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Amalfi Coast Update

sunny 24 °C

October 1
We arrived in Naples at 10:00 on Friday night from Rome and made our way to our hotel (Piazza Bellini which was down the street from the Archaeological Museum). Mind you we had quite the adventure on the train getting to Naples. We were on a Regional Train from Assisi to Rome which makes several stops along the way. Our ticket does not indicate the various stops, it just states Assisi – Rome. Our ticket indicated we were 2 hours away from Rome, so we put on the headphones and settled in to watch a movie (Star Trek). When we got close to the 2 hours, the train buzzer rang which indicates the announcement of the next station. We heard Roma (something). We thought it was Roma Termini. So we packed up to get off the train. When we arrived at the station, it was a small terminal with limited train tracks. I said to Darwin that I did not think we were at the right station. There were not alot of tracks and no one else was getting off. So last minute we jumped back on the train and hoped we made the right decision. If we did not, we would not make the connection to Naples. Five minutes later we heard the buzzer again and it indicated we were arriving at Rome Termini. So we did indeed make the right decision. It was tense for a few minutes and a good lesson learned – know the different stops along your route so you know when to get off the train. What we also learned was just like a subway, the train line advertised, is the end of a line. So Rome Termini is the last stop on the route. So we should have known to stay on the train until the end of the line. When we switched trains to Naples, we discovered the same thing – did Naples have more than one train station. So we listened for the announcement to indicate we were at the end of the line, so we knew it was time to get off.
We made it to our room and decided not to go out for the night, but stayed in, downloaded some photos and went to bed reasonably early.
October 2
Got up and enjoyed breakfast at our boutique hotel (highly recommended for price and location to Museum). We walked around the block for an hour and then met Dwayne back at our hotel. It was weird meeting him in Italy.... and it was like hey Dude how ya doing.... Off to the Museum we went. Inside is a spectacular collection of Roman Statuary...from Julius Caesar to Homer and Aphrodite to Hercules. Original works on display that have been taken from Pompeii and other historic sites to preserve their conditions. We were in awe for three hours touring around.
One exhibit that was not open was the erotic frescos that depicted “pictoral menus” that were on display at the brothels in Pompeii.
We left the Museum and walked along Via di Toledo and arrived at Pallazo Reale, one of the old areas of Napoli. Here we found the opera house and Royal Palace. We had Drinks at Grimbalis and watched three different wedding photographers in the square. The architecture of this area was beautiful but Naples really is a dirty city. Darwin quite enjoyed the City and actually rated it higher than Venice but Dwayne and I both had it on our list of Cities not to return to.
Then it was off to find Pizzaria da Michele (Eat Pray Love). The line up was at least 1 hour to get an original Marguerita Pizza. We walked inside and I thought we had one of 5 tables but the waiter asked me for my number and then kicked me out to let someone else take our place. I would have loved to have my first Italian pizza in this place, but timing did not work. So we walked to another recommendation from our hotel. We could not find this location either, so ended up ordering a quick take out pizza. It was disappointing but we could still claim that we had marguerite pizza in Napoli. As we walked back to our hotel, we finally found the other restaurant the hotel recommended as the best pizza in Napoli but it too was lined up.
Off it was to the train station so we could meet our driver. He then took us to the airport so we could meet Kim, Kevin and Lori. We had a quick drink at the outside bar and then proceeded to make our way to Piano di Sorrento. This was about an hour and half drive. We stopped at a local supermacardo (grocery store) and stalked up on wine, beer and some snacks for the villa. By the time we reached our villa, it was 7:30 (dark). Our driver had to drive down a steep road, get a car moved out of the way and then we finally reached our destination. We took a tour of the place in the dark and was amazed at our location. The villa had to be at least 1000 ft long, stretching into the Amalfi Coast caves. It was unbelievable but it was so dark we could not really get the concept of the villa. We had a few drinks and then off to bed.
October 3
We awoke the next morning and explored our villa. Wow and unbelievable was all we could say. We could not believe this place went on forever... we had the main house, pool area, private reading places, bar, thinking place and even our own gardens and chicken coop. We pick up fresh chicken eggs (5) and some lemons every morning and bring back to our kitchen.
We ordered a vehicle for the week, but it did not arrive, so we enjoyed our pool for the afternoon and kicked back for a day of relaxation. Vencenzio (owner of villa) arrived to give us an overview of tours we could book. We asked if there was a possibility of going to a local restaurant for dinner. He made a call and indicated that Luigi would pick us up at 8:00 in two trips and take us to his family restaurant (Il Panorama). We arrived at this little restaurant with a great view. We had a cocktail outside and then went in for a great meal. We asked Luigi if we could order several dishes and split amongst the four of us (Darwin and Dwayne did NOT want to share with us). So we had the following:
Proschuitto, mozzarella, melon
Seafood appetizer
Marguerite pizza
spaghetilli with porcini mushrooms
veal marsala
veal with mushrooms
seafood paella

It was AMAZING. The family was so nice. Maria, the daughter ended up picking us up. The other daughter was our bartender. Christina, the wife was our cook for night. We also got served a couple local treats – a beef dish that was the cheek of the cow(not my favourite) and french fries that had chilli pepper powder on them. They were hot but quite good.
So then we had to try a lemon cake and chocolate desert with lemoncello. Yep, it too was delicious. Frozen lemoncello was YUMMY. Can you believe the owner of the restaurant arranges to pick us up and take us to his restaurant. Where would you find this in Canada!
October 4 - Pompeii
Up early and off to Pompeii. We had a great driver – Salvatore who spoke fluent English. He used to live in NYC but has returned to his home town of Sorrento and is now a guide, cooking school tour, wedding planner, boat charterer etc....one stop shopping for the Amalfi coast with him. Our actual guide at Pompeii was also good. We spent two hours wandering the ruins. What a magnificent place. To see an actual town still partially in tact was quite amazing.
Darwin was in his glory figuring out the architectural design of the area, including their water system. The rest of us enjoyed the brothel. For a town of 20,000 there were 84 restaurants (fast food style like McDonald`s) and 23 brothels. Sailors arriving to this area would not know how to get to the brothel, so they needed a sign. Since there were no street signs back then, here`s what they did....... a large stone penis is situated on the main entrance street and it`s positioned in the direction of the brothels. Sailors would look for this advertisement and then follow the direction of the penis.....I`m not kidding. So our modern day GPS existed back then....but it was called Giant Penis System...
Back to our villa for some afternoon sun. Darwin cooked up some fabulous clay pot chickens in our outdoor pizza oven. They were DELICIOUS. For a group who was not that hungry, the two chickens did not last very long. He stuffed them with small tomatoes and basil. Some more cocktails in our bar and it was a fairly early night for a change. We are off to a mozzarella tasting in the morning.
October 5 - Mozarella
Today we got a tour of a local cheese factory and learned how to make mozzarella cheese. We even had a chance to braid a mozzarella ball. It was a fantastic sampling and of course wine was served as well. Afterwards, we headed to Sorrento to spend the afternoon. This is the main ferry port for the area and has some fantastic shopping. Good prices are found in this town as it’s not quite as popular as Positano or Amalfi. We found a great shop for cashmere pashminas ($15CDN).
Back to the villa for some late afternoon sun and then it was pizza night....let’s just say we don’t make pizza like the Italians. We bought the boxed pizza dough and it was difficult to follow the instructions in Italian (even though you only add water). Trying to get the dough to work and use the outdoor pizza oven --- not one of our best cooking adventures. Dwayne looked great trying to make the pizza dough. Vencenzio joined us for dinner and all he could say was “interesting”. So, he has offered to make us pizza on Friday night. That should be delicious.
October 6 – Capri

Took the 9:15 ferry to Capri. There are several different ferry lines, so it’s best to buy a one-way ticket as your departure time may not correspond with your ferry line. As we were waiting to board the ferry, a tour guide – Jerry was selling his services. For $20EURO we get a guided tour around the island – Anacapri and Capri and a ticket for the funicular to get back to the port. So we became “Jerry’s kids” for the day.
However, what we discovered is the buses are free and really all we get is a ride to each part of the island. However, Jerry gave us a few tips that were useful.
Capri is a beautiful island worth seeing for a day. The shops in Capri are gorgeous but expensive. Beverly Hills in Italy. Anacapri is quieter and the shops are more affordable. There is a great hike to a lookout point but we found it too late (good reason to go back). We took the 17:20 ferry back to Sorrento where Carlos (our driver) took us to a boutique deli for some local food sampling. The cheeses were delicious as were the sausage and chutneys. We did not need dinner after this little snack.
October 7 – Amalfi Coast
We woke up to a beautiful sunny morning and headed off early to see the Amalfi Coast. First stop was Positano (7 km away). It did not disappoint. As we turned the corner to get our first glimpse of the city, we all said “Wow”. We spent two hours wondering around the town – checking out the beach, restaurants and shops. Next stop was lunch at a local vineyard. We went 5 km above Amalfi (Furore) to a little vineyard (100,000 bottles/year production) and got a tour of their vineyard before lunch.
According to their brochure : “Gran Furor Divina Costiera is a brand which dates back to 1942, when it was first used to sell the wines made from the grapes grown on the terraces of the Furore Coast. In 1980, Andrea Ferraioli, the last descendant of an old local family of winemakers, and his wife, Marisa Cuomo, bought the Gran Furor Divina Costiera brand. It was here that Marisa and Andrea’s adventure began. Encouraged by their love and an extraordinary passion for wine, they decided to make high quality wines in Furore, the place where they were born. Furore is a place of incomparable beauty but extreme from a winegrowing viewpoint. The age-old vines, cultivated without grafts, grow horizontally, lying on rock and soil that plunge down towards the sea in the form of terraces”.
The main vines grow on the rock face - through the concrete bridges in town. Back in the early 1900’s, builders left holes in the concrete so vegetation could grow around the structure. These vines are old and mature. They grow red and green grapes together because of the constant change in temperature as you go up the slope of the hill. So every harvest, the grapes are picked by hand. The steps that need to be climbed to carry the picked grapes to the sorting area is quite dangerous, so only locals are hired for the harvest. Once again this was a family business – husband, wife, uncles, nieces and children were the main employees.
We had a typical local lunch of mixed seafood and fresh pasta, and of course a caprese salad. We tried the reserve white wine (Fiorduva) and it was delicious. It was a heavier wine, which I thought would be like an oaked chardonnay. But instead we were pleasantly surprised. It was like a Savignon Blanc combined with Pinot Grigio. The grapes are Ripoli Fenile, Moschella, Peppella and Ginestra. Of course, we had to buy a few bottles. Unlike the America’s, there was no wine shop. So we walked up the hill and back to the vineyard. We stuck our heads in the bottling factory and asked if we could purchase a bottle. The owner took us to his office and came back with a few bottles. The price was $27Euro, but he told us to give him $25 instead. Later in the afternoon, we discovered the wine at a local winery for $60Euro.
After lunch we drove back down to Amalfi and spent an hour discovering this town. It too was gorgeous, just smaller than Positano. There was a large church in the center of this square, where we watched a lovely bride walk up the 40 stairs to the church entrance (Italians get married every day of the week).
After Amalfi it was another 15km to Ravello. This town is 5 km above sea level. It’s very small and no cars are allowed on the main square. Carlos dropped us off at a tunnel and we walked into the square. It was quite small. Dwayne found the entrance to the gardens that are very popular in this area and we took a tour of this. They are quite spectacular but overall we were not impressed with the town. Yes, the view of the coastline was beautiful, but there was not alot to do in the town. Unless you are trying to find somewhere to escape for a week with little to do, Ravello is not the place to stay. Our favourite was Positano.
We drove back and caught the end of the sunset and headed back to our villa (drive from Ravello to our villa is 1 hour). Darwin cooked a 3P feast (pork parmesan pie) on the outdoor stove and it was delicious. Vincenzo’s mom also prepared a treat for us – stuffed peppers and cannelloni for us to try. Well, that pasta lasted 5 minutes with our gang. It was delicious.
The end to another perfect day on the coast. Tomorrow we relax around the villa and we have ordered a masseuse for poolside massages (yep life is tough here).

Posted by winmouse 10:14 Archived in Italy

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Congratulation amigo's, another great journey in your lives !! Michelle, your email travelogues are excellent...Rick Steeves in motion.I have not been to this part of the world, but like you two have seen many movie and travel images...but the impressions you are sharing are very special. Keep it up. Any penguins on this trip??
Loved the ancient GPS system in Pompeii too. Darwin and ancient Sewer System...hard to resist.
Missing you both, hope we can connect this Fall somewhere. I am down 45 pounds since May, so your descriptions of Italian cuisine is very very very appealing.
Bueno noche(sp?) from Comox,BC
Sandy&Wendy Masterton

by Sandy Masterton

Hey Guys
Excellent update....too bad about Pizzeria da Michele....I could see why Dar would like Naples as artists say it has that "edge"....enjoy tomorrow and hoping you guys feast to celebrate....I'll raise a glass of something red and Italian in your honour...TTYS

by Jake

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