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A Sense of Place

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Well, I'm back from a bit of traveling: England, Scotland, Ireland, Texas and New Mexico. I'm ready to resume my blog articles for you. But, I'll be working my way in slowly with a short article today.

Her response: “Now you tell me!” Well, yes, now she knows.

This week I'm just letting you know about a change I've made to my list of blog articles, and why I've done that.

Last Thursday, I was visiting with a friend who had just returned from Italy. She expressed a bit of disappointment in some of the restaurants they chose in Venice. I let her know of my Italy Our Italy blog and the fact that it contains personally evaluated and recommended restaurants, hotels, and other helpful information on certain places within Italy. Her response: "Now you tell me!" Well, yes, now she knows. And I want you to know, too. That's why I've made changes to my list of blog articles.

What I have done is to take the Index of Blog Articles to another level by creating another series of headings in the right-hand column (which is labeled, "By Subject"). You will now find three new subheadings for 'places' within Italy -- specifically 'Places: Venice', 'Places: Amalfi Coast', and 'Places: Tuscany'. This will give one a greater sense of these wonderful places.

Now, if you are traveling to one of these fabulous places of Italy, you will have all of the resources that I have previously published about those fabulous places in one place. 

That about sums it up for today's very short article. 

Ciao for now,

Steve

 

Stay Here: Hotel Flora

Venice can beat you down!

Don't get me wrong, it's the most magical and fabulous city in the world (maybe the whole universe, but I'm not yet sure), but with the exception of a rare boat ride on the Grand Canal, your mode of transportation is always your feet. 

Before we head out for the evening, let’s recuperate a bit in our comfortable room. Go ahead and put your feet up. Maybe trade foot rubs with your loved one?

In the summer, the heat and hordes of tourists can drive you to drink, but that's OK, as the Hotel Flora has an oasis of a bar and a quiet, peaceful garden courtyard for your respite. [Note: I suggest avoiding the summer months if at all possible -- visit Venice in the fall or spring for less heat and crowds -- or we found January to be very charming with virtually no crowds]

The Hotel Flora has an outstanding location! On this map, I've colorfully shown the primary sites and routes within the San Marco district. The Hotel Flora is centrally located, as I've shown in the red box. Click on photos to see larger views.

Arrival at the Hotel Flora is a snap. A water taxi from the train station or airport can get you within 50 paces, with no need to go up and down bridge steps. 

Since I'm on that subject, let me expound a bit. You don't want to be schlepping your baggage to your hotel! I've mentioned before the 409 bridges of Venice, most of which you ascend and descend via steps. If you're like us, and I certainly know that we are, then you probably travel with numerous pieces of baggage. Here's a poor guy who defines 'schlepping'.

It seems to me that hotel travel sites like TripAdvisor should include a 'Schlep Factor' when describing hotels in the magical city of Venice. My advice, use a water taxi to get as close to your hotel as possible. For the Hotel Flora, you're just a level hop-skip-and-a-jump from boat to lobby.

Your Room

Each time we've stayed in the Flora our rooms were in the 'delightful' category. Just below, you can see our room, as well as the view from our room. And there is nothing lacking in the well-appointed bathrooms.

 

Below, I'll take you through your Venetian day as you stay at the Hotel Flora. Let's start with going down the stairs (and there is an elevator if you wish).

Stairs

There are four floors to the Hotel Flora.

Well, they're stairs, aren't they. Let's move on.

Breakfast

This is not your American box-motel breakfast! In the photos below from the hotel's website, you get an accurate idea of what you should expect.

You are free to dine indoors in the comfortable dining area, if you wish. This morning dining area doubles as the afternoon/evening lounge.

We prefer to take breakfast in the quiet garden, as you can see here. If you looked in the two windows at the top, you would be looking into our room.

Your Venetian Day

If you are like most of the tourist visiting Venice, you will head out at mid-morning when things have opened for the day. The exception would be you who like to rise early and wander Venice with fewer others present...nice. And then there is the Rialto Market, where you will want to arrive early in the morning to see the start of the day's activity. 

After breakfast, you will more than likely have lunch out and about at one of the hundreds of outdoor trattoria. All have their menu posted so that you can see what they offer, just as this gentleman is doing. For some reason, it seems to me that he and this eating establishment will be simpatico. 

These two are having lunch at an outdoor trattoria on the Campo Santa Stefano.

After a nice meal with unusually outstanding house wine, you will head out again to see the sites, shop, and learn just how fabulous Venice really is.

Tired now, aren't you? That's a lot of walking. Wouldn't you like to sit for a bit to relax? Let's do that in...

The Courtyard and Bar

Here's my friend Scott bellying up to the bar to grab a couple of proseccos to take to the garden courtyard.

Photo by Debbie Kennedy

Your table awaits, and it sure feels good to sit for a bit.

Well chilled, bubbly, refreshing, and tasty. Ahhhh.

Do you like to read? Maybe it's time to pull out your book to see what the antagonist has in mind to make our protagonist miserable. 

The Evening

Before we head out for the evening, let's recuperate a bit in our comfortable room. Go ahead and put your feet up. Maybe trade foot rubs with your loved one? 

Heading out from the well-located Hotel Flora, you will have many, many fine-dining opportunities within an easy walk. So, go ahead and put on your heals.

These two fashionable gals are heading down the runway of the Hotel Flora's narrow calle into ancient Venice. I know where they are going...and you may, too -- if you read my recent article on Ristorante Antico Martini. It's only a short walk.

Returning Home

Italy is not a country of dinner and a movie. This is the place where dinner is the construct of the evening. Plan to spend at least three hours enjoying the atmosphere, the waiters, perhaps the view, and of course the food and wine. But in Venice, there is another opportunity before your head hits the pillow, so let's be sure to walk through piazza San Marco as we head home. But, I'll save that little adventure for another article.

Your Hotel Flora awaits down that narrow calle.

As the evening passes, you reflect on this day, and then the next.

That's the lovely Hotel Flora. I recommend it highly. If you want to explore more, here is the link to the Hotel Flora:  http://www.hotelflora.it/ 

 

There is one thing, though. There's this mosaic in the courtyard that intrigues me. Not sure from whence it comes, who created it, nor its purpose.

Though, perhaps it's there to remind us that relaxing after a long day of walking is something that is encouraged. Maybe that lounging while on vacation is an activity in itself.

Whatever the purpose, I have to say I like it...but that's just me...it appeals to my artistic interests...I mean I do enjoy the Titians, Tiepolos, Tintorettos and all...surely this should just be thought of as one more of the many wonderful works of art that should be experienced in Venice...right? And, I know it would never be confused with those wonderful mosaics that cover every inch of the Basilica San Marco that I've shown you before. Maybe you have some insight? Use the comment box to let me know.

 

Ciao for now,

Steve

Staying in a Convent Retreat

The Grand Hotel Convento Amalfi -- Ahhhh.

I hope that you have a ‘place’ you can go when you are feeling a bit out of sorts. A place of escape from sometime and somewhere that has comforting memories for you.

The convent from which this hotel sprang was originally an abbey of Cistercian monks beginning in 1223

I do, and I want to share it with you in hopes that you might think to dwell on such a place from your own life. And if you don’t have such a place, staying at this fabulous hotel will give you a place where your mind can go to settle for years to come.

In September, you saw the article titled ‘One Fine Day’. That article was about a fabulous day on the Amalfi Coast of Italy. Today’s article is about our base of operations while we were in Amalfi.

History of the Convent/Hotel

That's the Grand Hotel Convento at the top left

First, you need to understand that in modern English usage since the 18th century, a convent refers to a community of women. However, in much earlier times, it referred to a community of either brothers or sisters. The convent from which this hotel sprang was originally an abbey of Cistercian monks beginning in 1223. In 1583, it passed to Capuchin Friars who were there for two centuries until they were expelled in 1813 (I’m sure there’s a great story in there somewhere). It wasn’t until 1885 that it began to be used as a hotel, and it experienced a series transformations to keep up with an increasing tourism demand.

Here are a couple of photos of what remains of portions of the old convent. White plastered walls with intricate stonework make for a contemplative scene.

Getting There

The Grand Hotel Convento di Amalfi, sits at the end of, and high above, Amalfi Town. You can see the hotel in this old photograph that seems to pre-date elevators and today's roadway, which you can see in the next photo.

To get to the hotel, one parks their car in the right lane of a two lane road just as that road enters a tunnel (and the Italian drivers give your parking in the roadway not a second thought -- its just the way its done along the Amalfi Coast), as that’s where the hotel entrance is located. You can see the tunnel entrance along the main highway in this photo, taken from the hotel pool.

A bellman comes out to greet you and unload your bags. They then maneuver your car into that small lot you see in the photo -- if there is a space, that is. If there are no spaces, who knows where your vehicle winds up? 

The hotel entrance is a cave-like opening in the cliff through which you walk to an elevator. That elevator takes you up a couple of hundred feet where you disembark (the glass elevator structure can be seen in the photo) to another elevator within the hotel proper where you then go to the lobby on the fifth floor.

A prosecco awaited our arrival...and you can tell we needed it!

Now, if you had been smart, you might have arrived in Amalfi by boat. Or maybe you arrived by car driven by a professional. And then there’s a bus. But we drove ourselves from Salerno along the most terrifying road on which we have ever been. When we arrived, we were given a complementary prosecco as seen above, complete with goose berry, to calm our nerves. See that guy in the background? He’s an Australian who said after learning that we had driven ourselves along the coastal road, “I admire you!”

The Hotel

Our room, with balcony and lovely whitewashed walls and ceiling, looked out over the blue Mediterranean.

An evening view of the Mediterranean from our balcony

The grounds were dreamy. Bougainvillea arbors covered the dining patio, where we had both breakfast, lunch and dinner whilst eating at the hotel. And the weather was superb!

The Amalfi Coast is noted for its lemons and its limoncello. Almost everywhere you look along the coast, you will see arbors of lemon trees, like these in the hanging gardens of the hotel.

 

The reach the pool, you walk along this loggia for a bit.

This loggia leads from the dining veranda to the pool

And then you come to the most dramatic pool setting that we’ve ever seen.

A dramatic cliff-side pool location

The infinity pool, with an infinite view of the Med

The view from the hotel’s terrace is spectacular, whether it be sunrise, midday, sunset or evening. The town of Amalfi sits just below. In this photo, you see the sunrise we experienced from the roof of the hotel.

Sunrise comes to the Amalfi Coast

Here is a view during the day of Amalfi and its harbor. The pool cabana can be seen in the middle-left of the photo. And the ever-present lemons can be seen along the lower edge.

Lush vegetation and Amalfi Town

The view towards Sicily 

I’m not sure if ‘what goes down, must go up’ is part of Newtonian physics, but if you’re staying at the hotel and want to go into town, that’s the reality of the situation. The good part is you don’t have to walk all the way up – just to the roadway where you can go to the hotel entrance and then up the rest of the way to the hotel by elevator. But still, there are plenty of steps to negotiate for you to get your exercise. 

It's a long way up to the GHCA

Want to go to the beach? Here is what you find just below the hotel…with crystal clear waters.

The beach below the hotel...a nice place to relax and get wet

And this shot from the hotel shows the ‘beach’ of the hotel just past the exit of the tunnel mentioned earlier. The Italians make creative use of their resources, don’t they?!

An architects dream...a stone workers nightmare

The Food

Now, if you’re like me, and I certainly know that I am, you are probably wondering about the food at the hotel. Rather than me telling you how scrumptiously delicious it is, just take a look.

The breakfast buffet – scrumptious.

Poolside lunch – scrumptiouser

Dinner – the scruptiousest.

And of course, at each meal we had either our favorite ‘Coca Cola Lite’ or wine – or sometimes, both.

A nice bottle of Amarone, all the way down from the Veneto

And how did the food get to our table? Well, it was usually Alfonso who took care of us, and he did a marvelous job!

Our outstanding waiter, Alfonso

After our evening meal, with this being Amalfi and all – home to the world’s best limoncello -- Alfonso brings us a bit of the yellow liquid to finish off a perfect evening.

The end to a perfect evening

 

I hope that you have your own special place where you can go to dwell on happy times whenever you need such a diversion. If you don’t, feel free to borrow ours!

Here is a link to the website for the Grand Hotel Convento di Amalfi:

http://www.ghconventodiamalfi.com/en/

 

Ciao for now,

Steve

 

 

 

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