Amalfi in November

Last weekend in Amalfi reminded me how the Italian summer goes on and on.

Early November on the Amalfi coast means tintore and pedirosso grapes plucked from the vines in Tramonti.
We found them when we ventured inland, a few kilometers from the sea, where rounded hills, terraced slopes and gentle valleys host intensely fertile lemon orchards, vineyards, chestnut groves and olives.
Leaves are just beginning to turn in these early days of November. The olives have been gathered and so have most of the grapes, but there are still quite a few bunches that their friend the organic winemaker offers to the children.
 The children reach up to pluck grapes of their own.
We pick and sample succulent late season figs.
On the Amalfi coast in early November, tourists have nearly all gone away. Hotel rates are 50-70% less than in August.
The light is golden, the water inviting.
The air warm and dry.
Our favorite hotel — where I have myself been staying for 20 years, and where owners and staff will greet you as friends — is barely full. Staff are very relaxed but as delighted as ever to focus on making you especially comfortable.  (For similar conditions, consider March, April and early May too.)
By the sea a duck called Caterina stays and keeps the children company in their fishing.
 They fish the way local children here have fished forever.
using a simple line and hook wound round a piece of cork.
As bait, they use shrimp from the sea and mussels. A dear friend plucks mussels, below, from the rocks…
Easily  the children fish up several ombrina… and a rockfish.
In early November, coastal meals are all outside.

As have so many Insider’s Italy clients, we enjoy a lunch that celebrates the seasons — pizzas with local mozzarella, local Furure tomatoes (which with its new potatoes, brought culinary fame to this tiny hillside village), greens from Cristina’s naturally organic gardens, homemade wines, grilled eggplant. Cristina must surely be among the single best cooks on the coast, and is remarkable in that she cooks nearly exclusively what she produces on her property — and only those dishes that are local, traditional and seasonal.  These are her garden potatoes, with the church of Sant’Elia in the background.
Her husband Uberto fishes, and looks after her chickens and pig
Uberto maintain the single most interesting larder I have ever seen, at its most replete in November.  Nathan is in wonder.
Uberto and Cristina offer our clients superb in-home cooking classes which for many of you have been the highlight of a trip.
Cristina flours the chldren’s four fish and fries them in her olive oil. The fish join the lunch.
Cristina’s tomatoes dry outside in a bunch, ready to be cut and used to enliven the next months’ cooking.
We walk and climb steps
taking paths we have enjoyed so many times before (like this one to Atrani.)
And walk to Conca dei Marini, a village I have been visiting since I was six weeks old.  Here is the view looking east from that town. Note the neatly terraced vineyards, vegetable gardens and olive and lemon groves.
Capers spring from the walls.
We swim and lounge some more.
And eat some more.
And walk some more.
If we want, four major archeological sites are just an hour away. If we want, we can spend a day in Naples with our superb docent guide Sabrina — this for one of the world’s great archeological museums and one of Europe’s great cities. If we want we can spend the day sailing to Capri, stopping at bays and beaches along the way to swim, to lunch, to explore.If we want we can take one of Italy’s best walks, a four hour adventure that offers a bird’s eye view over much of the entire coast.

We do not want.

Like so many of our travelers, despite our ambitions to undertake all sorts of plans, we do not move.

It is all too perfect.

Amalfi in November.

Isabel in Florence

My name is Isabel and I am six years old.

Here I am dancing with lots of other children made of marble and who are playing musical instruments and singing.

I am in Florence.

Please go to Florence, it’s a lovely place.

I recommend five days in Florence.  We took the train from Rome, the trip is one hour and a little bit more. Go to the hotel everyone loves, it’s a hotel we recommend to all of our clients.  If you go there near Christmas it is going to have a presepio.

A presepio is something with little baby Jesus with Mary and other figures and Joseph and the donkey and the ox.  It is in the hotel’s window so everyone can see it and if you are good you can help them to arrange it.  There are also very nice lollipops at the desk.  Try one, they’re excellent.

There are also little candies but I do not recommend these as much as the lollipops.

I suggest that you visit at Christmas.  There is a lovely merry-go-round at that time.  But they will keep it running until May, which is very nice for you if you visit in the spring.

There is a wonderful children’s toy library in the Hospital of the Innocents.

It’s not a library where there are books. No, no, here there are toys.  I recommend playing here, especially if your parents are doing something that is not very interesting to you like a museum that you don’t like.

Maybe your mother can stay with you while your father is at the museum. There are excellent dolls, mirrors, a Noah’s ark, Lego, animals to play with (they are pretend). And children’s books in Italian and in English.

If you get hungry, don’t ever go to a place with enormous ice cream.

Don’t even touch those.  And don’t just go anyplace.  I recommend “Perchè no!” where I had chocolate and lemon.  One was sour and one was sweet but very good sour and very good sweet.

These are the owners.

This lady and this man and their children make all of the delicious ice creams.  They sometimes give children samples.  I sampled pear and it was yummy.

And to eat at lunch or dinner, there is a very good restaurant I recommend. It is called “Acquacotta” , and it is run by a lady who can read your mind.

I wanted to have the dessert menu and the lady brought it.  I had wonderful homemade crema ice cream and chocolate ice cream.  The first thing I had to eat was penne con pesto, which was my first course, which I think you will like.

There is something funny in Florence which is that they don’t put salt into their bread.  You won’t like it at first.  There is one bread though that you will like right away, it is called ciabatta, which is slipper, or ciabbattina, which is little slipper.

This tastes so good and it is cute and it has a little bit of salt in it.

There is a toy store that I recommend, called City of the Sun.  In Italian it is Citta del Sole.

There is a doll’s house. There are magic wands.  If you are very small or a baby, there are a few special things here that I recommend, for example sea creatures that spin.

If your parents insist on a morning museum, you should insist on a morning fratte.  These you can find really in just one place.  These are doughnuts and they are very good.  They have sugar on the top and they are warm.

They look and they smell like a pastry and they taste like a pastry too.  I thought I would never love a doughnut but the fratte is different. You can sit down to eat them or stand up.

There is a very nice store with art supplies in it.  There are many people here buying painting things and chalks and crayons and everything you might want to draw and paint Florence.  It is near the City of the Sun and is very good.

One thing you must not forget to do is to take a tour with our guide Francesca.

I love her.

It’s not that she takes everybody with her on her tours, she takes a few people, like a father and mother and one child or two children with her.

Goodbye from Isabel.