“Nesting Instinct” and Hotel Feature: Aquapetra Resort and Spa


As I was putting together the beautiful photos for this week’s featured hotel, I began to think about travel and who we are when we travel. 

There’s a famous quote (attributed to Confucius): 
—”Wherever you go, there you are.”  

While there is the deeply spiritual aspect to this observation, I was musing today on a related but slightly less profound plane of thinking. . .

We vacation with the hope of leaving behind the stress of our regular life and our mundane responsibilities. We travel to escape, to get away from it all.

Sometimes we may even fantasize about leaving behind our everyday personalities and behaving in a completely unprecedented, uninhibited fashion.  

At the very least, I think most of us imagine that being in a new place will free us from our normal routines and habits and expose us to new ideas and ways of doing things.

While we may very well realize a new version of ourselves to some degree, it seems no matter how we try to leave them behind, our little idiosyncrasies always manage to come along for the ride showing up in one way or another.

This line of thought led me to ask myself: 

What (aspects) do I bring along when I travel?

Who am I no matter where I go?  

Immediately, as if on cue, one scene after another flashed to mind giving me some very straightforward examples and I chuckled at the obvious answer:   I nest.   I’m a nester.  Wherever I go I set up house.  Even when I was a little girl.  Some of my fondest memories are of arranging autumn leaves in lines to form the floor plan of our house; -giving much thought to the best location for each room.

In the winter, snow was the medium and hours were spent carving the interiors of our club houses to include shelves and lounge chairs until I had it “just so.” Then -and only then- could the meeting of “The Secret Seven” be called to order.

At girls camp, I thoroughly enjoyed determining the best location for our table in relationship to our food prep area, organizing and constructing make-shift shelves and towel holders out of branches.  I took great care to ensure our tent was situated just right so as to have the best view, forming a reception area between the colonnade of trees with a pine needle entry rug.

I remember one summer, camp was situated on a small hill a bit up from the other sites so I went to-task carving steps into the hillside up to our tents. (I have no idea what everyone else was up to during this time, but I was happy as a lark designing and digging all on my own.)

I took my first solo trip to Italy a few years back. I spent six weeks in a small “appartamento” in a 14th century castle in a little village south of Florence. Though I was there to write, relax and explore (all very pleasant activities to be sure) what I enjoyed as much or more than anything was setting up house and making that little place my own.

First on my “To Do” list was to find a white bed cover. Though the apartment had classic, rustic finishes and furnishings that I absolutely loved…there was a rather sad, floral bedspread (circa 1970, possibly?) that looked glaringly out-of-place to me.

On the second round of my new abode,  I ended up back in the bedroom where I neatly folded the bedspread (telling it I was sorry as I did) and gently placed it in the back of the armoire.  “Better to have no bed covering for the time being,” I thought.  I opened up the shutters to let the remaining daylight in and set out to the market for groceries and a few things to spruce up the place.

Later, I would return with wildflowers picked outside the village walls for my kitchen table and colorful fruits and vegetables I placed out in a basket I found tucked away. I washed the half dozen canning jars I had purchased to house my dry goods and displayed these on an open shelf.  Sorting through the cabinets, I found shallow glass bowls and used these for the candles I had found at the one souvenir shop still open.

Once everything was neat and tidy, I opened up a bottle of wine and with the centuries-old stone walls glowing in the candle light, I set to work creating my first pasta dish of the trip. (Recipe following.)

I wouldn’t find my white bedspread for another couple of weeks, but that was all for the best. This self-imposed assignment became a treasure hunt that led me to many other discoveries- wonderful people I would not have met otherwise and out-of-the-way places I most likely would not have come across had I not been on this quest.

Don’t misunderstand:  I enjoy a well-appointed, perfectly-designed, with-all-the-amenities, luxury accommodation, too!   But I have to say, some of my best experiences and fondest memories have come when I had the creative challenge of making something out of a little bit of nothing…making -wherever I am-  home. 



What was originally the ruins of a neglected mid-19th-century village has been masterfully restored to create Aquapetra Resort and Spa, an enchanting, small hamlet near Telese Terme with a pampering spa, an outdoor pool embedded in the rocks, a gourmet restaurant in the old wine cellar and a renovated bell tower.

Set in the beautiful countryside of Campania, the resort feels just like a small village with rooms in former cottages, most of which have a balcony or terrace. All the materials used in the construction of Aquapetra Resort and Spa are reclaimed or from the local stone quarries in order to authentically replicate the original properties.  excerpt from website

All photos courtesy of Leonardo Media/slh.


Short Pasta with Cauliflower 
(Pennoni rigati con cavolfiore)

1 medium cauliflower
2 cups milk
1 bay leaf
1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup flour
salt and freshly ground black pepper
3/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan or Romano cheese
1 1/4lb pennoni  rigati, tortiglioni or other short pasta

(serves 6)

1  Bring a large pan of water to a boil.  Wash the cauliflower well and separate into florets.  Boil the florets until they are just tender, about 8-10 minutes.  Remove them from the pan with a strainer or slotted spoon.  Chop the cauliflower into bite-size pieces and set aside.  Do  not discard the cooking water.

2  Make a béchamel sauce by gently heating the milk with the bay leaf in a small saucepan.  Do not let it boil.  Melt the butter in a medium heavy saucepan.  Add the flour and mix it in well with a wire whisk, ensuring there are no lumps.  Cook for 2-3 minutes, but do not let the butter burn.

3  Strain the hot milk into the flour and butter mixture all at once and mix smoothly with the whisk.

4  Bring the sauce to a boil, stirring constantly and cook for 4-5 minutes more.  Season with salt and pepper.  Add the cheese and stir over low heat until it melts.  Stir in the cauliflower.

5  Bring the cooking water back to a boil.  Add salt and stir in the pasta.  Cook until it is al dente.  Drain and tip the pasta into a warm serving bowl.  Pour over the sauce.  Mix well and serve at once.
Posted in 02Inspiration File, 06Inspiration File, 33Food and Wine, accommodations, Aqua Petra, home, Hotel Feature, italy, Nesting Instinct, pasta recipe, simple living, simple pleasures, Spa, The Italian Cookbook, Travel.


  1. This resort is calling my name. Every summer Italy seems to call my name, and this looks gorgeous. I Iiked your story about setting up home and making each place personal whenever you travel.
    Melissa in the UK

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