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Trip Report Vico Equense, Amalfi, Capri, Ischia and Napoli! Viva Italia!

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Back from a splendid 3-week adventure in Italy. Here is our "do not miss" and "skip" list of the trip (mostly food-related but hey, we are self-confessed foodies!). If you have questions, don’t hesitate to send me an email! Also, pictures will follow!

1st stop – 5 days in Vico Equense
After a LONG plane trip (2 missed connections, late planes) and LOST baggages, we made it to Napoli airport, but there were no more trains or busses to Vico. Happily, the owner of our rental apartment (http://www.laloggetella.it) had arranged for a special-rate taxi to wait for us.

We really enjoyed Vico. There are no foreign tourists there whatsoever, so you really do have an authentic Italian vibe. Everything is also cheaper than elsewhere on the Sorrentine peninsula and Amalfi coast. It’s super easy (and cheap) to go to Pompei and Herculaneum by train, and it’s only about 5 stops from Sorrento. Overall, really a nice place to recuperate from the jetlag and start the trip.

The apartment was well-situated and had pretty much the best balcony (and view) in town, but the owner does not live in the area and the man in charge is very nice but speaks only Italian. Makes it harder to have the broken shower and coffee machine fixed!

DO NOT MISS:
Pizza al metro (http://it.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pizza_al_metro). Hands down the BEST pizza we’ve had in Italy (Napoli included!). Do not miss it. Busy, loud, family-oriented, perfect.

Gabriele Gelateria. The THIRD best gelato of the trip (yes, I’ve graded them!). The ricotta and pear was divine.

Pompei and Herculaneum. We both preferred the later because of its smaller size and more complete buildings. You have a better sense of what it was like back then. That said, do not miss Pompei, but you MUST see the SUPERB mosaics in the Archeological museum in Napoli to complement the visit. One can’t really go without the other. It also helped a great deal that we watched a documentary on the eruption before we left. It gave us more context. The crowds were not that bad and we did manage to find a spot where we were completely alone. Creepy and memorable.

The small shop near the Joàn bar, right on the corner of the central square. The fabulous shopkeeper gave us figs and basil to go with the best prosciutto and buffala ricotta of the whole trip. As a bonus, he will show you where Bruce Springsteen’s grandfather was born!

SKIP:
Marina beach: Do not bother with the beach at the main marina. Blah. Can’t quite understand why many Italians think that the beach is a collective ashtray. Anyhow, we went to a beach a bit farther east and it is MUCH better, although the hike back up is quite taxing…

Vic Street restaurant. Although this restaurant receives rave reviews on certain sites, this is by far the worst (and most expensive) meal we’ve had in 3 weeks.

I’m afraid to write this, but we did not enjoy Sorrento that much. We would have skipped it. Too touristy, too many souvenir shops, just too much. Maybe it’s different if you stay there overnight, but for a day trip, it didn’t do it for us.

2nd stop – 3 days in Amalfi
We LOVED Amalfi. This was our favorite stop of our first 2 weeks. We took the train to Sorrento, then the bus to Amalfi (thank God I did not have to take another bus during the trip! Unpleasant experience). We stayed at Residenza Luce (http://www.residenzaluce.it/) and can’t recommend it more. Lovely, clean, GREAT staff, spacious, fabulous balcony and… the best part… the owner Vincenzo also owns the restaurant L’ABSIDE just beside. We went there for our first lunch and ended up returning for every meal (except one, read on). Everytime, it was simple, delicious, spot on perfection.

DO NOT MISS:
Obviously, L’Abside. Special mention to the zucchini pasta, the carbonara (DH’s favourite of the trip), the bruschetta and the fresh grilled fish with grilled veggies and smoked mozzarella.

One day, we hiked up to Pogerolla. Whew! It was about 1.5 hours to go up and 1 hour of steps to come back down (hello tight calf muscles!). However, once we got there we ate at the OSTERIA RISPOLI and did not regret the arduous walk up. The homemade scialatielli (a thick homemade pasta I developed an instant addiction to) was sublime, served with tomatoes, aubergine and smoked mozzarella. With a large Peroni each, I think we paid 22 euros in total. Viva Italia!

Ravello. We took the open red bus to Ravello and really enjoyed the ride. Much better than the crowded SITA buses. Ravello is lovely, quiet and breathtaking. We went to Villa Cimbrone and enjoyed it very much. We ate a very good plate of figs and prosciutto and bolognese spaghetti at Cumpa Cosima. It’s worth to go just to meet the owner. Trust.
We did enjoy the public beach in Amalfi since it was so close to the apartment. Again, not the cleanest beach, but just irresistible after a long hike in 40 degrees celcius weather!

3rd stop – 2 days in Capri
This is the only thing we would do different. Altough I think I might have regretted not seeing Capri, it really wasn’t our favourite leg of the trip. Too much Prada, too many tourists, too much noise and exhaust fumes. It’s worth it I guess to stay the night to experience Capri after all the daytrippers have gone (and when all the facelifts come out to play), but had we known, we would have stayed longer in Amalfi and Ischia (read on).
We stayed at Aiano B&B (http://www.capri.com/en/c/aiano). Nice enough, but the highlight is the owner, Tony, and his wife. So kind.

DO NOT MISS:
The first day, following Tony’s suggestion, we decided to take the lift to the top of Mount Solaro. FABULOUS view. One of DH’s highlights of the trip. However, Tony had told us that we could easily hike back down to the beach in “a few hours…You guys are young!”. This is then this turns into an absolute SKIP! The trail is unmarked, quite dangerous and no fun whatsover (unless you like to breath in dust, cook under the sun and battle with wild goats!). To make a long story short, after 1.5 hours of sweating (and swearing I must admit), we finally found a road just to be approached by 3 mad, mad dogs. Happily, the owner was not far away and I managed to tell her with my limited Italian that we were lost and were heading for Forio. She looked at us as if we were complete lunatics. TROPPO CALDO! Yes, indeed it was too hot, I had a migraine and the sea seemed just as far away as when we were on top of the mountain. We walked another 45 minutes to find a bus and went back to the B&B. The sea would have to wait another day.

Verginiello restaurant. Tony recommended this place and it was delicious. It can be tricky to eat well without spending a fortune in Capri. This place is packed with locals, the food is delicious (best seafood pasta of the trip) and the price, super reasonable.

Swimming at Marina Picola. FINALLY, I was back in the sea and I must give points to Capri here. Best swim of the trip. Cool, pure water. Ah. What a pleasure. We did not stay too long since it was the weekend and the beach quickly became packed. The walk down is lovely though. Do not miss it.

Having a spritz. Having a spritz (aperol, soda and prosecco) was part of our daily ritual. In Capri, you have the added pleasure of serious people-watching. Really, it’s a live fashion show and quite entertaining.

Buonecore gelato. The pastries were devine (the Capriu, wow) and the gelato, perfect. Try the roasted almond flavour.

4th stop – 3 days in Ischia
We really, really enjoyed Ischia. Much less touristy than Capri and just as beautiful in our opinion. We stayed at Il Monastero (http://www.albergoilmonastero.it/), on top of the Aragonese Castle. Plus: AMAZING view, the pleasure of returning to the albergo at night when you have the castle to yourself. MINUS: quite expensive, rock-hard bed, good restaurant but a bit overpriced.

DO NOT MISS:
Ischia is known for its volcanic and curative waters. We tried Castiglione thermal park (smaller than others but really enjoyable, less crowded) and one day, we rented a car to tour the island and wound up at Poseidon. Paradise! Do not miss it. After all our hiking and the disastrous hike down mount Solaro, a few turns in the hot/cold bath for lower legs did the trick. Huge (easy to find a little quiet spot) and relaxing! Ahhhh…

Da Ciccio restaurant, Ischio Ponte. On the main street, we ate there twice. Very good prices, multilingual waiter (quite a character) and good, good food.

Rucolino. We discovered this Ischian amaro made with rocket (aragula) on our first night. Suffice it to say we brought back 2 bottles. Reminiscent of Jagermeister, only better.

SKIP:
Do not rent a car in Ischia. Maybe we did not plan our time well, but we were caught twice in a huge traffic jam. I guess when there is only one road circling the island, it’s bound to happen. We have driven in many parts of the world, but this was just no fun. Take the bus or rent a taxi.

5th stop – 3 days in Napoli
After an eventful taxi drive from the port to the hotel, we arrived at lovely Hotel Piazza Bellini (http://www.hotelpiazzabellini.it/). The cheapest, yet BEST spot of our first 2 weeks. Huge, super comfortable bed, good shower, balcony, perfect location (and very very quiet), good breakfast. Highly recommended.

You either love or hate Napoli. It’s hectic, dramatic, noisy, smelly, yet beautiful, passionate and utterly captivating. We felt that 3 days was just the right time. The metro and funicolare work wonderfully and get you everywhere. We also liked the Chiaia and Vomero neighborhoods.

DO NOT MISS:
Museo archeologico. At about 10 minutes on foot from the hotel, this is the first thing we visited. The mosaics section from Pompeii and the erotic art were highlights of the trip. When you see the splendor of those mosaics after seeing Pompeii, it just makes it so much more special.

Café Marino in the Spanich district, vicco Giardinetto just off Via Toledo. Best budget lunch of the trip. Full of Napolitans on their lunchbreak, we thought this tiny place had a good vibe and we were right. Seafood risotto, insalata caprese, mixed grilled vegetables, 2 beers and a bottle of water, and 2 coffees for less than 25 euros. Delicious and friendly.
Piazza Bellini. Just in front of the hotel, this piazza has 4 or 5 bars and is always full of activity (bands, dancing, fireworks) and bustles with artists and students. We went there every night for our aperitivo. Lovely.

Di Matteo pizza. Excellent white margarita that we ate at the hotel with a good bottle of chianti from the nice enoteca near the piazza Dante.

SKIP:
Gorizia (http://www.gorizia1916.com/). Can’t believe this restaurant appears in guides and gets good reviews on certain sites. Bad food (except for the frittura) and really undrinkable house wine. Made us both sick. :(

Next, it’s off for our week in ROMA!

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