Sicily or the Amalfi Coast?

Jan 10th, 2009, 10:38 PM
  #21  
 
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Loved, loved, loved Sorrento...but it was in late March, not in August so I can't comment on that. We stayed in an apartment right above a bakery in the main town (not up on the hill where most of the hotels are). We thought it was a wonderful base (no car) since we could easily walk to the grand marina (where there is a small beach), the ferry location (to get to Capri), the bus station (took a bus to Amalfi), and the circumvesuviana (the smaller train that goes to Naples and stops at Pompeii, Herculeum, and several other spots). We have traveled quite a bit through Europe and this trip (which was combined with Rome) is still my favorite.

Our children were 4 and 5 at the time and everyone was so nice. We found loads of good restaurants, loved wandering the streets of Sorrento (although they weren't ridiculously crowded for our visit), and loved visiting the Grand Marina to watch the fisherman and play at the edge of the water.

I haven't been to Sicily so I can't compare the two. You also said you wanted a hotel with a pool, which would probably mean you are looking at the hotels that are a bit away from the main downtown of Sorrento.
see_the_world7 is offline  
Jan 11th, 2009, 12:01 AM
  #22  
 
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I believe you received some pretty good comments in respone to your inquiry. While I cannot comment on Sicily (at least not yet), my wife and I spent about 12 days on the Amalfi Coast last year during the first two weeks of July, with the last 4 days of our trip in Rome. We are frequent travelers who love warm coastal climates, great scenery, nice hotels, friendly people, and excellent food. The Amalfi Coast excelled in each of these categories. Our trip was truly a wonderful experience--exciting, relaxing, romantic, and exceedingly fun.

We started with a 2-night stay at a relatively inexpensive but very nice B&B in Capri, and then took the hydrofoil to Sorrento where we set up home base for 5 days at the Hotel Ambasciatori. This luxurious but affordable hotel overlooks the Bay of Naples with a clear view of Mt. Vesuvius, and it has large comfortable rooms, a very friendly and professional staff, a pool in a beautiful garden area overlooking the bay, and an excellent central location. (For the price, the Hotel Ambasciatori beats the acclaimed Excelsior Vittoria). Sorrento's historic center, Piazza Tasso, is just a few minute walk from the hotel. Sorrento itself was a bit larger than I had expected, with one end of town devoted to bustling tourists who tended to crowd the narrow pedestrian streets lined with numerous shops and restaurants. The town, however, is a great base for day excursions to Capri, Pompei, Herculaneum, and the must-see picturesque town of Positano whose shops and colorful buildings literally cling to the side of the verticle cliffs along the edge of the coastal waters.

A day trip to Capri is a quick 20-minute boat ride from Sorrento, and a trip to Pompei is about a 35-45 minute train ride. Positano can be reached by bus, car or boat. My wife and I elected to rent a small Fiat for our entire stay along the Amalfi Coast, which gave us the freedom to travel as we pleased to Positano and the small towns and fisheries along the coast of the Sorrento Peninsula.

After our 5-day stay in Sorrento, my wife and I drove to Ravello where we stayed 5 nights at Villa Cimbrone, another exquisite hotel which sits atop a mountain with beautiful gardens overlooking the sea. Staying at this Gothic-style castle was like living in a medieval fantasy, while enjoying all the amenities of a modern, high-clas hotel--spacious rooms, impeccable service, exquisite food, and a large pool overlooking the sea. It was truly a luxurious, quiet and relaxing experience. The town of Rovello is very quaint with a small town square, but it does not have any nightlife except for the full orchestras that perform music by Mozart, Bach, Beethoven, Brahms, and other composers in the gardens of the celebrated Villa Rufulo while the audience views the sea and distant mountains under the night stars. While Ravello is a small, quiet town, it is only minutes away from the more bustling towns along the coast, such as Amalfi and Salerno. Paestum, a town of ruins, is also a quick drive away.

The Amalfi Coast in July truly is beautiful, with may things things to do and places to see. The food was also excellent, provided we avoided the tourist traps and the restaurants which show pictures of their dishes outside the fron entrance. The Amalfi Coast, however, is not for everyone. It really does not have any sandy beaches--just pebbles which tend to hurt one's feet. Also, August may not be the best time of year to visit the Amalfi Coast. However, my wife and I vacationed in July and the weather was perfect--sunny, cool breeze, and not too hot or humid. My wife even got alittle chilly at night. I was also surprised by the lack of tourists. Maybe we arrived and left right before the crowds came. Even our hotels had plenty of vacancies.

The Amalfi Coast also has one other drawback for some people--the drive along the tortuous Amalfi Coast road. For me, this was actually a major plus which made my vacation (but not necessarily my wife's) a truly exuberating experience. The drive along the Almafi Coast is probably the most beautiful scenic route in the world, but it is also one of the most dangerous. The road is designed for two-way traffic, but in many places is barely wide enough to accomodate one, let alone two, vehicles. To really test your nerves, the road has countless twists and hairpin turns curving sharply every 20 feet as it wriggles past caverns, inlets, gardens, and cliffs with a very steep verticle drop-off just inches from the side of the road. The locals seem to have no fear of this winding road as they ride your bumper at high speed until they can barely squeeze by and quickly pass you before being hit head-on by an unseen vehicle speeding around the next twisting hairpin turn. To make matters worse, the scooters are even quicker and more fearless, as they miraculously pass your car even with oncoming traffic by riding the center line and squeezing between the two vehicles at high speed. It gets even more tricky when there is an oncoming bus around a sharp turn with room for only one vehicle--the bus always wins and you need to slam on the brakes and actually back up to let the bus pass. I hear riding the bus is equally scary because it feels the bus is going to turn over as it speeds around the hairpin turns, particularly if you are sitting in a seat on the upper level of a doubledecker bus.

Despite the apparent danger of the Amalfi Coast drive, we did not see one accident during our entire stay. Moderate speed and alert driving is all that is needed to enjoy a safe ride along the Coast. I thoroughly enjoyed the drive and cannot wait to do it again. (I can't say the same for Naples, whose land of driving is without doubt the craziest and most dangerous I have ever seen--DO NOT DRIVE IN NAPLES).

In summary, if you can do without sandy beaches and do not mind crowds or high heat in August, my wife and I highly recommend the Amalfi Coast.



After our 5-day stay in Sorreneto
travelersatl is offline  
Jan 11th, 2009, 02:38 AM
  #23  
 
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Based upon what you say in your post, I'm going to recommend Sorrento.

Hub and I stayed in a hotel called Grand Hotel Vesuvio there in 2002. We went in March but we kept remarking that it would be a great end of the day hotel in the summer months. It is set up on a hill and the views are lovely. It has a pool, restaurant and bar. There was also a shuttle bus that went right to Sorrento and back very often. We experienced one night where there were loud people in the hall but otherwise enjoyed the place. You could "hang" there or tour from a place like that. It was not an intimate place but a tourist hotel.

From Sorrento, we took the Circumvesuvia (spelling?) train to Naples and Pompei, a local bus to Amalfi and a ferry to Capri. Expect there would be more tours in summer you could pick from.

We also stayed in Palermo and took a bus to see Mondello. We saw along the main beach lots of kids playing soccor on the beach, a nice food market with huge lemons, and sweet summer homes. Didn't get a sense of things being dirty. Having the pre-teens still makes me lean toward Sorrento. But the little town of Montreale and the awesome church there would be must sees IMO. We thought that driving in Sicily was more fraught than in mainland Italy-that could be debated! We couldn't find a place in Taormino so stayed in Siracusa and visited papyrus museum, colosseum but walked and strolled a good bit. Still thinking kids would like Sorrento area. Please have a great time and let everyone know how it all worked out.
TDudette is online now  
Jan 11th, 2009, 05:47 AM
  #24  
 
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San Sebastian might be another option, as Zeppole mentioned above. The beaches are sandy and lovely, as they are across much of northern Spain. We went swimming in October two years ago! But the city will also be jammed in August..

Perhaps pursue Ischia..write to the hotels again.

Maratea,from the Lonely Planet guide:





Introducing Maratea

Maratea feels rather like a sophisticated Italian version of Cornwall. Dramatic hills, cliffs, and beaches line the sparkling Gulf of Policastro, which is studded with charming towns and elegant hotels. Its attraction is no secret: itís packed in summer and youíll need to book ahead. Conversely, many hotels and restaurants close from October to March.


ekscrunchy is offline  
Jan 11th, 2009, 07:42 AM
  #25  
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Outstanding feedback. Thank you.

I believe you have got us back focused on Sorrento. Frankly, the downside might be the hairpin driving. We really do want to have a car but would hate to have one and then think, "my goodness, we can't bet back on that road once again." Particularly after a pasta and vino fueled dinner. If train travel to Pompeii, etc., is an option, that sounds good. Yet, I imagine a car would make sense since we could then drive south from Rome. Or, take the train from Rome to Sorrento and rent a car there?

I got replies from a few hotels in Sorrento. And, as you note, the ones we like - those with a pool and such - are on the cliffs right outside or right above Sorrento. All things considered, I think we still need that extra space and pool option. And, I imagine, parking would be much easier.

As for Sicily and Siracusa/Ortigia, that still looks fascinating. Is it just a very different feel from Amalfi? And, much hotter, and less lush?

I will look at the San Sebastian option. I am not familiar with the location. During our trip through Catalonia we did stop in Calella da Palafrugell and Cadaques. We liked them a lot. Small towns, small beaches but great walking and sense of place. The roads were crowded, but survivable. We also really liked the small town of Llafranc. We will look at some areas a bit north of there too.

Also, I priced some automatic cars and, as expected there are few of them and they are way more expensive but, they are available, thankfully. Thanks.
tengohambre is offline  
Jan 11th, 2009, 07:57 AM
  #26  
 
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If you stay in Sorrento, you can use boats to day trip. And the train to see Pompeii if it's not 120 degrees out there (no shade).

I wouldn't take a car into that area in August.

zeppole is offline  
Jan 11th, 2009, 07:59 AM
  #27  
 
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And here's San Sebastian:

http://images.google.it/images?q=san...-8&sa=N&tab=wi
zeppole is offline  
Jan 11th, 2009, 08:03 AM
  #28  
 
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Here's an even better bunch of photos of San Sebastian.

http://www.tripadvisor.com/LocationP...ia_Basque.html

I think the food there is the best I've tasted in Europe.
zeppole is offline  
Jan 11th, 2009, 08:16 AM
  #29  
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Thank you Zeppole. I didn't realize you meant "that" San Sebastian, in north west Spain. For some reason i was thinking more towards Barcelona.

Ironically, a few times I have looked at that city. I too have read that it has some of the best food in Spain. And the town itself looks great. It would certainly move me away from Italy. For that I guess we would fly to Madrid and drive to SB? Or maybe fly if we could find a cheap flight. I will email some hotels there. If memory serves, it might be hard to find ones with a pool.

One question: because of its location will the weather be iffy even in August? The ocean very cold?

Regarding a car in Sorrento? Is it very easy just to catch trains from Sorrento to Naples, Pompeii, even to Positano? I see bus travel, while available, could be sporadic and the buses packed. And, in Sorrento, can we find restaurants still geared to locals? Good food, and not just places with photos of the food on a big board outside the entrance? Thanks.
tengohambre is offline  
Jan 11th, 2009, 09:06 AM
  #30  
 
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Sorry, I can't help about August. We had no problems in March travelling around by bus and train. Oh, we ended up not having enough time by city bus to go to more than Amalfi-2 busses on Amalfi Coast road slowed us to a snail's pace. We did give the driver an ovation!
TDudette is online now  
Jan 11th, 2009, 09:28 AM
  #31  
 
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tengohambre,

To take your issues in reverse order:

There are no perfect transportation options in Sorrento and Amalfi, because of the crowds, but a car is no improvement. Not only are the drivers in that area chaotic, but if you try to go to Positano (or the islands), you are on a narrow road with buses and no hope of turning off if you are stuck in traffic. That's why I suggested taking a ferry to Positano -- but you'll have to get there early and wait on a line. But you'll have to do that for the bus.

There is a train that connects to Sorrento, and it will take you into Naples, and on to Pompeii and all the way to Salerno (Paestum). You really don't need a car.

You can always find restaurants geared to locals in Italy.

http://www.tripadvisor.in/ShowTopic-..._Campania.html

And ask the locals.

Regarding weather in San Sebastian, it's on the "green" (read "wet) side of the world, so you can get rain. I think in August the water will be fine. I don't know about humidity. But look at this:

http://www.whatsansebastian.com/san-...n-weather.html

Swimming pools? You're right. I don't think the the Londres has one. I don't think you need one, because it's perfect sand beach.

To get there, many people transfer through Paris or London to Bilbao, which is an hour away. But there is a flight from Madrid directly in San Sebastian (not cheap). And of course you can drive from any number of points of entry.
zeppole is offline  
Jan 11th, 2009, 09:28 AM
  #32  
 
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Ortigia is a town that up to recent months was caught in time. It is a sleepy little town that is 1 mile by 1 1/2 miles surrounded by sea(not bathing beaches).Its harbor holds the ghosts of over 4000 ships sunk through its various wars with Greece.It is in the midst of renovating its buildings so quite a few of them neither have central heating or A/C.
My daughter spent a college semester there studying abroad and it is one of our favorite places on earth. However, I still think that after seeing the Greek ruins in Siracusa,etc. your pre teens might want to be somewhere else?
dutyfree is offline  
Jan 11th, 2009, 10:45 AM
  #33  
 
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We took the train from Rome to Naples. Then in Naples we got on the circumvesuviana which is about 60 minutes from Naples to Sorrento (those are the two end points). In between it has stops at Pompeii, Herculeum, and other places.

We usually like the freedom of a car, but we used only public transportation on that trip and it was great. No regrets at all and I was glad we didn't have a car.
see_the_world7 is offline  
Jan 11th, 2009, 10:52 AM
  #34  
 
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I don't really have anything to all the expert advice you already have. Just want to stress what others have said in that the absolute last thing you want in Sorrento (or anywhere in that area) in August is a car unless you truly enjoy sitting in a car in traffic squeezed between buses. Ferries take a little time (actually likely less than driving in August), but what better way to enjoy the time going from one place to another than on the water. Sorrento is a perfect base for trains and ferries to other towns without a car. It is an easy walking city too. Since it is a "real" city and not just a tourist town, there are plenty of "local" dining options. Don't get me wrong you will also find places with pictures on the menu too, just skip them.
Golfergal is offline  
Jan 11th, 2009, 01:41 PM
  #35  
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Thank you. The feedback is really making me reconsider the car thing. Maybe the train is just easier.

(But, for the return to Rome FCO, what would be the easiest way to do that if you don't have a car to get you from Sorrento back to the airport?)

Also, I am back to looking around Apulia. I see that it is only about a 2 and a half hour drive from Sorrento. Thus, perhaps we can do: Rome-Apulia-Sorrento-Rome. Of course, that means a car somewhere along the trip, I think.
tengohambre is offline  
Jan 11th, 2009, 03:10 PM
  #36  
 
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The EASIEST, but also the most costly would be to hire a private driver to take you from Sorrento to the airport in Rome. Last time I looked at this, costs were running about 300 Euro and up..

There is also a bus, but it run but once or twice a day, and goes to Tiburtina station, according to this schedule:



http://www.alfonsoamare.it/english/marozzi.htm


Otherwise, there is the train to Naples and then to Rome city, and then to the airport..quite a schlep!
ekscrunchy is offline  
Jan 11th, 2009, 04:33 PM
  #37  
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Yes, multiple train rides en route to an airport definitely qualifies as a shlepp.

At that point, it may make sense simply to rent a car in Rome, drive south, use it once or twice, and then use it again to get back to FCO.

tengohambre is offline  
Jan 11th, 2009, 05:10 PM
  #38  
 
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We found Sicily to be infinitely more interesting than the Amalfi coast. There is plenty of coastline in Sicily plus interesting ruins, great food, cheaper prices and some great towns to visit.
spinesrgn is offline  
Jan 11th, 2009, 06:30 PM
  #39  
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If I could ask, can you elaborate a bit on why you found Sicily so much more interesting than the Amalfi area? The sights, the food, the feel? Thanks.
tengohambre is offline  
Jan 11th, 2009, 09:13 PM
  #40  
 
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To get back to the Rome airport we took the circumvesuviana back to Naples, then took the train back to Rome. We planned an extra night in Rome at the end of the trip at a hotel near the train station. That way if there were any unexpected delays we wouldn't miss a flight. We were able to walk around Rome for one more afternoon/evening and then get to the airport and take a flight home the next day. Most buses leave right from the train station in Rome.
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