A Local’s Guide To Coastal Italy
J.J. Martin’s guide to exploring the jewel-toned seaside towns in maximal chic.
Published Jun 19, 2017 5:30 AM
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Picture this for a modern-day fairy tale: An American woman meets a handsome Italian man at a party in New York City, falls in love, then moves to Milan to eventually start La DoubleJ, the hot e-commerce business–turned–style bible. That woman-about-Milano, J.J. Martin, has designed a life spent hopping across Italian coastal towns and chic cities, searching for style inspiration and maximum dolce vita.
Martin’s online shop breathes new life into vintage fashion by showing clothes the way she would wear them (mixing old with new), while also capturing the stories of Milan’s most stylish ladies. Her own collection, La DoubleJ Editions, launched in 2015 with a simple t-shirt dress in the brand’s now-signature bright-hued prints she playfully dubs “pattern-tastic, mood boosting, and big-mouthed.”
Martin’s new homewares line of plates and napkins arrives just in time for summer and celebrates her adopted city’s sophisticated set of elegant older ladies. “It’s a tongue-in-cheek inspiration that I take from these Italian housewives who are wonderful hosts and curate their homes so well,” she explains.
As Martin is in full swing of planning a pop-up series along the Italian coast—the first opens in Porto Ercole this coming weekend—and in the US this summer, we asked her to map out the ultimate guide to her favorite spots in the picturesque, cliff-faced towns of Capri, Positano, and Porto Ercole. In the tradition of her beloved Italian grand dames, Martin suggests the right outfits to dress the part for each spot. “Italians are more codified, sophisticated dressers,” she points out. “There’s a fundamental style chip they’re born with.”
Everywhere you look is like the Garden of Eden—wild and vibrant. Getting to Capri is definitely a hassle but absolutely worth it!
TO STAY La Fontelina Beach Club
Località Faraglioni There are a few beach clubs in Capri, but this one is the best—an old-school place where you lounge on sun beds and eat delicious five-course meals with the glimmering sea in front of your eyes.
Via Marina Grande, 225
The owner, Ori, is a friend, and I always stay in his hotels in Florence and Rome, too, as they are all so chic. The Capri location is on a cliff far from the noise and bustle. Inside, the interiors by Michele Bönan are crisp and clean, and everything is just right.
TO EAT Le Grottelle Restaurant
Via Arco Naturale, 3 There are tons of great restaurants in the center of Capri, but I prefer the ones out of the limelight. Le Grottelle is on the far side of the island and you have to walk to get there, but then you sit outside and have a fantastic view of the Arco Naturale.
Lo Zodiaco Pizza
in the Marina GrandePiazzetta Ferraro, 2/3
Sometimes you just want an easy pizza. And the good news is that a pizzeria in Italy always serves pasta, seafood, and salads, too. Everyone wins.
TO SHOP Delfina Swimwear Shop
Via Fuorlovado, 1/A I have a thing about only shopping for swimwear when I’m actually on vacation. This little spot has great unexpected stuff—pieces from Laura Urbinati, whom I love, as well as some retro-shaped suits. Da Costanzo SandalsVia Roma 49There are great sandal makers all over Capri. You can’t go wrong. But I just happen to go to this guy the most. You can get them with a lot of bells and whistles or just super-simple. Lately I’ve been wanting to wear very plain flat sandals with everything.
Via Ignazio Cerio 6 Laboratorio is a local shop where you can find traditional pants and sweaters. It’s not “fashion”—just easy, beautiful clothes.
Eco Capri Shop
Piazzetta Ignazio Cerio 11 Run by a local family, this historic shop is filled with lovely home objects and accessories. I’ve picked up needlepoint pillows, printed trays, and embroidered totes.
Your go-to look for a day spent exploring Capri:
Cecilie Copenhagen One-Shoulder Ruffled Cropped Cotton Top by Cecilie Copenhagen, MatchesFashion.com, $119 La DoubleJ Editions Farfalle Verdi Big Skirt, La DoubleJ, $530 Fendi Raffia and Leather Ballet Flat, Net-A-Porter, $1,000 Balenciaga Bazar Textured Leather-Trimmed Mesh Tote, Net-A-Porter, $886 1960s Pendant Charm Earrings, La DoubleJ, $227
The perfect evening outfit for a night out in Capri:
Ugo Correani Pectoral Necklace 1975, La DoubleJ, $2,760 Gucci Broadway Embellished Metallic Brocade Clutch, Net-A-Porter, $2,980 Dolce & Gabbana Embellished Printed Leather Sandals, Net-A-Porter, $745 La DoubleJ Editions Fenice Silk Kaftan, La DoubleJ, $765
In Positano, you just take in the beauty of the scenery and go on hikes along winding roads.
TO STAY Villa Tre Ville,
Via Arienzo, 30 For me, Villa is absolute paradise. It’s a very small hotel with a sprawling property built into the side of a hill and submerged under a blanket of colorful flowers, trees, and exotic plants. There are special corners and nooks everywhere you look. I feel as if it’s an enchanted forest. My favorite room is entirely done in turquoise and white.
Hotel Il San Pietro di Positano
Via Laurito, 2 If you want a more classic hotel experience, the San Pietro is fabulous. It’s one of those iconic Italian hotels with amazing views and an elevator that goes all the way up the cliff.
How to Pack Italian-Style
- High heels go nowhere on the Italian coastline—leave them at home! Pack anything from Havaianas to jeweled flat sandals. For long walks, I wear Adidas Stan Smiths.
- Remember to bring a cashmere scarf or a warm sweater, because these places can get chilly at night.
- Pack patterned caftans, which make you look instantly put-together, and pair them with sandals, chandelier earrings, and a chunky vintage necklace if you need to dress it up.
TO EAT Da Adolfo
Via Laurito, 40 This is the quintessential Amalfi outdoor dining experience. You arrive by boat and then sit down to giant plates of seafood pasta right on the beach while the waiters break out Neapolitan songs. Everyone is in their swimsuits and caftans. It’s fabulous.
Via Marina del Cantone, 65, Massa Lubrense Visit Nerano, another little town further out on the same peninsula as Positano, and eat here. The arancini is great and they do the best spaghetti with zucchini. The specialty is eggplant parmigiana.
Perfect the Positano look:
Embroidered Leather Espadrilles, Gucci, $595 La DoubleJ Editions Narciso Big Skirt, La DoubleJ, $530 Kiini Crochet-Trimmed Swimsuit, Net-A-Porter, $315 Fontana Milano 1915 Hammered Leather Mini Clutch, iKrix, $505 Eugenia Kim Lillian Pompom-Embellished Straw Hat, Net-A-Porter, $150
PORTO ERCOLE & SURROUNDING AREA
About four hours’ north from Naples, Porto Ercole is all about Hotel Il Pellicano—but the boat culture is also wonderful. Spending the whole day on the water is transportive. Rent a little boat and go explore.
TO STAY Hotel Il Pellicano
Località Sbarcatello This is one of my favorite hotels in the world. There’s a perfect mix of totally chic and yet totally laid-back in the way things feel. The owner, Marie Louise, fills the hotel with a whole cast of interesting characters, and she’s always on hand to orchestrate everything—including divine poolside cocktails and yoga. The boutique sells LaDoubleJ as well as other fun resort-y pieces. And the breakfast buffet is not to be missed! It’s almost worth not eating dinner—homemade zabaglione, special cakes, and great breads. You don’t ever need to leave this place, to be honest.”
TO EAT Il Frantoio
Via Renato Fucini, 10, Capalbio
This is a great restaurant to try about a half hour from Il Pellicano in Capalbio, a beautiful town where all of the Roman and Venetian aristocrats stay. It has a lovely outdoor garden and lots of typical dishes with wild boar. (The Tuscans love their wild boar!)
TO SHOP Rasna Boutique
Corso Italia, 17, Orbetello In the neighboring town of Orbetello, Rasna is a very cute shop for both men and women. There’s not much good shopping around here, but this boutique is really nice!
TO DO Giglio and Giannutri Islands You must take a boat ride to these islands, which are part of the Tuscan archipelago. The water is gorgeous. There’s a town and vineyard with great wine in Giglio and a beautiful roman villa to visit at Giannutri.
Dessert Plates 2 for $70 ladoublej.com Sr1 Mocassini $495 sergiorossi.com Geometrico Swing Dress $560 ladoublej.com
Most people land in the Naples airport or train station and hightail it to the beach spots, but the town itself is so gorgeous and filled with many special churches, hidden corners, and restaurants. I highly recommend spending an afternoon exploring there.