Updated: Jun 17, 2019
Part 1 - FINDING THE PERFECT VILLA
Eighteen months out, I began setting the course for adventure, my mind on a memorable destination birthday get-away to celebrate a milestone 50th birthday. My good friend Wes Crosby and I share our birthdays only a few days apart so for the past decade, we've combined them to double the fun and, more importantly, to double the attention, lol. Coming up on the half-century mark, we decided it would be worthwhile to mark our induction into the AARP club in style. After a rundown of our bucket lists, we felt a destination birthday get-away sounded VERY sexy and EXCEPTIONALLY bougie. So why not!
I've dreamt of going to Capri ever since that one line in that one song from that one summer by Enrique Iglesias that goes something like ..."From the blankety blank blank to the island of Capri..." so without having to work too hard convincing each other, we both agreed Amalfi coast it would be and I was off and planning like Julie, Cruise Director from The Love Boat.
I knew I wanted to find a villa to hold our crew of a dozen comfortably with a large terrace landing for outdoor dining, a swimming pool for early morning dips and, of course, killer 360 degree views of the ocean and rocky cliffs of the Amalfi coastline. After searching up and down the coast and examining Google satellite maps like a NASA scientist, I located several villa options but ultimately chose a recently restored historic luxury villa called Villa Alba d'Oro (featured on the luxury destination rental portal onefinestay.com) for its ideal locale away from the tourist-populated areas and its secluded perch high on the rocky hillside. Built on three tiered levels with more than a couple hundred steps each way up and down, we knew in order to stay here, we'd have to start our squat and glute workouts well in advance, lest we'd find ourselves sore by the second day. I put in my extra time at Woodside Health Club in prep and now I think I can crack pistachios with these cheeks!
"And then, like a Buddhist
on the path to Nirvana, we ascended the 200 steps
– all while cursing under our breath and thinking OMG, we have to climb these every time we want to leave and return to the villa this week?"
After our two travel groups finally landed with respective layovers each in Munich and Ireland, we finally arrived in Naples, Italy, and excitedly jumped into our arranged transportation and headed toward Amalfi.
The weather was a comfortable 65 degrees with patches of fog and clouds that hung low for most of the drive along the precarious curved highway. By the time we arrived at the villa the sun had burned off much of the mist. And then, like a Buddhist on the path to Nirvana, we ascended the 200 steps – all while cursing under our breath and thinking, "OMG, we have to climb these every time we want to leave and return to the villa this week?" Once we arrived, however, both the views and the villa itself made us forget we were gasping like fish on dry land. The reward for the climb made all the long months of planning and communicating back and forth and organizing pay off.
There were eleven of us in our group, which I lovingly refer to as the 'crew' and each of us had ample rooms and views as well as common spaces in the living room and kitchen dining areas.
The kitchen area was a bit smaller but it made for more intimate late night conversations over many bottles of wine and dinner leftovers. The outer walls to this fortress held much of the original stonework in place as well as newly laid masonry and brickwork which blended seamlessly and honored this UNESCO protected coastline. Inside the villa, the refinished walls and arches were done with attention to old world detail with enough of an historic feel so there wasn't a disconnect between the outside patina and modern interior.
Below are select images of our villa - we had so many from which to choose. With the scale and location of our villa on the hill, it wasn't easy to capture the whole property in one snap, but I think we captured the essence through a series of vignettes and favorite spots located on the property.
EAT, PRAY, YOGA
I asked two friends, Naeem Babri and Suba Nadarajah from our travel crew if they would lead us in yoga during the week as well as meditation sessions. Let me just say, I found my connection to the Source so much more easily here surrounded by the mystique of this ancient and enchanted villa.
If you've never tried yoga outdoors, I'd highly recommend it here because the spring temps are comfy in late May and you have the friggin' Mediterranean Sea right in front of you. I'm not that yoga guy who practices regularly, although I do meditate. I thoroughly enjoyed both the yoga and meditation sessions because between the cool morning breeze and warmth of the sun on the rooftop of the villa, I was fully immersed in the present moment. Our resident yogi, Naeem Babri, led us expertly through several morning sessions where we fully stretched and salutated (not really a word but I like it) for our 90 minute sessions. Afterwards, we were guided into calming and centering meditation sessions with Suba, your mindful sherpa, who regularly leads meditation sessions in Kansas City, Missouri on Sunday mornings at Pilates1901.com. I think with our bodies fully stretched and our minds and hearts open, our chi flowed so gracefully and fluidly and set us right as we then transitioned to the pool to cool off and eat a hearty breakfast of organic eggs, fresh fruits, prosciutto and the best bread, olive oil and cheeses I think I've eaten since the last time I was in Europe.
So this gives you a sense of what our enchanted villa gave us for our week – reclusion, repose, repast, renewal. I can certainly say our friendships deepened as I had hoped. I look forward to more adventures with this crew and new souls met along life's journey. As Walt Whitman remarked, "Life is about the journey, not the destination." Come back for Part 2 of my Amalfi Birthday Get-away where I'll show you highlights from our excursions and frolics for the week.