There is no better way to test the state of your marriage than by driving with your new husband on Italian roads, as I found out on our honeymoon. If you can make it through that experience without tears, arguments or threat of divorce, your relationship is pretty sound.
Our honeymoon started off in Rome. This was where we had our first holiday together back in 2004, so six years on we decided not to purposefully visit any of the major sites which we’d already seen but just to wander the city and see where it took us. This strategy worked well and led to finding gems such as the ruins of the Roman fish market next to the Teatro Marcellus. We also thoroughly explored Trastevere, the area where we were staying – one night in a lovely hotel and then three nights in this chic apartment.
After four days of gentle meanderings punctuated with plenty of pistachio gelati and cappuccinos on pavement cafes, we picked up our hire car and drove down to Praiano on the Amalfi Coast, a little town between larger Positano and Amalfi. Now, we had been warned about Italian drivers and had witnessed for ourselves their insane attitude in Rome and also Milan last year. Nothing, however, could quite have prepared us for being one of their number. I was not a named driver so was unable to drive the car (thank god), but my role as co-pilot was vital for ensuring we, and the car, ended up at our destination in one piece. Italian drivers seem to treat their indicators as an optional extra and will just change lanes at will, without reason or rhyme. The concept of a safe braking distance is also non-existent. Couple this with the switchbacks, hair pin bends and extremely narrow roads on the Amalfi Coast with their sheer cliffs and rocky drops to the sea, and you can see why we arrived at our apartment in Praiano traumatised, dripping in sweat and with a resolve not to touch the car again until it was time to drive it back to Rome.
Being greeted with this view, though, made up for all the craziness.
Our apartment was a great find; large, airy and with not one but two balconies. We spent a lot of time on the bigger one, having breakfast there most mornings and watching the sun set in the evenings over a glass of wine. The Amalfi Coast has this amazing light, where at 6pm the air goes hazy and the sea is viewed as if through a gauze layer. Sitting on the balcony with our books, a plateful of olives and a plentiful supply of red was a most relaxing activity.
Over the next week, we visited Positano:
(All done using the local bus company and train rather than risk life and limb driving again.)
We also got to swim in the sea, thanks to the amazingly warm temperatures of Southern Italy in Autumn, and S swam properly in the Mediterranean for the first time in his 32 years (a paddle in Barcelona doesn’t really count).
In a week I read seven books and put on about ten pounds due to the delicious food. We had a kitchen in the apartment and since the local produce was so enticing, cooked a lot of our meals there – gnocchi, risotto, platefuls of caprese with fresh tomatoes and the best buffalo mozzarella I have ever tasted. For about 4 days straight I actually managed to have cheese with every meal, which was absolute heaven. We also got hooked on a local trattoria’s melanzane funghetto and zucchini alla scapece, as well as eating our way through Italian pastries – cannoli, with its sweet custard and chocolate nestled in a biscuity tunnel, deserves a special mention.
A complete break from everything with just the two of us was so lovely; I savoured every minute of our first fortnight as husband and wife. Decisions were limited to what we would have for lunch, which book to read next and whether to have strawberry ice cream or pistachio again, rather than debating place cards and font sizes. Being thrown back into work and bills and DIY and life in general has taken some adjustment. But whenever it feels a little flat, I look at the beautiful pottery dish we brought back and remember a fantastic start to married life.
Today is the seventh anniversary of our first date, but this is the last time we’ll celebrate it as our wedding anniversary will supsersede it from now on. My mother, in her usual tactful way, mentioned “the seven year itch”, but hopefully in the excitement of being newly weds we’ll manage to avoid that! Usually we go out for an Italian meal as that was what we did back in 2003 but since we’re still stuffed to the gills with pasta, gnocchi et al from the honeymoon, the plan is to have dinner at home and crack open the bottle of Veuve Clicquot we got as a wedding gift. Here’s to the next seven years!