It’s November 10th, and I’m sitting on a rooftop deck in Sorrento on the Amalfi Coast of Italy, in pleasant 70 degree weather. It seems that the locals are as surprised and pleased with the weather as the tourists, since it would normally be the start of their rainy season; I think Mother Nature realized after 25 years in Seattle, and even longer of wanting to come here, I was way overdue for a break, and deserved to have some nice weather in this beautiful setting. I knew chosing this time of year to visit this area was taking a chance, and I’m so grateful that it has turned out to be such lovely weather for my stay.
I chose a week-long stay here so that I could combine some sightseeing with just relaxing after all my travels. Today is my lazy day, to do mostly nothing, which suits me just fine. I arrived last Friday evening, after a long day of travel from Lake Como in northern Italy, taking three separate trains to get here, the last one of which is the local commuter train between Naples and Sorrento, with about 20420258 stops between the two, during the hour+ ride, and schlepping my backpack meant standing the whole way in the open area by the train doors. It was not a very pleasant experience, but given that many people use it every day for their transportation, I feel a little silly complaining about it. I’m staying in a nice hotel on a road up above Sorrento, with a gradual hill down to the town, and it’s been nice to be a little more remote, especially in this setting.
On my first full day here, I walked into town and took the self-guided walking tour that is in my Rick Steves guide book, which once again did not disappoint, showing me the interesting bits in the heart of Sorrento that weave both history and modern times into the tapestry that is this place. I had a great lunch out on a sunny pier in the Marina Grande area along the water, where the restaurant spills out onto the pier lined with lounge chairs full of bronzed Italians enjoying this bonus bit of sunny weather. In the afternoon, I strolled through a lemon grove and sampled a little bit of limoncello (it’s like a lemon drop on steroids — mama mia!). Lemon and olive trees fill the terraced landscape of this entire area, along with the coastal pine, cypress, and other trees and vines, these various shades of green swaths painting the limestone hills and cliffs, cascading down into the beautiful turquoise and blue of the sea. Just stunning.
Sunday I got up early and took a hydrofoil boat out to Capri. First up, the super touristy, complete and utter racket that is the Blue Grotto. This is one of those “sort of have to do it once” type of things that you know is all just a bit of a scam, in a way, but it was worth it if for no other reason that to just observe the whole thing in action. You get off the ferry from Sorrento, and then board another small passenger ferry out to a bunch of row boats, and then you pay for a third time, while you watch money changing hands in these interesting ways, all while they try to make it seem like it’s on the up-and-up. Uh… yah, right. You’re then rowed into this little cave for a couple of minutes, admiring the blue of the water, created by the sun’s reflection off the limestone sea floor and walls from below, serenaded by several rowers of the group of boats in there at any given time, with the go-to lines of “O Sole Mio” then out you go. Blue Grotto: check.
After that I took the boat back to the marina, and rode the funicular (basically a hillside tram) up to Capri, where I did my favorite thing — just walk and get lost. No, seriously. I have wound up in the most fabulous places this way, and this time, it was along a path that took me to the Giardini Augusto, a park with beautiful views of the non-touristy side of the island, and then I continued down the trail further, just to see where it went, and I got great views of the Faraglioni Rocks and southern coastline of the island. I made my way back to the town center and took the small bus up the windy hillside to Anacapri (uh, holy crap, Kevin), where I took the chairlift up to Monte Solaro at the top for incredible views. There were moments on the chairlift, both on the way up and down, with no one else around, and it was so peaceful to float in the silence above the terraced hills, with amazing views, and just breathe. Back in town, I visited the Church of San Michele, with its beautifully colorful majolica tile floor, depicting Adam and Eve being cast out of paradise. Preserving the floor is so important, that wooden scaffolding has been built around the sides to walk on, so you can walk around the perimeter and admire the floor and the various altars, without additional wear on the precious tiles. Climbing the spiral staircase to the choir balcony gives the best view of the floor below. I also visited the Villa of San Michele, with its lovely gardens and great views.
On Monday, I had an all day coastal tour of the Amalfi Coast with the incomparable Raffaele Monetti, another fantastic guidebook recommendation, and this was one of my favorite parts of my trip thus far. The Monetti family has lived in the Sorrento area for many generations, and knows the area, the people, and the history so very well. It was so special to have this experience, with a professional and very kind guide, that at one point I started to tear up. I had imagined this exact drive, in this exact place, on a day with beautiful warm sunlight, for so long, to actually be in the moment experiencing it… well, it was just perfection. There were too many great moments to list them all, including visits to Positano, Amalfi, and Ravello, and I could write a very long post on just this day alone, but I’m going to just keep it in my own memory. I will simply say this: If you have any inclination to visit the south of Italy, particularly this magical stretch of the Amalfi coast — DO IT, and use Monetti Taxi for a delightful tour. Simply the best.
After today, I have two more full days to enjoy here, then I’m off to Rome on Friday afternoon to stay two nights and fly back to Seattle on the 15th. For those in the Seattle area, I’ll be looking for some couch surfing options in between some already planned stays with friends and family, so let me know if you’re up for hosting a homeless gal for a spell. Grazie mille!