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Trip Report Trip Report - Just back from Amalfi Coast and Rome

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First, thanks to all who were patient with all my planning questions and who provided so much excellent input. Just returned from an almost 24 hour journey home from Rome yesterday and thought to share a few bits before my memory completely goes. In general, we had a wonderful time, savored some fantastic meals, and were lucky with the weather.

Day 1: Arrived on day one in Naples after overnight flight from Newark. Flight and arrival were fine but picking up car at Hertz at Naples airport was awful. Every other rental desk offered prompt service. Hertz was woefully understaffed. It took over 2 hours to get a car we had reserved months in advance. Part of the problem: when we arrived they no longer had the car we had booked. They tried to force a mini-van on us but since we planned to drive on the Amalfi Coast we wanted a smaller car - not a larger one. Eventually took off with no adequate map in hand and discovered only too late that our navigation system from the states was not working correctly! Several wrong turns and bad words later we arrived at our first destination - Pompeii! Stayed at Hotel Forum who provided us with a free upgrade to a lovely suite. Could it be because I had liked them on fb? The room itself was lovely, modern and clean; location ideal across from the ruins entrance, and the free parking was much appreciated. Next morning, the breakfast room in the lemon garden was enchanting. The Hotel was only too happy to let us store our luggage while we ventured out for seeing of sights.

The ruins of Pompeii were a fantastic experience. Perhaps because we didn't arrive until after 3:30 p.m. but we basically had the city to ourselves. The experience of walking through the Forum in late afternoon sunlight - just the two of us - was worth it all. Don't know what I was expecting, but we really felt like we had traveled back in time and had a sense of what it might have been like to have lived there. We took neither guided nor audio tour - just rambled along reading the signs and with a simple paper map.

Walked to a fabulous dinner at Il Principe that night. Not cheap but then we found dining nearly everywhere on this trip to be on the dear side. Chef was very attentive repeatedly coming over to the table to check on our satisfaction and the Prosecco a lovely way to kick off our first meal.

Day 2: Drove to Ercolano. Again without out fully functional GPS or adequate map had a bit of a sitcom experience getting there. We had so been looking forward to Herculaneum based on all my reading and research on this and other boards. So we were frankly a tad underwhelmed. For us this spot, while interesting, was nowhere near as evocative of time and place as Pompeii had been. Or maybe there was just too much sun. What I really found well worth the trip was the next stop to Villa Oplontis. This fantastically well-preserved summer palace of Nero's second wife was breathtaking. The colors and designs in the frescos looked almost new in some places. One could certainly imagine what it must have felt like to call this place "home".

We then drove on to our home for the next 4 nights - Nocelle. Nocelle is a small simple hamlet high above Positano. No frills at all. We stayed comfortably in the family-run B&B of Casa Cuccaro. Our hosts Pepe and Girardina were always friendly and accommodating. We were fortunate to have our hosts provide free parking. Every room plus the terrace offer romantic AC views - look right and see Positano melting down the slopes below and to the left see the twinkling lights of Priano. Breakfasts were simple and nice and the coffee delicious.

Our first night we dined at the next village over in Montepertuso at Il Ritrovo. They picked us up and dropped us off free of charge. This was probably our favorite meal the entire vacation. Despite or maybe because of its being tucked away in a steep mountain village above Positano, the prices were also steep. And worth every penny! DH enjoyed the seafood tasting menu and I the steak version. Every course and every dish was sublime. The selection of artisanal cheeses and selected cold cuts in the antipasti showed evidence of being hand-picked and exquisitely balanced for taste. Service was friendly, free homemade post prandial cordials delightful. At meal's end we were presented with the gifts of a free demi-boteille of their house wine as well as a nice pasta spice mix. Nice touches!

Day 3: A late start and a lingering breakfast overlooking the waters. Took local bus down the hill to explore Positano. Have to say Positano was not our thing. Wall to wall shops and vendors of tourist goods and tourist restaurants. Beach not very appealing. Our favorite part was a the brief walk along the "corniche" on the right side of the bay. The bus drivers on the route between Positano and Nocelle deserve standing ovations. They are punctual, stoic, and can seemingly turn on a dime in the tightest of corners. Enjoyed dinner at one of the two restaurants in Nocelle. It is the first restaurant you pass when walking into town and seems to have no name. It is attached to the local grocery store. At first you think you have the wrong place because there are only a few plastic chairs and tables in an empty and viewless setting. But that's just the "picnic" spot if you pick up a sandwich at the store. Once you walk down a flight of stairs you come upon a dreamlike space -- tables and chairs nestled into a cave looking out over the bay. Service friendly, if unrushed. Menu basic, fresh, and delicious. House wine just the thing. Totter home to our B&B in a state of vacation bliss.

Day 4: Our only morning of rain. By lunchtime we were in the car and on the road to Ravello. To be fair, we did not give Amalfi itself much of a second look. We were very goal oriented that day to make it to and from Ravello before the evening. We very much enjoyed both the Villa Rudolfo and Villa Cimbrone. The gardens were perhaps the nicest we saw the entire trip - so colorful and varied. Views once again breath catching. The town itself was somewhat crowded with more restaurants, and shops and tourists. But it was definitely one of the highlights of our week there. Back in Nocelle, dinner at Santa Croce overlooking the bay where a delicious whole Sea Bream was enjoyed by DH. Homemade gnocchi as light as air.

Day 5: Took the bus down to Positano to catch the 10:30 hydrofoil for Capri. Missed it. As did a number of other tourists coming from Priano. Some kind of traffic issues on the roads that day. Eventually caught the noon boat. Immediately took bus to Anacapri. Had a simple pizza lunch in a quiet cul de sac before exploring Anacapri. Loved the Munthe house and gardens. Again, almost empty except for one small school group who came and went with blessed rapidity. Took the ski lift up to Mt. Solari. That was exciting and views spectacular. Because waters had been a bit choppy, we knew there was no going in to the blue grotto so did not bother. Enjoyed homemade gelato down by the Marina Grande before boating back at 6 pm to Positano. Bus upwards once again and dinner again at the no name restaurant in the cave. It had become rather nippy that evening but they had a lovely large space heating unit which kept us all cozy. Sort of like camping out but with exquisitely prepared Italian home cooking.

Day 5: On the road to Paestum. Wow. What a wonderful road trip! Stopped in Cetara because DH adores anchovies. Picked up some bread, cheese, assorted hams and cold cuts. olives and anchovies. Picnicked in the park along the water and enjoyed the show. About 8 fellows wind-surfing most capably. Then a wedding party showed up for the official wedding photo shoot. We also stopped along the way at Minori or Maiori and enjoyed the scenes there too. Made us consider retiring in this part of the world one day.

Paestum was absolutely fabulous. If it weren't for the umpteen school groups which came and went, we might have been alone. As it was, we were there by the end of the day so enjoyed that mellow westerly light. Sat at the cafe in a corner of the site and listened to the wind rustle the leaves and envisioned the temples and city as it might have been back when. The museum was superb. It seems small from the outside but was brimming with statues, stele, mosaics, and objets excavated over the centuries. Loved the frescos from the Tomb of the Diver. This helped to make up for our never making it to the museum in Naples - our only regret on this trip. We then departed for Caserta.

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