Sunday, September 27, 2009

Day 6: The Amalfi Coast - Sorrento, Positano, Ravello and more

Day 6
Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Waking up on the Amalfi coast with the view of Mount Vesuvius was fantastic. We headed down for breakfast which consisted of fruit, toast and coffee - 40 Euros – YIKES!!!! Our dinner last night with wine was 60 Euros – but there were no other choices there for breakfast...oh well...we were in an expensive hotel (booked on Dan’s Priority Club points) so couldn’t really complain.
The very handsome Francesco picked us up at 9:00 am speaking excellent English. How did he learn? U2, Michael Jackson etc. These were his English teachers and inspiration to learn more about the language. A soccer fanatic, he lives in Sorrento and plays soccer about five times a week. He even took time off to attend every single Italy game at the last World Cup - won by Italy he boasted.

Every square inch of land seems to be cultivated in this region. The hillsides are terraced with Olive trees, lemon groves, walnuts, chestnuts, fig trees and vineyards.

The Olive trees had nets tied up around them , soon to be released to catch the ripened olives during harvest time. The olive oil is graded by the acidity, and bruises greatly affect the acidity levels. The nets provide a soft landing for the olives and avoid bruising. The olive oil must pass the acidity test to be classified as extra virgin olive oil.

Francesco drove us through Sorrento to Positano – where we walked down to the water and wound our way back up through paths of beautiful boutiques.

 A stop at the Sireneuse hotel (a five star with exquisite views) gave us a moment to regroup and take some photos from a new perspective. The Sireneuse sits on a high point of the town and overlooks the Duomo and beaches below.

Francesco pointed out several of the locations where the movies “Under the Tuscan Sun” and “Beautiful Women” were filmed. We travelled through a variety of other villages until we made our way to Ravello for lunch.

We ate on a terrace overlooking the breathtaking Amalfi coast. The meal was good but I will mention the dessert (as usual ). Homemade lemon gelato frozen in the actual lemon skins...sooo delicious. Actually there were two other fruits on the plate. We think they were peaches or nectarines also frozen filled with their matching gelato.

We continued to the town of Amalfi for more photos before looping back to our hotel.

The excursion took about seven hours and we saw quite a bit without feeling rushed. We said our goodbyes to Francesco and returned back to the hotel for a short rest. We decided to go back to Sorrento that night for dinner.

The traffic was horrible as everyone was coming back from the beach and merging onto the main road to Sorrento. What would take 20 minutes took about one and a half hours, most of it spent inching through a tunnel! We headed down to the Marina Grande and had dinner at a recommended restaurant Il Delphina, a 20 minute walk down to the water. I removed my high sandals and slipped on my flip flops... (I wouldn’t have made it otherwise!) The meal was good but the service wasn’t. We waited a long time until we were even served our wine, and the waiter, although funny was impossible to track down.
We huffed and puffed our way back up the hill and then enjoyed the walk through the streets , all lit with decorative lights.
Our free shuttle returned us back to the hotel where we toasted to la Dolce Vita!
Arrivederci....Stay tuned for Day 7 when we head back to Tuscany!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Day 5 The Amalfi Coast ... Sorrento

Day 5

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

We left at 6:00 for the long drive to Sorrento. This time we programmed Higgins to use the toll roads so we could get there quickly...well it still took us 5 hours..... The cars moved fast on this autostrada and although we were not the slowest –we were not in the same league as most of the other cars. We were faster than the trucks though! We did scoot out briefly to pass some trucks, and then before we knew it, a car would appear behind us out of nowhere and was tailing us. They flashed by us like lightning – we were going about 120 kms hr ...they were going about 180 kms hr.

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Along the way we stopped for coffee at the Autogrille, a favourite roadside stop where had coffee shooters, espressos, not the Tim Horton’s extra large that you nurse for 200 kms. No, these are consumed at the counter/bar and even though this is a roadside stop, each coffee is individually made with care.

When we exited the highway at Castelamare, according to Higgins, but not the right exit, we were assaulted with traffic coming at us in all directions. Scooters were driving on the wrong side of the road and cars were honking everywhere. I suppose it didn’t help when I kept on shouting out to Dan ”Watch out!!!” Yes it was stressful and even “Higgins” was getting confused. We pulled over at a gas station where I showed the address of the hotel to the two guys working there and they proceeded to argue, in very animated Italian , about the directions to get to our hotel. We vaguely understood...did he say 200 metres turn left or 2 kms....hmmmm.... and started off again. Finally we arrived at the Crowne Plaza, a very imposing hotel perched on the side of the mountain.

The room was very modern and airy. The bed was positioned in front of a very large picture window. The magnificent view in front of us was Mount Vesuvius!


We spent some time on the beach and it felt like we were having a couple of days vacation from our vacation!!!


In the evening, we took advantage of the free shuttle bus to Sorrento – Dan was not too eager to face more of the chaos of the roads here.


We walked around, admired the dramatic views and had a beautiful candlelit dinner with a lovely white wine from the region. Candlelight was important at the restaurant (and the surrounding square) as the power would go off frequently. The view from our little table, perched on the edge of the sidewalk, provided added entertainment. When a beautiful woman walked by, the waiter winked at Dan and commented “good table!” And then there was the horse and buggy parked in the square – the driver arguing with the horse...we are not sure what the argument was about. Delicacie de limona, a favourite of the area was the finale and was light and refreshing. What a very international destination – the people at the tables around us were visitors from Germany, England, Australia, Scotland and Spain. One of the common elements we all had was enjoying food with friends and family!

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We ended the evening with a toast with Fiagre to tomorrow on the Amalfi coast... our day with Francesco.



Stay tuned for Day 6....


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