From talking to my mom, and the other guests at the Agriturismo, I decided I had to make it to Capri today, my last day in Italy. I woke up early, took coffee to go (a no-no in Europe!), and said a fond goodbye to Maria. The 8am SITA bus picked me up and took me to Amalfi. I should mention, the SITA bus is fantastic! They run all day, every day, safely carting tourists and locals from the beach to the mountain towns. They’re comfortable coach busses, with air conditioning and big windows through which you have the most beautiful sight of the sea from the mountains. I’d highly recommend anyone visiting the Amalfi area to take the bus rather than rent a car or hire a driver!
Once in Amalfi, I boarded a boat to Capri, about an hour ride.
I happened to sit next to Anna, a retired schoolteacher from Montreal, who was delighted and surprised to hear me speak French. With all the Italian I’ve been learning, and all the Spanish I’ve used lately (the languages are similar enough that Italians understand it), I was worried that I was forgetting my French. Anna spends her retirement travelling the world and giving tours. She’s been everywhere, and gave me some good information about Crete, where I’m heading next. She pointed out things along the way on the boat ride. Below is the island where the Sirens from Greek mythology are fabled to be from.
Arrived in Capri! There were three things I had to figure out before I could enjoy the day: (1) Find information about the boat to Naples, where I’m staying tonight. (2) How long is the trip to the Blue Grotto, and is there time for me to see it before leaving for Naples? (3) Hopefully there’s someplace I can stash my huge duffle bag while I enjoy the day in Capri…
With all those concerns addressed, I attended to my hunger! I chose a light tuna salad to fuel me for the day. Salads in Italy are always served simply with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Delightful!
On the boat to the Blue Grotto, I met Fraser and Olivia, a lovely couple from Ontario who were in the middle of a 42-day trip through Europe! This is their first trip to Europe, and they arranged all of the details of their travel themselves. Awesome! I’m doing the same! We talked on the boat ride, and I was warmed by their uplifting attitude, and adventurous sprits.
When we pulled up to the entrance of the Blue Grotto, our boat got in line to let us enter the caves. The entrance to the grotto is a tiny hole in the rock, so small that you transfer to a tiny 3-4 person rowboat and tuck your head down so as not to smack it.
The light from the sun illuminates the clear blue water so it looks like it glows. The men rowing the boats sang opera, and their voices echoed throughout the caves. What a dream!
I’m hoping to upload the video I took of the grotto, but that depends on how good my internet is here. Once back in Capri, I had lunch with Fraser and Olivia (thank you!!!). I walked over to the beach and swam, soaking in the last rays of the falling sun.
In Capri, they make handmade custom leather sandals. My mom said it’s her dream to come to Capri, and if she hadn’t shared that with me I probably wouldn’t have made the effort to visit it. So of course I had to get her some sandals! Mom and I are the same shoe size, so she often surprises me with the gift of shoes, and this is the first time I’m doing it for her. You can see a quick video of this gentleman making the shoes here: http://instagram.com/p/t8lEGWlKKl/ (Mom, don’t look! I want the style I chose for you to be a surprise :)
I boarded the boat to Naples. This trip is about 1.5-2 hours. The boat was set up similarly to an airplane, complete with the safety video and life vests under the seats.
Welcome to Naples! It’s very very different from Rome and the Amalfi area. Large modern buildings, fast traffic, and definitely more “cool” than charming.
I only have one night in Naples, and I leave for Crete crazy early tomorrow. The Airbnb I chose for the night was perfectly located in the middle of Naples, a quick walk from the port where the boat from Capri dropped me off, and it’ll be a quick walk to the train station in the morning. My host for the evening, Gianni, gave me a map and laid out a lovely evening for me: he showed me the nicest streets to walk along, recommending stops along the way for an appetizer, a drink, and his favourite pizzeria. Thank you!
Naples reminds me of NYC, specifically the small streets in Chinatown. I saw people crowded at a counter and stopped for some street food. I ordered one of everything, but wasn’t sure exactly what anything was. There was some fried zucchini, fried potato patties, something that tasted like a fried mac & cheese ball, zeppoles (fried Italian donuts), and several different arancini (risotto) balls. The larger arancini balls had stewed meat inside them, and were my favourite! I couldn’t eat everything, and just had a bite of them all.
I’m not used to eating so much fried food, and I immediately felt full. I still stopped for a margarita pizza but I only ate about 1/4 of it. I felt so bad wasting most of my pizza and street food; there surely was enough for two. This is the downside of traveling alone, I guess.
I went back to my Airbnb home and took a shower. I wish I took a picture of the bathroom! There was a small window that looked out to the neighboring piazza, perfectly framing the top of the monument, a statue with cherubs. Gianni had placed an ornate picture frame around the window, so it looked like a painting of a statue, but in fact it was a window to the real statue! How clever!
It’s become apparent that a day of rest every now and then is necessary for me. I was so tired today and my muscles are sore. But it’s my last full day in this area, and I tried to find the energy to go to Capri. Instead I had a 4-course lunch, haha!
I headed out around noon and strolled the streets of Amalfi. As it’s more famous than Positano, I found it full of tourists, but similarly charming.
I was looking for a restaurant that served authentic local food, but also had wifi. The place I chose had no English on the menu (a good sign for authenticity), and kind and patient servers. I signed up for the prix fix menu, which included an antipasto, primo, secondo, and dolce (dessert). I hadn’t had much seafood yet, so I chose salmon to start. The dish is called salmone pressato al limone su misticanza e salsa ai cinque fiori. Pressed salmon with lemon flavors on mesclun salad and five flowers sauce. Omg raw salmon!
For my primo piatto, I chose Fusilli Napoletani al ferretto con gamberetti e punte di asparagi. Fusilli Napoleon pasta with baby shrimps and asparagus sprouts. It was delicious and light, flavored with fresh lemon juice and white wine.
Below is my secondo piatto: Suprema di pollo alla Sorrentina con patate al forno, chicken breast à la Sorrento style (mozzarella and tomatoes) and baked potatoes. It was so good, especially the potatoes! The chicken was very flavorful, but I felt that the mozzarella overwhelmed it.
Dolce was babá con limone, and oh my goodness it was fantastic! Light texture, and incredibly moist. The lemon cream sauce on top was perfect!
I waddled back to the Agriturismo I’m staying at, and watched the sunset from the pool. It was a lovely and leisurely day, and I put some plans together for tomorrow.
My last dinner at the Agriturismo. The yellow lampshades in the dining room make it a cozy and intimate space, but they also make for dimly-lit yellow-toned pictures. The food was incredible and Maria, the host was overwhelmingly generous and kindhearted. Antipasti included grilled eggplant with crushed tomatoes, fresh ricotta cheese, roasted peppers, a tiny little egg fritata with ham and zucchini, a pastry with smoked mozzarella and olives, and smoky baked beans.
Would you believe that there’s no cheese in the pasta dish below? The sauce is made with yellow squash, onion, garlic and cream. I will definitely have to attempt to recreate this at home!
This beef and pea stew was also delicious, and got me even more excited to have boeuf bourguignon in France.
And finally, another crazy delicious dessert. Crispy pastry shell with lemon flavored ricotta filling! This was my favourite!
With all this eating, would you believe I lost weight? My pants are loose, and I suspected I went down a notch on my belt. I didn’t really believe it until I tried on a skirt that had previously been tight on me, and the zipper closed with ease. I am indulging in food, obviously, but I also stop when I’m full and resist the urge to clean my plate. I’d swear that my leg muscles are more defined too. The morning after my hike to Positano, my quad muscles were downright bulging! And my glutes were sore too!
Today I took the bus down to Amalfi and relaxed by the beach for a few hours.
This is the “secret” cave that Enzo told me about the night before. You can see it from the rocks, where I took this picture, but you can only access it by swimming. (Thanks for all those swim classes parents! I make use of them constantly!)
I had a panini with roasted eggplant, mozzarella, and parma ham for lunch.
Then I took a SITA bus to Ravello, a world-famous town about 20minutes away. I stopped in a store called “Wine and Drugs” (how could I not lol) and was offered a wine tasting by Branko. When I asked him what his favourite wine is, he said, “Wine is like women; you should not choose one favourite, but enjoy all types.” I was charmed.
I continued to Villa Cimbrone, and saw the most beautiful garden in the world. By far the best 7€ I’ve spent! Just looking at these pictures and remembering the sights makes me tear up…
Back at the Agriturismo, dinner was served. Today’s antipasto included fresh smoked mozzarella, fresh ricotta cheese, pancetta, prosciutto, beans, cabbage salad, and farmer’s bread.
You’ve never had ricotta until you have it fresh! It’s nothing like the ricotta found in american supermarkets.
Then a zuppe, soup with pumpkins, garlic and pinto beans. Maria also served locally made sausages, but I passed on that.
For dessert, we had a homemade tart made with ricotta and corn! Sounds really weird, but it was incredible. I was literally rolling my eyes with pleasure after the first bite!
Gennaro Francese joined us for dinner. He paints frescas, for which the paint is applied to the plaster when it it still wet. The Sisteen Chapel features frescos by Michelangelo, and Nonno Tobia features frescos by Gennaro. It was an honor and a pleasure to dine by his side.
Today was the most fun I’ve had on my trip so far! It was full of breathtaking views, which made it impossible to select a reasonable amount of pictures to share. Get your scroll-finger ready!
I woke up early and had breakfast with my Agriturismo family. Toast, nutella, homemade marmalade and jam, yogurt, cereal, cold meats and cheeses, croissants, coffee and fresh juice! The buses run less frequently on Sundays, so I decided to hike down to Positano along the “Path of the Gods”. The couple from Michigan, Frank and Kathy, had the same plan. Maria dropped us off in Bomerano, where the trail starts, underneath these kiwi branches.
Within 5 minutes the mountains parted to expose the sea. What a view! You cannot see where the sea ends and the sky begins.
The walk was definitely a hike, requiring you to use your hands to climb over some of the larger boulders. I was glad that Maria advised me to change into my sneakers!
Frank took the lead, guiding us along the path and keeping an eye out for the trail markings so we wouldn’t get lost. Kathy and I walked a little slower, taking our time so as not to slip, chatting along the way. I definitely felt like they were my adopted parents for the day, and enjoyed their company.
At one point, just as we reached Positano, Frank and Kathy took the bus to the beach to meet their tour guide, and I continued on the path alone.
I stopped for a meal at what turned out to be a very elegant restaurant with a view of the hills and the sea. As usual, I chose one of the daily specials: homemade linguini bolognese. I asked the server to choose a glass of wine for me, which has become my favourite restaurant trick. They know the wine and the food better than I do, and my favourite wines are always the ones I do not choose myself. Red wine is better for bolognese sauce, but white wine is refreshing for a hot summer day. My server chose a glass of rosé, which was perfect! I ordered a cappuccino to finish the meal, and was treated to complimentary Italian cookies and a Limoncello aperitif. On top of that, the owner took 25% off my check, and gave me a special homemade blend of dried spices. What a treat!
The end of the Path of the Gods was just past the restaurant. From there you take a looooong staircase of “one thousand steps” down to the sea and the center of Positano.
By the time I made it all the way down I had worked up a good sweat, and a good appetite for swimming! I stripped down to my bathing suit and jumped in! How did I keep track of my posessions while bathing in the ocean? I buried my treasure underneath my dirty hiking clothes and placed them close enough to the shoreline that I could see it from the water. I conveniently placed my stuff close to a family, as they are unlikely to steal, so that other passersby would assume my stuff belonged to them. Voila!
After a quick swim, I boarded a boat that would take me to Amalfi, planning to take the bus back to Agerola from there. The boat ride was beautiful, perfectly timed with the sunset at 6:30pm.
However, when I arrived in Amalfi, I found out that the last bus to Agerola had already departed! I went to the taxi stand, but only found other stranded travelers and no running taxis. The New Yorker and Chicagoan in me couldn’t understand the lack of taxis/transit at 7pm!
There was a large family also looking for a way to get to Agerola. The father spoke English and assured me that I can ride with them if we found a taxi. That was a generous offer, as the taxi would have been expensive if I went alone. But after another hour and several calls, we were not having luck. The father started to flag down passing cars, and after a while was offered a ride. He told me they would drive him to his car, and when he came back for his wife and children he would drop me off in Agerola. How nice!
I breathed a sigh of relief, and no longer needing to hover for taxis, I went to attend to my hunger. I was enjoying some wifi when Enzo walked up to me and introduced himself. We chatted over my sandwich, and he asked me to join him for a drink. I explained that I was stuck waiting for the family to give me a ride, and he quickly offered to take me on his scooter. By now, it was past 9pm, and more than an hour since the father had hitched a ride to get his car. I was nervous, but I enthusiastically accepted Enzo’s offer, and we went for a quick drink. He was very kind, and told me about his life in Amalfi and the hotel he works in. A natural tour guide, he gave me recommendations for Ravello, a nearby town I’m planning to visit tomorrow, and a hidden beach in Amalfi. I felt so lucky!
As promised, he rode me back to Agerola on his scooter. He suited me up in a jacket and helmet for the ride, and we were off! Into the darkness, and up the winding road. He could tell I was scared, and he assured me that he knows the road so well that he could drive it with his eyes closed. I insisted that he keep both hands on the scooter, and he kindly went slower than he normally would have. After 30+ minutes, we pulled up to Nonno Tobia, where I’m staying. Maria and my Agriturismo family had been worried when I didn’t show up for dinner, and were glad to see me safely return. I told them of my adventurous day, shared a glass of wine by the pool with Enzo, and went straight to sleep!
I rushed over to Termini, the main train station in Roma to board my train towards Napoli (Naples). I was probably the last person to board! The train was packed, but spacious and comfortable, with outlets at each seat. I settled in, sorted through some pictures on my laptop, and took in the view of the Italian countryside. I have some beautiful videos of the passing farmland and mountains, but for now these pictures will have to do.
Once in Napoli, I had lunch (tomato & mozzarella panini), tried and failed to connect to wifi, and sat down to figure out the SITA bus that would take me to the small town Agerola where I’m staying. The bus schedule was confusing, even with the help of the people at the information stand, and the SITA employees. Luckily, Agerola is a small enough place that the bus driver knew exactly where I was headed and showed me the way. The day was full of stressful travel, and for most of it I was hungry, sleep-deprived, lost, hot, sweaty, and weighed down with luggage. But as soon as I boarded the bus and took in the charming views, my heart and my cheeks soared with contentment.
The streets are narrow, and full of 180° turns as the bus ascended the mountains. Several times the bus had to reverse and make a 3-point-turn to round the tight curves. Several times passing cars had to reverse so the bus could fit through too.
Soon, I arrived at Agriturismo Non no Tobia, and was greeted with a warm hug by my host Maria. I arrived just in time for dinner, and sat down at the family table with the other guests. Pictured are one couple from Switzerland, another from Holland, and a third from Detroit, MI.
As an antipasto, Maria served grilled vegetables (eggplant, carrot, summer squash), assorted cold meats, toast with fresh cream cheese, and a delicious little pasty with smoked ham and cheese. The primi platti was penne with zucchini, capers, and Parmesan cheese. The meal was served with house-made wine, which was delicious and a little bubbly.
Finally, after a long day, I enjoyed a hot shower and sleep!
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