The fact that I am writing this post means my dream vacation came true–I went to Italy! And you guys, it was everything I dreamed it would be. Breathtaking views. Wine. Pasta. Uninterrupted cuddles with my husband. Kisses without kids tugging on your leg. Ocean waves. Boat rides. Walks on the cobblestone paths. More wine. More kisses. And swimming in the gosh-dang Tyrrhenian Sea. Because that is a thing I’ve done now. The entire vacation was magical. Yes, you should go to Italy.
Matt and I had always talked about how we would go to Italy someday. His mom is Italian, we both love Italian food, its a stereotypical, romantic place. The plan was once we paid off my student loans from law school, we would continue to save the monthly payments for a little bit and use those funds to go on a celebratory trip to Italy. Because law school is that expensive that a couple months worth of loan payments can fund a trip across the ocean. But when it came to where in Italy to go, we had no idea.
So I just googled it. And I stumbled upon a blog post about someone’s honeymoon at Positano. It was exactly what we were looking for–a place with gorgeous ocean views where we could explore the area by foot and could still relax and eat delicious pasta. But beyond relying on the location, there wasn’t much more I could replicate from her post. It was this blogger’s honeymoon, and they stayed at a swanky hotel. We are talking a $1,500.00 plus a night honeymoon suite. Sure, my student loan payments were high but there is no way I’d be comfortable paying that much a night for a room. No matter how gorgeous it was.
Positano is a town on a cliff. There is no way to avoid walking up and down stairs but the amount of stairs you walk per day will depend greatly on where you stay. We ended up selecting Hotel Buca di Bacco. The hotel is the perfect location. It is on the beach so you are just steps away from all the action. We could go out hiking for the morning, and head back to the room to relax, refresh, what have you without losing large chunks of our day. Having our hotel right on the beach gave us so much more time to explore the city without having to figure out how to get around. We met a couple who was staying much higher up the cliff who had to take the city bus or commit to a 45 minute walk to get down to the beach or back up to their hotel. So thankful we did not have to figure that out.
Our hotel room had the most perfect view and a huge terrace, complete with a table and chairs and two lounge chairs. We splurged and got a Superior Double Room with a terrace and sea view. Oh man, so worth it. And it was the perfect place for a supermodel photo shoot. Also, the staff at the hotel are really thoughtful. They asked why we were coming to Positano, and when I mentioned it was our first big getaway since having two little boys, they had a complementary bottle of Prosecco for us to enjoy on our private terrace.
But if you ask Matt what the best part about our hotel was, it wasn’t the view or the terrace. It was the breakfast. Breakfast is included with the room but it is no continental breakfast like we have in the states. Croissants, cheeses, meats, donuts, yogurts, sweets. Everything I love. And the first thing the staff will ask you when you get there is “Cappuccino?” Any fancy coffee you’d want, you can get. Fancy iced latte coffee with a croissant and cheeses and prosciutto: this is my heaven. I looked forward to eating it every morning.
But the best part of all–fresh squeeze orange juice. On the side of the buffet is a machine that you push a button and you watch an orange drop down the center, slice in half, and then squeeze into fresh juice. I am not a huge orange juice drinker but oh my goodness, I have never had better juice in my life. Matt was obsessed and called it his “robot juice.” I wish I had taken a photo of this machine. Mostly, so I can search for one to buy one for Matt because it would make his life.
And the wonderful food experience did not end at breakfast. Italy is known for its delicious food, and it did not disappoint. The first night in town, we had the best pizza of our trip. We ate at Chez Black, a restaurant on the beach we could see from our terrace so it was an easy choice. Matt loves anchovies on pizza, but I have never been a fan of them. Given we were in Italy, I decided to order pizza with anchovies. Wow, the anchovies were just salty enough, not too fishy, exactly what you’d want on a pizza. And unlike pizzas in the states, the pizza was not drenched in sauce. Instead, the crust is sprinkled with diced tomatoes and basil. The crust is also so much thinner than what we are use to. Since the crust is so thin, Matt and I could easily split a pizza because you simply do not get as full. Also, somewhat unexpected is pizza is served as a whole; it is never sliced into pieces. The waiter gives you a butter knife to cut it. Which I was not always the most graceful at.
Our first full day at Positano, we spent the day hiking around the cliffs. Midway up the cliff, we found a cute little restaurant with an ocean view, IL Capitano. In true Italian spirit, we ordered a half bottle of rose and pizza to share and we took in the jaw-dropping view.
Thanks to Instagram, we were told the one restaurant that we could not miss was La Tagliata. Reservations are recommended so we exchanged emails with Antonietta, one of the owners , to secure our Thursday night date and our spot on the shuttle bus. We waited outside a vine-covered boutique for the restaurant shuttle bus to pick us up along with two other couples. The bus was about 20 minutes late so I freaked out that there was some language miscommunication until a coach shuttle bus was in our sights and we hopped on. I knew the restaurant had great views from some of the reviews I read, but I had no idea. The bus kept climbing and climbing up the mountain until it felt like we were above the clouds (sit on the right side of bus for the best views). The restaurant is perched over the town and you get to see the entire city beneath you as you eat your meal.
Eating at La Tagliata is like eating at your Italian grandmother’s house. The restaurant is owned by a family who treats your dining experience like you are over for a family gathering. There is no menu. You eat whatever the chefs, Mama and Papa, will be cooking that night. The family has a farm and gorgeous garden outside the dining room where they pick and slaughter the ingredients for the dishes you’ll be eating that day. So whatever is in season, that’s what you’ll be eating. The meal is a flat 30 Euros, which includes wine and water which is a steal when you realize how much food you’ll be eating.
The dinner is a traditional Italian meal. Once you are taken to your table, your waiter asks if you’d like white or red wine. Matt said red. I said white. He brought a bottle of each. Yes, each of us got our own bottle of wine. And yes, we did drink them both. And they offered us two more bottles that we declined. But yes, if you want to drink two bottles of wine yourself, at La Tagliata, you can.
What was most striking to us (beyond the fact that we each had our own bottle of wine) was our wine glasses. They weren’t your typical stemmed glassware. Our glasses were short, thin tumblers. The same type of glasses Matt’s mom serves wine in. The same type of glasses his grandparents served wine in. It’s those little things that makes the experience feel so authentic. So you pour yourself a glass of wine, sit back, and get ready to eat…a lot.
It starts with piece of pizza and antipasto. The buffalo mozzarella is the best cheese I’ve ever had in my life. It was fresh and juicy. With each bite, you’d get a splash of water. That may sound odd but it was amazing. I still think about that cheese. Next came the cooked vegetables and beans. The spinach and broccoli was harvested that morning from the garden. Matt grew up eating his nonna’s sauteed spinach and was taken back to his nonna’s kitchen when he took a a bite. Sauteed in olive oil and garlic, I could not get enough! Of all the dishes, it was this spinach dish that I kept coming back to and am determined to recreate myself.
Following the pasta was the meat course: steak, chicken, veal, sausage, rabbit, and lamb. At this point, I had drank more wine than I should care to admit, and my ability to keep eating was slowing down significantly. But when I saw there was a lamb chop, there was no way I was going to leave that untouched. We are big lamb eaters in our family (that feels odd to write but its true. we love eating those adorable little lambs). The boys favorite meal is lamb chops, and Matt has become a master of cooking lamb so while I enjoyed their lamb chop recipe, it did not come even close to Matt’s. The rabbit was good as well, but Matt’s dad is a master at cooking rabbit so while this rabbit delicious, I am spoiled with authentic, Italian cooking back at home where the meat plate is king.
After the meat plate, we had made it to the dessert. Watermelon, pineapples, and strawberries drizzled in syrup and assorted pastries and cannolis. As any authentic Italian fest ends, we concluded our meal with a shot-sized drink of limoncello. Similar to a lemon shot, it is very stiff drink. Like silly Americans, we drank ours like a shot, only to learn that you are to sip it. Oops! All and all, the experience alone made this meal a highlight of the trip. We ate and drank and laughed and told stories. It was a great night.
Ok, so we ate a lot on our trip. But for us, sitting down and slowly enjoying a meal is a real luxury, especially for me. It really doesn’t feel like dinnertime unless Max trying to nurse and eat at the same time, JR begging to sit on my lap saying he “wants to hold me”, and Matt getting utterly frustrated at the entire production. Food is all over the floor, the chairs, the walls, the boys, me. It is never relaxing, and it is always messy. Being able to sit down next to my husband and just talk, eat, and enjoy beautiful scenery. Well, that’s all the vacation I need.
Italy Posts to come: Our boat trip to Capri // Things you should know about Italy before you plan a vacation there // Rome!