When HEtravel.com asked me to lead its brand new tour “Italy Unveiled,” I was delighted to read its itinerary, finding myself among the targeted: those who have seen the major attractions of Italy (Florence, Tuscany, Venice, etc.) and want to explore some of its lesser known regions. I greeted my charges, well-traveled couples and singles ages 30s to 70s, in Rome at an extravagant welcome dinner at Ba’Ghetto in the old Jewish quarter of the city.
After a night at the venerable Hotel Ponte Sisto, we were chauffeured to the Stazione Termini where I got them settled into their first-class compartment on the high-speed “Freccia Rosa” train to Naples. Our guide and next driver were there to bring us to Pompeii where we toured the recently excavated bath house and inspected its frescoes depicting numbered sex acts helping foreign visitors to ancient Pompeii overcome language barriers in the selection of their pleasures. In the afternoon, we unpacked our bags, for a three-night stay at the elegant Eden Roc Hotel with majestic Mediterranean views of the bay of Positano, a magical seaside town built into the steep hills that cascade through winding roads and stone walkways down to the beach. Every room at the Eden Roc has a private terrace with water views and a Jacuzzi tub.
Day three of our tour found us on a fast ferry to the island of Capri where our guide introduced us to Gennaro, an attractive local fellow who welcomed us onto his boat for a private tour of the coastline of Capri, slipping through natural stone arches and into hidden grottoes where the sun bouncing off submerged white limestone makes the water glow with a luminescent blue that is seen no where else in the world. Back in the port of Capri, we took the funicular up the steep hill to the town of Capri where we peeked into gardens and shops and marveled at the views in every direction. Back in Positano, our group, now cordially bonded, took a recommendation from the hotel manager and chose the nearby sophisticated and new Casa Mele for dinner where we established a pattern that would serve us well for the remainder of the trip: trusting the restaurant to bring us a family-style array of their best dishes and local wines. We were also presented with a round of drinks courtesy of our thoughtful hotel.
Our tour of the dazzling Amalfi coast continued through the towns of Ravello and Amalfi. After a final night in Positano, our driver collected us for the crossing to the opposite side of Italy where we checked into mysterious Matera, an ancient town consisting of cave dwellings carved into rock. Its winding stone paths and jumbled architecture of stone blocks built over the carved spaces made it the perfect setting for Mel Gibson’s movie “The Passion Of The Christ.” A remake of “BenHur” is scheduled to be filmed in Matera next year. Our rooms at The Hotel In Pietra, a converted monastery in the historic center of Matera, were each unique and, once again, our dinners were fantastic. The group said they had not been expecting such amazing food and instructed me to tell HEtravel to highlight the local cuisine in its description of the tour. The extravagant breakfast buffets provided at all of our hotels were great fortification for the adventurous exploring we did each day.
After two nights in Matera, we moved on to the historic old-town center of Monopoli, on the Adriatic coast. This would be our base for exploring some of the many fascinating towns of the Puglia region, including Ostuni, Cisternina, Locorotondo, Alberobello, Trani, Castel del Monte and a stop at the gorgeous Villa Cappelli where owners Paul Cappelli and Steven Crutchfield had prepared a poolside feast topped off with glasses of their own Limoncello. At our farewell al fresco dinner that evening under the white umbrellas of the elegant Ristorante Palmieri in Monopoli, our group took turns listing their favorite moments of the trip and toasting an excellent ten days.
“Italy Unveiled” is a tour for congenial, fun-loving, inquisitive, epicurean LGBT folks who appreciate having all the transitions and transactions of their trip well planned and smoothly achieved, and who own good walking shoes.
For information about next year’s “Italy Unveiled” tour, HeTravel.com/tour/gay-travel-italy-amalfi-coast-puglia-gay-cultural-tour/