A Love Affair with Italy by Jeannie Hogg

The first time I visited Italy was when I was 15. My dad had put so much time and effort into organising an amazing 6-week family holiday which included Rome. My stroppy 15-year old self didn’t think this was amazing at all and I ended up flying back home to Australia by myself, vowing to never return again. But this was not so as nine years later I was invited back to Rome for the weekend. Immediately something just sparked the fire inside of me and I just fell madly in love with the place. I have the fondest memory of going to one of those family restaurants that has no menu. Seven courses where you have no idea what you’re going to get to eat, but I can tell you this was one of the best meals I’ve had in my entire life. It’s experiences like this that add to the personality of a place. This trip opened my eyes to what was around me and how special Italy was. I ended up going back to Rome 3 times that year. This was when my love affair with Italy began.

Italy is just simply amazing, but to pinpoint one place in particular it will have to be an Italian island. The islands are just magical. My two favourites are Stromboli, a small volcanic island in the Tyrrhenian sea just north of Sicily and Ponza which is just off the coast of Rome.

Stomboli is the most dramatic of the Aeolian Islands and its unique atmosphere attracts a wide range of people from the inspired tourist to the Italian designer. Strolling around the enchanting village admiring the stunning views, taking a boat trip around the incredible coastline, or even (although not for the faint hearted), climbing the volcano to watch lava and gas ejecting from the craters is part of its unique charm. I love to watch the volcano as the sun goes down as it changes into a mesmerising red fountain shooting upwards towards the sky which one can only describe as a truly magical experience.

Ponza, another island I love, is one of Italy’s best kept secrets that is actually hard not to speak to everyone about. A rocky picturesque island without the fuss and flashiness of the more famous Capri. It has the perfect mixture of slow and chic: unspoilt landscapes, crystal clear waters, breath-taking views and mouth-watering food. There’s an upscale feel about it, balanced with its originality, peaceful and relaxed atmosphere.

For me, the key to an amazing holiday is where you find the Milanese, Romans and locals going for their summer vacations. I love finding the little undiscovered sides of Italy and being able to share them. The ever popular Positano has its main streets heaving with tourists, but just venturing a little further out you will discover some authentic hidden gems you would never have known existed.

Eating is another passion of mine. It’s really hard to have a bad meal in Italy, from 7 course meals to the nibbles they give you when you’re having a relaxing cocktail, everything in Italy just tastes absolutely delicious.

Recently I went to Sicily with a friend and we did an amazing market tour. The markets in Palermo are quite famous and it’s where the locals get their food from. Our guide took us to where they make the best Panelle. Panelle is like a fried chickpea pancake. We ate it straight out of the fryer, hot and burning our fingers, but the flavour was simply amazing. It’s these unique and spontaneous experiences like this that I really love.

Jennie Hogg is the founder of Lois Avery. Once a lawyer trying to juggle her busy career, her family and a multitude of other things, she decided to follow her passion in life…fashion. When she left the law behind and opened her own business, she chose cashmere because some of her fondest memories were centred around the gorgeously soft and luxuriously warm material. From her favourite honey pashmina, she wore whilst sitting on a terrace overlooking Lake Garda, to the gorgeous baby blue piece she swaddled her newborn son in.

Follow Jennie at @loisavery on Instagram or www.loisavey.com