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Trip Report Amalfi Coast and Puglia trip report

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We just returned from Amalfi coast and Puglia and since I used many of the trip reports on these forums, I wanted to post my own. We had a trip planned for Sept., but had to cancel for work (ugh). I had the opportunity to schedule for Oct. 10-23. I was a little concerned about the weather, but it actually turned out fine, except for a few rainy days in Positano. The weather in Puglia was very nice the entire time we were there, which was the second week.

We few into Rome and took the train from FCO to Termini and then to Naples. We didn't buy the tickets in advance because I didn't know how long it would take to get to Termini. Buying the tickets at FCO is better than Termini because that station is incredibly crowded.

Our B&B arranged for a car to pick us up in Naples. Although it was 100 Euros, I'm glad that we did. Taking the Circumvesia and SITA bus to Positano with luggage would have been challenging.

We stayed at La Tavolozza in Positano. The location is very good because the car was able to stop right in front. Many hotels and B&Bs are accessible only with stairs, which is challenging with luggage. We had a small apartment with a kitchenette. This was handy for morning coffee, since my boyfriend and I like coffee as soon as we wake up. The guest house will bring breakfast for an extra charge, but we never did that because I discovered a great place for croissants (La Zagara) right down the stairs from the guest house. They have chocolate, custard and marmalade filled for one Euro a piece. There was also a deli at the bottom of the stairs that had yogurt (also sandwiches). The room had a huge balcony with a lovely view of Positano (although not of the beach). The owners of La Tavolozza are Celeste and her daughters Francesca and Paola. They are extremely welcoming and helpful with logistics and restaurant reservations (Paola took our heavy suitcases down two flights of stairs). I felt like I knew them before we arrived because of all the e-mails back and forth changing reservations, making car arrangements, etc. They don't take credit cards, but asked for a check for one night's cost when I first made the booking. I was a little reluctant to send this, but I read on TripAdvisor that it is no problem. Even when I thought I had to cancel the trip, they were willing to tear up the check and returned it to me when we checked out. The other advantage of this guest house is the proximity to the SITA bus stop, which we used several times.

I wouldn't recommend having a car is Positano because the parking is difficult and expensive and the driving looks frightening. The people at the guest house helped us figure out the bus and train logistics for a day trip to Naples and another one to Pompei. The buses do not run terribly frequently and the schedule varies depending on the day. Definitely get a timetable from your hotel or the Tourist Information office (down toward the beach, but difficult to find.) You need to get to the bus stop at least 10 or 15 minutes in advance because if the bus happens to be early, it won't wait. Since we were there in October, we generally had not problem getting a seat on the bus, but I'm sure that it is a problem in high season. You need to buy a ticket in advance, which you can get at the Tabacci. We debated whether to stay in Positano or Sorrento because the transportation is easier from Sorrento. Although we didn't really spend time in sorrento, other than to catch the Circumvesia, it did not look as nice as Positano. Also, Sorrento is very congested because cruse ships stop there. I am also glad we didn't stay in Amalfi because it is another half hour from sorrento if you plan to go to Naples or Pompei on the Circumvesia.

In retrospect, I would have combined Naples and Pompei into a single day, just because it takes so long to get to Sorrento on the bus (about an hour assuming the bus is on time) and then another hour to Naples and about a half hour to Pompei.

The highlights of our five day stay in Positano were our hikes to Montepertuso and Nochelle, two towns above Positano that can be reached by a path that is basically all stairs, and another hike in Amalfi. It is not difficult, but be prepared to stop and catch your breath on a regular basis. It rained on and off the day we went, but we had hiking boots, poles and rain gear, so it was fine. The views are spectacular and we encountered very few other people (probably the weather). We had lunch in Nocelle at Ristorante Santa Croce, which has a spectacular ocean view. We were definitely ready for a rest by the time we got there. Our plan was to hike to Priano on the Path of the the Gods, but it began to rain very hard and we were concerned about the path getting muddy and slippery. We hiked about a half hour out from Nocelle and then turned back. The portion of the path we hiked was not terribly difficult with the right equipment, but I think it may be a bit scary without boots and poles, because it is basically a ledge, although some portions have a railing.

Two days later we took the bus to Amalfi, which we found rather crowded and a bit touristy compared to Positano. As a result, we were anxious to find the hiking paths through the Valle die Mulini (Mills) which climbs above the town. There are many options and some very long trails, but we chose the path to Pontone, a small town above Amalfi, since my boyfriend wanted to make sure we could have lunch along the way. This path, like the path to Montepertuso, is mainly stairs. The views are beautiful, through lemon groves and past abandoned paper mills. We encountered only one other couple along the way. it was a great contrast to the crowds in Amalfi. There is an excellent pizzeria in Pontone (Pizzeria San Giovanni), where I had an excellent calzone for lunch.

I will finish up this report later.

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    That's what these forums are all about--you read posts to get ideas and then you give ideas in your posts when you return.

    There are many questions about which town to stay in on the Amalfi Coast and I think you gave us some good insight as to the differences. It's on our list of "go to" places so I was interersted in your thoughts.

    Looking forward to reading about the rest of your trip.

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    I'm wondering how crowded Positano was? We were there the weekend Oct 6 and left due to the crowds. We love the area, but would want to return only if less crowded, so appreciate hearing about it a bit later in Oct. thanks

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    yestravel, we were in Positano a little over a week after you and it was still very crowded, not as crowded as Amalfi though, and Capri was absolutely wall to wall people, you could barely move in the area around the marina.

    We were in Sorrento for five days after that and it was also very busy. We actually stayed in Sant'Agnello, a 20 minute walk from the centre of Sorrento and that was great, not crowded at all, a great spot to stay.

    On the Amalfi coast we stayed in Minori and did day trips to the other places which worked out well and Minori is still just a lovely local town.

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    We visited the Amalfi Coast for 10 days en route to the Greek island of Kos to attend a wedding. We hired a car (from Rome) and drove directly to our gorgeous hotel where we were staying at a gorgeous little Hotel, called Onde Verde which precariously clung to the side of an almost vertical cliff. The room was charming with a jaw-dropping view straight up the incredible Amalfi coastline and down over the beach at the Marina di Praia which was situated right below us.
    The scenery along the Amalfi Coast is absolutely spectacular! However, I have to tell you that driving along the narrow, hairpin bends there is not for the faint hearted. Accidents are common and the local bus drivers scream around the blind corners with reckless abandon; also one must contend with suicidal backpackers/tourists wandering across the narrow roads cause a real danger to themselves and nervous drivers. We decided to leave the car and catch the local buses up and down the Amalfi Coast (which is only 40 kms in length) but the public transport system in Italy leaves a lot to be desired with buses often running late and very over-crowded!

    RECOMMENDED HIGHLIGHTS:

    If you get to do ONE thing, make sure you do the PATH OF THE GODS. As the name implies, it is long, steep and arduous but the unbelievable scenery is so gorgeous it is sublime! View this link:

    http://www.summerinitaly.com/guide/walk-of-the-gods

    It took us a full day to do most of the hike or you can do it in sections whilst you are staying there. Take lots of water, good hiking shoes and rest frequently to enjoy the views. Stop at one of the many little villages for a nice lunch and enjoy the trip! We commenced from Positano and it took us about 6 hours of leisurely hiking to Bomerano where got the bus back to our Hotel (very exhausted but so pleased with ourselves). Its one of the most beautiful walks in the world!

    Also, a trip to the Isle of Capri is an absolute MUST! A boat trip to the lovely Blue Grotto is worth doing. However, what stands out is the absolutely amazing church of St Michael (in the hamlet of Anacapri) which has the most stunning painted ceramic floor. It was painted in the 17th century with strange animals, eg unicorns and weird depictions of African animals obviously painted by someone who has never seen an elephant or a lion before. A great view can be seen of the overall ceramic floor from a belfry that can be reached by way of a narrow spiral staircase near the main entrance of the church. It really is worth the nominal 2 Euro entry fee. A word of warning, though, it takes FOREVER to wait for a spot on the buses to get up to Anacapri - my advice is to share a cab with someone!

    http://www.tiles.org/pages/tilesite/anacapri/anacapri.htm

    One of the most stunning little villages to see is the absolutely breathtaking village of RAVELLO. Ravello does live up to its reputation. It is a charming little village. There are a lot of tourists milling about but nowhere near as crowded as Amalfi or the Isle of Capri. We wandered along the narrow, steep cobbled streets that reminded me of the Medinas in Marrakesh. Little shops selling all sorts of beautiful ceramics, clothing and souvenirs crowded down both sides of the tiny streets. Continued onwards to see the famous Villa Rufolo. This was a remarkable building dating back to the 13th century with an amazing eclectic mixture of Arabic, Sicilian and Norman architecture. Sadly, there was not much to be seen internally (with exception of some odd art exhibitions). However, the gardens and location are breathtaking! There was a lot of building going on when we were there, with local tradesmen erecting facilities for the Fondazione Ravello Festival to house the Philharmonic Orchestra on a stage that projects straight out over the sea. The gardens of the Villa have a matchless panorama of the coast that is so beautiful, Richard Wagner described it as his "magical garden of Klingsor".

    Visit and hike the Monti Latarri National Park:

    This is a beautiful place to go. We drove up and up into the mountains, passed the sweet little hamlet of Nocelle with its incredible views looking down, down, down over vast valleys to the Mediterranean miles below us. Finally found a rather decent car park area and noticed the almost vertical steps leading up into the Monti Lattari Park. We went up, up and up; clamouring up over 400 steps until we arrived at an area so high, it made us dizzy. The pathway became a narrow, precipitous overgrown track that had no safety rails or clear signage as to where to go. We walked a short way but noticed there were a lot of trails leading off it and were surprised that a walk of this calibre was not more clearly marked. We decided against venturing further as we had already been walking for nearly 2 hours and it was uncomfortably hot. Returned back down the 400 steep steps and were glad to get back into the air conditioned car. The views in this lofty part of the Amalfi Coast are a photographer's dream!

    Enjoy! It really is one of the most beautiful places on earth. You will need to allow yourselves at least a week to absorb it all.

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    To continue, from Positano we picked up a rental car in Salerno. It cost us 100 euros for the car service to Salerno, but we didn't feel like dealing with the crowds on the bus from Positano to Salerno, althought it can be done. We drove from there to Matera, a very easy four hour drive with virtually no traffic. We rented from Europecar. Surprisingly, there was no drop charge to leave the car in Bari. I will also say that if you call Europecar rather than just using their website you can sometimes get better pricing.

    We stayed at Hotel in Pietra, one of the cave hotels. I was concerned that a cave hotel may be damp and musky, but there are humidity control systems and it was not damp at all. The rooms were beautiful and the front desk people very helpful. I highly recommend the hotel. Matera is a very unusual place and has a completely different feel to it than anyplace else I have been. It seems quite deserted when we were there in October, but the weather was moderate and sunny. It was Tuesday and most places we're not open for lunch, but our hotel very kindly called around and discovered that Osteria Pico was open. It is also built into a cave and very lovely. The food was excellent.

    We only had one night in Matera and very easily could have stayed another day. I would say the highlight was out visit to the sculpture museum. The setting, a series of caves, is unusual and the pieces are beautifully displayed. Even if you are not not interested in art it is worth going, just to see how everything is displayed.

    We went into the new city for dinner at Il Cantuccio. Walking through the sassi (cave area) is like a maze, but we managed to figure it out. The restaurant was very good. I have separate restaurant reviews for the trip on Tripadvisor.

    If you are combining the Amalfi coast with Puglia, Matera is a great stop because it breaks up the drive to Puglia and I am glad we didn't miss it. Some people do day trips from Lecce or other places in Puglia, but part of the fun was staying there.

    More later

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    Hi! Now we are doing amalfi and puglia: Starting from the 3rd in rome and leaving naples on the 13th. as you can imagine, we have devoured your posts, and are waiting for you to complete the story. Its like going to see a Hitchcock movie and watching it till the last reel. We want to know more: even if an abridged version. Hope you can post this fast!

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    Rats! I just wrote a long report on Lecce, which I managed to lose while I was previewing, so I'll need to do a short version

    From Matera we drove to Lecce where we had booked a B&B called Roof Barocco B&B. The B&B way exceeded our expectations, with a beautifully decorated suite, wonderful food and a lovely owner, Elisabetta. I reviewed it on TA.
    Dinner at Osteria degli Spiriti-very good food, had spelt spaghetti with vegetables and fish baked in parchment table. Although we could barely eat another thing, stopped for gelato at Pasticceria Natale near the main square--the best gelato of the trip.

    Next day we drove to Gallipoli and had a nice lunch at a cafe on the beach. Next we went to Parco Naturale Regionale di Porto Selveggio a bit north of Gallipoli. It was hard to find because not well marked but beautiful views, almost deserted and good hiking. We only knew about it from my daughter who had been there a few weeks earier because it is off the beaten path.

    For dinner, we didn't feel like a full meal so had Puccia, a local sandwich speciality at L'Angelino Via Matteotti. Definitely worth trying and very inexpensive.

    The next morning we explored the historic section of the city, including the Duomo and Santa Croce. We would have liked another full day in Lecce because we really enjoyed it. when planning the trip, I wasn't sure whether we should venture that far south, but it was definitely worth it. The highway driving was unstressful.

    At midday we headed for Masseria Il Frontoio a few miles north of Ostuni. I debated whether to book this place because it was more $$ than other places we stayed, but I was glad we did.

    More later about that area of Puglia.

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    Arrived at the masseria about halfway through a multi-course lunch that was being served to a cycling tour group. The food as fresh and excellent. We spent the afternoon relaxing in the masseria court yard and I set about trying to find a source for bicycle rental. This proved challenging as the places i found in a google search all had a one week minimum. I mentioned this to the woman at the reception desk and after a considerable amount of research, she came up with Nature Bikes in Cisternino. Although they normally do guided tours, Vito was happy to rent to us for the day because it was slow season.

    For dinner she recommended Osteria Piazetta Catedrale in Ostuni. Ostuni is a pretty town on a hill that looks all white when seen from a distance. We enjoyed the food and the atmosphere.

    Vito picked us up at the masseria in the morning and drove us along a suggested bike route between the masseria and his garage in Cisternino, further inland and up a hill from Ostuni. His bikes were in excellent condition and he showed us a few beautiful vantage points near his garage. We rode through Cisternino, another pretty town and then headed toward the sea. Overall, it was one of the best days of the trip. for the most part we rode on traffic-free back roads through olive groves and along the sea, stopping for lunch in Pozzo Faceto. The ride took us the better part of the day and ended at the masseria where Vito picked up the bikes. This part of of Puglia has signposted cycle routes and is very good for cycling.

    The masseria serves 8 course dinners on certain evenings and we had booked for that night. Although the dinner was a mixture of vegetarian and meat course, but thay accomodated me with a fully vegetarian meal. This was our best meal of the trip. When I researched accomodations while planning the trip, the reviews of the masseria where somewhat mixed. We were very pleased with the food, the room (we booked a superior room in the main building and the beautiful common areas. They also had the best coffee that we had on the trip.

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