To celebrate our tenth wedding anniversary, Ralph and I fulfilled a promise, to each other, of taking a holiday in Italy. We started in Tuscany and finished on the Amalfi coast. Our time in Tuscany was magical. We had rented a small villa in Bucine which is a 25 minutes drive south from Florence. Our first time in Italy saw us up at the crack of dawn every day driving, our little rented car, all over the hills of Chianti. It was fantastic! However, by the time we were heading south to Sorrento, we were pooped.
It took us the better part of a day to travel from Tuscany to Sant’Agata Sui Due Golfi . Driving the Amalfi coastline is exactly like every description that you have ever read – white knuckle terror!
By the time that we pulled into Oasis Olimpia Relais, Ralph was completely wasted. He looked like he had been run over by a transport truck and drug for several miles. As we were building up the energy to get out of the car and check in to what looked like a lovely hotel, we heard, ‘Mr. Hooton!’ in the sexiest Italian female voice that you could imagine.
We looked up and there standing outside of our car was the warmest, most vivacious perfectly Italian young woman that we had ever seen. I wanted to put a bag over Ralph’s head. Her name was Carmen.
Carmen is the most remarkable hotel general manager that we have ever had the pleasure of meeting. She ran the hotel with grace and complete efficiency. No detail was too small for her attention.
We arrived at the end of the tourist season so the hotel was not very busy. In the evenings, Ralph and I would finish our day by sitting in front of the hotel’s huge fire-place sipping wine with Carmen and the owner of the hotel, Salvatore. As Salvatore could not speak English, Carmen acted as translator. We spoke about the differences between life in Canada and Italy, family, business and food.
The hotel had a brand new state-of-the-art kitchen which I lusted over every day. One evening as we were enjoying our daily constitutional, Carmen asked if I would like to cook in their kitchen. I just about jumped out of my skin!
I gave her my grocery list. The next day I cooked dinner for Ralph, Carmen, Salvatore, Antonio [the chef], Tonino [the waiter] and several of the maids. While I was cooking, Carmen and I chatted about how much North Americans love Italian cuisine. I told her about Sister’s and how I taught Italian cooking classes.
During dinner Salvatore suggested that I come back to his hotel for the following season and cook. I loved the idea – Ralph not so much…
I haven’t thought about Carmen and our perfect holiday in a long time. Last Friday, as I was spending time on ‘Pinterest’, I was scrolling through images of Sorrento on Google when my cursor landed on a photo of an Italian female cook. The caption said ‘Chef Carmen’. I enlarged the photo and sure enough there she was – a chef!
Carmen and Salvatore now offer cooking holidays for tourists interested in Italian cooking.
If you are interested in this type of holiday, with all of my heart, I would encourage you to go…
Thanks for reading.