Exploring the Amalfi Coast

I have the BEST HUSBAND EVER!

The morning started off with me receiving a fun t-shirt, which I wore proudly all day.  We were signed up for a full day tour of the Amalfi Coast.  Our driver, Sabe, was a funny man, with quite a sob story.  I’m not sure if the story is to elicit sympathy?  We tipped him anyway, not because he was implying that he was a single parent, looking for love, but because he was knowledgeable and he was a good/safe driver. He also made sure to rotate seating, so that everyone had a chance to sit up front.

The views were so amazing, I was speechless.  Prior to getting into the van, I took a couple of Gravol since other people have told me how car sick they had been on the SITA buses traveling up and down the coast.  But in the 8-passenger van, going at a moderate pace, I didn’t feel affected (though who really knows since I took the Gravol).  The trip consisted of me and hubs, along with a mother/daughter team from Kelowna, BC (daughter working in London, and travelled to meet her mother in Italy while in a cast with a broken ankle), and a family from Manchester, UK.  It was a good group.  Unfortunately there was only one photo stop during the drive.  This was because we only had eight hours to do this trip and as Sabe told us, to properly do the tour, you’d need 12-13 hours. The popular tourist photo stop was just before heading down into Positano.

positano

Clearly our first stop was the city of Positano. According to Lonely Planet, it is the coast’s most picturesque and photogenic town, with vertiginous houses tumbling down to the sea in a cascade of sun-bleached peach, pink and terracotta colours. Seeing it from above from this angle looked cool, but nothing mind blowing. The one good thing about taking this tour in a mini van versus a large tour bus is that we are actually able to drive down because the road narrows significantly and the large tour buses are unable to maneuver. Eventually the streets became so narrow that you could reach your arm out the window and swipe the drink off the cafe tables. We parked in a garage and Sabe walked us down the busy street to the main area leading down to the beach. Unlike Sorrento, the streets seemed even more packed, but likely because they are narrower. The shops are definitely different in Positano than Sorrento. This place is more about the fashion and home decor. Apparently, shopping in this town is much more expensive. The clothes and ceramics are beautiful; however, the clothing style does not suit my frame, but definitely still lovely to look at. The ceramics are colourful and it’s easy to want a piece as a keepsake, but the truth is, the style works here in Italy, but not in my home. Still one can admire it all. Hubs and I walked down, choosing different narrow alleys to wander down. There was so much eye candy in every store window. But we had limited time, so hubs was urging me to move along. I started to see sand. I was thinking, a beach is a beach, big deal. And then this.

positano-3

Wowzers! This was incredible! Climbing the stairs back up, and walking further up on the street, we were treated to another stunning view of Positano.

positano-2

Sabe told us that Positano by night is also quite spectacular. I had mentioned in an earlier post that there are not many evening tours from Sorrento. This is true; however, there is a bus and dinner “tour” to Positano offered, and a boat to Capri. I’d be curious to see what Positano looks like light up; however, based on the crowds, I’m not sure I needed to visit twice in a day.

Next stop, the town of Amalfi. Amalfi is one of the most historic towns along the Amalfi Coast. The city starts at the water’s edge with a pretty promenade along the Mediterranean and a marina full of colorful boats.

The historic center of town has the more typical old European town feel, with the main square (Piazza del Duomo), striking cathedral and bell tower. The streets are lined with small shops, a mixture of restaurants, cafes, seafood shops, and gift shops.

amalfi-main-square

Again, with only an hour, we quickly walked through the town and pushed our way out to the waterfront area. The main parking lot was jam packed with tour buses, cars, and people. On one side of the parking lot was the waterfront path.

amalfi-waterfront

On the other side is a beach.

amalfi-beach

We walked down a long pier in an attempt to get a view of the entire area. Without question it’s amazing, but Positano definitely looked nicer to me.

amalfi

My stomach was starting to grumble, perfectly timed with our next stop – lunch in Scala, just before we hit Ravello. You will see no big tour buses at this lunch stop, because the buses cannot navigate to this area. We parked on a main road and walked up to Ristorante San Giovanni. The indoor seating is on one side of the street, but we were lead to their lovely covered outdoor area, overlooking the small farms/gardens and main road. Our lunch included our choice of pizza or pasta and a beverage. The meal ended with the customary limoncello. And no, the pizza was not as delicious as the one made by Lucia. This one was quite cheese heavy, thus making it greasier.

giovanni

giovanni-limoncello

Final stop, Ravello, a resort town set 365 meters above the Tyrrhenian Sea. It is home to iconic cliffside gardens. The 13th-century, Moorish-style Villa Rufolo offers far-reaching views from its terraced gardens, and hosts indoor and outdoor concerts during the popular summertime Ravello Festival. We had under an hour at this location because as Sabe explained, Ravello is only the one square; however, I could have used a little extra time to explore. I think it would be quite an experience to attend a Ravello concert under the stars.

ravello-square

On our drive back to Sorrento, everyone had a chance to rest and listen to some fun music. That evening, hubs chose Il Marzialino steakhouse that received great reviews on TripAdvisor. It was a bust. Maybe we went on an off-night for the chef, but the steak was forgettable. Actually, let’s start from the beginning. When we arrived, there looked to be the head waiter working, along with a junior or new staff. Neither of them spoke particularly good English, and our Italian is awful. We were seated promptly and given menus. I went through the wine list and had questions. I wanted a red, but didn’t know what a Pinot Fin was, so I asked the junior waiter.

Me: What type of wine is the Pinot Fin?
Waiter: It’s red.
Me: Can you tell me a little more – can you describe the flavour?
Waiter: No. Please wait. (He goes to get the head waiter, but doesn’t tell him my question)

The head waiter arrives to take our order. It was a difficult conversation, so I ended up ordering an appetizer, which sounded like a tomato bread salad, and hubs ordered a caesar salad. In the description, there was no mention of meat, but we both heard the waiter mention chicken. We had no idea what hubs was going to get, but he was hoping for something really good since it was a €17 starter salad. It was a strange interpretation or deconstruction of a caesar salad. There was a scoop of caesar-like dressing on the plate, with less than a handful of micro-greens poking up from it. There were also a few cubes of chicken in the dressing pool. My bread salad was a little closer to what I’ve had before, except instead of ripped pieces of bread, it was a whole, intact piece of bread at the bottom of the plate. We decided to share the main course, a bone-in steak. The good news is that it’s not a paper-thin piece of meat. This is a thick cut; however, it could benefit from both more aging and salt during the cooking process. It’s also difficult to tell how the steak was cooked since it was clearly transferred into a nicer pan for presentation. There were no grill or char marks on the steak. As I explained to hubs, I was eating for sustenance, not for enjoyment. I almost forgot to mention the sauces. The junior waiter sets down a plate with three sauces in the middle of the table and walks away. Hubs and I look at the sauces, and we proceed to taste each one. The one on the left was almost like a thickened jus, the yellow one on the right tasted like a Hollandaise or Bearnaise sauce, and the middle white sauce was unknown. Hubs thought it tasted like a Big Mac sauce because it was a little onion-y. The entire dining experience was a disappointment but quite funny. I had no interest in staying for drinks or dessert, so we settled up and left. Oh, we didn’t end up with the Pinot Fin. We agreed to whichever wine he suggested. It was fine. I don’t believe there is such a thing as a bad wine in Italy.

Il-Marzialino

It’s our final evening in Sorrento. Tomorrow, we head to Napoli (Naples).

 

 

 

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