Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Sketching Italy's Dramatic Amalfi Coast

 Of all the destinations in the world Italy’s Amalfi Coast has to be one of the most spectacular. That coupled with sunny days and warm temperatures  makes for a perfect sketching experience with artist Cecelia. Corinne and Cecelia have teamed up for 10 years now to offer sensational sketching experiences to keen watercolour artists. www.ceceliajurgens.com   
We started in Rome, visiting the major sites and sketching in the piazzas. In ancient Trastevere we stayed in Hotel Santa Maria www.hotelsantamaria.trastevere.com  Situated amongst cobblestone streets and terraced restaurants meant we did not have to travel far to capture that perfect Italian scene.  Some of us enjoyed a guided tour of the Sistine Chapel, others wandered the streets of the Jewish quarter, just minutes away. 

Descending to Naples and the ominous Mt Vesuvius we met  Nicola, our personal guide in Pompeii.  On our return to Naples he completed the Pompeii chapter as he guided us through the National Archeological Museum which houses many of the Pompeii treasures. Grazie mille Nicola!
Anna, creator of the Agriturismo, La Vecchia Quercia (the old oak) www.lavecchiaquercia.it  welcomed us into this country lodging with a meal of fresh pasta and authentic Campania cuisine. Later we would have the pleasure of her instruction in her commercial kitchen to prepare our own delights!  We have all the recipes!
Day trips from Anna’s had us visit Cantina Carggiano, a  winery near Taurasi. We wandered through the artistic cellars and stocked up on Devon and Bechar wines before enjoying a coppa di parmagiano pasta at the hilltop restaurant La Collina – a perfect sketching opportunity!  

The flat marshy region near Paestum is home to the water bufalo and the succulent bufalo mozzarella cheese. Coupled with basilico and those delicious San Marzano tomatoes, the Insalata Caprese from this region surpasses any such salad that ports this name!  MMMM lip smacking good! We did wander through the Greek ruins of the Paestum archeological site and wished we had more time to take in that ancient world.  

Reluctantly we left Anna's special abode. She had nestled all 19 of us in her country lodging and fed us the most deliciosso meals we ate in Italy - Mel's favourite? Pumpkin lasagna with " bechamel sauce"! Of course we enjoyed the unique wine varietals in Campania, Aliganico, Greco di Tufo and Fiano which complimented each bite. 

We took our time along the windy cantilevered coastal road along the Amalfi Coast - no need for speed limits  here - our coach driver paid careful attention when rounding each corner, often tooting his horn to warn on coming traffic that he was " larger" than them! The hilltop village of Ravello was our stop for the night as we enjoyed the Hotel Giordano's tiled floors and swimming pool before an evening meal on the terrace but not before some creative sketching time in the famous Cimbrone Gardens.  The next morning some of the more ambitious of the group decided to descend the walking path to the town of Amalfi enjoying Mediterranean vistas along the way.  An afternoon in Sorrento gave us our shopping fix before the 30 min.hydrofoil jet ride to the Isle of Capri. The evening ride to Capri is normally a lot less crowded as we confronted the "day" passengers on their return from the island. The key is to stay, not in Capri with the rich and famous (Tony Bennett), but in Anacapri where the locals live. We spend 4 nights in Villa Ce Selle www.villaceselle.com and delighted in the restaurants, shops, scenes to sketch, and museums. A terrace luncheon at the Gelsomina restaurant gave us more inspiration to sketch scenes of the blue waters of the Sea that surrounded us.  Only one of us managed to enter the Blue Grotto (way to go Loni) but all of us enjoyed a boat ride with Giovanni around the Island - again the weather was perfect! 
Now one would think that leaving the small isle of Capri could not be topped, but our special hotel find in Naples amongst the yachts and with Mt Vesuvius looming in the not to far distance brought this creative adventure to a close. Hotel Transatlantico www.hoteltransatlanticonapoli.com
Thanks once again Cecelia for your encouraging instruction along our creative journeys!                      See you in Argentina in 2015! 

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