Amalfi Coast trip report low season

Old Mar 19th, 2008, 05:35 PM
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Amalfi Coast trip report low season

Just returned from a weeklong getaway to the Amalfi Coast with my husband. Although I can't be as detailed as some of the other reporters, I will try my best and hopefully the info might be useful to someone else . . .

Sat Mar 2 - arrived in Naples airport, after uneventful flight from Boston with layover in Milan. Fabrizio of Amalfi Drive picked us up to transport us to Le Fioriere hotel in Praiano. The road via Sorrento was blocked, so we took a detour over the mountains through Agerola, where Fabrizio kindly asked if we wanted to stop for lunch. He dropped us at a pizzeria in the middle of town (so sorry I have lost this name!). After ordering a pizza with eggplant and a panzuotto which is kind of like a sandwich with mozzarella, cherry tomatoes and pancetta, the very cheery waitress insisted that we have a slice of parmagiana (eggplant parmesan pie) to start. While we waited for the food we watched her brother the pizza man twirl the dough in the manner of a circus performer. He must have been practicing for a contest. The food was delicious - bill 28 euros for the pizzas, parmagiana, wine & water. Agerola is famous for its mozzarella.

Then back out to the car for the rest of the trip to the hotel, where we arrived about 2 pm. We were welcomed by Luigi and shown our room. I think we were the only guests for the first day or two. Nice, basic room with a beautiful view and balcony. Comfy bed. Bathroom was functional. Dishtowel type bath towels, but big ones. We took a short nap then went out to walk around before dinner. Checked out the beautiful church square where all the kids were playing while their parents went to mass. Praiano was a great base with a neighborhood-like feel. Everyone seems to know everyone and they all say hello when they pass you in the street. Then off to dinner at La Brace a few doors down. We weren't too hungry so: prosciutto & melone, 2 insalata caprese, pasta bolognese and water = 42.60. ***they did try to charge us for three caprese salads. Keep an eye on your bill!! They acted very sheepish when we pointed out the mistake.

Mon March 3 - took the SITA bus to Amalfi. Waiting for the bus we met Frank, or Francesco, a transplanted American who now offers guided walks through his company Walking with the gods. It sounded interesting and at another time of year might have been a little more enticing. As it was the March weather was very cloudy and variable. Frank pointed out some interesting things along the road and then showed us where the bus to Ravello was when we arrived in Amalfi. As soon as we got to Amalfi, I ran in the bar right across from where the buses park and got a SITA timetable for free. I'm a bit neurotic for schedules, so I couldn't think of going to Ravello without the bus schedule. Then we ran across the piazza to where the Ravello bus was pulling out and waved. the driver stopped and we were on our way . . . or so we thought. At a certain point the bus driver stopped and told everyone to get off. Then he indicated that we were to proceed on foot, go up some stairs, and another bus would pick us up. Turns out there was a little landslide blocking the road. So a group of about six of us trudged up some alleyway and went up some stairs. We arrived at the top where an empty bus was parked with no driver. We weren't quite sure what to do at this point. It was decided we would walk down the road a little towards the next stop. Luckily then another bus turned up, picked us up and off we went to Ravello.
We stopped at the main bar (only bar open I should say) on the main piazza and had a coffee while we people watched. Not many tourists, but a lot of local life, including many men sitting in their groups outside the bar and kids running around the piazza. Then off to Villa Cimbrone. Ravello was lovely and peaceful. Dh noted the chiff chaffs singing. (okay I married a birdwatcher). Villa Cimbrone was lovely but foggy - alas, no view. We did enjoy the place to ourselves, except for the gardeners. I can only imagine how it looks when the flowers are in bloom and you can see the sea. Given the weather, after returning to the square and checking out the duomo, we caught the bus back to Amalfi for lunch.
Lunch at Il Teatro, which was okay, but not special. Dh enjoyed the grilled provola cheese wrapped in lemon leaves and grilled fish, I had bruschetta with pasta carbonara (I know - not a local dish), plus 2 salads, 1 patatine fritte, vino & acqua = 45 euros.
We then toured the main street & Amalfi duomo. Enjoyed the lively atmosphere and poked around the town. Bus back to Praiano. Short nap, walk around Praiano, and then dinner at La Brace again.
Two pizzas laden with cheese - they seem to heap the mozzarella on in this region, torta caprese which is a deliciously moist chocolate nut cake, wine & water = 33.55

After dinner we decided to walk down to the beach. Little did we know it was 460 steps down from street level to the beach. (I counted them on the way up). It was an amazing little walk in the dark. The alleyways are lit dimly and you can't see down, so it is impossible to know how far it is. The beach was lit up so at least the view was rewarding. But I wonder how people do that in the summer.

Tues Mar 4 - took the bus to Positano. Got off at Sponda and walked down towards the beach. We stopped for a coffee in a bar. It was busy & crowded because part of the street was fenced off and they were working on the paving stones. It felt claustrophobic and loud. At least half the stores were closed. I was missing the peace of Ravello. Then we walked on to the church & beach area. The beach was also a bit of a worksite. I felt like we should stop and orient. I couldn't get a feel for the place. Had a bottle of water at La Cambusa on the porch which relaxed me. Then we looked around at some of the shops and decided to go to Montepertuso, which is written up as a nice place to stop in Fodors. Managed to find the right bus, anticipating lunch when we got there and then a walk around. Well, when we arrived at the village, much to our dismay no restaurants were open for the season yet. Not even a bar in the town, just an alimentari. I was not in the mood to have sandwiches sitting outside on cold benches, not to mention the fact that I needed to use the bathroom and there wasn't one. By a stroke of luck the bus had not left to go back down to Positano (if we missed the bus we would have had to wait for 2 hours). So we jumped on and went back to La Cambusa for lunch. The waitstaff at La Cambusa was very friendly, and we had a nice table near the window and could watch what activity there was while eating. I get the impression that Positano must be more impressive in summer, because it left a lot to be desired in early March. Lunch was very good. Lost the receipt, but we had two first courses then excellent homemade ravioli and another pasta dish, two primi, two deserts - dh didn't like the local specialty delizia, kind of a lemon cake, two coffees. I think this bill was around 70 euros.

Next we took a little walk off the side of the beach on the Via of the Americas I think which was very pretty along the cliff wall. It leads to another beach area. Then we walked back to the bus stop to discover we had just missed the bus and had another 90 min to wait. So, we walked around some more, and tried to inquire about renting a car since we were interested in going to Paestum and worried about the complication of a bus to Salerno and connecting with bus or train. No luck in two places about rental cars. Well, as we're sitting there figuring out what to do next, the shop behind us opened for the evening, and it was a car rental place. And they had a smart car we could rent. And we could just take the car that day and return it the next evening for the daily rate (90 euros). So we got to drive ourselves back to Praiano.
As I mentioned, Praiano is a place where people sit outside and just watch everything going on and nothing goes unnoticed. Going back we did not stop at our hotel, but drove past to go to Il Furore, the picturesque fjord down the road. Michele, the owner of the hotel was sitting outside talking. It was so funny to see the look on his face as we went tooling by in our Smart. He did a double take as we waved. Then finally dh got to hike down to the bottom of Il Furore. Then we drove back and drove around Praiano a little for some excellent views, before leaving the car in the hotel garage.
We opted to try the wine bar a few doors down from La Brace for dinner. It was already hopping with a group of girls from California and a local birthday party. It wasn't a menu type of place. Gennaro, the owner, helped us pick some wines to try by the glass and started bringing us food. First a bruschetta plate with tomato, anchovy, and eggplant. Next a small plate of a delicious italian macaroni. then another glass of wine and a cheese plate. Just what we needed. We had still not seen any price list and were hypothesizing about the bill. Dh asked to pay. No written bill - just 20 euros total. It was about half of what we expected.

Wed Mar 5 - Paestum
Set off about 8:45 in our Smart. One thing I didn't mention yet is the delightful breakfasts at Il Fioriere. We had breakfast in the bar downstairs, since it was a bit chilly on the balcony. It was one of our favorite hotel breakfasts - very fresh pastries (unusually fresh for a hotel), always fresh fruit, actual toasted bread with a selection of jams, nutella, honey, etc and real cappuccinos in a larger cup than usual.

Drove down the Amalfi Coast to Salerno. It was an easy morning drive with no traffic in a car that was about 3 feet wide! We stopped in Salerno for a coffee and to find a bookstore. I was looking for an italian novel for a class I am taking, and none of the previous towns actually had a decently stocked bookstore that was open. Found a feltrinelli and enjoyed walking through the more built up area. Interesting that the coffees came in plastic cups - that was a new experience. Well, turns out that there was no water in Salerno that morning. No bathroom stop since they were all shut. Lovely. So we bought the book and off to Paestum, where we arrived about 11:30. We decided to have a snack before touring the site, so we had some delicious panini made up at the corner bar. Then off the the very impressive museum and the temples. We were very glad we had made the trip. The site is spectacular and the museum is just my style in that it is not too big, but has some really special things from both Greek & Roman settlements there. The temples were beautiful in the grassy setting in the middle of nowhere.

Then back to Positano via autostrada. Unfortunately it rained a lot on the way home. We didn't stop at any of the mozzarella factories on the way out of Paestum, but it might have been nice if we could have bought some and kept it. I was starting to get a little mozzarellad out, as much as I do like it.
Turned in the car without a problem in Positano, then to fill some time before the bus we had a drink in Le Sirenuse, the posh hotel just down the road from the Sponda bus stop. It was delightful and relaxing. Not cheap, but worth it.

Back in Praiano (Wed eve) we thought we might try the other Trattoria in town we had seen for dinner. It was closed. La Brace was closed. Everything else in town was closed, except the friendly little wine bar, where we wound up again. Tonight it was quite, and Gennaro was at the bar playing chess on the computer with a friend. This time we just had one glass of wine each, water, cheese & speck on bread, and gnocchi alla sorrentina. (still no sign of menus, but it was all just perfect). This time 15 euros.

Back to bed (I forgot to mention that dh enjoyed watching the European Cup soccer games two of the nights in the hotel bar).

Thurs Mar 6 - Herculaneum.
Took SITA bus to Sorrento, where we easily found the Hostel Club Ulisse Deluxe, a decent hotel at a bargain rate. This is not a hotel for views, it is under a parking lot, but the inside is new and very comfortable, worthy of a 3-4 star hotel. No little soaps and things in the bathroom, but at a price of 46 euros a night for a double, it was fine. If I went back I would take my swimsuit, since the hotel is attached to a centro benessere with indoor pool, jacuzzi, massage, and exercise room. We didn't look, but they advertise at the front desk. Given the variable rainy weather it would have been a nice diversion.
After dropping our bags we had about a 10 min walk to the Circumvesuviana train and a 50 min ride to Herculaneum. We stopped for lunch on the way down to the site at Il Fornello (I think that was the name). Nice pasta with cauliflower, roast chicken with patatine or insalata & water for 23 euros total.

Herculaneum was very impressive. We visited Pompeii four years ago so we wanted to see Herculaneum this time. I can't decide which I like best. Herculaneum seemed endless and there was so much to see. Pompeii is more spread out. Both are very impressive. Herculaneum was neat in that the modern buildings seem to rise right out of the ruins. It was nice to see everything without crowds too - the main advantage to this time of year. But weather wise, it wasn't great.

After a few hours there we went back to Sorrento where we walked around and enjoyed the little shops. We found a pastry shop at 142 Corso Italia called Primavera. There were photos plastered all over the wall of the pastry chef/owner with everyone from Benigni (the comedian), the current Pope, Mario Cipollini (famous cyclist), to many girls slathered in Nutella. So seems the guy is quite famous. Dh enjoyed a very good sfogliatelle with our coffees. By the way, the coffee in that area definitely is superior.

Dinner that night at Pizzeria Aurora in Piazza Tasso. Excellent food, comfy warm atmosphere with seats next to the pizza oven. 2x antipasto, 2 pizza, cafe vino acqua = 55 euros.

Fri Mar 7 - Capri

After breakfast in a nearby bar (we heard the hotel breakfasts weren't great) we meandered down to the marina piccola to catch a ferry to Capri. It was fairly easy upon arrival to see when the next ferry left, buy tickets, and then line up. Upon arrival in Capri we got a map in the tourist office, found out the blue grotto was closed, and caught the bus up to town. it was starting to sprinkle, so we sat down at the bar of the funiculare and had a spremuta before walking around. Luckily the sun came out and we started looking around. We headed out towards the Natural Arch to do a little walk. I would highly recommend this walk. Out to Natural Arch, then backtrack and go down the steps to the grotto of the Matremigna or something to that effect. Loads of steps but gorgeous views, especially once you pass the grotto and get out of the wooded area. The path takes you round one side of the island to the sharp rocks - i faraglioni. It was definitely a highlight for us. Then you just keep walking and eventually get back into the built up area.
Next lunch at pretty much the only restaurant open - da Gemma, I think. Delicious pasta - mine with zucchine and smoked cheese, dh had handmade ravioli alla siciliana. Then salad, etc. Couldn't find this receipt. Lovely views from the restaurant.

Next we took the funiculare back down and caught the ferry back so we could have some shopping time in Sorrento.

We bought a bunch of stuff - clothes for dh, goodies for the kids, herbs, limoncello, etc. Walked past piazza Tasso on Corso Italia and realized where the locals hang out in some square on the left. Then back for dinner at Zi'ntonio in the old town. Another receipt i have lost but dinner was good and the restaurant was crowded with tourist and locals.

Arrivederci Sorrento - Fabrizio picked us up at 4:15 the next morning for a 7 am flight to Milan and back home.

I hope I haven't bored you all to tears. Moral of my story - If you want a picture perfect view of the Amalfi Coast March is not ideal for weather. We had no choice about timing and enjoyed the new adventure and being in Italy, and away from our kids.

palatino82 is offline  
Old Mar 19th, 2008, 07:32 PM
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tdk320n is offline  
Old Mar 19th, 2008, 10:39 PM
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Thanks for the report, glad you had a good vacation.
SeaUrchin is offline  
Old Mar 20th, 2008, 02:28 PM
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Not boring at all. I'll be in Capri and Sorrento in July, so am glad to have the information. Thanks for writing.
SusanP is offline  
Old Mar 21st, 2008, 07:44 AM
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I found your report to be very enjoyable and useful.
Micheline is offline  
Old Mar 21st, 2008, 08:13 AM
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I found your post very helpful. I will be taking my trip to the Amalfi Coast in May.
jscha61 is offline  
Old Mar 21st, 2008, 08:15 AM
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Thank you for posting your report. I always enjoy reading others' travels.
bfrac is offline  
Old Mar 21st, 2008, 08:58 AM
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bkmk - thanks
tbell is offline  
Old Mar 21st, 2008, 11:27 AM
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I loved your report! You brought back wonderful memories of my first visit to Italy and Praiano - where we stayed at Le Fioriere! I was traveling with serious boyfriend (at the time) whose family is from Praiano and Michele and Maria are close friends of the family.

Our visit was also in March - we had 2 nights of violent thunderstorms, but nice days. The views were wonderful, and yes, I too counted those stairs down to the beach!
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Old Mar 21st, 2008, 01:18 PM
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Thanks for all the info! I'll be there in early April, so this is very timely. Hope the crowds won't have shown up by then, lol.
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Old Mar 21st, 2008, 01:34 PM
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Thank you so much. God, I miss AC..
enroute is offline  
Old Mar 21st, 2008, 06:48 PM
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bookmarking, great trip report.
goingtobeijing is offline  
Old Mar 21st, 2008, 08:09 PM
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Thank you for writting your review. I will be in Praiano in May for 9 days. I have opt for an apt. But I will look for the wine bar. It sounds like it had the best food in town, at a reasible price. I wasn't sure about going to Capri for the day, but now I think I will.
It was great reading your report, it was honest and to the point.
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