We spent a week in Positano, Italy in a beautiful villa called Il Giardino. Built into the rocky (“la rocca sporgente!”) Amalfi hills overlooking the Mediterranean Sea, this postcard perfect town provided the perfect setting for a relaxing vacation with good friends and good food. This is a picture of Eric and Kali from our bedroom balcony on our first morning when we awoke to brilliant sunshine and the revitalizing salt air. Our villa boasted well over an acre of terraced gardens and leisure space and the house itself was enormous. Each of us three couples had our own spacious bedroom and bathroom and there was still much room to spare.

This view is from our rose garden looking back at the villa and the town of Positano. A slow 15 minute walk took us to the village center where gelatto, capuccino, and prosecco awaited us.

On the first level of the house, each room opened onto a terrace partially covered with a small canopy tent. Under the tent was a dining table where we ate langorous breakfasts each morning consisting of cured meats (prosciutto or salami), cheeses (usually assiago), bread, nutella, jam, fruit, juices, and tea. On two evenings, Mirella Guadagno, a member of the family who owned our villa, cooked dinner for us. The night we arrived, she cooked a type of penne with eggplant and mozzarella, herbed chicken, and potatoes. Another night, she prepared thick pasta with clam sauce, white fish in an herbed butter sauce, potatoes, and salad. We supplied the prosecco.

Our first day trip was to Ravello, a beautiful town a little further along the coast and higher on the hill. Though it was a Monday and near the end of the summer season, several wedding parties were being celebrated and the annual music festival was still underway. The highlight was a walk around the gardens of Villa Cimbrone. The Moorish style villa was old and romantic and Greta Garbo once spent time there embroiled in a passionate love affair. I enjoyed the grape arbors that shaded us as we meandered around the grounds. I especially enjoyed the relaxing afternoon prosecco break at a cafe on the main square. Seemed like most tourists had left for the season and, except for a few local young people, we had the town to ourselves.

The next day, we took a speed boat to Capri. It was a rough two hour ride to the island and we were all sore and wind-burned by the time we got there. Before landing at the Marina Grande, we encircled the island and enjoyed Capri’s natural beauty. Although the town of Capri was typically cute and offered excellent shopping (I indulged in a pair of Prada sandals!), it was impossible to embrace la dolce vita with all the tourists swarming about. We were happy to leave Capri, even if it meant another two hour bone rattling boat ride.

We also visited an ancient Greek settlement called Paestum, which was founded in the 7th century B.C. Seeing these well-preserved Greek temples was a good prelude to the Crete portion of our trip.

We didn’t spend much time in Napoli, but I enjoyed what I saw. I was expecting the worst based on reports from other visitors and from our northern Italian friends, but in my short time there, I found a charming city, though its glory days had long-passed. Although grand buildings such as the Palazzo Reale were worn and tired, their faded beauty impressed me anyway.