Guest post by Jennie Hogg
The first time I visited Italy was when I was 15. My dad had put so much time and effort into organising an amazing 6 week family holiday which included Rome. My stroppy 15 year old self didn’t think this was amazing at all and I ended up flying back home to Australia by myself, vowing to never return again. But, this was not so as nine years later I was invited back to Rome for the weekend. Immediately something just sparked the fire inside of me and I just fell in love with the place.
I have the fondest memory of going to one of those family restaurants that has no menu. Seven courses where you have no idea what you’re going to get to eat, but I can tell you this was one of the best meals I’ve had in my entire life. It’s experiences like this that add to the personality of a place. This trip opened my eyes to what was around me and how special the place was, and I ended up going back to Rome 3 times that year. This was when my love affair with Italy began.
Italy is just simply amazing, but to pin point one place in particular it will have to be an Italian island. The islands are just magical. My two favourites are Stromboli, a small volcanic island in the Tyrrhenian sea just north of Sicily and Ponza which is just off the coast of Rome.
Stomboli is the most dramatic of the Aeolian Islands and its unique atmosphere attracts a wide range of people from the inspired tourist to the Italian designer. Take a stroll around the enchanting village and admire the views, or a boat trip around the stunning coastline, or even (although not for the faint hearted), climb the volcano and watch as lava and gas are ejected from the craters. When the sun goes down, it changes into a mesmerising red fountain shooting upwards towards the sky…It’s truly magical.
Ponza is one of Italy’s best kept secrets that is hard not to speak to everyone about. A rocky picturesque island without the fuss and flashiness of the more famous Capri. It has the perfect mixture of slow and chic: unspoilt landscapes, crystal clear waters, breath-taking views and mouthwatering food. There’s an upscale feel about it, balanced with its originality, peaceful and relaxed atmosphere.
For me, the key to an amazing holiday is where you find the Milanese, Romans and locals going for their summer vacations. I love finding the little undiscovered sides of Italy and being able to share them. The ever popular Positano has its main streets heaving with tourists, but just venturing a little further out you will discover some authentic hidden gems you would never have known existed.
Exploring, getting lost and having authentic experiences is really important to me. I want to really feel, connect and understand the place where I’m staying and the only way to do this is by just wandering around. I also love sailing around the small breathtaking islands which is such a great way to get a sense of what you want to see more of.
Eating is another passion of mine. It’s really hard to have a bad meal in Italy, from 7 course meals to the nibbles they give you when you’re having a relaxing cocktail, everything in Italy just tastes absolutely delicious.
Recently I went to Sicily with a friend and we did an amazing market tour. The markets in Palermo are quite famous and it’s where the locals get their food from. Our guide took us to where they make the best Panelle. Panelle is like a fried chickpea pancake. We ate it straight out of the fryer, hot and burning our fingers, but the flavour was simply amazing. It’s unique experiences like this I really love.
Taking cooking lessons is another way to make and sample some of the delicious foods Italy has to offer. My lesson was amongst the vineyards and rolling hills above Tropea in Calabria. This was 4 hours of inspirational fun that I’ll never forget. It wasn’t just the flour flying everywhere, or the eating and drinking the delicious foods, it was the shared experiences with new found friends and the hospitality of the husband and wife team that stay with you forever, and entice you to come back to Italy for more.
Italy is a truly magical place and whether you’re spending 1,000 or 10 euros a night on accommodation, it’s the genuine hospitality of the Italians, the spectacular landscape, the delicious food and the unique experiences that will stay in your heart forever.
ABOUT JENNIE HOGG, loisavery.com
Jennie Hogg is the founder of Lois Avery. Once a lawyer trying to juggle her busy career, her family and a multitude of other things, she decided to follow her passion in life…fashion. When she left the law behind and opened her own business, she chose cashmere because some of her fondest memories were centred around the gorgeously soft and luxuriously warm material. From her favourite honey pashmina she wore whilst sitting on a terrace overlooking Lake Garda, to the gorgeous baby blue piece she swaddled her newborn son in.
Lois Avery cashmere shawls come from different breeds of Asiatic goats which produce one of the finest natural fibres in the world, and are then woven into cashmere products made not only for Lois Avery, but for some of the world’s most famous fashion designers.
Take a look at her gorgeous website and I’m sure you’ll fall in love with her beautiful collection of shawls.