Weekend in Amalfi

(Written: 19 Aprile 2009, 13:20)

I am on the train back from Naples to Rome to Terontola to Perugia. Well, the first parts of that route anyway.

This weekend, Jenna, Jamie, and Jamie’s friend (from Northeastern) Matt, and I went to the Amalfi Coast. We started in Napoli and got pizza at Pizzeria da Michele, recommended in the book Eat, Pray, Love. This pizzeria serves two kinds of pizza- Margherita and Double Cheese. We got two Double Cheeses, two Nastro Azzuros, and two Coca Colas in glass bottles and went at it. While I don’t feel qualified enough to call it the best pizza int he world, it was very good- sauce a little sweet, cheese fresh and a little salty. Good stuff.

After filling up on pizza we all hopped on a city bus to the hometown of Matt’s family, Caserta. What we were told was a half hour ride ended up being a sweaty, crowded, two hour journey through suburbs and fields with old Italian men packed too tightly against me. It wasn’t pleasant. By the time we got there we didn’t have much time before the last train left Naples for Sorrento so after sorting out train tickets and grabbing drinks at a local bar (coffee shop), we got on the mercifully brief ride back to Naples then spent another hour on the train to Sorrento.

Sorrento is a beach town but it is high up on a cliff so you have to walk down an excess of slippery stone steps to reach the ocean. After a delicious breakfast at our cute little hotel, Mamma Camilla, we descended the jetty below to catch a ferry to Capri. The boat was huge and felt a bit like a tiny cruise ship (minus the rooms). 20 minutes later, we disembarked in Capri.

The waterfront was all souvenir shops and a few restaurants so after a little browsing we hiked up and up through sweet little alleys to the town center. The island and actually, most of Sorrento smelled like different kinds of flowers which we tried to identify by scent. Off of the main street, the roads were very narrow with white-walled buildings surrounding us. There was a lot of shopping but we also stumbled across a cute flower shop and plenty of striking views of the cliffs and the ocean.

We ate lunch at a gorgeous restaurant on a hillside over the water. I couldn’t resist ordering a Caprese salad (wonderful) and I tried spaghetti with clams, allured by the idea of fresh seafood on the island. I didn’t like the clams much after I got a crunchy one- yuck! Lunch was followed by more walking and some delicious gelato, then we descended the steps again to take a giro, or to make a circle, around the island by boat. It wasn’t the clearest day and it sprinkled off and on, but the boat trip was definitely the highlight of our trip. Jenna (from Long Island), Matt (from Boston), and I all grew up in coastal towns so it felt right for all of us to be out on the ocean again.

The island itself was striking. We saw the natural caves worn into cliff faces and the houses nestled among the greenery. It was lush and birds circled overhead. We saw the three grottos; white, green, and blue, though the high tide in the afternoon made it more difficult to peek inside. They were still very beautiful and the white one was surrounded by orange jellyfish, filling the bright teal and navy streaked water below the boat.

After the giro we caught the ferry back to Sorrento to see more of that town. We sat on a bench overlooking the ocean watching a wedding party on a pier and the couples kissing below on the beach. We wandered through the center of town, also with high, narrow streets. The desired products of the region seemed to be limoncello and anything made with coral or shells. I bought my usual- a pin for my collection- and then we had another sort-of pricey meal (seemingly the only kind offered besides really really pricey) at which I wisely ordered a non-seafood, but still regionally appropriate dish, gnocchi alla sorrentina. We trudged home for showers and bed, worn out by the salt air.

This morning I was determined to see Pompeii. It was on our way from Sorrento to Naples and I have been fascinated by it since I learned about it in 4th grade. It was free (I think because it was a Sunday) so we waltzed in through the rain with all of our stuff for about an hour and a half. We got to see some amphitheaters and houses and market stalls, though without a guide we were forced to make up our own silly history. I was most fascinated by the kitchens, of course, and ducked under Jenna’s umbrella for some pictures. In the last 20 minutes or so, the clouds broke and the sun came through but of course, we had to be off to catch our next train!

From there we took the Circumvesuviana trainback to Naples where we had more delicious pizza (perfect puffy salty crust this time,) which we ate on the train where I currently sit. Because of the weather it wasn’t the relaxing beach vacation the others may have wanted but it was exactly what I’d hoped for and I got to see everything I wanted to see. Che Meravigloso!

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