Lately, I’ve been obsessed with all things New Jersey. I guess after having spent five months in Italy, I’m longing for a little bit of my home. That’s part of the reason I suggested taking Antonio and his friend Ludovica, who is staying with us while she studies English in New York, down the shore to Point Pleasant Beach on a Saturday afternoon in November. The other reason was that the weather was particularly warm until very recently here on the East Coast. (See the “Down the Shore” photo album for photos from our day.) We looked for sea shells — and found a ton of them, did a little shopping at the Jenkinson’s Aquarium gift shop, and took a stroll in the town of Point Pleasant. All in all, it was the perfect day down the shore.
The song Jersey Girl (which, in true Jersey Girl fashion, I’m listening to Bruce Springsteen sing as I write this) tells the entire story. “Cause down the shore everything’s all right, you and your baby on a Saturday night. You know all my dreams come true when I’m walking down the street with you.” My husband is one lucky man to have found an Italian Jersey girl who brings him down the shore on a Saturday night! A lucky, lucky man!
Castello Aragonese is a castle attached to the island of Ischia, off the coast of Naples in Italy, that has been used as a fortress, prison, and love shack for royals. Today, it is a museum. Much to my surprise, part of the castle is also a hotel. (For pictures of the castle and its hotel, visit the “Night at Castello Aragonese” photo album.) My husband Antonio completely surprised me for our first wedding anniversary on Oct. 2, 2009, by bringing me to spend the night at Castello Aragonese. Even though my wedding dress from a year ago stood in my closet, I felt like quite the princess at the castle. We took in spectacular views of the town of Ischia Ponte from our window, including the most brilliant of moons, and we wandered the grounds. Then, we had a most delicious meal in the castle’s restaurant, which is open only to guests of the hotel. It was an unforgettable anniversary, and I can’t thank the hubby enough for his romantic gift. How did you celebrate your first wedding anniversary? Let us know in the comments below.
Today, Antonio and I are celebrating our first wedding anniversary. The year has flown by. I wrote a little bit about it and offered some advice by way of the features I’ve written for About.com on today’s Newlyweds blog. There, you’ll learn that Antonio has only told me to pack an overnight bag with little other information. I have a feeling we’re going to have a great anniversary — quite the romantic my husband, no? I’m feeling a bit nostalgic, so I’ll probably scroll through the photo album of our Italian nuptials, which took place one short year ago today. I’m happy to report that the wedding was last year in Ischia, when the sun at least came out for us in the afternoon. Today it’s pouring buckets of rain and it doesn’t look like it will let up anytime soon. “Sposa bagnata, sposa fortunata!”
My husband Antonio and I had two weddings, so we had two honeymoons — the first was a quick weekend trip to Florida’s Walt Disney World and the second was a week-long getaway to Mexico’s Mayan Riviera. I could really use a vacation right about now, and I was feeling nostalgic for Mexico this morning. So, I decided to make happy honeymoons the subject of my latest About.com Nelywed’s blog. Visit the blog, see another photo from our trip in February 2009, and leave a comment on the About blog. I can’t wait to see what you have to say.
When I arrived in Ischia back in May, I was a bit homesick. To make myself feel better, I played tourist often. One of my first stops was Ischia Ponte, the oldest part of the island and home to Castello Aragonese. With less than two weeks to go before I return to the United States, I wanted to reminisce about the time I spent in Ischia Ponte at the start of my journey into married life in Ischia. You can take a tour of the town with me at the “Tour Ischia Ponte” photo album.
On one of my trips to Ischia Ponte (which is only about 15 minutes away by foot from where I live), I was joined by my American friends Lisa and Adam, who were on a honeymoon cruise that stopped in Ischia for a few hours. It was delightful bringing my American pals around the island home of my ancestors and husband. Back then, I wrote about Ischia as a honeymoon destination for About.com — and I thoroughly enjoyed myself. Ahh, it’s nice to reminisce.
As we transition from summer to fall, the weather has gotten a bit chillier in Ischia. In fact, today, we are experiencing thunder storms again. But the colder temperatures do not prevent my husband from taking advantage of Ischia’s water features. While the beach with its breeze and colder ocean is not as pleasurable as it was a couple of weeks ago, the thermal pools with their naturally hot temperatures are still calling his name. Most of the thermal pool parks and spas on Ischia are open until late October — and fall is a lovely time to go to one because the August crowds have cleared out and even the Ischitani themselves are tending to their children who are back at school.
A little more than a week ago, Antonio took me to Castiglione. Of the three major thermal pool parks and spas (the other two being Negombo and Poseidon), Castiglione is the most family friendly and affordable. For less than 30 euro, you can do everything from swim laps in an Olympic-sized pool, take dips in the thermal pools, and sit in the sauna. A cafeteria-like restaurant that serves healthy options, including eggplant, swordfish, salmon, and tomato salad costs extra but remains affordable. We paid about 30 euro total for complete meals for the both of us.
Castiglione is as well known for this thermal pool park and spa as it is for the chestnut trees like the one in the photo above. I didn’t even know these green pom poms were chestnuts. Antonio told me that under that green porcupine lives a delicious chestnut. My father would have been delighted, and Antonio made me photograph the tree for him. (You can view more photos of our day at Castiglione at “Castiglione Thermal Pools” photo album.)
As someone who grew up in northern New Jersey, I can admit that mallrats are my people. When I am in Ischia, I’m a little lost because there are no air conditioned shopping centers replete with movie theaters and food courts. People watching, although an art invented by the Italians, is limited to the piazza, which just isn’t the same as the mall. Who needs a centuries old church and trees when you can grab a Jamba Juice, have your haircut, and buy new kicks all at the same time?
You could move into the Garden State Plaza in Paramus (you could definitely live there), and security would probably take a week to notice because it’s so big. In fact, Ischia itself might be the size of the Garden State Plaza.
Usually, there is a total lack of convenience on the island. Even the supermarkets close at 3 p.m. for the siesta and many of them are closed on Thursdays and Sunday afternoons, too. Getting milk in Ischia is often harder than getting an organ donation from your cousin Luigi. Forget about finding a new purse at an affordable price or picking up a book on tape in the middle of the afternoon.
But once a year in August, stores from the Naples area — and some b-list celebrities — come to Ischia and set up booths to sell necessities — from furniture and pots and pans to clothes to sausage and cheese. Ischia is still in Italy, so you had to expect food to be sold, too. This flea market/sidewalk sale/show is called the Expo. (For more photos of the Expo, visit Francesca’s Expo Photo Album.)
The Expo opened in early August, and Antonio and I were among the first ones there. We purchased odds and ends for our apartment in Ischia, including a cheese grater and a rolling pin. And I picked up a lovely clock for 8 euro for our kitchen in New Jersey. I also bought these amazing paintings of Vesuvius — one for me and one for my mom — directly from the artist, Antonio Attanasio.
As a mallrat, I wasn’t quite at home at the Expo. The stores were mostly under a tent and some of them were actually outside. But the reality stars who made appearances and the ladies from Naples with the big hair and tight clothes in a rainbow of colors were the closest to Jersey folk I can find without going home. The Expo might only last a month, but it brings a bit of convenience — and color — to the islanders.