It may be a week of very American traditions, but — like everyone else we know on Instagram, apparently — our post-pandemic wanderlust has everything to do with Italy’s beaches, hotels and winding roads.
Kerry Wheeler is a second generation photographer whose stunning print collections include iconic Italian locales that ooze with la dolce vita (and hang in several TCM team member’s homes!). Clearly, Wheeler knows where to go — and when — for the idyllic moments we dream of experiencing. Whether you’re traveling to Italy soon, or just looking for a bit of Mediterranean escapism, here are travel notes from Kerry…
A Photographer’s Guide To Italy…
My favorite photos of Italy are anything with the sea and people enjoying their environment.
Your father, Nik Wheeler is a world-renowned photojournalist. Did you grow up traveling to Italy?
We actually spent most of our summers traveling to the South of France where my parents have had a house for many years. My father, an established British photojournalist, bought a house in the countryside in the south after falling in love with the country 50 years ago.
It wasn’t until my twenties that I started visiting Italy. Much like my father, the first time I visited Italy, I knew it was the country for me. Each time I go, I look for a summer home, like my father once did as he passed through France in his younger years. The trouble is I fall in love with each part of the country I visit and can never seem to pick one place!
What is your best tip for avoiding the crowds…
Go in May! The summer crowds haven’t begun and you practically have the whole country to yourself. The water is still a bit cold, only beginning to warm from the spring sun, but it’s a very lovely time of year to be there. The season is just beginning and there’s a freshness in the air about the months ahead. Alternatively I also love to go end of September or first week of October, after the tourists have left. If you’re patient enough to wait till then, it’s a great time to go as well.
Packing MVPs for Italy specifically:
Plenty of white linen shirts, some linen pants, a few fun cabana beach shirts that button all the way down, a pair of swim trunk to make you feel like you’re straight from The Talented Mr Ripley, and, of course, a good camera for taking photos.
Your 3 best tips for taking great photos on vacation?
Lighting is always the most important thing to be mindful of when taking photos. Shoot in the early mornings. This is my favorite time of day to shoot because all of the locals are out before the tourists descend. And shoot in the evenings when the light gets soft again.
Look for honest real moments — the subjects that matter. I’m always drawn to people enjoying themselves in a real setting. People interacting with one another. Find the real life moments that say something about what it’s really like to be there. Stay away from the posed stuff.
I have one very important tip for editing your photos well: don’t edit while on vacation! Do it when you get home. Spend your time shooting instead. Enjoy your time there, sink into it and take it in. Spend time finding and enjoying those moments. Most of the time, people rush to show off a photo, but you don’t know what your best shots really are until your trip is done. Be patient. Don’t spend your time lost in a gadget editing, spend your time in the place.
Where are your favorite properties to stay while in Italy?
Santa Caterina has been the golden child of the Amalfi Coast for decades, but the hidden gem is Hotel Miramalfi, which is literally right next door. Hotel Miramalfi in the town of Amalfi is one of my favorite hotels in the world. They have one of the best pools and beach clubs you’ve ever seen (some of my most famous photos are from my time at their hotel). It’s become my second home and I adore the family that owns and runs it.
My two other favorite hotels are both from the Pellicano Hotel group — Hotel Il Pellicano in Porto Ercole and Mezzatorre Hotel in Ischia.
Favorite Italian itinerary:
Fly into Naples and take a car down to the Amalfi Coast. Spend 5 days on the Amalfi Coast – exploring Amalfi, Positano, Praiano, Ravello.
Then boat or ferry over to Capri for two days, followed by a boat ride to Ischia for 2-3 nights, which is easily my favorite of all the islands.
Lastly, if you have time, one night in Naples on your way out; it’s hectic and crazy, but full of character and you’ll find the best pizza you’ve ever had in your life.
Non-negotiable Italian experiences:
If your budget allows, renting a boat for the day is an incredible way to experience the Italian coast ,and arguably the most fun day you’ll have. I’m nostalgic, so I love to try and find a classic boat. Giannis Boats has the best boats and crews on both Amalfi and Capri and we use them every time to we go.
Best thing I ever ate in Italy:
Spaghetti all Nerano, a regional Amalfi Coast spaghetti dish with zucchini originating from Sorrento. It’s remarkable. And of course, every gelato I’ve ever had in Italy.
Restaurants not to miss:
Da Adolfo for lunch and Arienzo Beach Club, both in Positano. La Fontelina in Capri.
Best thing I’ve learned from the Italians:
Pasta should be eaten as a course before your main course — how wonderful is that!
More importantly, Italy has taught me to dive deeply into the richness of life. Every hour of the day in Italy feels like its own story. Find the romance and decadence in everything. In your plate of food, in your conversations, in the views. Everywhere you look and go there is something to marvel at.
Spiaggia Grande and Arienzo Beach in Positano; Marina Piccolo, Capri; Polignano a Mare, Puglia; Onefire Beach, Praiano; Atrani, Campania.
For a good adventure:
Rent a scooter and drive down the Amalfi Coast! If you’re still alive at the end of it, you’ll have a great story and a couple good photos.
Most romantic spot:
Everywhere in Italy is romantic, that’s the beauty of the country! I think Capri is especially romantic however.
For a historical experience:
Every duomo/cathedral you walk into is teeming with history — extraordinary places to explore or to go into to just sit quietly.
I have a few and they are mostly on Ischia, which is a volcanic island off the bay of Naples next to Capri, but I prefer to keep those special hidden gems a secret for a while longer! Puglia as a whole is full of amazing gems that feel stuck in time.
Best spot to get out on the water:
Take a boat around Capri. I also highly highly recommend the water taxis on the Amalfi Coast to get around from town to town and skip the traffic the streets! It’s a great two for one way to get to your destination and be on the water seeing the coast at the same time!
Whether you take Kerry’s advice and eat Spaghetti all Nerano in Positano or not, enjoy his stunning prints of Italy at home. Shop the Wheeler Collection for beautiful prints like these.