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Our trip to Sorrento/Amalfi Coast and Rome, Sept. 2006

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We spent 4 nights in Sorrento and 5 nights in Rome last month to celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary. As with our trip to Venice and Florence last year, this one was greatly enhanced by all the wonderful information gleaned on this board.

TRANSPORTATION

Last year we took the Eurostar and local trains from Venice to Florence and Florence to Lucca; this year we splurged. We used Carlo Ciardi with Rome in Limo (www.romeinlimo.com) to drive us from Rome to Sorrento and back, and would recommend his service.

ACCOMMODATIONS IN SORRENTO

We stayed at Grand Hotel Excelsior Vittoria. It is situated where a villa of Emperor Augustus once stood, with stunning views of the Bay of Naples and Mt. Vesuvius.
A long pathway from the front of the hotel through lush gardens spills onto Piazza Tasso, Sorrento's main square. The hotel's interior is lovely, with decorated ceilings, period furniture, myriad sitting areas, outdoor verandas. A private elevator leads down to the marina. Our room was a "classic sea view," spacious with high ceilings, canopy bed, sitting area, large bathroom with separate tub and shower, and two balconies. Our views truly were spectacular. Breakfast was included with our package, a large spread of hot and cold foods served in the beautiful main dining room, as were two one way tickets on the hydrofoil to Capri. Sparkling wine, chocolates and fruits greeted us upon arrival, along with anniversary wishes. Housekeeping refreshed the room twice daily; there was free internet service. We found the staff to be gracious and accommodating, and the concierges especially helpful. We would stay there again.

RESTAURANTS

Ristorante Caruso: Our pastas - pappardelle with lightly crisped zucchini and gnocchi with mozzarella and basil - were quite good. Main courses - veal with porcini sauce and arugula and a filet with balsamic vinegar - were good, as was the service.

Il Buco: Our favorite restaurant in Sorrento. The interior is cozy and charming, with a comforting rounded ceiling of old brick. Service was wonderful. A complimentary appetizer began the meal. Breads were delicious. We had chicory soup and a carpaccio of cheese, arugula and porcini mushrooms, followed by risotto with lemon and lobster, delicate lemon white fish and wonderful turbot with bread crumbs and olive oil for main courses. Dessert was a souffle with vanilla ice cream and pistachio sauce.

Ristorante Tasso: Casual atmosphere; good food, good service, very close to the hotel. We ate there twice (the second night due to weather). Pasta with mushrooms and provolone, risotto with shrimp and vegetables, cod fish and red snapper the first night and a very tasty pizza margherita and pizza with cheese, cherry tomatoes, olives and arugula the next (arugula was a recurring theme).

Pizzeria Aurora: We had lunch outdoors here. The pizzas were tasty.

Gelateria Davide: Wonderful gelato - especially the banana, nocciola and chocolate/orange.

SORRENTO IMPRESSIONS

Sorrento is small and very walkable, with typical narrow, cobblestone streets, hundreds of scooters; bustling in the daytime, very lively in the evening, with a population swelled by tourists and feral cats. It is a city of lemons and music boxes. We enjoyed browsing in its shops.

I found Sorrento to be the perfect launching point for our day trips to Capri and along the Amalfi Coast. (Positano would have been far too steep for hubby). Unfortunately, with one day of unrelenting torrential downpours and another of off and on rain, we sacrificed a trip to Pompeii. Just one of many reasons to return.

Of course we tasted limoncello. Both of us unused to alcohol for many years (health reasons), we found it a bit strong for our taste. Hubby especially, who with a reflex motion spit his back into the cup, much to my horror and the bemused dismay of the shopkeeper! Being brave (and perhaps feeling guilty), he tried it again at another shop, where he managed to keep the liquid in his mouth. His opinion of its taste, however, didn't change. In defense of lemons in general, we shared an amazing glass of lemonade on Capri.

CAPRI AND THE AMALFI COAST

One of our day trips was to Capri. We caught the hydrofoil at the harbor below our hotel. The cost was 12 euros each way. We loved being on the water for the 20 minute rides back and forth. We took the funicular from Marina Grande - 1.30 euros each way - a ride much briefer than the time we waited in line to cram into the cars. We took a bus to Anacapri - another 1.30 euros. It was quite windy, so we passed on the chairlift to Mt. Solaro.

Capri is lovely, lush, green, tropical, bursting with color, with flowers and cactus. We walked down Via Vittorio Emanuele toward the Giardini di Augusto for wonderful views of the Faraglioni rocks and the sea. The main square was swarming with high end shops, hotels, restaurants and cafes. We had lunch outside; ate our expensive panninis and sipped our expensive fruit drinks, pretending not to be 2 of the millions of tourists who had invaded the island.

We had hired Renato Cuomo - www.cuomonet.it - to take us on a tour of the Amalfi Coast, with stops in Positano, Amalfi and Ravello. We awoke to thunder, lightning, and rain falling in sheets the morning of our scheduled tour. Renato was accommodating to let us switch days. As he was booked the next day, he arranged for another driver to take us. Vincent was personable, informative and an expert driver. Having lived in Colorado and driven its steep and winding mountain roads, we didn't find the Amalfi Coast road daunting.
As passengers. Driving would have been another story, with all the scooters, cars, busses competing for space around narrow turns. Despite Vincent's experience and skill, another driver came too close and damaged one of his mirrors.

We found the Amalfi Coast amazingly beautiful - stunning - a sparkling jewel.

We spent the most time in Positano, where we walked down to the beach. Heading back up the steep, narrow paths, hubby was glad we had chosen Sorrento as our base! I bought lovely ceramic pieces at Umberto Carro Ceramiche d'arte at Viale Pasitea 98.


We had the sun with us in Positano and when we stopped for a nice lunch on the way to Amalfi, at a restaurant above the Emerald Grotto. Here, the clouds began to roll in.
We drove directly to Ravello, where our views from above were lovely. My husband gamely climbed the steep, many staired path to Villa Cimbrone, where it began to rain. Still beautiful in the rain; we'll have to return in sunshine.

We stopped in Amalfi on the way back. I found it overrun with traffic. I loved its duomo.

HIGHLIGHTS, FINAL THOUGHTS

Our first, magnificent views of Mount Vesuvius and the Bay of Naples from our
hotel. Bursts of color, light, thunder as we watched fireworks from our balcony. The gentle rolling of our hydrofoil returning from Capri, with the island behind us and Sorrento in front. Lemons everywhere - on the trees, in the food, in the soaps and candies and liquor. Capri. The Amalfi Coast drive, with its tremendous views of the sea and its lovely towns hugging the mountains, defying gravity. The gracious locals.

With its tourist hordes and less than ideal weather, I found the area relaxing, a haven from everyday stresses. I would return in a flash.



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