Our last night in Praiano called for a celebration of an amazing week where we stuffed ourselves full of Italian culture, delicious food and excellent local wines, but tonight we pushed the boat out and went to Ristorante Mama – an unprepossessing name but it certainly surprised. We had a superb fine dining meal there, sitting on the rooftop terrace which afforded spectacular views of the coast.
Leaving the villa was bitter sweet for me – I loved it and I enjoyed the time we spent with Domenico as he was so informative and quite passionate about the area he knows so well. There were some things we could have done better though – we could have explored the local beach (La Praia) and more eateries in the village for instance, but we wanted to enjoy the amazing panoramic view the villa provided. We have all agreed though, that Sorrento would probably be a better base to work from to explore this area because it so easy to take day trips from there and the town has a wonderful colour and a vibrant ambience.
Having been fondly farewelled via phone by Domenico, and in person by his father who was there tending the garden, we left for Paestum. The drive was easier than expected and we managed to see Minori and Maiori – Maiori has the largest and flattest beach of all the coastal towns and reminded us very much of a Cote d’Azur beach town.
Travelling along the road parallel to the coast leading into Paestum we noticed the roadsides were littered for miles with endless streams of rubbish – bottles, cigarette packets, paper – is was quite astonishing and it is a tendency we noticed all over the parts of mainland Italy.
The drive up to our country house accommodation was promising and when we pulled up to the gates we knew we were going to like the place. Borgo la Pietraia is superb – not only because of the the location, but also the rooms are stylish and the large pool is well-sited to take advantage of the view – the place was simply restful and calming – a perfect antidote after the last busy week when we had crammed in as much as we could see and do on the Amalfi Coast.
The lovely young receptionist had us quickly settled into our rooms and then we set off to a very interesting place for lunch which she had recommended- a buffalo mozzarella farm call Tenuta Vannulo, which sold mozzarella cheese, yoghurt, chocolates and leather. We sat down to eat in a large room which felt as if it could have been a family dining room. It was packed with families lingering over lunch but we had a mission so we had entree meals (the ravioli in butter and sage was so delicous!) and moved on eagerly to the find the famed Greek Temples of Paestum.
Only once previously have I been completely awe-struck by an ancient ruin and that was when I first saw the Pont du Gard, but the three temples at Paestum had a similar effect. They are absolutely stunning in the true sense of the word. They stood under the hot sun projecting a honey-coloured glow – remarkable remnants of an ancient civilisation – enchanting, enticing, exciting….
The temple of Hera is the oldest of the three temples built around 550 B.C. It is less well preserved than Neptune but it is impressive nonetheless.
The third temple, Athena stands separate from the other two and is fenced off, so there is is no possiblity of walking through it.
I think we were all rather overcome in the presence of these wonderful structures – they are certainly memorable, and we strolled back to the car from this quiet little place knowing we had seen something very special.
Dinner at the country house was another fine dining experience – we were led to a very pristine white dining room and could see we were in for a treat – with amuse bouche being offered to start, just as they had been at Ristorante Mama. The meal was superb and we all agreed Borgo La Pietraia couldn’t be faulted – its location, the accommodation, the helpful staff, the food and service were impeccable. It is a true gem, which along with viewing those magnificent ruins, has made our time in Paestum high on our list of favourites so far.
Next Post – Matera