Southern Italy-Sorrento and the Amalfi Coast, and Capri and Pompeii. In Amalfi, taste limoncello, a lemon liqueur.
By Tom P Blake – Finding Love after 50
A trip to Italy without visiting the Amalfi Coast and Isle of Capri is like having pizza without cheese.
My partner Greta and I decided that Sorrento, although crowded and touristy, would be the most centrally located city from which to see this part of southern Italy. From there, trains, boats and buses run frequently in most directions.
Getting to Sorrento from northern Italy is easiest by train. Even with a Eurail pass, reservations cost a bit extra on high-speed trains such as the Eurostar. The six-hour ride from the Milan Central station to Naples passed through Parma, Bologna, Florence and Rome.
These plush, air-conditioned, trains have electrical outlets at each seat so you can use your computer and look out the window at the same time.
At the Naples Central station, you step into a whole new world.
It was hot and humid. Strangers try to "assist" with your luggage and taxi drivers hound you. You hear announcements about being careful of pickpockets.
At the Naples station, we changed to the Circumvesuviana, a small commuter train for the one-hour trip to Sorrento.
We enjoyed our first night dining in a garden restaurant surrounded by statues, flowers, and a grove of citrus trees.
The next morning, we boarded a bus for a two-hour, white-knuckle ride above the cliffs of the breathtakingly beautiful Amalfi Coast to the town of Amalfi.
In Amalfi, taste limoncello, a lemon liqueur.
Amalfi has an inspiring cathedral, great pizza and gelato, and was where we were introduced to limoncello, a lemon liqueur produced on the Sorrentine Peninsula. A return bus trip to Sorrento convinced us if we returned to the Amalfi Coast it would be by jet boat instead.
That night, Greta and I enjoyed a picnic of salami, cheese and Chianti on our hotel balcony while the rain gave Sorrento a good scrubbing. We marveled at the beauty we had seen that day.
While away from the main street, our hotel-the Hotel Mignon Meuble-which we selected off of the Internet--was adjacent to a school and a health club that featured disco music. Also our little alley was a passageway for Vespas and motorcycles. But when it came time to sleep, it was quiet and delightful. The staff was friendly and helpful. Important destinations in Sorrento were within walking distance.
A visit to the ruins of Pompei, the city buried by the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in 79 AD, is a must. From Sorrento, it's a pleasant half-hour ride on the Circumvesuviana train.
There were so many tours of the ruins going on it made your head spin. We simply tagged along with one that had an English-speaking guide for a couple of hours. Since Vesuvius has erupted more than three dozen times, I found myself looking at that behemoth beauty and saying, "Don't blow today."
Ever since the Gaylords sang the song, "Isle of Capri" in 1954, I've dreamed of going there. From Sorrento, we took the car ferry (sans a car).
After disembarking at the Capri port, visitors board a funicular railway that shuttles them up a steep hill for about five minutes to the main part of Capri.
Capri has more high-end, Gucci-type shops than Rodeo Drive. Instead of spending time checking out the shops, we opted to visit Anacapri, a quaint town a couple of miles away by bus. The ride was even more white-knuckle than the Amalfi drive--from the bus window, it's a half mile down to the ocean cliffs-and the driver doesn't seem to notice or care that his passengers are scared to death.
I was toured-out but Greta visited the villa St Michelle, the home of Axel Munthe, the author of the 1929 best-selling memoir, The Story of San Michelle. Greta raved about the entire estate and gardens. The views from Anacapri are beyond description.
Back in the harbor, while waiting for our return passage to Sorrento, we shared a tuna salad and a half carafe of white wine at a romantic sidewalk café.
A half hour before the boat departed, we noticed at one end of the port that Rolex was sponsoring sailboat racing week in Capri. So, we strolled down to check it out. There was a tent set up for the press so I took out one of my newspaper business cards and we entered. They treated us well-a reporter had come from the USA to cover the event, they thought. We left with a press kit and some tasty appetizers.
Time flies in Italy. Suddenly, it was our last day in southern Italy; the sky was blue and the temperature 75 degrees. We took a jet boat to Amalfi, instead of a bus, and then a local bus to Ravello, a small town renowned for its classical music festivals.
But the highlight of the day was a stop in Positano, a coastal town of endless beauty built into the cliffs above the ocean.
Our trip to southern Italy was even more romantic than anticipated. If you go, consider making Sorrento your base for visiting the sites nearby.
For a more detailed description of our trip to southern Italy, follow this link to the TravelAfter55.com website: