In college, I studied abroad in Prague, Czech Republic. For spring break, my then-boyfriend and I took a week-long trip to Paris, Rome, Milan, and Budapest. There were so many disasters because we tried to fit too much in. (His mom said it would be too much but I brushed her off – mothers are ALWAYS right! Will I be that way when I’m a mother?) Ever since, I have desperately wanted to revisit those cities.
Three years later, I got my chance! After finishing my teaching program, I had a two week vacation. As you know, I went to Normandie for the first four days. I knew I wanted to go to Italy, and when I was planning my trip, I decided to make up for last time by going to Rome for ten whole days. It turned out to be a little bit too long (more on that in my next post about Rome)…I thought I was such a seasoned traveler, but I’m still learning so much about how I like to travel with every trip I take!
Off I went on Ryanair to meet up with one of my good friends from college: Laurel, and her friend Alison from Portland. Those two ladies are traveling for a few months, so we all met up for the first 3 days of my trip in some small towns on the Amalfi Coast in Italy.
After flying into Rome on Friday night, training to Naples, and bussing to Sorrento, I finally arrived in the small city of Atrani in the afternoon on Saturday. They should charge more than 4 euros for the bus from Sorrento to Atrani; the whole one-hour-long ride is full of amazing views of the ocean from a winding mountain road. On the bus, I sat with an Australian boy and a girl from New Zealand which was fun! (Sidenote: did you know that they call bell peppers “capsicum”?) Right down the street from the bus station, I got to-go pizza at Jhonny Pizza (C/so Italia, 255-80067 Sorrento) for 1.50eu that was INCREDIBLE – one notch down from my favorite pizza in the world in San Francisco (not telling where so that the line stays short). The crust was chewy and salty and the tomato sauce tasted fresh.
Our hostel was just through this tunnel.
After dropping off my things, we hiked up a TON of stairs to a town above ours called Ravelo. The hike was great – it was nice exercise and we saw progressively more stunning views as we climbed.
It was cool to see all the houses built into the cliffs, complete with lemon and orange orchards. Also, my seven flights of stairs are NOTHING compared to these; we saw this woman carrying her groceries home!
We paid 6 euros to gain access to the gardens of Villa Cimbrone. It was fun to see new plants native to Italy that I don’t normally see in France or California. I loved the views from this garden as well – it would be a fabulous place to get married. (Warning: I will probably say “stunning view” and “it would be a fabulous place to get married” 7000 more times in this post. Sorry, but it’s true! Italy is a beautiful place.)
We finished the evening with a very nice dinner at a local restaurant recommended to us by the woman working at the garden. My favorite part: free blood orange prosecco cocktail before dinner. My least favorite part was the free fried anchovy (I tried to force myself to taste it but couldn’t after Laurel told me she had bitten down on the little bones, blegh, I can’t!). We shared some great pizza and pasta.
Day 2 brought many surprises. After a bus ride and train ride back to Sorrento, we set out to explore.
A random stop for gelato meant finding gelato art!
Some touristy shopping yielded some delicious lemon chocolate candies. We also happened upon a fantastic organic lemon and orange grove with a free limoncello tasting stand. The woman was so generous with the tastes; in addition to limoncello, they also make basil, blueberry, and mandarin orange liqueurs. I should have bought a bottle of the mandarin orange – as Laurel pointed out, the fragrant and fresh flavor lingered in your mouth for so long, and all I could think about was mixing it with champagne and garnishing it with basil for an amazing cocktail. I see a return trip in my future!
After our quick stop in the grove, we decided to attend this show. After eating a several course meal while being serenaded by two men singing and playing guitar, we retired down to the theater. What followed was the cheesiest Italian opera/pop/folk music-and-dance spectacle I have ever or probably will ever see! It was the perfect thing for three twenty something American girls to do on a Sunday night during their vacation.
We spent Day 3 on the island of Capri. After some initial seasickness on the 30-minute ferry ride, I began to enjoy the warm but cloudy weather. We took a 90-minute ferry ride that went all around the island.
My favorite part of the ride was our stop in the Blue Grotto. Because the rocks don’t descend all the way down to the sea floor, sunlight enters this cave and reflects through the water and off the stones to create a glowing blue-turquoise color!
It’s a fun little adventure because the cave opening is so small that it’s only accessible at low tide; passengers in the small rowboats have to basically lie on top of each other with heads ducked below the boat’s edge to avoid being beheaded! (Would be awkward if you are traveling alone because you will get very close with your boatmates!) Then, the men rowing the boats spin you in circles and tell you facts about the Blue Grotto while men in other boats sing little folk songs so you can hear the pretty echoes.
After the ferry ride, we took a bus up the hill (again, amazing views on the bus of the water and mainland of Italy) and got off in a little walking area. We didn’t get far on the cute, winding roads before we stopped at L’Arte del Sandalo Caprese di Antonio Viva.
This is the most amazing shoe store. Antonio is sitting and working right outside, surrounded by beautiful leather sandals of every color and shape, bedazzled and plain, all handmade by Antonio himself.
It’s impossible to just walk by, because they are so cute and he is friendly. Inside, we met Antonio’s son, whose good looks and charm aren’t the only thing that help him sell shoes; he truly has a great taste. He was a great salesman, gaining my trust by telling me honestly when things didn’t look good and when something would be uncomfortable or impractical.
Antonio and his son give really personal service. You can buy shoes that are already made, or you can have them custom made onto your feet right there in the shop! Alison and Laurel did this; they picked the soles that fit their feet the best, and chose what color and style of leather straps, then Antonio wrapped and cut them right then and there to guarantee a perfect fit!
I am so happy with my shoes; they were a bit of a splurge, but as I am the flip flop queen (at least when home in CA), I know they will be a good investment as well as a great memory! Sorry, no picture because mine weren’t custom-made I totally forgot! I’ll upload one eventually.
Shoe shopping wore us out, so after grabbing some coffee and pastries, we headed back to Rome for the night. I had to say goodbye to Laurel and Alison in the morning, and then embarked on my 7 days in Rome…alone! Post coming soon…