31 December 2016

2016: Another year of Italy travels

As usual I spent as much time as possible this year in my once-home of Venice. I've always loved the city in winter when it feels like a proper local town - but inevitably a unique one. In January it was icy - but still sunny enough on one day that people were eating outdoors.

In March I climbed up Venice's famous spiral staircase, Scala Contarini del Bovolo, for the first time.

At Easter I spent a week in Sorrento, with misgivings. It turned out well and I found some lovely spots on the peninsula including hilltop villages, the beach at Marina del Cantone and a weird, haunted summer holiday 'village'.

I visited Herculaneum for the first time, and enjoyed a peaceful tour of the Villa Oplontis for a view of how the wealthy Roman elite lived.

Venice in spring is busier than in winter, but you do get to enjoy the bright colours and wisteria of the springtime city.

The island of Capri is usually my answer to the question "Where's your favourite place in Italy?" After a few years away I had forgotten just how glorious the scenery and history really are.

The weather was unseasonably cold for May, but I managed some walks, meals in scenic spots, a trip to watch bird conservationists at work, and an entirely unnecessary extra climb up the hill when I dropped my new swanky sunglasses on my final morning. I was also lucky enough to see the annual procession and celebrations of Capri's saint, San Costanzo.

After Capri I think I spent only one or two days in London before taking another flight, to Sicily this time. I had fancied a week getting away from it all on the Aeolian islands. Tiny, chic Panarea is the perfect place to relax ... or work. The staff of the Hotel Cincotta used ropes to haul a table onto my seafront terrace so I could work in comfort.

After a few nights on Panarea I travelled to the livelier Lipari where I was gratified to be remembered by a few locals, took a panoramic walk and worked on a rooftop

I made a summer trip to Venice where greenery peeps out from the buildings in unexpected places, and where I found surprising pleasure in pottering about in sunshine, sitting on ferries and doing nothing on the beach.

In early September I headed back to Campania for some late summer sun, this time returning to the islands of Ischia and Procida. I arrived on Ischia in time to see a re-enactment - with fireworks - of Saracen invasions and spent a few days getting to know the island. My favourite and most surprising excursion was to the island's highest point, Monte Epomeo which offers both attractive scenery for walking and an open-air restaurant.

I also tracked down a couple of the filming locations for the 1960 film Plein Soleil, starring Alain Delon.

I was pleased to find that little Procida still has the 1950s charm I was so impressed by when I first visited.

By December I was back in wintry Venice for my last trip of the year, in a rented flat with a glorious view over a campo, and enjoying a mixture of sunshine and fog.

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