Veronica Crockford Pound and Joseph Griffin share their travel diaries in Italy
They start with art and culture in Venice and end with the meal of a lifetime in Puglia.
We begin our trip to Italy in Venice with our dear friend Emma McIntyre based in Los Angeles. We decided to meet there for the 59th Venice Biennale and are particularly excited about the main show, Dream Milk. Taking its title from a book by Mexican surrealist painter Leonora Carrington, the show looks through a surrealist lens as contemporary art converges with artists from the period.
On our first morning in Venice, we stumbled into an unnamed coffee-and-cake café at Fondamenta S Anna, savoring small scones filled with lemon cream and hopping on espresso. Our obsession with the everyday cake begins.
From there, we head to the Biennale in beautiful Giardini. To see an international show of this magnitude again after years of closure is amazing and amazing. Curator Cecilia Alemany selected 213 artists for the exhibition and, unusually, 90 percent of them are women. We often refer to surrealism in our photography, so we especially love seeing women artists from the period who have been largely ignored.
In the evening we head to Vino Vero for natural wine and cicchetti. There’s a great crowd, and it feels like it’s miles away from the hordes of tourists. There are no tables here, so we sit and dangle our feet over the canal as we drink and eat.
Venice teems with contemporary art during the Biennale, but we also love the old Venetian classics. We head to the Gothic Renaissance church Chiesa di San Zaccaria to visit a famous altarpiece by Bellini and pay €1 to light it. The colors are angelic. We light a candle in memory of Veronica’s father Francis, who also loved Bellini.
We have lunch at Bar All’Arco, a little Venetian icon famous for its delicious seafood and wine. People hovering over us as we eat, wanting our table. An afternoon is spent at Marilyn Dumas’ retro exhibition at Palazzo Grassi – a stunning painting show in a stunning palazzo. It is inspiring to see such mesmerizing body paintings. How can we take pictures that look like her paintings, we wonder?
The next day is dedicated to the Venetian painter Giovanni Battista Tiepolo. First we head to the Scuola Grande dei Carmini in Dorsoduro. There’s no one around and it’s already hot, so we lie on the cool tiles and look up at the Tiepolo paintings that decorate the ornate ceilings. Figures fall through pink clouds towards us.
We stroll through Santa Maria del Rosario, a beautiful church with 40 frescoes by Tiepolo. There is a mirror installed in the corridor to watch without lifting your neck. It also provides a perfect selfie position.
We end the day scrolling through maze-like channels to catch a video of Stan Douglas’ battle rap, which is on display in an empty shipyard.
At dawn we take a vaporetto to the train station where we catch a train to Naples, and from there, we head to the Amalfi Coast. Venice lit up like a golden jewel outside the window.
After a five-hour train ride, we stopped briefly in Naples to have lunch at a restaurant we had discovered on a trip a few years ago. We hop aboard a crowded bus, packed like sardines, balancing awkwardly on our bulky luggage.
Naples is chaotic, in the best way. Trattoria San Ferdinando is an intimate, family-run Italian restaurant that offers a dimly lit, tucked away haven in the bustling streets of Naples. Inside is charming, with pink brocade tablecloths and family photos hanging haphazardly on the walls. After a wonderful vongole and pea risotto, we take our rental car and drive a two-hour drive to the Amalfi Coast.
We arrive at our Ravello holiday apartment, Villa Scarpariello Relais – a 16th-century castle built into a cliff above the Tyrrhenian Sea. It’s breathtaking. We descended a million stairs to get to our room, passing missing-nosed statues and bougainvillea-adorned stone columns. With pink walls, lime-yellow bedspreads and hand-painted tile floors, our tiny apartment looks classic Italian.
Amalfi is a very touristy area with crowded beaches and luxury yachts dotted around the coast. But it is beyond beautiful. Amalfi has inspired artists and writers for centuries (Goethe, Oscar Wilde) and in the 1950s and 1960s became a vacation destination for the glamorous worlds of Italian cinema and Hollywood (Sophia Loren, Franco Zeffirelli, Elizabeth Taylor).
Eating out is expensive, so every day we drive to Minori for food supplies. We start our morning with a strong cup of espresso at Bar Bambi, run by a charismatic Italian dude playing 2000s alternative rock. We re-listen to channel Z (RIP). At one point, we fed him a dose of 98 percent liquor from a teaspoon. It’s nine in the morning.
From there, we head to deli Pane Amore & Fantasia for great fresh produce, focaccia sandwiches, and muffins for breakfast. Our final stop is Cotto e Man Dara for parmigiana, grilled chicken and sides of grilled vegetables swimming in herbal oil.
Our days are filled with jumping off a platform into the choppy blue sea. Nights are spent watching Love Island. Rinse and repeat.
After four blissful days, we headed to Puglia. Emma is off to stay with friends in Otranto, and we’re heading to our favorite beach – Porto Badesco.
After googling madly for a place to eat on the way, we settled on Al Sorso Preferito in Bari. Turns out, this was the best dietary decision of our lives. It is a simple, traditional Italian restaurant with large stained glass windows. We order their famous spaghetti and seafood orecchiette (“ear spaghetti” which is typical of Puglia). Dessert is a hot pastry filled with custard. We will dream about this meal forever.
Every summer, Italian families descend on this beautiful rocky cove with stunningly clear deep waters. It is a very creative and vibrant Italian scene. Nonnas wear shimmery bikinis, gorgeous oversized sunglasses, and shimmery gold jewelry. Old Italian men wear little speedo and rock shoes while smoking cigars. The tanned youths spend all day making bombs from the top of a rock in the bay.
Like a small amphitheatre, the rock flats provide the perfect place to relax and sunbathe. It can be hard to find your spot, especially if you like some shade from the trees, so come early in the morning or set off at lunchtime. BYO beach chairs or pillows.
Every morning we head to our favorite deli bar Alimentari, conveniently located up on the beach. We love the interior
With its terrazzo floors and blue tiled walls. It offers a range of delicacies such as lasagna, pickled vegetables, anchovies, fresh ricotta cheese, baked bread, quiches… There is a fruit stand parked outside with delicious peaches and peaches.
After a day at the beach reading, snoozing on the rocks, people watching and swimming 100 times, we head back to Bar Alimentari for a negroni (Veronica) and limonata (Joe). Dinner ends with a charcuterie and cheese platter. Italians know how to live.