Lisa Cannon in Italy: “The weather, the history, the culture, the romantic language, the food and the wine! It’s never beaten in my books and for something like a birthday celebration I didn’t want to have to travel too far.”
I am a lover of Italy and all things Italian. I can’t speak the language but the country speaks to me and somehow, somewhere I was meant to live there indefinitely or perhaps only for 5 days! That’s exactly what I do; when I can I steal away a mini break or a week I fly over to Italy and indulge! And what better way to spend it than in Capri. If you’ve never been you should take a peek, it’s like a secret you should know about. It’s a tiny island on the Bay of Naples surrounded by lavish shops to tiny cafes, incredible restaurants and the most stunning electric blue views your eye can see. From the cove-studded coastline to the yachts and celebrities, it really is magnificent! If you ever wanted the chance to catch Beyonce, Tom Cruise, Spielberg or any A-lister, Capri is the spot, they come in their droves and since the island is so small you are bound to spot one.
On arrival we were greeted by a gold yacht moored on the harbour, coming in at a mere snip of 45 million. We were told it belonged to Dolce & Gabbana – indeed, who else! That’s the level of Capri, it’s out of all of our leagues but we can still enjoy, embrace and experience a slice of the high life!
I adore Italy for one other very important reason. I got married in Florence in 2015 which all you weddingsonline readers will possibly already know as I could talk to you of nothing else for a year! [Read all about that right over here] This time we packed our bags and decided we’d try Capri, Anacapri and Sorrento and stayed in some of the most beautiful hotels on the coast which, I’ll share with you. So, after we landed in the port of Capri we were greeted on the jetty by a friendly staff member of the JK Capri who drove us all the way up the steep cliffside to the JK Capri Hotel. This is one of the most beautiful hotels I’ve ever seen and when I walked onto the terrace I could have cried the views were so incredible, it took my breath away- Bellissimo! We were shown around the hotel and I have to say the decor is one of the most beautiful I’ve ever seen, I couldn’t stop taking pictures. It’s the elegance of the art and architecture of the hotel that is magnificent. It oozes luxury and style and from the mini library to the cinema room and the terrace, you’ll never want to leave. To me JK Capri is an aspirational hotel, it’s for someone who wants to be spoilt and do it in complete luxury. The JK attracts major movie stars from Jennifer Aniston to Bradley Cooper who were all pictured there last year sipping their cocktails on the veranda.
The decor is minimalist but with a Hamptons style twist, beds that are so comfortable you’ll want to smuggle them home and staff that make the experience one in a million. Richard and I enjoyed the delicious food and aperitifs on offer and warmed to the personal service which can only be described as one of a kind.
I picked the hotel as we got married in Florence and they have a sister hotel there (JK Florence) where we had a soiree the night before our wedding, 100 guests on the Santa Maria Novella Square. I know how amazing the JK group look after their guests so it was a no-brainer to head to Capri and get spoilt. It’s amazing to see some of the staff that worked at our wedding three years ago there and now that I’m a friend of the JK group, we got some added birthday attention with champagne on arrival and strawberries dipped in chocolate. The hotel is discreet elegance and this 19th century Villa with its 22 rooms could become home very quickly if you let it!
It was amazing to see how similar yet how different it is going to Florence and then to Capri. We took time to lounge by the pool and get a boat to the blue grotto and surrounding islands. It was magical. We did our best to walk the cobbled streets, shop, buy lovely ice-cream, sightsee and relax. We managed to get to AnaCapri also and stayed in the fabulous Hotel Caesar Augustus which overlooked the whole of Capri. It was at the highest point right on the cliff edge – stunning! It was unreal to be that high up and see all the views and the staff were so lovely. Especially the owner Francesco who gave me a beautiful white rose when we arrived, as he knew it was a birthday celebration – a touch of class! The hotel is a little more relaxed and old world charm than that of JK Capri. I adored it and for me with all the stunning art, the classic Steinway piano in the room, the friendly staff and the classic sumptuous rooms made this Realise and Chateaux hotel stand out from the crowd. I loved the sense of family. The hotel is owned by Francesco’s father and we heard so many wonderful stories of this family hotel and how many famous and fabulous people have stayed there. The views at Hotel Caesar Augustus are probably one of the best in the world and it’s as though heaven meets the sea and then some more. I challenge anyone to find more beautiful settings. I know you can say the Maldives and the Caribbean and other far flung destinations, but the Amalfi Coast and especially Capri and that of the bay of Naples is very special. For only a 3 hour flight from Dublin you can have a slice of Italian beauty created by the divine right at your fingertips. The one thing that I noticed at the hotel was the little cute walkways and organic garden that makes this property unique. As you look past the infinity pool you see bursts of beautiful local art that adorn the terrace, I took many photos of all the artwork and swore that when I came into my millions I would buy some. It all looked so cool and casual beside the large statues of Caesar. The predominantly buttermilk hotel has so many little hidden treasures and for me, it’s the food. We had lunch on the veranda and soaked up the sights of the aqua sea below. It’s a joy to dine al fresco, as you know, but a further joy to eat fresh food. When it comes to wine I like blush rose so we ordered a bottle of that plus some delicious local fresh salads to accompany it. It’s incredible mouthwatering food and you know every bite is good for you, maybe minus the wine!
Reminiscing about our own Italian wedding made me feel nostalgic. It’s funny how almost three years can go in the blink of an eye. Italy is our special place and I always love going there. On the day we arrived at Caesar Augustus, there was a wedding on and of course I earwigged at the vows, shed a tear and ended up having a few drinks later that night with the bride and groom! They were from Wales which sparked Richard’s interest immediately and we chatted for hours whilst drinking beautiful Italian specialities! The old charm of the Caesar Augustus is evident in their charm with all the staff and the surrounding site. As mentioned the food all organic and grown from their garden which is epic! I’m trying to eat organic as much as I can at the moment so every mouthful was delightful. I never wanted to leave… The weather in May was not too hot so you could sit on your balcony in the mornings with a nice coffee and relax. Our room was a beautiful suite and with the jacuzzi on board we were able to have some nights after dinner surrounded by candlelight looking at the stars!
AnaCapri was just as beautiful – it has it all as does the coast. The weather, the history, the culture, the romantic language, the food and the wine! It’s never beaten in my books and for something like a birthday celebration I didn’t want to have to travel too far. We discussed more far flung destinations but Italy seemed like the right one; old yet beautiful and with the sea and the beach on offer too I booked it straight way. Turning another year older has its good side believe me; I feel a lot more calm and excited about the future like I never have before, I’m venturing into business and have lots to learn but also lots to add to the plate too in terms of experience. There is a certain wisdom too that comes with getting a little older and I know that being away helped me reflect more on what I definitely don’t want as much as what I do, which believe me is just as important. Our last night in Caesar Augustus they laid on a very special birthday celebration at La Terrazzo di Lucille and the dinner overlooking the whole of Capri was out of this world. The restaurant is suspended between the sea and the sky so you can see Mount Vesuvius, Sorrentine Peninsula and the Bay of Naples. The food was exquisite and the friendly warm atmosphere in the restaurant meant we made friends and vowed to meet up with them the next day to sightsee. It’s a very popular spot their restaurant and many travel all over to experience the chef’s delights and the wines. I would urge anyone to see more spectacular views from AnaCapri then at Caesar Augustus.
Our final few days were spent up in what only can be described as food heaven. I booked Don Alfonso 1890 on recommendation and I am, if you don’t know already, a massive foodie. We headed over to Sorrento because a chef friend of mine said it would be criminal not to experience one of the most important culinary experiences of his life! I needed no more encouragement and we had what can only be described as mouthwatering elegance. Don Alfonso 1890, if you don’t know, is a 2 star Michelin Restaurant and considered one of the best restaurants in Italy. People come from all over the world to dine here and don’t be surprised if you’re sitting next to a celebrity, a food critic or a president! The food is worldwide renowned and for me being there was on my life bucket list. Don Alfonso is owned by the Laccarino family – Alfonso, Ernesto, Livia and Mario where they also have unbeatable top class restaurants in Morocco, China and another one on the way in the US. Nothing is conceived, designed or chosen especially for the menu and boy are you in for a gastronomy treat like no other, a mother earth experience.
On check our suite was pink, the restaurant was pink and white and Richard blended in with his pink jacket. The theme was pink and it was positively picture perfect. In all my years I’ve never been to a cooler and more ingenious restaurant/boutique hotel. The hotel offers it all, comfortable rooms, delicious meals, moonlit walks, boat trips, breakfasts on the terrace. I made friends with all the family and have found my tribe; my Italian Tribe. The hotel is modern but old, quirky but cool. The surrounding village is like something from a Fellini Film and the little winding roads to Positano only make for this jewel of the Sorrento Hills one of my favourite ever.
I made it my business to visit the farm of Livia & Alfonso and family during the day to learn how to cook some authentic Italian dishes. I met the bull, the chickens and the local produce that was bursting full of colour, life and vigour. It’s very enlightening to see where your food comes from and is produced. I think as I get older it’s more important to me and makes me understand how it is we eat and consume here in Ireland anything that’s on the shelves. Perhaps in school we should be taught to be more self sufficient and live off the land and grow our own tomatoes and salad even, small things even herbs that can add to the flour and importance of growing your own!
For me the highlight of the farm was visiting the lemon groves which was both beautiful to photograph and beautiful to smell. As they have a wine cellar that is world renowned we had to enjoy some of the finest & had wines from 1988, nearly as old as me. The restaurant experience is like something from a novel. You can visit the kitchen before you dine and meet the head chef. It’s utter genius, you can have up to 10 courses if you wish and each are a taste sensation. The food is served on beautiful white raised dishes and each are brought out with an Oxford dictionary explanation, it’s magic. My favourite part is how the lovely Livia asks about your plate and how you are enjoying it and to my mind IS the Queen of the restaurant. Mario her son is the cool dude and the ‘Maitre D’ who speak over 4 languages and makes the dining experience so unique with his great sense of humour and great storytelling.
I was thinking that maybe I should give up the day job and become a food critic if I’m fed as good as this? Only I’d be too busy eating it to comment, everything was out of this world! It suited me, and unfortunately my waistline, well enjoying and eating all the tasting delights out in front of me. It was heaven. I was sang Happy Birthday too and somehow dry ice ended up being involved in the cake? – it was magic! – a super few nights there. With only a week to spend in Capri, AnaCapri and Sorrento it was wonderful to get around to some of the lovely sights but for me to relax and chill out and savour the magic of the towns and soak up the energy. I adore travel and know that somewhere it’s my calling to do it for a living. I’ve traveled so much for my work over the years but I’d like to perhaps do a year of it, not sure how I’d manage that work wise and logistically but I really believe it’s an education to travel and to have time to explore. It’s key to broadening your horizons, making new friends, expanding your knowledge of food and culture and also to sample the delights of a new country. What could be cooler than that? OK I gained a few Italian pasta pounds but it was a birthday break of a lifetime. Roll on another year… !
For more on the hotels below simply log onto:
The following two tabs change content below.
Lisa Cannon is best known as a presenter on TV3's hugely popular movie show, Box Office. She blogged all about the lead up to her Big Day in Italy in September 2015.