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Just Back! - Trip Report - Amalfi Coast - Part I - Capri

Just Back! - Trip Report - Amalfi Coast - Part I - Capri

May 21st, 2008, 03:15 PM
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Just Back! - Trip Report - Amalfi Coast - Part I - Capri

Well, we are just back from our long-awaited trip to the Amalfi Coast, and it was amazing! Thanks to all who helped us here.

Since I am still suffering jet lag, and do not yet have everything organized, I will do this in pieces.

First piece - Capri.

We decided to spend 3 nights on Capri so that we could really explore it, and see the "real" Capri.

Lodging:
We spent 2 nights at a little B&B called Aiano.

http://www.capri.com/en/c/aiano

which we found through Tripadvisor. Tony and his wife run the B&B (it is part of their family home) and have 3 rooms. We stayed in the suite, which was very spacious, and had great views.

Since they only had 2 nights available, we grabbed those at 140E a night. Then decided to spend the first night at Minerva.

http://www.laminervacapri.com/en/index.html

Originally, I booked a Standard Room (no view, no terrace), but decided heck, it's one night, it's a trip of a lifetime.... and upgraded to a Superior for 240E.

We loved both places. Different experiences. Both easy walks to the center. Staying at Aiano was like staying with family. Tony had a beer with us when we arrived and chatted. Our first night with him, he called friends of his who run a restaurant in Anacapri and arranged to have them pick us up and drop us off after dinner. One of our best meals of the trip - more in restaurant section.

The two drawbacks - if any - were that they only accept cash, which we didn't know, and which created an uncomfortable situation and a scramble with our credit card company, but Tony was very gracious and offered to give us the cash back we had given him if we could not get what we needed for out apartment in Positano.

On our last day there, Tony picked an orange from his tree on the patio (he has fig, orange, lemon and olives) and gave it to us with our breakfast. It was the absolute best orange I have ever eaten. Dripping with juice, no seeds, no pulp. Delicious!

The suite was totally redone - all new - all modern conveniences. Really a great place.

I loved Minerva. It is the best of both worlds. Small, not far from town center, but in a very quiet section. Great views, beautiful rooms, beautiful hotel, breakfast on the rooftop in the AM.

Luigi, who runs the hotel, I think, is a dream. Epitome of a great manager. Professional, but friendly, helpful and cordial. I don't understand some of the comments on Tripadvisor about his being abrupt. He is very young. Don't know why but that surprised us.

We decided at the last minute not to chance Naples taxis and he arranged for a driver to pick us up from the airport and bring us to the ferry, then someone to meet us at the ferry and walk us to the hotel and take care of our bags. Well worth the expense.

What an experience though! The driver got into a shouting match with some other driver at the airport, and the drive through Naples was adventurous to say the least. No heed to lights, lanes or other drivers! At one point he drove down the bus track to make up time!

Anyway, we arrived in one piece and all was well.

Restaurants:
Our favorite by far - and of the trip - was Le Arcate in Anacapri. Via Tommaso de Tommaso 24. 081.8373588.

Inexpensive, homemade, delicious, with great service. Outside seating when it is nice. It is right off the main square.

We got in late (5pm) our first night, so ate at Quisisana Bar which was great. They were very gracious, although I am sure we looked a sight after the long flight. It was fun to sit outside and people watch. Reasonable prices.

Ate next day at La Palma outside. Not as good as Quisisana and just as expensive. Nice setting though to people watch.

Da Gemma was our last night meal. Would not go back, Just OK. Views were nice, but we prefer outside seating.

Had a drink at one of the bars on the Piazzetta - not as much of a sticker shock as I thought. Worth the experience, although I like the relative quiet of the Quisisana terrace better.

There's a great gelato shop on the way from the Piazetta to the Quisisana - name escapes me, but we'd stop there each time we passed. Wonderful!

One of the restaurants Tony at the B&B recommended was Verginella (?sp). We couldn't find it. (It is on Via Roma - the main drag - behind the post office). If anyone is interested, I will check the address. He said the food is very good quality and the prices good. After his suggestion with Le Arcate, we trust his taste.

Favorite Things we Did:

Luigi at Minerva arranged for a private boat tour of the island. One of the highlights of our trip. We went INSIDE alot of the grottos, and I was just thrilled when we got to stop at the Blue Grotto and go out in the rowboat since we had intended to skip it altogether. It definitely is worth doing.

The day was gorgeous, but it was a great way to see the island - parts you would not normally see.

We went up the chairlift to Monte Solaro and that was great although I had to drag my husband to do it, and I was quite scared on the ride up. Going down is easier. The view was worth it though, and we had a great day.

One of our favorite things on the whole trip was San Michele in Anacapri. I had not expected much, but fell in love with the setting, the house, the gardens, and the views. Gorgeous! One of the highlights. Well worth the time.

We walked Punta Tragara, great street, but still would stay at Minerva given the choice, and also went to the Gardens of Augustus (just OK, but good views - a hangout for kids), and went to the Charterhouse of S. Giacomo. Perhaps we were not in the right spot, but didn't find alot to see inside, but outside is very pretty, especially on the walk to the Gardens of Augustus.

Things we would change:
I would have spent more time on Capri/Anacapri. Considering travel time, we lost 2 days to travel, and had 2 full days. One we spent in Capri, one in Anacapri, but I would have liked more time just to chill and hang out and wander. I actually wouldn't mind spending a week sometime just on Capri.

We're in the camp that loves Capri. My husband liked Anacapri better, due to the quiet. I liked Capri. I would not want to go during a busier time though. There were just enough crowds for us.

Here our our pictures of Capri and Anacapri - warning - there are quite a few. We have not edited enough yet!

http://gallery.mac.com/macdebbie1/100016

Be happy to answer any questions anyone has.



Next segment - Positano and the Amalfi Coast for a week!


wanderer1 is offline  
May 21st, 2008, 03:22 PM
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Sorry, I meant Via Tragara (our walk), not Punta Tragara, that is a hotel at the end of the street, where there is a great lookout.

The other thing I missed is the 2nd (small) downside to Aiano. It is a bit noisy as it is on the main drag to and from Anacapri, but given the price, the friendliness, the accommodations, and the fact that you can walk to town, that was a minor issue.
wanderer1 is offline  
May 21st, 2008, 03:29 PM
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Nicely put.

And I'm in sync with you on this:

"I actually wouldn't mind spending a week sometime just on Capri."
TuckH is offline  
May 21st, 2008, 06:23 PM
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Welcome home, wanderer, and thanks so much for posting your trip report!

We will be in Capri and Positano next month (our first visits!), and I can hardly wait.

Your photos are gorgeous!

Can't wait to hear about Positano!
Please don't make us wait too long...

Dina
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May 21st, 2008, 10:24 PM
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Will post the Positano portion of the report this weekend - not to worry!
wanderer1 is offline  
May 22nd, 2008, 04:59 AM
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Just curious--I've never seen an orange with no pulp. Was it just empty or what was in there other than pulp?
Jake1 is offline  
May 22nd, 2008, 06:41 AM
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Wanderer, thanks for sharing your beautiful photos. I was especially moved to see Villa San Michele, one of my favorites. I read Axel Munthe's book when I was seven years old and it made quite an impression on me.
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May 22nd, 2008, 08:16 AM
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I guess it was pulp, but it wasn't like the pulp we have with our oranges here - at least up North where I live (in MA).

Half the time I end up chewing on the pulp and spitting it out because it is so tough. These oranges just melted in your mouth.

I picked up Axel Munthe's book at the museum shop, and loved every minute of it! He sounded like a great man.
wanderer1 is offline  
May 22nd, 2008, 11:55 AM
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Hi wanderer:
Thanks for posting your trip report. My family and I will be in Italy next month and one of stops that I am planning is Capri. I have been reading a lot of reports about the "Blue Grotto" and most agree that it is beautiful but a tourist trap. Is is true that you have to pay three different fees and you are only in the grotto for about 1 minute?
Thanks.
timecop is offline  
May 22nd, 2008, 04:44 PM
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Yes and no.

My husband and I had read what a hassle it was to get there, get into the Grotto, etc., and so we decided to skip it.

Then when we went on the boat ride around Capri, our boat person drove us to the Grotto and asked us if we wanted to see it. He explained that his boat was too big, and we would have to pay a rowboat person to take us in.

We were there, so we said Yes, let's do it. The rowboat was (I think) around 5E.

They take you to the entrance, you have to lie down, then they pull the boat along a chain, and you are in the Grotto.

It really, as cheesy as it sounds, need to see it. It's amazing. We were in longer than expected, but you are not alone. We had 3-4 other rowboats in with us.

I believe it is Fodor's new book on Capri and Amalfi Coast that tells you to wait until 4-5pm, then take the bus from Anacapri to the Grotto, and catch the rowboat.

Otherwise, you have to pay for a boat from Marina Grande in Capri, then the rowboat as well.

They say the light is better in the late afternoon. It's definitely worth it!!

wanderer1 is offline  
May 22nd, 2008, 04:49 PM
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OK, continuing on to Positano in a different (new) thread....
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May 22nd, 2008, 04:52 PM
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Thanks for the report, wanderer. I hope you're going to post it all here on one thread so we can keep track of it. Much better than doing Part 2, etc., separately.

Looking forward to more!
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May 23rd, 2008, 01:30 AM
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Positano:

OK, I am a little more clear headed with a little more sleep!

Meant to mention that we flew Boston to Zurich via Swiss International and it was great. Best airline we have ever flown. On time, great service, free wine (just kidding, but that is a nice perk, although I learned the hard way that wine, coffee and anything salty is a no no on flights, as one of my ankles swelled terribly on the way home and I had to be tested for a DVT).

We then flew from Zurich to Naples.

Thanks to some people on this board we booked through 1-800-fly-europe, and things went off without a hitch. We saved about $500 per ticket doing that.

Naples, I hate to say is a mess, what with the garbage problem. Strewn everywhere. Can't be safe/hygenic. Didn't look like a place I'd want to spend any time.

After our 3 nights in Capri, we headed to Positano for a week. We had rented a villa through Rentvillas.com.

We made use of the transfer service offered, and had a driver pick us up in Sorrento to bring us to the apartment. The gentleman who owns the B&B we stayed at in Capri, who is also in the travel business, could not figure out why they did not have us take the ferry Capri to Positano, and pick us up there, and neither could I, but at that point I didn't want tp try and rearrange everything, I just wanted to get there,

Having seen pictures of the roads, I was a bit nervous, but the woman, Patricia, arrived in a Mercedes sedan and was a wonderful driver. Did not frighten us at all.

When we arrived at the villa, the on-site agent could not meet us, so we met with a man who spoke very little English but who was very sweet and carried our bags (104 steps!) to the door. Turns out he is the owner of the villa (really an apt). The agent came the next night and was very nice and helpful.

The apt was much bigger than it looks on the web, and had a great outdoor terrace running the entire length of the apartment. We paid @ $1,600 for the week, US.

One of the nicest things, was that Rentvillas buys some "staples" for you. Since we arrived late Sat afternoon, and markets are closed Sun and sometimes Mon, we had red wine, white wine, pasta and sauce (enough for several meals), cheese, olives, bread, Nutella, coffee, tea, milk, juice, cereal, toilet paper, napkins, paper towels... it was great. They also left us fresh flowers on the table and had a great book put together of the area, market days in the different towns, restaurant info, maps, and most helpful to us the SITA bus and ferry schedules.

I would defintely use Rentvillas again. We had one minor issue, where upon arrival, there was banging going on dowstairs all day. I had a splitting headache from the travel, and was annoyed, The next day I mentioned it to our on-site agent, and she told us the owner was renovating the downstairs apartment. I told her that we had not been made aware of that, and if we had know that, would not have rented there, and that part of a vacation is peace and quiet.

My husband was mortified, but I wasn't about to put up with that all week. So she spoke with the owner, and the noise and reno stopped at least while we were "home".

The apartment was in a pretty good location. It's hard to know what is the best part. Street to door was 104 hard steps, some without a rail, but that is Positano. We heard dogs and roosters, but that doesn't bother us. The walk to town was about 15 min, and the bus stop is right at the bottom of the stairs. The Orange "Interno" bus is only 1.50E and a good deal. We used it a few times when after our walk down, walking around all day, dinner and a glass of wine we were just too pooped to walk back, knowing we still had to face those 104 steps! Luckily there were a couple of landings on the steps so we had a few resting places.

I think I might like to stay closer to town next time, I liked the location of the Sirenuse, Villa Rosa, Marincanto - all of which are on Christophoro Columbo. We were on Via Pasitea, very close to Villa Franca in the upper part of town. My husband remarked it is a bit noisier with the street so close if you stay closer though. Give and take....

Here are a few pictures of the apartment. We absolutely loved Positano. Glad we decided on staying there rather than Praino or Amalfi or Sorrento, which don't have the same feel.

I did not get pictures of the bedroom which was very big or the 2nd bathroom. My husband always laughs at all the indoor pictures I take - especially the bathrooms. We loved each having our own! The pink one (shown) is off the Master BR and was huge, and there is a blue one opposite the door to the MR. There is also a washer/dryer in the unit, and dishwasher, American and Italian coffee maker, TV, DVD, CD player. All very comfortable.

http://gallery.mac.com/macdebbie1/100024

The nice thing was that every room had the terrace off of it which was not only convenient, but created alot of light and fresh air. At night with the windows shut, they blocked any noise, which was minimal. Left open, you got a great breeze. As you walk in, you enter a long hall, and each room (other than the bathrooms) was on the left, and walking through the room, you walked onto the huge terrace.

Name of the property is Baleno. It also had A/C, which the owner showed us upon arrival, and which I didn't think we'd need, as nights were cool - jacket weather. When the agent came to answer any questions and get our deposit, we said we had been shown everything, not realizing the A/C unit also produced heat, which I desperately wanted at night! The apartment walls are very thick, and hold the cool in great. Not so great at night.

Thinking it was going to be warm weather, I certainly did not bring enough pants and sweaters, and could not find any in the stores. Other than sweatshirts for @$50 US due to the exchange rate, I just layered as best I could at night.

There were several good restaurants within walking distance of the apartment (before the town "center"), a coffee shop, food market, wine store, tabaccheri, and boutques. That is one thing we loved about Positano. The town is really spread out, so matter where you are walking, there are the views on one side, and shops and restaurants on the other as you walk to the town center and beach. As we walked to town each morning we'd see people going to work, children going to school, shops opening up. It was a great mix of things, which made it feel not just like a resort town.

To be continued (favorite restaurants, etc.).. soon!


wanderer1 is offline  
May 23rd, 2008, 02:34 AM
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May 23rd, 2008, 06:23 AM
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May 23rd, 2008, 09:38 AM
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wanderer1, thank you for sharing your experience and lovely pictures.
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May 23rd, 2008, 02:55 PM
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wanderer, we're also going to positano (before our stay in capri) but only for three nights. we've reserved the Villa Rosa and was happy that you mentioned you liked the location.
I was wondering about the "interno" busses. do they run until late in the evening (after dinner)?

can't WAIT to hear about the restaurants!!!

dina
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May 23rd, 2008, 04:44 PM
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Yes, the buses run until 12am I believe. You can get a schedule at any Tabaccheri (newstand). However, walking is not bad, especially in Villa Rosa location. You shouldn't need the bus as you are right in the middle of everything there and you can walk everywhere from there. We were quite a ways up hill from the Villa Rosa, and our bodies grew tired late at night, so we used the bus a few nights after dinner.

There is another bus (again the orange buses) which goes to Nocelle and Montepertuoso (2 villages above Positano). You have to be careful you don't get on this bus (unless you want to go there - 2 very good restaurants there).

Contrary to what we had read, you are able to purchase tickets right on the bus.

I'll post more on Positano tomorrow AM.

The food was wonderful!!
wanderer1 is offline  
May 24th, 2008, 12:56 PM
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Positano -

We arrived in Positano Saturday after spending 3 great nights on Capri.

We took the ferry from Capri to Sorrento, and were picked up by a woman that Rentvillas.com arranged to drive us to the apartment. She was very nice, and more importantly, a very good driver. I had been worried about the Amalfi Coast road, but she took it slow and was not reckless.

She kept apologizing for her English, which was great. But it was funny to hear her say things like "too many lemons, too many." I couldn't figure out how there could be too many, and then we figured out she must have meant "lot of".

We arrived at the apartment, and the on-site rental person was not there, so we were met by the owner. Very limited English.

We were bushed after traveling all day, and were grateful for the food left by Rentvillas for us. We opened a bottle of wine, and sat on the terrace and ate olives and cheese and bread and watched the sun go down. It was a great meal!

Sunday, we did not know what would be open, and wanted to get the lay of the land, so decided to walk into town. The photo album attached is as first the view from our apartment terrace, then the walk down into town. We settled in at Caffe Positano on Via Pasitea, and had our morning coffee overlooking Positano center. This became a daily ritual. So much for the coffee and tea back at our apartment! Caffe Positano is owned by the same peope who own Villa Rosa and La Tartana. We intended to have dinner there one night, but never made it.

Here's our Positano pictures....

http://gallery.mac.com/macdebbie1/100026

We walked down to the main beach - Spiaggia Grande. It's a black sand beach, with sand from the lava from Pompeii we were told. It is not the cleanest beach if you want to swim - Fornillo is supposed to be cleaner, We actually saw sewage draining into the water. I had read about that in one of the guide books. There were people (probably tourists) swimming though.

At lunchtime, since we were down at the beach, we decided to eat somewhere down there. There are plenty of restaurants right there - Chez Black, La Cambusa, O Capurale, La Pergola, which we settled on. Great spot, beautiful pergola (of course!), and good spot just to watch the goings on around us. Food was very good and reasonable.

Our first purchase was from one of the outside artists right near the water. Francesco Saverio. Nice man. We bought a small print from him, and he hugged and kissed us, and told us how nice Americans are. Print was very reasonable.

Toward dinner, we decided to head back, as we were unsure of coming back in the dark. We walked home and then as it got later, we got hungry and were too tired to cook! Again, so much for the pasta and sauce sitting there! We ended up walking just down the street to Fornillo. Had pizza, which was pretty good. The view was great. We sat inside, as it was a little chilly, but they have a nice outdoor terrace.

Monday, we decided to stay and explore more of Positano. Weather was not quite as sunny. We loved that wherever we walked, there was something to see. Took lots of pictures.

We checked out some of the ceramics stores, but knowing we'd be going to Ravello and perhaps Vietri, decided to wait on purchases.

I had wanted some Italian handmade sandals, and you see shops everywhere. The best one I found was Artigianto Rallo on Viale Pasitea 96 - 089811711. They can make you a pair in 3 min, I found their prices and selection the best out of all the places we visited.

Around lunchtime, we decided to walk the Via Positano d'America, and have lunch at Lo Guarracino. If you walk to the beach, and face the water, you will see all the huts to get the boats on the right. Further right, is a little walkway, where this is. It is an extremely pretty walk and the restaurant has one of the prettiest views around. It is very near the "tower" pictures in my photo album, and I think if you keep going beyond the restaurant, you end up at Fornillo beach. (You could see it from the restaurant).

We headed back a little after lunch to rest and read on our terrace, and were tired and so full still from lunch, we ended up opening the 2nd bottle of wine left by Rentvillas and having that with the rest of the cheese and olives and bread. At least we ate that!!

We called our on-site Rental agent when we got back, as they had a sheet in the book in the apartment that half day and full day tours were offered to Pompeii. Pompeii was on our list, and we were pouring over the bus schedule trying to figure out how to get there. We told her we would be interested in a half day tour, and she thought Thurs they went out. She called us back late that afternoon, and told us Tues (the following day) she could get us on. The price was very reasonable - 43E pp for transportation, and we paid our own entrance fee once we got there. Price included an English-speaking guide. We decided to do it, since it seemed the easiest way. Our B&B owner on Capri who is in the travel business told us it was a must see and that we really should have a guide, because Pompeii can be overwhelming.

So, tomorrow, on to Pompeii.


wanderer1 is offline  
May 24th, 2008, 01:07 PM
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p.s. Could of comments in general about Positano...

We loved, loved, loved, that they allow animals to be part of their lives - they walk into the stores and no one cares. Alot of owners bring their animals to work with them.

We did see what I believe were strays down by the name beach, which broke my heart. The picture in my album is of a little cat who became my friend for the week. I met her at a restaurant we were eating at outside, and fed her a little cheese. Everytime I would see her, she would run over to me, purr like crazy and roll over and hope she'd get a belly rub. It eased the loneliness I felt from missing my own little kitty. She seemed to have a problem with her eyes, and I wondered if they have any kind of rescue program for animals there. Does anyone know?

We have one in the town where I live which is on the water, where the feral cats are caught, spayed and neutered, given shots, checked over and then released. It helps a little. The kittens that are caught are socialized and then put up for adoption in a no-kill shelter. It's a very successful program.

Needless to say, bring good walking shoes. I brought a nice pair of leather shoes, and after one day, found them so slippery, I switched to my sneakers for safety and comfort. I saw many woman in heels walking around and don't now how they did it!

You have to be very, very careful when walking on the roads that you stay well on the side, single file. There are white "paths" marked where you should walk, but when the bus comes, you need to squeeze in between the cars and wait for it to pass because the streets are so narrow. The driving was nothing like Capri, where it was crazy, and seemed less dangerous because it is all one way. We always were thankful when we got to Via Mulini, the walk down to the beach, as it is pedestrian only and we could amble about a little easier.

We loved, loved, loved, Positano. Our favorite of the trip along with Capri.
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