4 june 2016, o solo sorrento

Just back from a week away. "first time in italy ?" asked our skipper, "no, several times in the north" we replied. "Aha", he concluded "so it's your first time in italy". The disorganisation, lack of restaurant chains and total imperviousness to rules though were wonderfully familiar. The romans especially did the roads for us: mopeds flying round blind corners on the wrong side of unbelievably narrow (and picturesque) roads, cars reversing down one way streets and brazenly turning right into no right-turns. Everywhere, the views were breathtaking: from sorrento of course, on the cliffs, looking out onto capri, or at the top of its highest mountain, which we accessed on a 1970s chairlift. I was gobsmacked as we were winched up, that so many of the people coming down were staring not at some of the most mediterranean's most dramatic scenery - ischia was rising as if suspended in a cloud - but at their mobile phones. Not even taking pictures, but clearly on emails or social media; some actually talking, breaking the meditative silence. We are a spoilt generation, lost to wonder. The whole holiday I fought this with my kids, though we had amazing ammunition: the wonders of pompeii, albeit in the searing heat, a cooler evening in herculaneum with a great guide, the mind-boggling walk up and sights atop mount vesuvius, capri and a fabulous morning at italian cookery school. We also got to positano, the first time driving across dizzying cliff-top roads and walking down a mountain to eat at the splendid tre sorelles, the second as the climax to our final day's extravagance of a boat down the amalfi coast, in and out the grottos, swimming and sunning, approaching positano from the very best angle, and then breaking a rule and eating at the same restaurant twice. I read the fantastic jacob's gift; he wrote my book. Heavenly holidayesque.