Frankly speaking, after being an experienced jet setter and international fashion model for several years and often travelling with the guests of Saturnalis in order to help them to explore hidden gems across the globe, it was beyond difficult to stay in lockdown in London for months.
Everything was on hold for too long- travel, events, fashion shows…. so as soon as strict travel rules were lifted by the government my business companion and I were the first ones to make it to Gatwick Airport, to visit our established partners and to explore new horizons in one of the countries most affected by the coronavirus.
Saturnalis is a boutique travel agency that focuses on providing tailor-made tours and experiential travel to our loyal guests. Recently, many of our customers are making enquiries about the safety around visiting Italy after the lockdown, which remains to be a top tourist destination in Europe for culture, food and fashion. I couldn’t agree more with this accolade, as after visiting 53 countries, I am more in love with Italy than ever. Why? It combines absolutely everything I cannot live without –incredibly interesting history and architecture, magnificent fashion and authentic food together with a warm climate. Italy is a dream place that bites deep…it is a dream place that isn’t quite real until your dream alive is over and has formed a set of memories for life.
So what’s happening with travelling nowadays? First of all, we were pleasantly surprised with the fact that all required safety measures were taken on the flight and every passenger was required to wear a mask in the airport in Rome and our temperatures were checked. This gave us much needed reassurance to proceed with our journey, as I was very keen to explore further the Golden Italian triangle, as I call it, which is compiled of Rome, Tuscany and the renowned Amalfi coast as well as Capri.
On the way from the airport to Rome, we stopped at the ancient Appian Way. It connected Rome to Brindisi, in south-east Italy, the location of the strategically important port between Italy, Greece and the Far East. That was the point where you really start understanding the expression “All roads lead to Rome”. Rome itself met us with beautiful, cloudless weather and it’s unique grand ancient atmosphere. The Colosseum, Roman Forum and the Vatican were all open as social distancing measures were put in place for those who wanted to visit.
As you would imagine, there weren’t as many tourists as before exploring the city, but visitors from neighbouring countries such as France, Germany and Austria and quite a few Italians from other parts of the peninsula. They replaced the absence of North Americans, Russians and Asians due to COVID-19 travel restrictions but this helped us to explore my favourite city in more depth with little to no crowds. I was even able to find an authentic Italian restaurant right next to the renowned Trevi Fountain and enjoy an authentic Italian pasta-making experience followed up by divine dining in a lovely and relaxed atmosphere.
After a few days in the eternal city, we proceeded to Tuscany to meet our new business partners where we were set to visit Tuscan vineyards and renowned residences around the area.
The incredibly beautiful Siena has a very long history and is well known for its race, the Palio di Siena dating back to the Etruscan era. The main development of the city happened during the Middle Ages. During this period, the city grew and many of the most important buildings of the town were built. Today its peculiar urban skyline is visible from the hills, which surround Siena; rich in monuments, palaces and churches, and truly is one of the most beautiful Italian towns.
On the way, we were lucky to be able to stop by and visit a hidden gem, a natural thermal bath in Tuscany called the Terme di Saturnia, which is still unknown to mainstream tourism. Believe me, my friends, I will be returning in no time to get some bona fide spa time and more relaxation.
Tuscany is as good and as varied as it’s wine. Our guests have always been pleasantly surprised by the Chianti valley and what you can find here; everything is here, ranging from small boutique hotels to UNESCO protected heritage villas for an exclusive and out of this world experience. Many of these residences have retained their original features, so when you stay there, one may feel as though they are deep diving in history. On the second day of our stay in Chianti, the Count Andrea Boscu Bianchi Bandinelli came to receive us at his private residence and showed us the estate. We remained deeply amazed by how well it was preserved. In both the palace and the estate where several movies were filmed and only a handful of carefully selected weddings are celebrated every year. A truly unforgettable, striking experience that you must experience at least once in a lifetime.
To conclude this incredible 2-week adventure, we headed to meet our new partners in Positano and on Capri Island. There isn’t much to say – every lover of the combination of the seacoast, history, culture and strong architectural heritage would appreciate the incredible setting. When you walk through the streets of the city you are met by the bright and varied colours of ceramic tiles that decorate the walls, stairs and even the benches! A helicopter transfer or comfortable yacht trip would take you anywhere from the Amalfi Coast to Capri- one of the ancient and the most spectacular islands in the whole of the vast and gorgeous Mediterranean.
The ultimate golden triangle fairy tale continues here, where there are multiple favourite resorts of Hollywood celebrities, famous political figures and fashionistas alike, such as John and Jacqueline Kennedy, Robert De Niro, Madonna and of course my favourite designers – Dolce & Gabbana, Versace and Armani. These designers have all mentioned, more than once, that the Amalfi Coast serves as a great inspiration for their most courageous designs.
Roman Emperor Tiberius spent the last ten years of his life at Capri, having built twelve villas there. The ruins of one of the villas at Tragara could still be seen in the 19th century. His adopted son Augustus had an implacable influence on the development of the island. In the latter half of the 19th century, Capri became a popular resort for European artists, writers, successful entrepreneurs and other celebrities, such as Norman Douglas, Giovanni Agnelli, Friedrich Alfred Krupp, Curzio Malaparte, Axel Munthe, Maxim Gorky, and the list goes on.
Honestly… I felt so privileged and happy to stay there… it was rather difficult to leave a fairy-tale like dream.
We were very fortunate to travel during the period of uncertainty, however, the future is looking much brighter as the governments of both countries seem to have helped bring the virus more under control and I am pleased to see that many of our guests are getting more confident about setting up their travel plans once again. All this brought me to remember my favourite quote of all times by Mark Twain… ”Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do, then by the ones you did do.”