A few years ago, a friend and I decided to go to the Amalfi coast to celebrate our 30th birthdays. Our budgets being more shoe-string than chi-chi meant the first trip, and those that inevitably followed have been nothing if not chaotic. We arrive, against all advice, on the eve of Ferragosto in August’s sizzling prime. This is when the whole of Italy goes on holiday and we join the throng. We hustle onto ferries alongside bronzed children, their inflatable rubber rings blown up to bursting around their waists; we pile onto buses and watch our wheelie suitcases go bombing down the aisle as we career around hairpin bends; we turn up with no reservations, no Italian, no clue. Sometimes we have to learn the hard way, handing over all our Euros for the back row sun-loungers that slip into the first bit of shade. Or turn up at the car hire place to find everyone having a siesta – please come back tomorrow. But for all those moments there’s the glorious thrill of winging it and somehow getting it right. Finding a teeny-tiny rectangle for your towel on a beach in Capri and kicking out into the sea; stopping at a roadside shack and eating a perfect, dripping peach; buying a tutti-fruity string necklace and needing to wear nothing but that and a bikini for days on end. These moments can sustain you…until the next trip. But if you’re in need of a top up, as we are, then there are plenty of ways to get your fix without leaving home. Here’s how:
Culture: Stanley Tucci’s new CNN series, Searching for Italy is a must-watch for the Italy-obsessed. You can find all the restaurants he recommends on the Amalfi coast here. The Talented Mr Ripley will whisk you straight to the beach with Dickie and Marge. W.H. Auden sums up the holiday spirit in his poem, Ischia, ‘your ambient peace/ is a cure for, ceasing to think/ Of a way to get on, we/ Learn to simply wander about.’ Issimo is one of our favourite blogs – with recipes and an excellent travel guide to Campania to get you in the mood. And we could spend hours looking at the photographs in Assouline’s Amalfi coffee-table book.
Food and Drink: Eataly has just opened its doors in London. Right next to Liverpool Street station it’s a mecca for all the best Italian produce spread over two glossy floors. Get a basket and shop, grab an Illy coffee from the bar or settle in on the terrace for a spritz and a pizza.
One of our favourite Italian delis in London, Lina Stores has just started doing fresh pasta kits. Order a box now along with the prettiest packets of Amaretti biscuits, jars of antipasti and bottles of Italian wine. For eating out, Circolo Popolare captures a bit of the mad energy of being in Naples, with its kitsch décor and hundreds of chilli magnets in the loo. Soho’s Gelupo is the place to go for a scoop of Stracciatella ice cream.
Shopping: bring the holiday home
Amalfi pasta bowls by Solimene, £20 each exclusively at Divertimenti
Holiday gingham-print swimsuit, £165 from Peony
Good butt shorts, £320 from La Double J
Rainbow necklace with monogram, £40 from Anthropologie
Serving platter, £70 from Hot Pottery
Amalfi coast limoncello, £22.90 from Terra di Limone
Assouline’s Amalfi Coast book with words and images by Carlos Souza and his wife Charlene Shorto, £70 (currently £57) from Assouline
Slip-on sandals, £90 from Boden
Silk scarf, £165 from Dolce & Gabbana
1960’s maxi dress, £475 from Borgo de Nor
Yellow string bag, £5 from Sass & Belle
Ankle-tie espadrilles, £158 from Castaner