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How to combine Rome and the Amalfi Coast on the ultimate Italian two-stop hop

The Amalfi coast is still sumptuous off-season (Ananatara)
The Amalfi coast is still sumptuous off-season (Ananatara)

Every year, I demand “a taste of the Med” – or two. Even though my husband never removes his shoes (or socks) on a beach, for me, at least one week a year must be spent eating grilled sardines sitting on a sky-blue Van Gogh chair in a seaside taverna, seat still wet from a long swim round the bay.

I’d soon have the opportunity to do just that on the Amalfi Coast, but first we started in Rome. Thanks to (wrong formulation, I know) global warming, the summer season has of late extended to mid-October, which is why I found myself wilting in 32 degree heat by the Trevi Fountain in the Italian capital at this time, facing two options.

I could either plunge through the selfie-taking crowds (few of whom I imagine have ever seen the epic scene between Marcello Mastroianni and Anita Ekberg in her magnificent black strapless dress in La Dolce Vita) and wade, like the cantilevered well-upholstered Swede, into the shallow, splashy pools in order to cool off – or I could trudge back to the cool of my hotel.

The Anantara Palazzo Naiadi Rome is housed in a19th-century palace (Anantara)
The Anantara Palazzo Naiadi Rome is housed in a19th-century palace (Anantara)

I did the latter, especially as the hotel was the splendid, grand-yet-groovy Palazzo Naiadi on the Piazza Della Repubblica a short hop away, a building that curves like a colonnaded reverse colossus around the swirling Piazza della Repubblica. And, furthermore, waiting in our junior suite, in a master patissier’s box, a disc of white chocolate atop foamy layers of spiced cream and sour cherry on a base of crunchy pastry was waiting (a real taste of la dolce vita).

This veritable palace in the Eternal City is a neoclassical former college of hospitality layered upon a foundation of Diocletian baths (you can even see the caldarium and frigidarium through glass floors in the lower ground floor).

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It’s in the heart of Rome – the Termini station and the Palazzo Espozione are both a few minutes’ stroll away. I had a sensational spa treatment called, inevitably, the Diocletian Bath Treatment, which saw me being rubbed and prepped with salts and herbs like a Christmas goose and then slathered with smooth, warm mud, steaming for 10 minutes, then showering before the pummelling massage. It was the best way to leach from every pore the cocktails I’d sunk the night before at SEEN, the hotel’s rooftop bar (with pool).

The real taste of the Med began when we were deposited at a lift on a corniche road on the edge of Amalfi, an impossibly picture-postcard red-roofed toytown Lego-bricked between the mountains and sea

From the Palazzo we hopped on a fast train to Naples. Half way, the stewardess handed us free water, almond biscuits and peanuts and we got to the city in an hour, pausing in spanking, shiny Naples station to enjoy an espresso.

The real taste of the Med began when we were deposited at a lift on a corniche road on the edge of Amalfi, an impossibly picture-postcard red-roofed toytown Lego-bricked between the mountains and sea. A lift takes us up to a convent-turned-luxury hotel where we will pass the next two days in silent contemplation (sort of). By which I mean limoncello sundowners, walking through the monks’ groves of olive, lemon, lime and pomegranate, admiring the kitchen gardens and pacing their “meditation” trails… but also, dipping into the pool, patronising the two superb restaurants (one fine dining, one pizzeria), and descending to Amalfi to swim in the clear blue Med and for the passeggiata.

One afternoon, we spent the day in Ravello, the hilltop eyrie beloved of writers like Gore Vidal and EM Forster, filmmakers, painters, musicians – and now, inevitably, influencers.

Anantara Convento di Amalfi is a former monastery turned luxe hotel (Anantara)
Anantara Convento di Amalfi is a former monastery turned luxe hotel (Anantara)

After two days in the Anantara Convento di Amalfi Grand Hotel, I began to understand why the monks devoted their lives to this location, this view, this peace, this promixity to the busy boats nosing around the bays.

First La Dolce Vita, then White Lotus with a monastic twist. Rome and Amalfi on the bounce – this was one of my most satisfying “tastes of the Med” so far.

Travel essentials

Getting there

Travelling flight-free

Take the Eurostar to Paris, change for a train to Turin, and then catch an onward rail connection to Rome (it’s possible to do the entire journey in one day).

Travelling by air

Ryanair, Wizz Air, easyJet, Vueling and British Airways all fly direct from the UK to Rome.

Staying there

Rachel Johnson stayed as a guest of Anantara at the Palazzo Naiadi in Rome and the Convento di Amalfi.

Anantara Palazzo Naiadi Rome is housed in a19th-century palace on Piazza della Republica.

With a clifftop location offering views of the sea, Anantara Convento di Amalfi Grand Hotel is a luxury hotel in Amalfi.

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