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Trip Report Trip Report: Croatia and Italy 9/2/10 to 9/13/10

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My husband and I planned an 11 day trip to Croatia and the Amalfi Coast with much help from many of you Fodorites, so here is our Trip Report.
Day 1
We had a 10:05 PM flight out of JFK to Zurich. We had a 3 hour stop over in Zurich and then a flight to Dubrovnik which only took 1 ½ hours. We were staying at our friend’s familie's luxurious private home that is a “bed and breakfast” as well, called Villa Splendid. It is the most gorgous castle right on the Adriatic Sea that you will ever see. If anyone wants to stay in Dubrovnik in major style you must look at their web site http://web.me.com/acbenmosche/Site/Welcome.html .You will not be disappointed. Since we were their guests, I do not know the rates but I can tell you that it was one of the most gorgous places I have ever stayed in. Anyway-we got picked up by their driver and when we got to the front gate of Villa Splendid our friend and his family were waiting for us to help us take the luggage down to our private villa overlooking the blue Adriatic Sea. They gave us a tour of the whole property which left our mouths wide open. Unbelievable!!!! We then had champagne on the terrace while Nada, their cook, finished preparing dinner. For the first 2 days while we were there, there was a police boat right outside the villa because the President of Croatia was staying 2 house down in Tito’s old home. We had an amazing dinner. After dinner we had homemade grappa. After chatting for a while we retired to our private villa. “Locunoch” (Good Night in Croatian)
Day 2
My husband and I woke up early and read on our private terrace. We had coffee and fruit and then left for a long day with our friends. The driver picked us up and we first stopped at Ston, where there are salt fields and oyster catchers. We then drove to a friend’s of theirs home to visit and spent the day visiting their vineyards which they recently purchased. The views from their vineyards were amazing. While their wines are very young we still drank a bit of it and they were amazing already. We then took the ferry to Korcula. We walked around the quaint town and stopped for a quick snack and drinks. After a full day of traveling to their vineyards we stopped at Mali and had dinner at Bota Sare. Dinner was delicious.
Day 3
The President of Croatia was coming to our friend’s home for lunch to meet them so we hung around the house and swam and got ready for the President and his wife and staff to come for lunch while Nada, the cook, was running around finishing her preparation for lunch with the President. When they arrived they were given a tour of the property and many photos with the President were taken. We sat down for an amazing lunch. They were gone by 3:00. We then went to our friend’s boat at the dock of their home for a tour of the islands. Unfortunately the boat had mechanical problems so we went to Lapad Beach for a drink and relaxed by the water. We then went back to the house to get dressed as we were all going out to dinner at an Italian restaurant called Restaurant Atlantic in Konopka. It was good not great. After dinner we went to the Old City which was amazing. We had a drink at a Jazz Bar, Troubadour, which was really great.
Day 4
In the morning we went back to the Old City to walk the steps. It was a wonderful walk with great views of the city and all the outdoor cafes. We went back to the house for lunch. We then went back to the Old City to walk around, shop and see some of the sites. We saw the old synagogue, a cathedral and the old pharmacy. We stopped at one of the outdoor cafes outside the wall and had a cold drink. There were many people sun bathing and swimming. We wish we had our suits on as we would have loved to jump in too.We went back to the house for a swim and hang in the hot tub. Nada made another amazing dinner and then we packed for our early departure tomorrow.
Day 5
The driver picked us up at 5:00 AM for our 6:25 AM flight to Zagreb. It took 50 minutes to get there. We had a 1 ½ hour wait there for our flight to Rome. We arrived in Rome and got our bags. I had pre-arranged a driver, Giancarlo of Tour of Italy, to take us to Ravello. He was there and we started our 4 hour drive to Ravello. My husband was a bit annoyed with him as we had told him we were hungry and we needed to stop at an ATM machine to get Euros . He explained that until we get off of the major highway there was no places to stop, which we understood. But after getting off the main highway we kept waiting for him to stop. He never did until we got to the town of Ravello. He managed stop at an ATM so we could pay him but we were starving. We think he did not want to waste time for us to eat quickly so his day would end earlier. The cost for the transfer was 350 Euros. We got to Hotel Caruso which is an amazing property. We were given a tour of the property by the PR Manager, Janet D'Alesio. Since my husband does business with the PR company for Orient Express Hotels, which Hotel Caruso is one of, Janet did take a special interest in us and as it turned out Janet ended up arranging everything for us from that point on!!! She is an amazing person and truly loves what she does and LOVES Hotel Caruso as if she owned it!!! The infinity pool of the hotel literally takes your breath away. We got to our Junior Suite, which was beautiful, and quickly went to the restaurant by the pool for delicous pizza. We then walked to the square and window shopped a bit at the charming shops. The ceramics are just beautiful. We then took a tour of Villa Rufolo which has amazing views. We then went back to the hotel and quickly got dressed as Janet had invited us to her boyfriend's restaurant Era Ora in Palma Campania. It is only 20 minutes from Naples and not from Pompeii. The food and presentation was amazing. Their pizza was also delicious. I would highly recommend this restaurant. It is a bit too far from Ravello but if you are staying in Naples you should not miss it. Outstanding!!!! Her boyfriend, Pietro, came sending out dish after dish after dish. It was an eating marathon but truly spectacular. We did not get home until 2:00AM.
Day 6
We woke up at 9:30 as it was cloudy and rainy. We had breakfast, which is really great at the hotel. We sat by the pool for a while even though it was very cloudy just to relax and read and enjoy the view from the pool. We met Janet by the pool and had lunch with her so that she could go over our plans for Positano. Towards the end of the lunch a young couple on their honeymoon came over and joined us for lunch. They are an actress and actor that are quite popular (leaving their names out for their privacy) It was quite exciting to chat with them and of course take pictures with them. We then went back to the room to change for dinner as Janet arranged for a driver to come and take us to a ceramic factory that she recommends and out to a fish restaurant for dinner. She took us to Ceramica Artistica Solimene in Vietri Sul Mare. They had a huge amount of amazing ceramic pieces and better prices than in Ravello. We bought a beautiful piece for our new wine cellar that they are making up for us and will ship to us. After the driver took us to Acqua Pazza, in a small fishing village called Cetara. The food was terrific. Again the dishes kept coming out and were really delicious. The dessert was equally amazing. We actually bought a bottle of the olive oil they serve and a bottle of the local wine they serve as they were so good. The driver drove us back to Ravello in the pouring rain.
Day 7
We woke up at 9:00 AM and only had coffee as we were going to Mama Agata's Cooking School for the day and we were told that it is an eating fest all day, which it was. We took a 5 minute taxi to get there. It was cloudy and rainy all day which was just fine since we were cooking, eating and drinking all day. It was a great day and I highly recommend it. The other 10 people that were there as well were all so interesting so it made for a great day. I did book this month's in advance so I would recommend that you do too so as not to be disappointed and get shut out. Mama Agata and her daughter are just adorable and so hospitable. At around 5:30 we got back to Hotel Caruso to check out and meet our driver, which Janet arranged (we cancelled Tour of Italy since my husband really was not happy with the drive to Ravello) to head to Positano. It was really pouring so it took 1 ½ hours to get there and it should only have taken 45 minutes. The rain was so bad that when we passed a town Altrani it got completely flooded, cars floating in the water and 3 people actually died. It was really terrible. We were staying in Palazzo Murat so their porters had to meet us by the main square where the taxis and buses are as you can't get to the front of the hotel by car. It is a charming hotel, that was once the King of Naple's home. The gardens are just beautiful although there is no pool which did not matter to us although I think they are planning on putting one in soon. We had what we were told was the nicest room in the hotel #5. It is in the main building and had 2 terraces. It was old world beautiful. We were told by other Fodorites to only stay in the main building. We went out for a short walk and looked at a few shops and then came back to the hotel for a light dinner since we were still full from Mama Agata's. The food was really good and we met the head chef Sabatino who was really lovely and a very talented chef. We then went to bed for another full day of touring in the morning.
Day 8
We woke up a little late today and had breakfast and then took the 12:00 Ferry to Amalfi. We met a couple from the same town that we live in and per their recommendation when we got off the ferry we purchased our return trip tickets for 3:00 just in case that the ferry got sold out for that time. We all went to the paper factory Museo Della Carta which was quite interesting. After we walked towards the square and on the way purchased a pocketbook for our daughter at Bazar Floria. We got to the square and took a tour of the Duomo di Saint Andrea and then stopped at La Scudera del Ducar for some paper gifts. By then it was 3:00 and we headed to the Ferry. It was now raining and the line was pretty long to get on the boat so we were happy we purchased our tickets earlier on as there were people that did not get on. When we got off the ferry in Positano we shopped a little. I got a pair of sandals made at Safari. Someone on Fodor's recommended that place and as it turns out there were many sandal making places that we passed over the course of the next dew days but I actually think Safari's style were a little bit nicer than the other ones we passed. We then took the orange line bus up to the top of the hill of Positano and took a leisurely walk down. When we got close to our hotel there was a store where we purchased some really nice lemon perfume and body wash. We quickly changed and had 8:00 plans to meet the "famous couple" at their Hotel Serinuse for dinner. It is a beautiful hotel. Unfortunately both San Pietro and Serinuse were completely booked when we planned our vacation. After dinner we had drinks and cigars with them and then went back to Palazzo Murat.
Day 9
We had to get to the main pier to meet our private speed boat for a day of cruiseing the coast and visiting Capri. We had an adorable captain, Carmine, that Janet arranged for us. It was 700 Euros for the whole day and well worth it. Thankfully the weather changed and it was beautiful and sunny out. We first stopped at the White Cove and my husband jumped in for a swim. We cruised the coast and passed the Blue Grotto. Unfortunately since there had been so much rain the grotto was closed so we were not able to experience it-very upsetting. The Emerald Grotto was open but we were unable to get there in time. We got to Marina Grande and got off the boat to tour Capri. It was very crowded. Since the finicular line was too long we took a taxi up the hill and took a bus to Anacapri. In retrospect, I would recommend that to save time one takes a taxi all the way up to Anancapri. Once we got to Anacapri we took the chair lift up and saw some amazing views. We took the lift down and then the funicular down. We really didn't do much else since it was so crowded and we wanted to be back on the private boat. The captain took us to an amazing restaurant that is reachable primarily only by boat La Conca del Sagno. Anna, the owner, was lovely and the food was amazing. We got tendered back to our boat. Our captain had gotten a call from Janet that she was able to arrange a private English speaking evening tour of Pompeii for us and the "famous couple". So we had to end our boat at 5:00 instead of 6:30 as the driver was picking us up at 6:00 to transfer us to Pompeii. We did first stop at the Cave of Coral and we both jumped in for a swim. We quickly headed back to change and met the driver for the ride to Pompeii. The night tour is quite cool and lasts for 1 hour and 20 minutes. A little dramatic and theatrical but very intense. I don't think it takes the place of seeing Pompeii during the day but a still a very interesting experience. After the tour was over we had reservations at The President restaurant. Paolo, the owner, took very good care of us. I thought the food was just OK but the others seem to like it. The driver took the 4 of us back to Positano to end another day in Paradise.
Day 10
We got up around 9:30 and had breakfast. We walked around the beach area and since it was so beautiful out we headed back to the hotel to change into our bathing suits. One of the nice things about Palazzo Murat is that it is in a great location to be able to go back and forth. We went into the water and sun bathed for about an hour. We went back to the hotel and Janet met us at 1:00 for a quick cold drink and to say good bye. The driver came at 2:00 and loaded up the luggage into the car. Janet suggested we follow her to Villa Treville . It is a beautiful small hotel, only 16 rooms. The General Manager, Ferdinando Alfano, Janet's friend, showed us around and had a drink with us. The rooms are unbelievable. It is a very expensive boutique hotel that was once owned by Maestro Zeferelli and recently purchased by Giovanni Russo. We then went to Sorrento and walked around a bit and had a gelato at Davide, which Janet recommended. It was now really time to say good bye to Janet as we were heading to Rome and stopping at a restaurant for dinner before being dropped off at the Rome Airport Hotel for our departure back to NY in the morning. We were on the road in pretty bad beach traffic so we had the driver call Janet to cancel our dinner reservation at Molto. She was on her way to her boyfriends' restaurant and since we were not that far from it she instructed the driver to take us there for us to have dinner with her. Again we had another amazing feast that Pietro prepared for us. Since it took 3 hours to eat, laugh and chat a new driver came to take us to Rome and switch places with the original driver. We left the restaurant at 11:30 and got to the Rome hotel at 2:00AM. We went right to bed. God knows when the driver got home????
Day 11
The hotel transferred us to Terminal 5 for our 9:55 AM Delta flight back to JFK. We , of course, did some duty free shopping before boarding and had an uneventful flight home and actually arrived 40 minutes early at around 1:00 PM. What an amazing trip. Thanks to all of you that helped us plan this amazing trip although I must admit that once we met Janet she took over!! She was our guiding angel!!!!
Ariva Derche!!!

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