from human to animal, was extinguished. The scene was made even more apocalyptic by the dramatic lightning, earthquakes and the now, tragically familiar, tsunamis. For those who ran, the noxious gases caught up with them, and within days, they died too. For three days nature's unstoppable madness persisted to persecute, until suddenly, what seemed like a deathly silence, hung over the earth with no sign of life beneath it. A 20-foot layer of death covered a massive area from Herculaneum to Stabiae. History waits for no-one, and, within a short time, Pompeii was lost and forgotten without a trace of its glorious existence.
One thousand six hundred years passed before the first ruins were properly uncovered, and then another one hundred and fifty years before the city could claim to be rediscovered. Due to the incredible preservation skills of Guiseppi Fiorelli in the 1860's, pouring plaster of paris into spaces left by organic substances, allowing for decomposed life forms to emerge in their exact shape, the city began to re-emerge. Over the course of several decades, restoration and preservation advanced and, under the careful scrutiny of Vittorio Spinazzola in 1909, buildings from roof to cellar, with incredible treasures in between, have been uncovered and discovered. About one quarter of Pompeii is still being painstakingly excavated today and, no doubt, will continue to be well after our lifespan. So a 2000 years' old city, rushed into deep sleep, seemingly forgotten forever, is being unravelled, creating a new energy and seemingly eternal existence.
It is so fascinating walking through Pompeii, and we were lucky enough to do so in the long shadows created by the gentle, golden Autumn sun. Strangely enough, it doesn't have a ghost-town atmosphere but more a spirit of reawakening, of rejuvenation, which makes the experience exhilarating and, what's more, if any Pompeian's have witnessed this remarkable uncovering from somewhere in the ether, then I'm sure they are seriously proud.
We were fortunate to have hired a Peugeot cabriole, as the weather was unusually warm for the time of year, and the cruise along the staggering Amalfi coastline, to our 'little white gem', was beautiful. The drive from Naples to Pompeii is only around 20 minutes and from here to Casa Angelina is another hour or so, provided you don't get lost in the vortex of Sorrento. Of course the other option is an accomplished driver in an air-conditioned limo, supplied by the hotel, which is included in our package.
News in brief from Casa Angelina
It is looking hotter than ever and it really is sensational here: relaxed, plenty of Italian largesse, adorable and attentive service and, quite frankly, at a luxe-for-less price, even though this year's meteoric success has meant a slight increase for 2007. The food continues to surprise and delight and the local wines really are expertly chosen. Catch of the day, lightly cooked with glorious olive oil, sun kissed tomatoes and pungent basil is delectable; dining here, surrounded by enormous windows, looking out onto one of our top ten views world-wide, is quite something. It is a welcome and pleasurable assault on all the senses.
We took the hotel's very groovy new boat across to Positano to watch the sun setting from this infamously swish port, with a glass of fine '97 Brunello, in hand. This came with a plate of the sweetest Parmesan cheese and the crunchiest olives imaginable. Our captain was straight out of 'Pirates of the Caribbean' and, together with our two friends from London and Brussels, we soared back through the moonlight to another feast, orchestrated by the attentive and talented Maitre'd, Paolo.
Our deluxe double, next door to the coveted junior suite, has an enormous terrace with white wooden tubs filled with olive trees, lavender and rosemary and loungers and chunky teak armchairs are placed for sea, sunset, sunrise and star gazing; this is the most captivating and peaceful view you could possibly wish for along Amalfi's majestic and spectacular coastline. Breakfast on the terrace is a perfect start to the day here.
The difficulty in 2007 will be bagging one of the best rooms at this cliff-side retreat in Priano; even though all the rooms are desirable, we still have our favourites and are willing to share them with you. I really must stress that news on the travel vine is that Italy will be in great demand for next year, so please book well in advance for either Casa Angelina, or for Ravelo's crown jewel, the grand-luxe Hotel Caruso.
Eye Spy - 2007
When Casa Angelina opens its welcoming sliding glass doors next March, it will have two new wonderful surprises for lucky luxe-trotters:
A pool to dream to...
An infinity pool, set between two lush mountains with amazing views of that paraffin blue, lake-like sea beyond; this pool promises to be one of the most exclusive along the Amalfi Coast.
A Spa to dream in...
A citrus-inspired wellbeing and fitness centre; here the products will be originally blended with the local fruit still swollen on the vines, even in November. A Parisian expert in homeopathic treatments is overseeing the blending and molecular format of this exciting new range and it will no doubt be a spa to pay homage to and will add that extra zest to this all-time Mediterranean marvel.
Book now for 'Something old, something new' and let us find you the perfect rooms.