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Trip Report Escaping Crowds in la Costiera and Cilento...and a brief fling with Naples.

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When choosing a town for my first Amalfi coast visit, I wanted the best restaurant options within walking distance and also somewhere from which I could easily reach Pompeii. So, Cetara won out. It was a lovely place to stay. Our b&b,, was in the hills above, but not a bad walk (about 20 minutes, and only steep at the end). And only 50 euros a night, seriously! The owner goes above and beyond, giving us rides home from town after dinner (we only took him up 2 of the 4 nights) and picking us up and dropping us off in Salerno.
The restaurants Al Convento and Acquapazza deserve their reputations. There was not much else to do in the town other than enjoy the view and lack of crowds, and that's what we did.
One full day was spent at Pompeii (caught the train in Vietri sul Mare, but there is no ticket office, buy them from a shop), which was as amazing as I'd built it up my whole life. Unfortunately, we made the mistake of thinking there is no bad pizza, but there is, in Pompeii. No matter, still an amazing day!

Our only glitch was Sunday, when we naively expected the bus to run on schedule. It eventually arrived--full--and we crammed our way on for the ride to Maiori. From there we walked to Ravello and then down to Atrani. I skipped the gardens in Ravello, because I figured I was getting great views and the bus snafu left us with little time. Ravello's square did not impress me because I don't like tourist tat. Atrani, I found a magical place but unfortunately did not have enough time to thoroughly explore it either--plus we got lost at every turn! On return I'd approach Atrani a different way because the trail was not very scenic as you descend from Ravello.
On to Amalfi for the return bus, and gratified to see that it would not have been the place for us. Though I'm sure it takes on a different character in the evenings. I am not trying to sound snotty, as I see nothing wrong with going to the most beautiful famous places, but DH and I do not like crowds, and I have always found a slightly "lesser" town just a couple miles away can be just as beautiful, loads cheaper, and much more peaceful. "Naughty aprons" for sale are a real turnoff--they remind me of Myrtle Beach.

Monday we thought we'd be more ambitious with our hiking, but instead we returned to Amalfi, and found a lovely spot to eat, Trattoria San Giuseppe. Then we did the Valle dei Mulini hike, which was perfect. It was shaded for a large portion, and not so difficult as to wear me out. Back on the bus again, which makes me wonder how anyone goes to the Amalfi Coast in summer. People ran toward the bus to make sure they got a seat, madness. All in all, a wonderful four nights in Cetara, but I admit it was slightly inconvenient to get to the trail heads--always our main goal when we travel (there are trails in Cetara, but some appear to end on the main road, or were more that we wanted to do). If I am lucky enough to return one day, I'd like to find a similar town in the center or western end of the peninsula.

On to Cilento, but first we spend some time in Salerno. We had a great lunch of vegetable risotto at Bar Moka. As the train heads south the scenery gets wilder. Upon arrival in Pisciotta (thanks, rosetravels!), it was just like the Hotel Marulivo,, said and we grabbed a taxi for 10 euros. The town is impressively perched on the hillside, and they are in the process of fixing it up (scaffolds, new sidewalks), so it will be a true gem, though I hope everything does not get painted--the patina is part of the charm. After getting our intro from the gracious hotel owners, we enjoyed the private terrace of our apartment (and some mozzarella di buffala, delivered to town that day). We just went with the closest restaurant that night, Osteria del Borgo, which was solid--we ate there twice--but not mind blowing. The next day we took the train to Paestum, which was just as amazing as Pompeii.
That night we made the trek down to Marina di Pisciotta to eat at Angiolina, and THAT was the meal of the trip.
The next day we hired a taxi to take us to Marina di Camerota so we could do a boat/hike excursion to Infeschi. First we had a nice lunch in a little cafeteria (it said "fast food" but the buffet was full of home cooked vegetables). The boat ride was a little sketchy for me--bumpy! But the driver definitely looked like he knew what he was doing, and the Germans with kids looked fine, so I'm just as nervous boater I guess, but my daddy taught me to wear a life vest and respect the sea. After a scenic ride along the coast seeing various grottoes, we walked the two hour path back to MdC. The path was perfectly marked until the end, when we had slight problems finding the road back to town. A perfect day, and I imagine in summer when the sea is not cold, the little beaches we passed would be perfect, too.

Our last day, the weather luck ran out. We thought an easy day trip to Ascea would fit the bill, to see the ruins at Velia. Honestly, I could have started at the view from the terrace all day instead! The season seems to be underway everywhere except Ascea, though the weather certainly added to the gloom. Nothing was open, so we ate cookies and crackers. Seeing a falconer atop Velia saved the day, as did the friendly chap who gave us a ride to the train station.
Back in Pisciotta, the weather was still bad, so we decided to just grab a pizza. "Dirty Dancing" was on the tv with some impressive dubbing, so we had a good ol time.

It was a nice introduction to Cilento, and of course you could spend a month there and not see/do everything. Though the taxi was pricey to MdC, it was totally worth it. I knew it was going to be difficult to get around , but for 4 days, we were able to do just enough. I do hope some of the German hiking books for the area will get translated some day. A car is probably preferable, but we don't like driving, so more time and research would result in more options.

I was sad to leave and honestly a bit nervous that Naples would be a let down--just because it was a big city after our 8 days in paradise. Things started off well when our cabbie was friendly, telling us about his travels in the US. Hotel Piazza Bellini,, was a true respite from noise and chaos. I prebooked the terrace room, with a fantastic view. Thank you to all of the fodorites who mentioned this hotel (I cannot remember a specific recommendation). We set off for a walk--still in the rain--and found Attanasio, some of the best pizza I have ever had.

Next, it was off to the Archaeological Museum to see what was removed from Pompeii--and it is really a must to put it all together. I had not done much research about Naples, knowing we'd have limited time. I have to say I was pleasantly surprised. Of course it was a little nerve wracking to worry about scooters whizzing by after 8 days of near silence, but we found a nice bar playing jazz when we were done walking.
My only complaint is one I can make about any place in Italy--from city to podunk village--I detest graffiti! Oh to see that beautiful architecture so scarred pains me. We typically don not choose to spend our vacation time in cities, but I hope I get to return to Naples one day to explore the architecture and see the Caravaggios.

For dinner, I wanted to eat at the pizzeria where the pizzaiolo in our town was trained, Pizzeria del Presidente. It was great, but I liked Attanasio better.
We retired to our terrace to end the night with our great view, and we were treated to a firework show--a perfect way to cap off another wonderful trip to Italy.

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