Category Archives: Amalfi

Italy Day 14, a Ferry, Salerno, a Car Rental, Torre Del Greco, and Occhio!



Amalfi’s Fountain in the Main Square


We felt comfortable knowing that the ferry from Amalfi to Salerno ran regularly.  There was some discrepancy in the scheduled times we saw, but not enough to cause concern.  We slept a bit late and packed.  To turn in the key, we walked to the owner’s flat, rang, and were buzzed into her patio. She came out moments later, “Buongiorno, Come stai?” We chatted for a while, mentioning again that Romeo messed up in not arranging to have our bags (and us) whisked up to the apartment.  Would we like a ride down?  “No, downhill is not a problem.”  With mille grazie on both sides, we parted and hiked down to a coffee shop near the ferry bigletteria.


Ellen waited at the coffee shop entrance while I purchased tickets.  The next ferry was at 10:20, roughly an hour away.  We ordered cappuccino and a doppio macchiato enjoying the sun.  Ellen mentioned she wished she had photographed a narrow street when we walked down.  “Go do it.  We have lots of time before the ferry arrives”  She came back well ahead of the ferry.  We moved to the dock to wait.  It was a glorious morning with some high clouds in the sky.  Not enough to threaten rain.

The Ferry





The ferry for Positano arrived first and it was packed on departure.  Fifteen minutes later we were on the ferry to Salerno, which was half full.  We sat close to a couple with a baby girl. She was gorgeous.  Part way through the trip, we commented on how beautiful their daughter was.  They were on vacation from Sidney for two weeks visiting relatives in Campania. Their parents live in Sidney with them. He is a firefighter, she a teacher (If I remember correctly).  I have great respect for firefighters.  California is just coming out of a drought and has had four years of severe fires. The 40 minute ferry to Salerno went by quickly.  As we left I joked, “Can we take your daughter for just a few weeks?”  I’m not sure they heard me, probably for the better.  We landed at a familiar port, unloaded and walked to the car rental (europcar) with the help of my Italian Smart Phone (thank you TIM).  It was a short walk away, made longer by heading in the wrong direction for a while before the GPS corrected itself (err, me).



We bantered with the rental host in broken English and Italian.  Had our passports photocopies, signed here, there, everywhere on a form, and were walked to a pristine, white, Alfa Romeo Guilet sitting practically on the sidewalk.  I was shown how to open the trunk (not obvious) how to open the gas lid (would have got that one) and , “Should I show you how to find reverse?”  “No, I think I’ve got that. Thanks.”.  He walked off, while another europcar fellow stood nearby watching closely.  I think there was a bet going, “how far will I get before causing a crash or could I even drive off the curb?”  It took my time settling in, adjusting the mirrors, figuring out how to shift into reverse (lift a ring under the shifter and move the lever into reverse), setup our Garmin Nav with a Fodor’s map of Italy.  It took some time.  The attendant patiently stood by waiting.  Into first gear and a soft push of the throttle and the car lurched forward. I think I scared the fellow who made room for me as much as I frightened Ellen. I was too busy to be concerned. I was free and driving in Salerno.

There are two GPS maps of Italy available for the Garmin Numi today.  The Fodor’s is the best of the two.  It is very good at getting close to your destination, but very bad at locating it.  We use our Italian masterpiece and Google maps for the last 20 km.  I had wanted to see Bacoli, a small town on a peninsula west of Naples, but we thought it best to avoid Naples and went directly to Torre del Greco.   The surface roads getting to the autostrade are hit and miss, some good others not so much. The autostrada was great.  Smooth except where marked, and fast.  I did not see one polizia the entire drive.

I chose Torre del Greco because it is close to Pompeii.  I wanted to visit the ruins and they were just off the autostrade.  Arriving at Pompeii, I parked in the first place I found after some difficulty (fun) crossing cross traffic.  We parked and were told that parking was free if we had lunch there.  We were starving and not thinking very straight.  Sure.  We sat, ordered, then were told that we had to spend 40 euros for free parking.  Our order was less.  But you could get the mozzarella and a water and be ok.  Humm, 3 euro per hour, we could stay overnight for 40 euros, but we were starving.  Ok.  The pizza was good, not great.  The mozzarella was not buffalo.  The beer was good!  We felt like we had been had, and we had been. With a shrug, we were off to the ruins.


Free Parking with Lunch, Do Not Eat Here

I have been to a number of ancient archeological sites, some very well preserved.  Nothing I have ever seen prepared me for Pompeii.  It is massive.  It is an entire Roman city that was destroyed when Mt Vesuvius erupted. Think about that: an entire city.  destroyed, volcanic eruption.  I’ll post a photo showing Mt Vesuvius today. If you run a line up both sides of the volcano, they intersect well above the saddle in the current mountain. The area below that intersection is the amount of the mountain that was blown into the air along with probably an equal mass of molten lava from the earth’s core.  This is astounding in its magnitude.


The Nine Regions of Pompeii, Pompeii is Vast!


Modern Sculpture Abound on Site, Beautiful but do not be fooled.

Equally astounding is the extent of the city the Romans had build by 79 AD, the year the city was destroyed. You have to see it to believe the size. And not just the size, but the quality of life shown in the layout and decorative skills of the artists and artisans of the period.  The mind runs in several directions when confronted with Pompeii.


A Human Body Encased in Ash and Turned To Stone


More of the Same

Destruction, annihilation, extinction.  When randomness in the universe was first proposed, the church opposed the theory on the basis that God would never allow the earth to be destroyed by some random act of “nature” (or God).  That a massive asteroid ended the dinosaur’s evolutionary path is well accepted.  Ours, mankind’s, could end just as abruptly.

I hope this video gives you a sense of the size of Pompeii.  This is a video of one small part of one of the nine sections of the ruins of Pompeii.

Quality of Life.  What defines quality of life.  Nearly 2000 years ago, these people had a very good and relatively advanced culture.  Arguably, from a literary or philosophical point of view,  as advanced as our own today.  Scientifically and gadgetarily there is no comparison of course.  But does having more “stuff” imply a better life?


Classic Tile Floor from 79AD, Pompeii


Mosaic 79AD, Pompeii

Empathy. Why did I feel such abject sadness that an entire city was wiped out.  I have no immediate connection to these people who perished 1,938 years ago. Yet I felt sorrow, tearful at the event and what remains now.



It felt strange walking the paths that these long gone people once walked, embraced on, and even were immolated on.  There are ash encased remains on display here and there, with clothes and muscles as detailed as in life as if clinging to life.  Hands held to mouths to shelter one more breath from the heat or ash.


The mosaics, the two amphitheaters, that must have played a role in entertainment.  Making the mundane more bearable, like our jaunts to the big screen for some escape.


The Lesser Amphitheater


Expanse of ruins

We got lost finding our way out.  Who knew there were three entrances and therefore three exits.  Which entrance did you come in?  Well, we don’t know.  Let me check our ticket.  With that and some help from a docent, we found our way out.  In the process we saw much more of the ruins that we expected.  At some point anything as large as this becomes overwhelming.  I cannot take more than a few hours, three at the most, in the Louvre.  Saturation sets in, I get “punchy” and have to leave. Pompeii is huge, far too big in size, scope, and implication for more than three hours.


Painting On Stone, Pompeii


Steam Heated Walls in 79AD, Pompeii


A Courtyard, Pompeii


Another Stone Body, Note Clothing and Hair Detail


Mt Vesuvius In the Distance

Look at Mt Vesuvius in the background of the photo above. If you continue a line along the right slope and left slop they intersect at a point high above a little below and left of the left cloud.  The part of the mountain that is missing was blown away.  Probably an equal amount of molten core material exploded into the air, rising up into a column of super-heated rock probably miles high.  When that column collapsed back to earth, it engulfed Pompeii destroying parts of the city while covering other parts in ash leaving Pompeii largely intact but buried.


“Herculaneum was discovered in 1709, and systematic excavation began there in 1738. Work did not begin at Pompeii until 1748, and in 1763 an inscription (“Rei publicae Pompeianorum”) was found that identified the site as Pompeii.Sep 13, 2016”

Leaving Pompeii, our Garmin Numi got us close to Hotel Poseidon, Google Maps took us to the doorstep.

At reception we met Germano, who was very accommodating. Room Keys, Breakfast downstairs 7:30 to 10:30, park out back, take the elevator to your room, this is a seafood town all the restaurants serve very fresh seafood. Enjoy.  We tried to speak our limited Italian, but Germano was having none of it.



Hotel Poseidon, Torre del Greco

Hotel Poseidon is modern and decorated as if you were staying at the bottom of the sea.  It is so modern, I could not figure out how to use the elevator! Seriously.  I’ve seen electronic panels with touch sensitive regions that spring to life when you press them.  I pressed away to no avail.  Lights came on, but nothing happened. Germano,, at the desk said (as if he’s done this many times), “Slide your thumb, don’t press!  Like this”  He slid his thumb across the panel, the up/down indicators glowed red, and after some whirring the elevator doors opened.


Looking Down to the Lobby, Hotel Poseidon, Torre del Greco

The apartment was new and clean. All the fixtures in the bath room were bright shiny new.  The shower had a wand and overhead rain head with plenty of hot water. The bed was firm and comfortable.


Taverna a Mare viewed from the Lido

Settled in, we left to explore the town. We walked down to the wharf/marina which clearly is a working marina. We walked until we could walk no further and had to turn back. At that point on the 2nd floor was a restaurant that looked inviting, but wasn’t open. “Let’s go check it out”. It was not obvious how to get there and in the process we passed an interesting café/bar with enclosed street side seating. Cool. We continued on trying a few dead end streets and eventually came upon the front entrance to Taverna a Mare.


They were setting up for dinner. At the entrance was an ice lined display case of seafood that one fellow was setting up.  It was enormous.  Scusi, then I said in English that I’d like to make reservations for this evening.  He spoke with another fellow who scurried off to find someone.  I followed close on his heals. Moments later I was face to face with the manager, a tall big hulk of a man in his late 30’s, imposing with jet black hair and a full beard.  We do not open until 8pm.  We can seat you then if you like.  Yes, that would be fine.  Then he did something strange.  He paced his right index finger just under his right eye with the finger running down his cheek, lowered his head, and glared at me for too long. It was unnerving.  What is this guy doing?  I had the sense not to react at all.  After probably 30 seconds of this he relaxed and showed us out. Strange. The gesture is called occhio, and it means, “I’m watching you and I am not a fool”.. Check these Italian gestures out:




Da Ciccio

To kill close to an hour we went back to that bar we had seen, Bar da Ciccio.  This was a fun place to stop for a while.  I ordered a birra della spina and Ellen a limoncello.  Where are you from and we were off.  We used google translator to talk to each other.  First the gal then a guy.  We went back and forth.  Later I ordered another round and the conversation grew.  Ellen took photos of the group, who said, No let’s all be in the photo. The time came to go to Taverna and we parted with many Arrivederci’s, salves, and ciaos.


Da Ciccio Crew

We were seated at Taverna a Mare beside another couple. The Italians do this. They are a gregarious lot and expect cross table conversation to flourish.  I had seen scorfano on ice when we entered, and ordered scorfano.  Ellen had coveted my spaghetti vongole the last time I ordered it.  We had house wine by the glass.  Ellen asked if she could have extra clams on her order. “Si, madam”.  I’ve probably mentioned this before, but the vongole, clams, are very small and very tasty.  They’re smaller than little neck clams of New England.  Ellen’s vongole was excellent, but my fish was amazing. The first bite was firm, mild, and very flavorful.  It was like a bit of perfectly cooked Main lobster, but tender.  I was ecstatic.


Video of Taverna a Mare, just for the audio.

The couple beside us each had spaghetti vongole for their first course and salt encrusted fish for their second. This reminded me of the time Markus and Axlexandra visited in Venice.  The four of us wanted to share salt encrusted fish at a restaurant, but a Russian party ordered the last one.  That started a conversation about fish with the couple, Jonathan and Anna. Anna joked that her name is an anagram, demonstrating a thorough grasp of English.  They had driven down from Switzerland on a two week vacation.  They would go as far as the Amalfi coast.  I recommended Da Gemma in Amalfi and we raved about Ravello. Anna is a PhD candidate in biochemistry.  She is striking, poised, and very quick witted.  It would be fun to get to know them better.


Some of Torre del Greco’s Fishing Fleet

A word about Torre del Greco.  For fresh seafood, this is the best place we have visited thus far. The ice bar, to your right as you enter Taverna a Mare, is at least thirty feet long and five feet deep.  It is filled with whole fish and shellfish, fresh caught that day.  There is more seafood on display in that restaurant than most seafood mongers have in their entire shop.  The variety as well as the extent of the display was staggering.  Yes, they had scorfano and clams and muscles, and lobster, and fish I’ve never seen before.  Use Torre del Greco as a stopover to see Erculano, Pompeii, and perhaps Bacoli.  Walk the beach, check out the working marina and fishing boats.  Enjoy a drink or two Bar da Cicco.  Talk with the staff, they’re really happy friendly people.  Iif you’re really lucky (or unlucky) you’ll get “the occhio” at taverna a Mare. There is a “there, there” at Torre del Greco, but it is not on the surface.


We walked back to Hotel Poseidon happy, sated, and ready for bed.

Italy Day 13, Amalfi and Ravello


The View Back UP the Hill, Ravello

We slept well.  The bed at Basilius is firm without being hard. We headed out around 9:30 for colazione (breakfast) peering into the occasional cheese or fruit shop along the way.  Ellen suggested getting a juicer and some fruit later.  Sure, let’s not get one now ok?


Fruit In Hand

We settled on a small pastry shop with seating in the sun.  With the warmth of the sun and a cold wind, we chose to sit in warmth. A woman was just getting her order as I was considering what to get for Ellen.  A fellow ordered a number of items for his family.  He was fidgety and seemed impatient.  He was vary particular about each individual item.  The barista, a tall striking Italian woman, was clearly getting annoyed by this fellow’s attitude.  She said nothing. Time to pay, and his credit card would not go through.  We’ve all be in this situation.  It sucks.  This fellow got insistent that the card was good, “try it again”.  It failed again.  He got more animated, “try it again”.  The Barista called the manager over, they tried a third time, then after a full power reset, his card went through.  He acted like he had been vindicated.  After he left, the barista asked , “prego”  I ordered in Italian as best I could and the barista glanced at the departing fellow, curled her lower lip, and made what I took to be a disparaging almost growl.

Outside with our order, that family had positioned themselves right beside Ellen and I. Our chairs were facing the street, directly facing the four of them.  We turned our chairs.

Today we could either visit Positano or Ravello.  We had stopped for an hour in Positano on the way to Amalfi.  We hadn’t seen Ravello, “let’s go there”. Most people know Positano from the classic photos taken from the sea.  Positano is picturesque, but to me it is all shopping and tourists. You even have to pay for a spot on the beach in high season.  Off season, as it is not, locals frolic on the beach.  It is free.  Our espresso finished, we easily found the bus pickup along the (short) Lido.  There was a long line waiting for the Ravello bus.  A bus arrived, people packed aboard, and we were left waiting, first in line for the next bus.  Surprisingly the next bus arrived in under five minutes!  Our bus wound its way up around up and around for quite a while. At one point the bus could not make the turn and had to back up a bit and try a 2nd time. We were on the land side of the bus.  The ocean side had quite a view of the sea and the drop-off.


The View from High Atop Ravello.

It was about 40 minutes from Amalfi to Ravello.  Across from the bus stop sits a paved overlook with stunning views from the height of Ravello to the sea far below.  We soaked in that view and took a photo or two as well.   Ravello is gorgeous.


Fruit is Available Everywhere

Up the road perhaps 40 meters is the main square of Ravello.  One side of the square has an open view across a gorge,  Shops line two sides of the square.

We first walked down a series of steps to the left as you approach the square.  The steps continued down and down. Past a chapel on the right, past private residences and small doors to B&B’s.  Sometimes the view closed in with no panorama, simply steps and old building walls. Turning a corner an expansive view of the Gulf of Salerno may open.

Walking back up those steps, we found advertising and a brochure kiosk for the 2017 Ravello Concert Series. Each year the Ravello Concert Society presents an extensive series of concerts at Ravello.  Some of the concerts would be held in this small chapel. Other open-air events are held in the Villa at sunset.  For more information on the Ravello Concert Series:  For us a trip to Ravello from Firenze is unlikely.

Just to the left past that first stairway just before you enter the square is the entrance to Villa Rufolo.  You pay a nominal fee ( I assume for maintenance) to enter the villa.  The upper garden and arched entries are dramatic as are the rooms of the villa.  Sunlight and a sea view will draw you outside without even seeing more than a few rooms of the villa.  The sight of the gardens, on descending tiled patios is stunning.  I’ve forgotten most of the villa itself,  It is the layout of the gardens, with stairways descending from one level to the next. The symmetry of the plantings. But most of all the view from high atop the hill will stop you in your tracks.  It is hard not to be moved by this panorama.  Ellen and I easily spent two hours walking, gazing, taking a photo or two (or too many).



Scattered around the grounds are video advertisements for the Ravello concert series presented in electronic kiosks.  Even the advert was inspiring.

Here is an excerpt from Wikipedia about Villa Rufolo:

Originally belonging to the powerful and wealthy Rufolo family who excelled in commerce (a Landolfo Rufolo has been immortalized by Boccaccio in the Decameron), it then passed by inheritance to other owners such as the Confalone, Muscettola and d’Afflitto.

Around the middle of the nineteenth century it was sold to the Scotsman Francis Neville Reid who took care of a general restoration, resulting in today’s layout.

The villa is entered through an opening in the arched entrance tower, and after a short street a clearing is dominated by the Torre Maggiore: the latter facing the bell tower of the cathedral in Ravello, overlooking the terraces (upper and lower) as well as overlooking the Amalfi Coast and the Gulf of Salerno with flower gardens that are in bloom most of the year.[1]

Of particular interest among the rooms of the villa is a large courtyard elevated like a cloister and some rooms forming a small museum.

The German opera composer Richard Wagner visited the villa in 1880. He was so overcome by the beauty of the location that he imagined the setting as the garden of Klingsor in the second act of Parsifal. In commemoration, every year the lower garden of Villa Rufolo hosts a Wagnerian concert.[2]

I was mesmerized.  I’ll let our photos speak to the beauty of this Villa.  I could sit for hours as I am sure the Villa’s extremely wealthy owners once did.




We skipped walking through the villa’s interior, choosing instead to walk Ravello, the town.

Ellen and I are not shoppers.  We do not willingly walk down the main shopping street of say Capri and oh and ah at the pricy goods.  We do appreciate excellent materials and artistry in the design of “some things”, actually most things.  As we walked down Ravello’s shopping street just past the square, I ran my fingers down fabrics on display.  Quality is in the feel of fabric.  One fabric in particular had an wonderful hand; it was unusually fine materials.  I was going to say something to Ellen, who was just a few steps ahead of me when she disappeared into this shop, Ricordi di Ravello.


Ricordi di Ravello, Wonderful Linen & Cashmere Clothing

The shopkeeper was an unassuming, direct woman about Ellen’s height.  Ellen went right to a light gray-blue shawl on and asked if they had this material in her size.  The owner (she was the shop owner) pulled down a garment that fit Ellen quite well. Not surprisingly this was the same material with the excellent hand.  “That material is the best quality cashmere from Firenze.  We purchase the material there.  These are all our designs.”  Me, “Where do you manufacture the clothing”  “On the peninsula, about 20 minutes from here.  We have a small factory.”  It was unlikely we would find these designs in Firenze.

One Splendid Walkway




One Splendid Walkway


Another Splendid Walkway

There was a dark blue 3/4 length light weight coat in the same material that I asked Ellen to try on.  It did not hang well on her.  We both preferred this color.  Ellen tried on a poncho, a shawl, zippered sweater, and the 3/4 length coat.  She preferred the poncho. The price was high, but not for this quality.  Ellen left happy to have a warmer article of clothing.  Evenings and even some days had been cold and we would soon be heading north.


Main Square, Ravello

We walked Ravello. Toward the end of the street we found “Wine & Drugs”.  Funny I thought, but I plan to save wine tasting for Florence.  We are still nomadic and do not need the weight.  The shop-gal popped out.  We greeted her with “Buona Sera”, good afternoon/evening, and we had a conversation in broken English and Italian.


Wine and Drugs

Communication is not that difficult, unless it’s about ideas.   Wandering on we climbed some steps to find the Chiesa di San Giovanni del Toro and the Belmond Hotel Caruso, named for Caruso the great tenor.  The hotel sits on a promontory with views to the east and west.  It has an understated elegance that exudes exclusivity.  Dinner or sunset drinks here would be fun, but we want to be back to Amalfi for Da Gemma and our reservations for dinner.


The Belmond Hotel Caruso, Ravello


Dining Patio, Hotel Caruso, Ravello

One ristorante on the piazza had outdoor tables at an overlook in the sun.  Perfect. I relaxed with a birra alla spina (draught beer) and Ellen had aqua naturale.  The sun came and went.  At this time of year, the sun is very warm but the wind is very cold.   We alternately baked and froze all while listening in on two 20 something couples joking around in Italian.  Eventually the cold got the better of us (or my beer glass was empty).


A Quite Unusual Beer!

We queued at the bus stop to go back to Amalfi.  It was now about 4:20.  Time passed, the queue grew, a few busses for other towns came and went, but there was no bus to Amalfi.  It was now 5:20 and the queue was a crowd.  Finally, 15 minutes later the Amalfi bus arrived.  People were aggressively getting aboard.  Ellen got on with me right behind her, but at least five other people crowded ahead of me. Wondering where the boundary between politeness and rudeness is, I intentionally cut off some young girls pushing through and boarded the bus.  On board I encountered a frantic woman pushing forward past me.  We could have gotten a room, it was that intimate.  It turns out she boarded the bus, but her husband (probably a nice guy) didn’t make it. She found he was not aboard, and exited the bus.  That could easily have been Ellen were I less assertive.


On the Bus to Amalfi

We left about half our number at the bus stop.  On the windy way down we did not see another bus come up the route.  Those people left behind were in for a long wait. This was not high season.  I wonder how bad it could be then.  My thought?  Stay in Ravello and visit Amalfi and Positano  bus and/or by ferry.



Polipo Arrostito con Pomodori,  Roasted Octopus

We walked back up our familiar route to drop our cameras and freshen up ahead of our second meal at Da Gemma. Our reservations were at 8 PM.  This time we were seated by the window.  Oddly the table and chairs tilted.  After we ordered, we switched chairs as Ellen was uncomfortable with the tilt. Ellen’s back bothered her less after we switched. Tonight had the grilled octopus appetizer; we both ordered spaghetti con vongole and a glass of house wine.  The spaghetti was mixed with nearly creamed broccoli.  The waiter made it a point to correct Ellen, “No, this is not broccolini, it is broccoli. No broccolini.”  He was being funny.  When time came to clear the table, he kiddingly tried to whisk my two smart phones onto his crumb plate. He mentioned a fellow who took his Rolex off at diner and almost lost it to the crumb plate. His eyes followed the Rolex as it slid across the table.

For dessert we had a hard time deciding.  We chose the chocolate with chili dessert, which sounded unique.  We were very surprised and had a good laugh when the same dessert we had had last night was placed at table.  “No, this cannot be what we ordered”  It was.

The broccoli detracted from the spaghetti con vongole.  We enjoyed our meal, but not with the sense of ecstasy we had last night. We met almost no one as we walked “home” and to sleep.

We absolutely loved Ravello and Amalfi.  Tomorrow we must say, “Ciao Amalfi” and push on to Torre del Greco.


Leaving the Next Morning for Salerno

Italy Day 12, Ferry to Sorrento, Our Driver Inna, Positano, Amalfi



The Amalfi Coast

Capri, Toni and Nunzia

We arranged to meet with Nunzia today to have our passport photos taken for the authorities.  Toni was out working in the yard.  “Buongiorno, Toni” and we were off.  He loves talking about anything and everything.  We were still talking when Ellen came down.  Shortly after Nunzia came out and joined in.  Eventually Nunzia photo’d our passports and the conversation wound down.  I mentioned Torre del Greco as one of the places we will visit.  “Be careful there.  Be very careful.”  Ominous, a harbinger of doom? I’d have put more credence in this had Toni not been so wary of the Sicilians too.  “They’re not true Italians.  They have their own government and call us (Italy) the mainland.”   Torre del Greco is a few days away.  It will take care of itself (I hope).

We grabbed our bags and walked down to the marina.  I bought two one way tickets to Sorrento and was told the ferry was already in at port 12.  We had thirty minutes, more than enough time for a quick breakfast of espresso and cornetti.

Private Day Tours

I had arranged through Gianluca Savarese of Private Day Tours, , to have a car and driver meet us at the Salerno ferry and drive us to Amalfi.  I wanted to enjoy the view as we drove the coast and not be bothered by the traffic.  I knew the day we would arrive in Sorrento, but not the time.  There were too many variables to commit to a specific time.  In emails we agreed that I would call ahead once I knew when we would arrive Sorrento and a driver would be there for us.  I called Gianluca while we waited for the ferry.

Ferry to Sorrento

It figured, port 12 was the last on one the pier. We boarded the gangway, handing our tickets to an agent as we walked on.  The theme for Capri was “almost empty”, it was never crowded.  This hydrofoil had three other passengers aboard.


Empty Ferry Capri to Sorento

The crossing was swift.  The rhythmic swaying, rocking put me to sleep.  I awoke as we neared the dock.  Ellen dozed off and on too.  Disembarked, we looked for our driver among the tight knit group waiting to board. He was nowhere in sight.  We thought, “strange” and continued on toward the street exit.  A short while later a tall, lanky blond woman rushed up and asked “Ron”.  Here was our driver.  There was such a crowd getting onto the ferry that we missed each other.

Inna, our driver to Positano and Amalfi, Private Day Tours


Inna Taking a Turn on the Way to Positano

We walked over to a brand new Mercedes, put our bags in the trunk, and were off. Inna introduced her self.  She pointed out buildings of interest in Sorrento and other small towns as we wound our way in traffic toward Positano and Amalfi.  The coastline was gorgeous, full of mountains dropping into the sea with enclaves of villas perched on ridges or built  together up ravines to form small towns.  It was similar to route 1 in California, but with so much more history and architectural variation.

Inna stopped at a scenic view and we took a break from our ride to stretch our legs and take a photo or two.  It was a gorgeous location.

A stop on the way to Positano

A stop on the way to Positano


Picturesque Positano

Further on, Inna stopped in a parking garage in Positano.  We were hungry. “Let’s go straight down to the shore, eat something, and walk back more slowly”  “OK”.  Of course Ellen could not resist taking a few photos along the way.  Ellen and I walked down to the sea, passing a myriad of shops, tourists, and shoppers on the way.   This reminded me of Capri’s main shopping street.  Still we made pretty good time navigating the tourists. At the shore we found a number of seaside restaurants.  Had this been peak tourist season, we would never have had time to eat.

On the beach we chose a restaurant with tables in the sun and had a Margherita pizza and a beer.  We had just enough time to eat and walk back up the main street.  Positano is a shopper’s paradise. I was left wondering what hiking trails were accessible in Positano.



A feel for the crowds in Positano.


Positano, A Steep Stairway.

Inna was waiting for us at the top of the hill.  I called the manager of the apartment where we would stay next to ensure someone would be available to meet us. The Amalfi coast is a beautiful drive.  I could have driven it with no trouble at all, but it is far preferable to enjoy the dramatic scenery than it is to “enjoy” oncoming traffic. The blue of the sky complimented the blue of the ocean.  The cliffs and gorges cut into the limestone were precipitous.  Often the roadway was built out from the cliff on stone arches.  We passed two small public beaches and did not stop.  Eventually at the eastern end of Amalfi, Inna pulled into a street and parked.   Romano, our booking agent appeared, Inna, Ellen and I made our goodbyes. Romano now ushered us up to the apartment.


Lemon Candles, Ellen Stopped then Moved On.



View from The Top, Positano



On the Road to Amalfi

Romano and his cohorts at the real estate office all said it was a short walk with not too many stairs. Sounds good, right?  Wrong on two counts. It is a short walk if you’re not carrying baggage up the hill, we turned sharp left and walked up a very steep incline for 100 meters, then negotiated 104 steps to the apartment door.  Romano stopped by the owner’s flat to get the key.  She came out and greeted us; a very warm friendly woman.  She then turned to Romano and asked something in Italian and Romano looked sheepish.  She then told us she would have been happy to take us and our bags up the hill in her small 3-wheeled truck!  Good naturedly, but seriously at the same time, I ribbed Romano about the hike.  We had left a bag or two at the real estate office and had to repeat the “ordeal” yet again.  All in all the hike was not a problem.

The apartment again was exactly as presented in the photos, though the view from the windows was misrepresented.  I assume it’s typical of a real estate agent’s approach to selling; make the property look as good as you possibly can and deal with any fallout later.  We did have an expansive view, just not so much of the water.  Most of the time we are out anyway.


We Purchased Fruit Here


Classic Meat Market, Amalfi


Early Morning Buying Fruit for the Evening

A leisurely walk down the main road took us past meat shops, cheese shops, fruit stands, a hardware store.  As we drew closer to the gulf of Salerno, the shops changed from every day shops for locals to some then more tourist shops.  Amalfi, unlike Positano or Capri, developed in a very narrow canyon.  This limited the town’s sprawl and also the number of shops catering to tourists.  There are no “high end” or designer shops in Amalfi.  The town is not the glamorous jet-setter destination we expected.  We were glad for that.  Amalfi is a rustic quaint town alive today as it has been for decades, perhaps centuries.  The rich and famous have expansive villas built into the hillsides around Amalfi, but they are mostly hidden.  Sofia Loren’s villa sits along on a promontory between Positano and Amalfi.


Amalfi’s Duomo

Learning from our mistake in Salerno, we found the ferry terminal and the bus stop to points north and south.  Amalfi’s seaside is quite small.  Back at the apartment with our other bags, I recalled a restaurant that Megan, practically a family member,, had recommended on her honeymoon on the Amalfi coast.  Checking my “play book” I found Da Gemma and called them on my trusty Italian phone.  Yes they could make a reservation for 7:30 tonight, how many?  “Due, per favore”.  The Italians just know which language to switch to.   It can be hard to practice Italian; I do it anyway.  Every now and then I’ll ask something in Italian, and I’ll get a barrage of phrases strung together that could be individual words or could be one big run-on germanic like word.  It’s fun.  Usually my blank expression is clue enough that that last question I asked might just be the only “good” Italian I know!

Da Gemma

We found the restaurant with ease and were guided to a less than perfect table.  Ellen asked to be seated by the windows. “ I am sorry but that is not possible.”  During most of our nearly 3 hour meal that followed, the window seats remained empty. But about an hour before we left, they filled.  It is not unusual for an Italian family or couple to linger for hours at a table enjoying each other’s company.  In Italy, you are not simply paying for a meal.  You are paying for the table for the night.  Tables the appear empty are often being held for a party that could show up early or (more typically) late.  That group would rightly be very upset if “their” table was not available.  If you read through any restaurant reviews posted by Americans in Italy, many of the poor reviews revolve around poor service or not being seated where the couple expected: no window seat when there were clearly numerous seats available.  Dining in Italy is a wonderful experience.  “When in Rome…”



We started our meal at 7:30 with a bottle of aqua con gas and a bottle of white wine and some good natured conversation. The restaurant opens at 7, there were a number of people seated already. The waiter brought a small appetizer with compliments of the chef, one for each of us.  With a hint of plantain, it was a welcome surprise, very tasty, with not easily recognizable ingredients. Perfect.  I had seen a number of scorfano on ice when we entered.  This was the fish Toni had raved about. Ellen had the house specialty pasta, Mezzi paccheri alla genovese and I asked for scorfano, one of the special fresh catch of the day.  I was told it would be grilled and fileted with a touch of olive oil and lemon on the side. Perfect.  The wine improved as it breathed, the meal was very very good.  After the main course, the waiter brought each of  a mousse to clear our palette for dessert.  The bottom layer was a cream with a hint of lemon, the next layer was a hint of strawberry, and it was topped off with small flacks of caramelized ginger. We ordered variations on chocolate for our dessert. It consisted of five chocolate presentations: one was white chocolate with a small egg sized serving of chocolate gelato, another was a small chocolate lava cake, another was a chocolate and chili mouse. All were very good.  We were happily considering asking for the check, when the waiter appeared with another dessert dish, this one with eight mini pastries.  A very tiny cream puff, another was a cherry cream puff, another candied mango dipped in chocolate,  the fourth escapes me.    It was now 10:10; the restaurant had filled and was very lively.


First Teaser Appetizer, Complimentary

The first appetizer was a fried cheese with a hint of plantain with a splash of pesto reduction and tangy red pepper sauce.


Half an Appetizer, We Shared

We ordered a mixed appetizer which included hand made sausage, ricotta stuffed zucchini flower, and tuna carpaccio.  I had fresh scorfano sautéed in olive oil and served with no embellishment.  Ellen had Mezzi Paccheri alla Genovese.  Grandma Gemma’s Genovese pasta recipe of short rigatoni stuffed with her special meat.  Both were great, though my single serving fish was small.


We Shared a Bottle of White Wine

The wine was very good, but needed time in the glass to develop.



We ordered a mixed dessert of chocolate chili mouse, volcano chocolate cake, white chocolate mousse with chocolate gelato and caramelized ginger, and a scrumptious something.


Palette Cleanser and Chef’s Complimentary Dessert

After we thought we were done, our waiter brought out two orange ginger palette cleansers and a set of pastries: a mini coffee cream puff,, a sour cherry mascarpone soft cookie,  butter cookies, and chocolate dipped candied mango.  The orange ginger drink was exquisite.


A Representation of Amalfi built into a rock face

In the back of the main street in Amalfi is a representation of houses stacked together much like those in Amalfi.  It was fascinating to look at. Going home from Da Gemma, we found that the artwork is electrified and has tiny lights glowing from the house windows.


Stairway to Our Apartment, 1/3 of the way up.

Today was a week day; Amalfi was asleep.  There were a few couples walking about, but noting was happening.  It felt like the sidewalks had been rolled up.  It was a long day for us, coming from Capri, to Sorrento, Positano, and Amalfi.   We went home and right to sleep.


The next 1/3 of the way to our lair.