LETTER FROM THE EDITOR

Belissima Italia. What is it about Italy that makes us sigh with pleasure? Is it the lure of scrumptious wine and pasta, is it Italians’ innate sense of fashion and charm, is it the take-your-breath-away beauty of its countryside and coastline? Whatever it is – Italy is quite simply enchanting.

Like a fine wine, to truly appreciate the essence of Italy takes time. The country has such diversity – so many unique cities and regions and rich culture and history, that even after multiple visits you will only scratch the surface. For this issue, I’ve consulted with Italian Australians themselves who have roots in Italy to offer you true insider perspective. Here we attempt to provide a glimpse of a few regional destinations outside the typical Italian city tourist hearts of Rome, Milan, Florence and Venice to experience a taste of Italy’s soul.

Also, in this issue, be sure to check out Cruise News – Executive Edge is offering special incentives for select Silversea and Regent cruises for 2007/2008 which are too good to pass up.

Next month, the festive holiday season arrives and it’s time to pamper yourself and those you love – our December Spa issue will offer an abundance of ideas in this vein.

For now though, here’s to “la dolce vita!”

Sincerely, Kimberly Rosbe
Marketing and Communications Manager

FEATURE

Mio Amore, Italy

Destino

“Scusa bella. Would you like to see our gallery?” I stopped startled. Breathless from the steep climb from Fornillo, I turned to see a handsome Italian beckoning my presence into his gallery/restaurant. Despite this being my first trip to Italy, after three weeks in the country, I had quickly learned to avert my eyes from the male bearers of these incessant invitations and offer a polite “no grazie.” However this time, inexplicably, I was compelled to accept. I hesitated for a second as I looked back down the incline in search of a glimpse of my mother who seemed to have disappeared into the labyrinth of shops and responded, “Va bene.”

Everyone has crossroads – this moment was certainly one of mine. A simple decision to enter a restaurant changed the path of my life. The next weeks and months I was swept off my feet, in only the way a true Italian gentleman knows how. In time, I was convinced, in fact, to return to Positano to attempt this life. Although the experience was unforgettable, as clichés go, my Italian romance would eventually end; however, my love affair with Italy had just begun. And circuitously, this time in Positano led me to my true fate in Melbourne…..

 

Edge favourite Italian regions:

AMALFI COAST and CAPRI

The place where Odysseus and his sailors fell pray to beautiful sirens attests to the bewitching beauty and dramatic splendour of the Amalfi Coast. Positano, despite its popularisation by movies such as Only You and Under the Tuscan Sun, still reigns as the coast’s queen. Shop for linen attire, eat Neapolitan pizza (the best in the world), and watch the spiagga promenade scene at Tres Sorelle or Buca di Baco while sipping limoncello. If visiting in the height of summer, escape the crowds and hike into the hills of Nocelle above Montepertuso – the towns over Positano. Insinuated by its name as the northern terminus to the Pathway of the Gods, the Sentiero degli Dei trail is for serious hikers only. However, the view of Positano and beyond is breathtaking if you are up for the challenge. For a more refined viewing experience, the vista from the terrace of the San Pietro is equally sublime. Discreetly tucked into the bougainvillea dripping cliffside, a 10 minutes drive outside Positano, hides this 6 star gem. You don’t have to be a guest to take the 5 minute boat ride from Positano’s main spiagga and a mirror-walled elevator ride through the rock to arrive at San Pietro’s grand terrace suspended 300 feet above the water and enjoy evening cocktails and canapés while digesting the sun setting over the Bay of Positano. Hungry after those cocktails? Mouth-watering Italian food is plentiful in Positano, but by far the greatest culinary treasure is Max’s restaurant – just steps down from the main piazza. An extensive collection of 18th century artwork enhances your sophisticated dining experience. Max’s chef even offers a cooking class in their restaurants’ kitchen some mornings by request – watch as the fresh fish is brought in daily while learning to cook Italian specialties.

Seeking serenity, wind your way 45 minutes south via the Blue Highway to the peaceful and tiny village of Ravello. Follow in Greta Garbo’s footsteps to the Villa Cimbrone and stroll down its Allee of Immensity past endless rows of roses to the Belvedere of Infinity, a magnificent balcony of stone Gods towering 1,500 feet above the Gulf of Salerno and commanding a view all the way to the Cilento mountains and, on a clear day, the distant temples of Paestum.

Hydrofoil across the Bay and forsake Capri town and the famous Blue Grotto to off-the-beaten-track Punta Tragara, Capri’s savage southern tip with its vista of the famous I Faraglioni. The sculptural hotel by the same name, Punta Tragara, has THE best view in Capri which architect Le Corbusier specifically constructed to exploit the awesome spectacle of the stone trio. Lounge by the dazzling seawater pool, consume made-to-order pasta delivered by tuxedoed waiters at La Bussola (perhaps the prettiest restaurant in Campania) and take in the dramatic views.

SICILIA

Sicily is enjoying a well-deserved renaissance. The strangle of La Cosa Nostra (the Mafia) has loosened its pervasive influence on businesses in the last decade but still be sure to acknowledge the lemon groves around Palermo with respect, La Cosa Nostra’s cradle. Although the logical start for a Sicilian base is its beautiful capital city Palermo, be tempted to leave the weathered path by venturing to the opposite coast. Taormina is a handsomely preserved medieval town on the East coast of Sicily which has charmed royals, writers, and wealthy Sicilians for half a century. As one local put it, Taormina’s strengths are its cannoli, caffe and casa linga – so be certain to try all three preferably alfresco at Les Bougainvillees overlooking Taormina Bay. By day, stroll along the famous car free main street, Corso Umberto, where the shopping entices with much lower priced goods than the major Italian cities. The climate is always warm and ideal to enjoy the carnival-like atmosphere in summer at Giardini Naxos, the beach at the foot of the town. For entertainment in the balmy evenings, their Greek Theatre is the tourist epicentre telling tales of bygone times.
(Thank you John Sculli for your appreciation of Taormina.)

CINQUE TERRE

The five ancient fishing ports of the Cinque Terre cling to the coastal cliffs of the Ligurian Riviera between Genoa and La Spezia. The villages are linked together by one of the most beautiful walking trails in the world, the Cinque Terre – the Westernmost village Monterosso, through Vernazza, Corniglia, and Manarola, and ending miles later in the Easternmost village Riomaggiore. Parts of the trail from Corniglia to Monterosso are quite steep and intense, so if you want to tackle this incredible journey in a more relaxed way, take the local train from La Spezia to Riomaggiore to begin your journey where you must linger for a fresh seafood lunch – the lobster pasta is heaven. Then take the easy stroll from Riomaggiore to Manarola aptly named the Via Dell’Amore (Lover’s Walk). If you are so inclined, sketch the names of you and your amore on the well-inscripted tunnel walls. The stretch from Manarola to Corniglia is also an easy hike, although the main trail into Corniglia finishes with a formidable 368 stair climb. From here, you can take the ferry to Monterosso which skims the coast so you get full views of the cliff-perched villages without the foot ache.

ISOLE EOLIE

In the cobalt blue Tyrrhenian Sea north of Sicily lie the seven Eolians – the volcanic islands which acquire their name from Aeolus, the God of Winds in Greek mythology. A World Heritage protected region, these islands retain their authentic character and identity remarkably preserved. The international fashion crowd prefers Panarea, the glitzy island, and usually stay at Hotel Raya whose terraces double as a nightclub. Raya epitomes Panarea just as Hotel Splendido characterises Portofino. Chic and sexy, the hotel is still spartan at heart. While breakfasting on your terrace, views of Stromboli literally smoulder in the distance. For simpler fare, dine at the family-run trattoria Da Paolino whose specialities include the magna magna (fish and courgettes) or if you order ahead, the superb zuppa di pesce (fish soup). Travel on this island is by foot or golf cart only. Take a tour of Lipari via scooter stopping to take in the spectacular vistas from the Quattrocchi, Chiesa Vecchia and S. Calogero. The paramount place to see the sunset is from the curve in the road at Acquacalda where on the clear day you’ll see Filicudi and Alicudi in the background. Dinner at Da Lauro is a must with its incredible view and enormously-portioned mixed antipasto – a meal in itself. The summer’s festivities culminate on August 24th, the Feast day for San Bartolomeo, the patron saint and protector of the islands, in a fireworks celebration over the water. For accommodation, stay with a local – many of whom rent out their homes during the high-season. Visit Vulcano for its therapeutic virtues. Its natural mud baths and hot water sea bed springs, although sulphur stinking, are a fountain of youth for a mere 2 Euro entrance fee. L’Oasi della Salute, comprising 3 pools, is the best one. Salina, the greenest and most lush island and retro site for the filming of Il Postino, is home to the hideaway resort Capofaro Malvasia. Capofaro is set in the middle of a working vineyard which produces delectable Malvasia wines. Sit back, sip your wine and take in the notable lack of distractions.

(Thank you Daniella Starvaggi who is lucky enough to return to Lipari with her family each year.)

PUGLIA

Otherwise known as the heel of the boot, Puglia is often overlooked by tourists. This region’s flat terrain is ideal for cycling – perhaps the best way to explore the area. Try biking the gentle coastal route from Bari to Monopoli for a taste of Puglia’s diverse scenery – deep-red soil beneath knotted olive trees and coastal plains. Stop for an ice cream at Il Super Mago del Gelo in the clifftop town of Polignano a Mare. Need a place to reinvigorate your sore muscles after your cycle, the Masseria Torre Coccaro is a farmhouse turned spa with Turkish baths and an outdoor pool with cabanas for lunch. The hotel also runs a cooking school and lends a 14-metre yacht for guests to use.

For local culture, Lecce is the Salentine Peninsula’s main town, dubbed the “Florence of the Baroque.” Between the middle of the 17th century and the end of the 18th century, over 40 Baroque churches were built here resulting in an unusually unified architectural history in Lecce’s centro storico. For authentic home-style Italian cooking, book a table at Alle Due Corti which specialises in traditional Pugliese dishes. Try the local soft drink latte di mandorla (iced coffee with almond syrup) or shop along the corso Vittorio Emanuele.
(Thank you Diana Angele whose extended family is from Lecce.)

TOSCANA

Lured by unspoiled picture-postcard undulating hills of zigzagging cypress trees and sunflowers and the endless search for the perfect olive oil, Tuscany answers all prayers for the preservation of the traditional way of life. The countryside, food and wine are all purist in their dedication to tradition. For a real gastronomical retreat, indulge at L’Andana, a former country residence of Duke Leopold II nestled in the olive foothills of the Maremma Coast and now owned by world-acclaimed French Chef Alain Ducasse. For less lux and more rustic appeal, stay at Villa Sassolini built in the XIV century in Moncioni near the Arno Valley and the hills of Chianti. The town is tiny – so small, in fact, you won’t be able to turn your car around without doing a U turn at the town’s summit. Sip cheap Campari in the town square, nibble simple salads of prosciutto, tomato and buffalo mozzarella while watching the old way of life unfold before your eyes.

A venture to Tuscany wouldn’t be complete without an exploration of the Chianti vineyards and quaint medieval hilltop towns, notably Siena, Pienza, Montepulciano and Cortona. In Cortona, if you take the several mile hike from the main town to Frances Mayes’s real home, don’t expect to see “Bramasole,” the 200-year old Tuscan farmhouse Diane Lane renovates in Under the Tuscan Sun – that villa is farther afield.

In the Tuscan hills near Arezzo, you’ll find the Villa i Bossi, an eight century old aristocratic Tuscan B&B estate owned and operated by Francesca and Francesco Albergotti. Sample the family’s own olive oil or Chianti while lazing by the pool set amidst perfectly manicured grounds. For authentic Tuscan atmosphere, stay in the main house, although the new guest rooms in a restored annexe are very tempting. If you really want to assimilate, go truffle hunting.
(A special thank you to Renee Griffith who considers Tuscany “God’s country.”)

LOMBARDIA

Lombardia’s crystalline lakes, Maggiore, Garda, Como and Lugano, have attracted the aristocrats of Europe for hundreds of years – even the “royalty” of America have succumbed to its splendour…George Clooney’s white mansion with green shutters sits on the edge of Lake Como amidst opulent castles and grand residences surrounded by formal gardens. English poet Shelley marvelled at Lake Como – “This lake exceeds anything I ever beheld in beauty.” With such endorsements, majestic hotels have been built on all the lakes’ shores. Villa d’Este, Villa del Balbianello, Villa Pizzo and Villa Carlotta are considered the most important villas. The superlative way to absorb the lakes is certainly by private boat rental or ferry. The concierge at any lakeside hotel will arrange an escorted lake tour – for a hefty fee of course. By less expensive ferry, a two hour ride from scenic Cernobbio, explore Bellagio, the “Pearl of the Lake,” and most picturesque village of Lake Como. Villa Feltrinelli on Lake Garda, which was briefly a hideout for Mussolini during his demise, opened in June 2001 as a luxury hotel. Its 21 bedrooms, some with frescoes, have the most spacious and decadent bath areas you’ve ever seen. For further swimming, the lake is on the villa’s bank – clean and clear and perfect for lazy floating, sailing or fishing.

MADDALENA – lesser known SARDEGNA

Escape the glitterati of Porto Cervo and experience the authentic Sardinian experience in the unspoiled Maddalena archipelago – a cluster of seven islands in the Strait of Bonifacio just off Sardinia’s northeastern coast. These islands are protected by commercial fishing via governmental regulation so their condition remains pristine. La Maddalena is the largest of the isle group, 20 square km, and the only inhabited island. Ferry across from Palau (leaves every 15 minutes from 7am to 9pm) to wander the narrow streets lined with cafes and loiter in the Piazza Garibaldi where the principal past-time is sipping the home-grown Vermentino, a delicious fruity white wine or mirto, the popular post dinner drink made from local berries. While dining here, be sure to try the local specialities Sardinian pecorino, a tangy cheese made from ewe’s milk, and pane carasau, wafer-thin flatbread brushed with olive oil and sprinkled with rosemary. For sun-baking, the best beaches on the island are Spalmatore and Cala Francese.

To explore the uninhabited islands, hire a private boat from the mainland at Palau or Santa Teresa Gallura from Insulare di Navigazione (about 100 Euros a day). You’ll discover a mini-paradise of crystal clear emerald waters, pink sand, wind-sculpted granite cliffs, secluded rocky coves and hillsides of wild scrub fragrant with rosemary and thyme. Drop anchor at Santo Stefano and hike to the top of the Punto dello Zucchero mountain for extraordinary panoramic views. For a snorkeler’s dream, the green islands of Santa Maria and Razzoli are surrounded by calm waters and rocky tide pools. Also, be sure to check out the ancient ruins of a Benedictine convent on Santa Maria.

CALABRIA

In the far south, glamour is but a memory and most of your fellow voyagers will be Italian, especially during August. The resort town of Tropea remains undiscovered by big tour operators, much to a traveller’s delight. The Tropea promontory sits elevated between rising cliffs and wide sandy beaches. The best beaches are actually located slightly further south at Capo Vaticano and north at Briatico. After sunbaking, cool down with a tartuffo, chocolate ice cream with hazelnut. The Benedictine monastery of Santa Maria della Isola is the highlight sight hanging on a rocky point above the aquamarine sea.
(A special thank you to Francesco Ceravolo for your insights on Calabria.)

EDGE GOLD LIST

Fiona’s Top 5 Hot Spots

  1. Vatulele Island Resort – Fiji
    Barefoot luxury at its finest – this would have to be the ultimate tropical island retreat. Your own private blue lagoon edged with a long white sandy beach. Escape the mad, mad world in your whitewashed bure set amidst lush tropical gardens and swaying palms. Leave all your troubles behind with no television or phones, no money and definitely no shoes required. Slow down to “Fiji Time” and enjoy the warmth and hospitality of the friendliest and happiest people on earth. For that extra special Vatulele experience (popular with Hollywood stars) you can book “The Point” a stunning two story villa perched high on the cliff top overlooking the main beach with its own private pool.
  2. Sila Evason Spa and Resort,
    Koh Samui – Thailand
    On arrival you are greeted by the most breathtaking view of the South China Sea. Villas are scattered over a hilltop ensuring all have magnificent views from your king size bed, king size bath tub and private plunge pool. 24-hour service is provided by your very own private butler making it tempting to never leave the comfort of your villa. It is worth coming out to sample the amazing Thai cuisine from their two fabulous restaurants or to be pampered at the world-renowned Six Senses Spa. Beach lovers can wander down the private bay and enjoy beachside service all day. The chicken satays and prawn spring rolls are a great treat to get you through the day. The serenity to be found in this location is truly unique.
  3. Le Telfair – Mauritius
    Mauritius is a fun-filled happy, sunny island, covered with tea plantations and swaying sugar cane fields. Mauritian people are a wonderful blend of cultures who bring a very interesting selection of foods to the table. Le Telfair has a warm, welcoming feel – its style is French Colonial and reminiscent of a large plantation home from the early days of settlement. Fresh white timber buildings with sweeping verandas and polished floorboards are set amongst lush tropical gardens. Soft sandy white beaches and a crystal clear sea make water sports a highlight. There is something for everyone with a Par 72 Championship Golf Course, a Six Senses Spa and a great Kids Club.
  4. Shangri-La Rasa Ria – Sabah
    Located about 45 minutes from the township of Kota Kinabalu, this resort is indeed an oasis in the jungle. Situated at one end of a large sweeping beach which extends as far as the eye can see, this resort is backed by very dense tropical jungle and is home to an Orang Utan Education Centre and Nature Reserve. The resort itself is quite large, and there is a wide selection of room categories, but I would recommend the Seaview rooms. Sabah has a rich history of blended cultures and you will experience many exotic foods here. If you are game, the chef will be more than happy to prepare you your own private banquet of local cuisine at a candlelit dinner on the beach. However – do beware of the chili. For the adventurers there is lots do – white water rafting , hiking at Mt. Kinabalu, golf or you may prefer exploring the country or city markets . Great place to relax and do nothing or be adventurous and get out and be active.
  5. Coco Palm Bodu Hithi – Maldives

    Located just a 40 minute speedboat transfer from Male airport this resort has recently been renovated. They have created a beautiful blend of contemporary chic with tropical seclusion capitalising on the stunning silky white sands and turquoise waters of this amazing Maldivian island. Coral reef and the most stunning fish are found straight off your own beach. The overwater villa experience is popular in the Maldives and the villas here fulfill these expectations. They reflect an Asian style with use of black timbers which is very elegant. I would recommend the Escapewater villas as they have a bit more space inside and larger decks outside. We stayed in an Island Villa on the beach which was still very decadent. We luxuriated by the beach out the front or on our huge private courtyard out the back complete with a plunge pool, day bed and outdoor shower. Delicious food, amazing diving and snorkelling, very private and secluded accommodation – this is truly heaven on earth.

 

EDGE TRAVEL

Anthony’s Travel Diary

Having recently returned from a wonderful and relaxing break in Bali, my fifth trip to this enchanting place since the tragic events that have taken place in recent years, I am still confident in saying that it’s one of my favourite places for a break outside of Australia. I totally agree with the readers of a leading international travel magazine who have once again voted the destination “The Best Island for 2007.”

I truly believe that there is something for every traveller on this paradise island – from plenty of interest for families to the late night party revellers to the ‘foodie folk’ to the ‘shopaholics’ or even those that wish to simply chill and enjoy a more holistic, spiritual holiday.

With so many new properties having opened since my last visit to Bali and so many due to open in the coming months, I decided that I needed to investigate and visit a few that were up and running and I must say that the benchmark is set high. The room rates obviously reflect the level of luxury that many of the new hotels and resorts offer; however, there is still plenty of wonderful properties scattered around the island that work out very cost-effective for travellers who don’t wish to spend top dollar.

The dining options are countless with many prominent chefs from all over the world now residing in Bali, so the choices for cuisine are endless. As per usual, my group’s primary breakfast conversation topic was where we should take ourselves for sunset cocktails and dinner that evening.

Though I like to buy a few things for myself , family and friends whilst overseas, I’m not one to troll around the shops for hours. But I can assure the shoppers amongst us that shopping in Bali has become a lot more sophisticated since the old days of cheap Bintang T-shirts and bad copy watches. On my recent trip, I actually met a Milanese designer who relocated to Bali from London after she and her partner opted for an ‘island change’ and as a result have recently set up a wonderful shop/studio in Seminyak. There are many other designers with a similar story and there are certainly the establishments popping up around the place to show for it. The fashion and homewares boutiques are excellent and, of course, if you can’t find what you are after in-store, you’re bound to be able to have the item made whilst there.

If you can’t already tell, I am a Bali devotee and I love the fact that I can hop on a direct flight from Melbourne and be in a different country/culture eating a club sandwich washed down with a cold Bintang poolside within 8 hours from leaving home. Sadly, the only downside to holidaying in Bali is the ‘post Bali blues’ upon one’s return…

Deb’s Travel Diary

Recently my husband and I travelled to Thailand and spent 8days staying at the stunning Evason Six Senses Spa Hideaway resort in Hua Hin.

The resort location is approximately 40 minutes drive from Hua Hin Township. Our beautiful, bright and airy one bedroom deluxe villa had its own private pool and garden, open-style bathroom, flat screen TV and our very own butler. The resort itself was spread over a large area and located right next to a secluded beach. You can either take a leisurely stroll to get to the resorts, restaurants and bars or, if that’s not your thing, there are buggy services on stand-by to transfer you around the resort. The dining experience was superb with a wide selection of restaurants, cafes and bars to choose from. Alternately you could simply dine in the privacy of your own villa ordered by phone and delivered by your butler. There are also plenty of activities on hand. On one occasion we arranged to have a private Thai cooking lesson in our villa. The great thing about this was we were able to enjoy all this exquisite food prepared in front of us and eat poolside under the pergola. The resort itself is in a fairly isolated location. If you feel the need to head into town for a spot of shopping, it only takes about 30 minutes by the resort shuttle which operates daily. If it is rest and relaxation you seek, then I would highly recommend Evason Six Senses Spa Hideaway Resort. The friendly staff really makes your stay a memorable one.

 

CRUISE NEWS

Suite Cruising – Edge incentives for Regent and Silversea!

Now is the time to experience luxury in cruising with the Australian dollar at an all time high. To further entice you, Executive Edge is offering a $300 ship board credit with the booking of the following all-suite, all-balcony Regent and Silversea cruises:

  • Regent Seven Seas Voyager 10 night cruise from Monte Carlo to Dover
    • departs June 9th from Monte Carlo, arrives in Dover June 19th
    • Deluxe Suite, 306 sq ft, balcony 50 sq ft (lowest category)
    • promotional rate starts at $5,395 US
    • all on-board gratuities are included
    • complimentary beverages including select wines and spirits
    • choice of multiple open-seating dining venues
    • spa by renowned Carita of Paris
  • Silversea Silver Shadow 15 day Panama Canal/Mexican Riviera cruise
    • departs Fort Lauderdale on May 16th, arriving in Los Angeles May 31st
    • Ocean View Vista suites starting at $4,917 US based upon double occupancy
    • explore the Yucatan, Panama, the Caribbean and South America
    • special guest naturalist Bill Hendricks aboard for biogeography enrichment programs
    • complimentary beverages including wine, champagne & spirits
    • open seat dining
    • gratuities included
    • complimentary in-suite dining and 24-hour room service
    • complimentary transport into town

Book now with your Executive Edge Consultant so as not to miss out! **Limited time offer.

 

FAMILY FUN

Cowboy Country

Tauck Tours’ “Cowboy Country” features an 8 day itinerary experiencing two incredible national parks in Wyoming, USA – Yellowstone and Grand Teton – in authentic Wild West style. Rafting down wilderness rivers like the first pioneers, attending a buckin-bronco rodeo like Buffalo Bill, living like a cowboy at a real dude ranch – every detail lends a true taste of the Old West. One day you’ll even visit Mount Rushmore and gaze in wonder at the stone faces of early American Presidents – George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt. The history and activities are ideal for the entire family to enjoy. This itinerary beginning in Jackson, WY starts from $2,228 per person.

With more than 80 years experience, Tauck Bridges specialises in family tours for every age and generation, so if this journey doesn’t appeal, Executive Edge and Tauck have endless other ideas.