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Magical trip to Rome, Amalfi Coast, Capri

Magical trip to Rome, Amalfi Coast, Capri

May 7th, 2019, 01:54 PM
  #1  
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Magical trip to Rome, Amalfi Coast, Capri

We returned last week from a fabulous trip to Italy. I post this to share our experiences in case they can be helpful to others planning to be in these areas.

We – four adults, including our son and his gf -- flew into Rome on Easter morning and went to Easter mass at an historic church 2 minutes walking from our hotel. After that and an outdoor lunch in the sunny piazza outside the church, we checked into our rooms, then took a taxi to our pre-arranged skip-the-line guided small-group English-language tour of Borghese Gallery and the gardens. (Note – If I had not purchased those tickets in advance, we would not have been able to get in.)

We spent that night and the next three (total of 4 nights) in Rome. Since I wanted to maximize our time by going straight to the locations we wanted to see, while learning about them and the city at the same time, I had booked guides and drivers through a tour company I used before several years ago on a two-family trip to northern Italy (the Lakes). We had the same guide for all three days -- an extremely knowledgeable, licensed, experienced and engaging woman who spoke good English and contributed immensely to our experience. The first day we did a 3-hour walking tour with her from our hotel, where she met us, through the typical tourist locations like the Trevi Fountain, Spanish Steps, Piazza Navona, etc, and the entire time she taught us about the city and the sights -- for example, as we were walking across a bridge from Trastevere I asked for the correct pronunciation of "Trastevere" and not only did she teach us how to pronounce it, but she explained that -- as we knew -- the area was on the "other side" of the Tiber from the original historic center of Rome; that the walls protected the original city, with the river boundary protecting it on the river side. When Trastevere was established, it was considered "across the river" -- and "tras" meant "across". The river we know in English as the Tiber is written in Italian as Tevere (and she pointed that out on our map), so Trastevere means literally "across the Tiber."

The next day we spent 5 hours with our guide and a driver, and explored Imperial Rome (Colosseum, Forum, Palantine Hill, etc.) and the third day was the Vatican and St. Peter’s (4 hours). With the driver we were able to be dropped off right at entrances, and then afterward the driver would pick us up at exits and we would move to the next place. We walked when that made the most sense and we rode when that did. She had immediate access for us to the locations that offered it (such as the Vatican and the Colosseum), so that other than going through security we didn’t stand in any lines. Having a guide teach us, and a driver drive us, helped us get the most out of each day and while it was expensive, it was worth it given my priorities of learning and maximizing our time. Probably I will not return to Rome (there are so many places I haven’t been yet!) so I’m very glad we did it.

When we left Rome we took a train to Naples, where we were met by a guide I learned about from THIS FORUM (thank you, Fodorites!) who took us (with all of our luggage, which remained in the car so we didn’t have to deal with it) to Herculaneum, where we toured, then to a pleasant newish winery for an outdoor lunch and wine tasting, and then to Pompeii, where we toured that. (Note, this guide does not guide within the attractions as our guide in Rome did, but you can hire licensed guides inside those locations). He then dropped us off in Sorrento (where we had a hotel for 2 nights). If anyone wants the name of this guide, or the company we used in Rome, I’ll be happy to post that information.

The next morning, our guide picked us up in Sorrento for a full day (turned out to be 12 hours total) driving trip of the Amalfi Coast. The roads were crowded and so were the towns, but thanks to our guide and his contacts with people like parking lot owners and restaurant managers, we were able to go where we wanted to as quickly as anyone could have in the amount of time we had. We enjoyed walking through the towns, picking up some charming things at shops (I particularly like a very, very long outdoor tablecloth I picked up at a lemon-themed shop that smelled delicious, and a large pottery bowl that was just shipped to me), and we had an enjoyable brunch on the beach in Positano and a delicious late lunch at a restaurant in Amalfi overlooking the water, and we enjoyed walking around Ravello as well.

The restaurant Tasso in Sorrento is a good choice for a late dinner and seemed to be filled mainly with locals. Our guide, who is from Sorrento, recommended it and it was a good recommendation.

When we left Sorrento we took the ferry to Capri and spent two wonderful nights there. Our hotel, Casa Morgano on Via Tragara (a pedestrian-only area) was perfectly situated to provide spectacular views, we splurged for balconies overlooking the island and water, and the service was top-notch. The hotel made it easy to deal with our voluminous luggage, by sending someone to meet our ferry at the dock and take all of the luggage to the hotel.

Capri was extremely crowded during the days. By going at the end of April I assumed it wouldn’t really be THAT crowded, but at times we could barely walk through the main shopping areas. I heard it gets more crowded in June, July and August and it’s hard to imagine that. I’m so glad we chose to spend two nights there, because most of the people seem to be there just for the days and they leave on the ferries, so by staying on the island we were able to experience that magical place in the evenings and nights when the crowds were gone.

We ate in excellent restaurants with spectacular views and it was all superb. The restaurants I especially enjoyed were called Il Geranio (geranium), Panorama, and Terrazza Brunella. I ate Caprese salads and buffalo mozzarella everywhere. All of the food we enjoyed in Italy was delicious.

At one point during one mid-day on Capri we were walking to the main plaza but it was so crowded we saw an empty sort of isolated pathway and we got off the crowded path – we thought the empty pathway might get us to the same place just without shops along it, but we kept going up and up and after awhile it was clear we were lost, but we didn’t have any agenda so we just kept going up, and it was quiet, sunny, and great having the feeling we were all alone on Capri on such a beautiful day and we knew eventually we’d come out “somewhere.” Eventually we ended up at what we later learned was called Belvedere Cannone, a location that was the site of cannons placed there during WWII to help defend the island. We didn’t know that at the time, and there was almost no one else around us. The views were stunning. Coming across that was one of my favorite things about the entire trip.

On the sad day our time on Capri was coming to an end, we checked out of the hotel at noon and left our luggage with Casa Morgano, which arranged to buy us tickets to Naples on the evening ferry and we were then free to go over to Anacapri free of luggage, which we did so we could see some of that side of the island. We took the chairlift up Monte Solaro, toured the Villa San Michele, and then (based on a perfect recommendation from a concierge at Casa Morgano) had a late and delightful lunch under a grove of lemon trees at a restaurant called La Zagara on Anacapri. The restaurant then called a taxi for us, it turned out to be a sort of convertible with pretty pastel blue upholstery and we had a fun and entertaining ride back to Capri and to the docks, enjoying the views on the way back. We walked to our high-speed ferry, the luggage man from Casa Morgano was waiting for us with all of our luggage, he loaded it all on the ferry and we were handed our ferry tickets, and we left paradise for Naples, an hour away.

We got to Naples in the late evening, checked into our hotel booked just for the one night before our insanely early flight home the next morning, and then walked to a pizza place for Naples pizza. We tried Da Michele but it was clear the wait would be at least 2 hours, so we walked to a pizza place called Sorbillo, waited about 45 minutes and had delicious pizza.

This trip was pretty much perfect. I am so glad I ordered it as I did – busyness in Rome, ending with relaxation and stunning views in Capri. It would have been completely perfect if we could have flown back to the US right from Capri without going to Naples first – but then we wouldn’t have enjoyed the delicious pizza in Naples!

bakerstreet is offline  
May 8th, 2019, 03:01 AM
  #2  
 
Join Date: Feb 2019
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I am surprised no one commented under your trip report. You deserve some praises! I am dreaming about the trip to Amalfi in the fall, so will deffo come back to your report for some suggestions.
emily_jablon is offline  
May 8th, 2019, 08:48 AM
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A lovely trip report, bakerstreet—thank you!
I’d appreciate knowing where you stayed in Rome and Sorrento and also the contact information for your drivers and guides.
bon_voyage is online now  
May 8th, 2019, 09:44 AM
  #4  
 
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What a great way to get the most in the least time, bakerstreet! Thank you for sharing. I think my DH and I visited that lemon-themed shop!
TDudette is offline  
May 8th, 2019, 10:45 AM
  #5  
 
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I'm always happy to read Amalfi Coast TRs that include more that a day trip to Capri! It sounds like you made wise use of your time by incorporating guides. Thanks for writing.
Trophywife007 is online now  
May 8th, 2019, 01:57 PM
  #6  
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Thanks for your kind words, everyone. I have received SO much invaluable travel advice from Fodorites over the years, I am glad to have the chance to pass some of my experiences along when I can.

Our hotel in Rome was Hotel Santa Maria, a former convent in the Trastevere area. A friend of mine stayed there with her family twice and recommended it, and it's listed as a hotel option in the book 1000 Places to See Before You Die. It is not a "fine" hotel but it is a secluded oasis, behind a secure gate, with basic but clean and comfortable rooms on the ground level around a couple of pea-gravel courtyards under lemon trees with tables at which you enjoy the included breakfast (unless the weather is cold or rainy, in which case you eat in the breakfast room), service is friendly and there's a nice little happy hour every evening. You buy a glass of wine or other beverage at the small bar, and nibble on free bites as you get ready to go out to dinner. There is no view; each room has a window or two that looks directly onto the courtyard. The surrounding neighborhood looks a little dicey due to all of the graffiti, and the streets are very narrow. Sometimes our taxis or Ubers refused to drive us all the way to the gates of the hotel property, but they could get close and walking the remaining distance wasn't a problem for us. In the evenings and nights the area is packed with people including many students. The hotel sent a car service for us to the airport to meet us with all of our luggage, and that service knows how to get all the way to the gates; I would not have wanted to drag our luggage through the streets. It cost perhaps 60 Euros (cash), and at the end of our stay when we left for the train station, we had the front desk call transportation for us again.

Our hotel in Sorrento was the Palazzo Montefusco. It was located in a purely pedestrian area, such that a hotel porter met us to put our luggage on a cart and push the cart through the busy streets to the hotel, and we had to walk up a couple of flights of steps to get to the hotel check-in desk, then take a tiny elevator to our rooms. The hotel was very small -- maybe just about 8 rooms -- and was a sort of hotel-within-a-building. We had a small balcony that looked onto the pedestrian street below. It was fine for us -- we only slept at the hotel - but the breakfast area was tiny and we skipped eating there in favor of other, better choices. I probably wouldn't stay there again due to accessibility, especially with a lot of luggage. We were lucky to have arranged to have the porter meet us on arrival, and that occurred only because our driver/guide called the hotel to let them know we were on the way (we arrived in the evening) and the hotel told him to call when we had driven as far as it was possible to drive toward the hotel so the porter could be there to take our luggage. I would not have known to do that.

The tour guide company I used in Northern Italy a couple of years ago and this time for Rome is IC Bellagio. When you first ask for help they send you proposed activities and prices that make you gasp, but I carefully choose what I want to see and do and then have found the guides and experiences are worth the money.

The driver/independent guide (not a licensed guide, but a guy with a great vehicle, who knows how to get tourists from place to place and makes good recommendations) we used from Naples through Herculaneum, the winery and Pompeii to Sorrento, and then in the Amalfi Coast, is Francesco Marrapese. I learned his name from great posters on these boards. He was responsive, met us when and where he said he would, and helped make the experiences enjoyable. He's a Sorrento native and knows the Amalfi Coast well. I can't imagine a better way to do a tour of the Amalfi Coast without spending nights there.
bakerstreet is offline  
May 8th, 2019, 07:16 PM
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Grazie mille, bakerstreet, great that your meticulous research reaped such a satisfying reward.
bon_voyage is online now  
May 9th, 2019, 12:49 AM
  #8  
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Thanks so much - and one quick correction. Hotel Santa Maria in Rome is among ORANGE trees, not lemon trees. All of the lemons in Sorrento and Capri must have pushed out the oranges in my memory!
bakerstreet is offline  
May 9th, 2019, 06:10 AM
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Join Date: Sep 2013
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Your trip report is making me rethink our plans for our upcoming (September) trip to the Amalfi area! The current plan is 3 nights in Sorrento (w/ day trip to Capri) followed by 4 nights in Amalfi. Thinking maybe we need to stay in/on Capri for a couple of those days...

Great trip report!
tera_denten is online now  
May 9th, 2019, 09:53 AM
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Thanks for posting! We will be doing something similar in October, but in reverse and coming from Sicily first. We'll stay overnight in Naples, then visit Pompeii and continue on to Rome for our last 3 nights of vacation. I've already sent an email to Francesco to get a quote for driving from Naples to Pompeii and then to Rome -- that would be a real treat, if we can swing it with our budget.

If you had any memorable meals in Rome, please share the names of the restaurants.
adlmllr is offline  
May 10th, 2019, 07:00 AM
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Those trips sound amazing!

The best meal we had in Rome was in a rooftop restaurant atop a hotel called Bernini. The views were amazing. I also enjoyed our lunch in an outdoor restaurant on top of an Italian department store called La Rinascente. We did't go there to shop; our tour guide told us if we liked rooftop restaurants it was a good place for a nice lunch as we were out and about. It was.

You probably can tell I'm partial to both eating outdoors and eating amid great views!

Just to finish off my trip report, I mentioned I purchased a large pottery bowl I had shipped home. It arrived a few days ago in a very large box, from Italy of course, marked all over with "FRAGILE." I had it delivered to the office, and my team noted both the origin and the "FRAGILE" and joked they half-expected a fringed leg-lamp to be in it. (Remember A Christmas Story?) Frah-JILL-ay. I also had bought a bunch of lemon candy that was in the package so we all enjoyed that. (I took the limoncello home.)
bakerstreet is offline  
May 10th, 2019, 10:23 AM
  #12  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
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Thanks for the tips and for the Friday afternoon laugh about the package. We'll put Bernini on our short list.

We've eaten at La Rinascente in Milan, they also have a top-floor food court with lots of great choices -- we chose the Obica mozzarella bar there (we've also enjoyed the Obica location in Rome, at Campo di Fiori).
adlmllr is offline  
May 10th, 2019, 01:41 PM
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I second your plan to add time in Capri instead of Amalfi. I would certainly go to Amalfi for 2 days but 4 is too many and Capri is worth more than a day trip.

Enjoy!
wnappier is offline  
May 10th, 2019, 04:49 PM
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Originally Posted by bakerstreet View Post
Those trips sound amazing!

The best meal we had in Rome was in a rooftop restaurant atop a hotel called Bernini. The views were amazing. I also enjoyed our lunch in an outdoor restaurant on top of an Italian department store called La Rinascente. We did't go there to shop; our tour guide told us if we liked rooftop restaurants it was a good place for a nice lunch as we were out and about. It was.

You probably can tell I'm partial to both eating outdoors and eating amid great views!

Just to finish off my trip report, I mentioned I purchased a large pottery bowl I had shipped home. It arrived a few days ago in a very large box, from Italy of course, marked all over with "FRAGILE." I had it delivered to the office, and my team noted both the origin and the "FRAGILE" and joked they half-expected a fringed leg-lamp to be in it. (Remember A Christmas Story?) Frah-JILL-ay. I also had bought a bunch of lemon candy that was in the package so we all enjoyed that. (I took the limoncello home.)
Thanks for the great report! It brings back memories of our trip in '17. Glad you had a nice trip!
tomarkot is offline  
May 16th, 2019, 12:16 PM
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Join Date: Feb 2010
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Thanks!

Thanks for writing a detailed post. I enjoyed it so much!
drchris is offline  

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