Amalfi Coast Essentials

If you have spent any time here on Always, Erin (hi, Mom!), you’ll know that I love writing a lot about two things: the Amalfi Coast and packing. So, I thought I would do the obvious thing and combine these two loves and share my Amalfi Coast Essentials. My normal Carry On Essentials are here, so you can supplement those with these beach specific must-haves, tailored to that iconic Italian coastline.

Amalfi Coast Essentials

 

Beach Bare Necessities

No use heading to the beach unless you have a proper beach bag. A longtime Longchamp fan, this bag is perfect for carrying all your bits and bobs, smart enough to take out to dinner, and water resistant. Toss in a cute, yet compact, wallet to hold plenty of Euros for all of those lovely Italian leather goods that will surely tempt you. Of course, you’ll want your phone.  Even though you likely (and luckily IMO) won’t have Wifi while exploring, pack a portable charger. I took more pictures than on any previous vacation and was glad to have extra battery so I could capture that dreamy watercolor sunset at the end of a long day of touring.

While a bikini seems like an obvious addition, I’d like to remind you to pack at least two. I only brought one and definitely underestimated how much I’d be frolicking in the Med. Whether it’s taking a day trip to a beach club in Positano, diving off a boat in Capri, or just dipping into the hotel pool – you’ll be glad you packed multiple swimsuits for your multiple aquatic adventures. For that beach club in Positano (or really any beach on the Coast), you should wear water-proof flip flops. Amalfi Coast beaches are all rock or pebble, so you’ll want shoes you can wear right up to the waves since said pebbles can get scorching in the height of summer. My Birkenstocks did NOT cut it, so my poor toes were left toasty.

Paradise Protection

While we’re discussing the necessary summer armor, sunglasses (preferably of the colorful variety) are a must, as is sunscreen. This solid stick is perfect for travel, since you don’t have to waste precious space in your quart size bag for liquids or bother finding a 3oz version.  I have a bit of OCD when it comes to chapstick application, so this grapefruit Burt’s Bees option is always on hand. Once I’m lathered in SPF, to keep cool I like to shelter under this Panama hat and spritz with a bit of Evian mist, in between long, languorous floats in the ocean of course. They also just make me feel like some sort of Fellini-esque diva, so who cares if they’re a tad over the top.

Seaside Style

After a long day of sunbathing, drinking prosecco and swimming in the salty sea, you’ll likely want to duck into a restaurant (Chez Black in Positano is the perfect beachside detour) to enjoy a restorative glass of rose and nibble on antipasto. Pack a full-coverage cover-up that doubles as a dress to make the effortless transition. For post-beach beauty, I’m a big fan of this hair conditioning spray and Wet brush for making my rat’s nest of a hairdo look somewhat presentable. (Pro-tip, definitely pack conditioner for Italy – most hotels don’t supply it) As for summer make-up, I like my tan to do the talking and will just accentuate it using this liquid bronzer and solid blush with a few flicks of mascara. Then, voila, I’m coiffed for my Italian boyfriends and selfies, yet still undone and free-spirited enough to relish in la dolce vita.

Grazie for stopping by my friends! I hope this will help you prepare to your next trip to the Amalfi Coast- whether it’s your first or hopefully one of many! It’s one of my favorite places in the world, so it definitely keeps me inspired.

Check out more of my packing posts here:
Carry On Essentials
Coachella Essentials
Road Trip Essentials
Walt Disney World Essentials
Travel Beauty Essentials

 

Linking Up With:

My first Wanderful Wednesday hosted by Lauren of Lauren on Location, Van of Snow in Tromso, Isabel of The Sunny Side of This and Marcella of What a Wonderful World.

My first Weekend Wanderlust – hosted by a Brit & a Southerner! Please check out both link parties for more excellent travel content! Thank you!

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Look for Less: Julia of Gal Meets Glam’s Lavender Dress

Hello friends! Sorry I’ve been MIA – I was at Coachella, then recovering from Coachella. It’s amazing what dust storms, long days dancing your heart out and the oppressive heat can do to your respiratory system! I’ll share a bit more of my trip soon, but I didn’t want to delay posting any longer, so here is a trusty Sunday look for less!

Julia Engel of Gal Meets Glam has been gallivanting around Italy with her blogger bestie, Rose of The Londoner. Julia’s style is usually a bit too girly for my taste, but I fell for this lavender number she wore while exploring Verona. I don’t know if it’s the purple, the gorgeous Italian backdrop, or that it’s by boho favorite brand Tularosa, but I love this floral dress for spring and summer. Tularosa is a bit expensive, so luckily when I was wandering around Nordstrom this morning I found a great dupe!

Um, can I go to Italy now please?
Julia’s original dress retails for $168, but this Nordstrom look is less than $50! It’s not exactly the same, but the print, cut and color are very similar. In person it’s practically spot on.
Buy it here.
Thank you for stopping by and happy Sunday shopping! What is everyone up to this weekend? I’m online shopping and watching some of my favorite YouTubers to ward off the Sunday scaries!

 

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Travel Tuesday: How to Eat Like an Italian

Forget climbing the Colosseum, taking in the wonders of the Vatican Museums, or tossing a coin into the Trevi Fountain. Arguably, the best part of visiting Italy is indulging in its food. During my trip over the summer, I did my duty and savored every last bite I could get my hands on. All in the name of blog research, of course. (Check out  Everything I Ate in Rome and Everything I Ate on the Amalfi Coast).

As an American, however, I had to prepare and learn the art of eating like an Italian. Through my dutiful research and prolific intake of carbs, I’ve gathered some tips and etiquette for how to best eat your way through the peninsula. My findings are informed by my experiences in Rome and on the Amalfi Coast, so custom may vary a little in other regions. Now, on to the rules of feasting!

Tripadvisor and Yelp are your friends
Italian cities, particularly Rome, are filled with restaurants; the number of choices is overwhelming. Do your research via Yelp and Tripadvisor before your trip, so you have a list of must-tries in areas you’ll be visiting. The hotel concierge can be hit or miss as they often have partnerships with local restaurants that may or may not actually be good. For a local recommendation, ask your tour guides or check out the Eating Italy blog. They run food tours in Rome, so the Roman food landscape is their expertise.

Ristorante 34 near the Spanish Steps was one of my favorite meals on the trip.

Avoid tourist traps
That being said, if you’re out and about and unprepared with restaurant options for that area, be careful when picking a place on the street. If there is a carnival barker type standing out front and beckoning you inside, that’s a bad sign. These places are tourist traps usually with overpriced menus and mediocre food. We fell sucker to one of these (Da Francesco – avoid!) near our hotel on the Via Veneto because we were jet lagged and just wanted lunch ASAP. The food was meh, prices were high and the waiter was peeved when we didn’t give a Yankee sized large tip. Not a terrible experience, but not pleasant either. At that point, you’re better off stopping by a deli or street vendor (trust me – the suppli – fried balls of goodness -are worth it).

When to eat?
Since I have the habits of a 75 year old and like to have dinner at 5PM, it was difficult to adapt to eating later like the Europeans. 8 or later seemed to be customary to start dinner, and meals were a much more languid, drawn out affair. I love the longer, savoring of meals, so by all means, devour at a leisurely pace. If you can’t wait to eat at 8 or 9, try an apertivo. They’re essentially an Italian happy hour right around the end of the work day and include a smattering of nibbles for the cost of a drink. Apertivo is an excellent option for student or budget travelers, since they can cost as little as 2.5 euros. Read more about the apertivo experience here.

Grabbing a late dinner on the Amalfi Coast. Worth it for that sunset.

How Italians do bread
Oh bread, may favorite carb to enjoy before eating more carbs. Bread may or may not be complimentary, so check the menu before digging in. Butter is unlikely, so instead dunk your bread in tasty olive oil, or better yet, use it to sop up any extra sauce from your entree or pasta. Yum!

Frizzante or naturale?
Thirsty yet from all that bread? When ordering water, be sure to note if you want frizzante (sparkling) or naturale (still). Roman tap water is very clean (straight from  the aqueduct!), so no need to pay extra for bottled.

Eat local and seasonal
If you’re in Naples, order pizza. If you’re in Bologna, try the bolognese. If you’re on the coast, have fresh fish. I sound like captain obvious, but Italians do excellent fresh, seasonal food. Also order based on local specialties, so you’re getting the best of the best and not reliant on Americanized versions of Italian treats. Roman favorites include cacio e pepe, amatriciana, carbonara, and saltimbocca. You won’t be disappointed.

Amatriciana at Grazia e Graziella in Trastevere. Nom nom nom.

Coffee faux pas
Italians love to have coffee at the end of a meal, as it is a diuretic and aids in digestion. Cappuccino or any other milky drinks, however, are strictly for breakfast and should not be ordered after 10AM. Instead, order un caffe which is straight espresso. Down it like a shot to cap off a meal and be on your merry way.

Caffe at Da Vincenzo in Positano. A must try.

You’ve finished eating, now what?
Simply ask your waiter for Il conto per favore and your check will be on its way. A service charge of around 1-3 euros is usually added to the bill and should be noted on the menu. I’d add a few euro for good service and even more for an outstanding meal – one to two euros per person. To me, most meals in Italy were outstanding, so definitely have some extra euros on hand, as you usually need to tip in cash. Try to physically hand the tip to your waiter too, especially if you’re dining outside in a busy area.

The one dish to never order in Italy
Fetuccine Alfredo. It’s an American invention, and if a restaurant in Italy has it on the menu, run far far away.

And finally, take in the glorious surroundings, savor every bite and never turn down a chance at gelato.

Nutella. Gelato. The end.


Check out my favorites for trips to Italy and bring the Italian feeling home below:

 

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I’m linking up with the awesome girls at Travel Tuesday, hosted by Diana. Check it out if you love finding excellent new travel blogs!

 

Twilight in Trastevere

During my recent trip to Rome, one of my favorite experiences was an evening spent in Trastevere. Far from the tourist epicenters of the Colosseum and Vatican, we arrived in the neighborhood, nestled on the west bank of the Tiber, just after a rainstorm.

After a winding taxi ride through cobblestone streets (every taxi ride in Rome feels like a high speed getaway chase), we were deposited in an unassuming alley way and told we’d have to make rest of the journey on foot. Our destination – Grazia e Graziella, a Trip Advisor recommended restaurant in the heart of the neighborhood. Dodging puddles, we navigated the snaking  pedestrian streets until we found our target.

Seated on the patio, we had front row seats to excellent people watching. From tourists, to locals celebrating the weekend, to eccentric shop stalls to friendly Italian puppies, we took in the sounds and sights of Trastevere reawakening after the rain.
All of this street side entertainment was just a warm up, however, for the showstopping main event – our dinner.

 

I know I’ve already covered this meal in my “Everything I Ate in Rome” post, but it is so worth revisiting. Glorious antipasti, amatriciana and tiramisu. Last meal worthy stuff and perfectly Roman – no spaghetti or fettucine alfredo in sight. The sight of it still makes my mouth water.
After we had fully stuffed ourselves, we set out to explore the neighborhood’s streets, with both dusk and Romans settling into them.

 

I love the golden hues of this city at nighttime. Every random building is so photogenic.

 

In one of the main piazzas stood the beautiful Basilica Santa Maria. It’s really incredible and overwhelming how many historical and jaw-droppingly beautiful buildings still exist in Rome. Santa Maria dates back to 1143!

 

Warm summer nights meant many tourists and Romans alike were gathering outside to take in the weekend air. I love the feel of community this brings to the city; people aren’t confined to bars or restaurants, but want to soak up the feeling of Rome and its evening energy.
I couldn’t resist a shameless selfie.

 

Street vendors litter the streets and squares, like most of Rome’s busy areas. They provide entertainment and window shopping, but you should take your time and use your discernment to sniff out the real deal from tourist traps. I was content to meander and take photos.

 

Revelers spilled out into the street and around this cute vintage car.
We found our way to the Tiber and Trastevere’s end. More stalls dotted the border of the river below. If you’ve seen the new James Bond film, Spectre, you’ll recognize this river’s edge from a certain high speed car chase. The city is so cinematic and surreal, so I definitely understand the appeal to filmmakers and artists of all mediums.
Darkness fully engulfing the city, we decided to double back once more to take in the neighborhood’s offerings one more time before leaving.

 

I’m a city girl at heart, so it truly sent my heart racing to feel in the “middle of it all” and take in the buzz of the weekend with real Romans. We just had a glimpse of Trastevere, so I look forward to tasting more of its fine food, ambling through its labyrinth of streets and soaking up its electric spirit on my hopefully very soon next trip to the Eternal City. If you visit Rome, you’d be remiss to skip it.
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