Go Back  Fodor's Travel Talk Forums > Destinations > Europe
Reload this Page > Solo in Italia May 2015: Sorrento, Amalfi, Paestum, Naples, Rome

Solo in Italia May 2015: Sorrento, Amalfi, Paestum, Naples, Rome

Reply

Aug 5th, 2015, 12:47 PM
  #1
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Dec 2005
Posts: 899
Solo in Italia May 2015: Sorrento, Amalfi, Paestum, Naples, Rome

Solo in Italia May 2015: Sorrento, Amalfi, Paestum, Naples, Rome

This was my first solo trip to Europe since my very first in the summer of 1969.
The bottom line: I was after world-class beauty, natural and man-made, and this trip delivered in spades. I read and re-read many of the excellent trip reports on this region that had long been on my wishlist. My heartfelt thanks to all who went before and shared their knowledge and expertise! A thread on carry-on luggage was also extremely helpful. I chose the Lipault 22-inch spinner—loved it--and a Baggallini tote that fit nicely over the spinner’s handle.

This account will be tilted toward activities and lodging, traditionally my bailiwicks. On previous vacations I’d shared selection responsibilities with my husband who handled the restaurants and, for whom, happily, a mediocre meal was a tragedy. Cashed in miles to ease my way in business class to a destination sufficiently physically challenging to be best seen sooner than later.

The itinerary:

Round-trip Orange County, CA-Chicago-Rome on American.

Sorrento: 4 nights. Hotel Mignon Meublè, www.sorrentohotelmignon.com. Garden view room with balcony, €106/night.

Amalfi: 3 nights. Hotel Marina Riviera, www.marinariviera.it. Deluxe double with view of Amalfi town and the coast, average rate €237/night.

Paestum: 1 night. Hotel Villa Rita, www.hotelvillarita.it. Room in the main house, €70/night.

Naples: 3 nights. Hotel Piazza Bellini, www.hotelpiazzabellini.com. Terrace room, €118/night.

Rome: 2 nights. Albergo del Senato, www.albergodelsenato.it. Superior double with Pantheon view, €373/night.

Getting around:

Car services: After getting at least half a dozen quotes from different agencies, I chose Sorrento Cars/Leonardo Travel, www.sorrentocars.com, to get me from Fiumicino to Sorrento (€300), Sorrento to Amalfi (€70), and Amalfi to Paestum (€100). Ugo answered all of my emails quickly and his rates were the least expensive for each leg of the journey. His drivers were always early and were careful and courteous. The vehicles were Mercedes, mini-vans from Rome-Sorrento and Amalfi-Paestum and a small wagon from Sorrento-Amalfi. They were comfortable if not luxurious. I was impressed that all three drivers spontaneously spoke very highly of their boss. Ugo’s preference was to be paid in cash but it was no problem to swing by his office on the way to Sorrento so that I could pay for the first leg by credit card.

I pre-booked with Rome Shuttle Limousine, www.romeshuttlelimousine.com, for my transfer from the Albergo del Senato to FCO. The rate was €45 payable by credit card. The driver arrived early in a spiffy Mercedes sedan.

Trains: I took regional trains from Paestum to Naples via Battiipaglia, purchasing the ticket at a tabacchi near the ruins in Paestum. Reserved a couple of months in advance for the Frecciarossa from Naples to Rome, Business Silenzio, €29, a thoroughly pleasant experience.

On daytrips: I took the ferry to Capri and the little red bus from Capri town up to Anacapri, the Circumvesia to Herculaneum, the ferry to Positano, and the local bus to Ravello. With as many trip reports as I’d read that mentioned the often packed state of the local buses, I was still unprepared for the reality. I stood with my fellow sardines on the way to Anacapri and Ravello and was lucky to snag seats on the way back.

Breakfasts: Why a special category from someone who’s not typically a big breakfast eater you might ask. Because I like fresh, good food, appreciate a variety of possibilities, and it starts off the day. Numerous breakfast-included stays at motels on family road trips throughout the West have left me with antibodies to chintzy. Award for best breakfast goes to the Marina Riviera—served on a lovely terrace with a view of the town and the coast, ample selection of meats, cheeses, baked goods, fresh fruit, eggs cooked to order, juice not canned. In the middle were the Mignon Meublè, Piazza Bellini, and Albergo del Senato. The otherwise undistinguished breakfast at the Villa Rita was saved by the absolutely fantastic bufala yogurt. Service was good everywhere.

Staying connected:

TV: Yes, my ipad or iphone could bring the world to me 24/7 if I wanted it. That said, I still really liked having access to English-speaking news on TV. Best in this category were the Hotel Piazza Bellini, the Albergo del Senato, and the Marina Riviera. I found a couple of channels with movies/programs in English, but no news, at the Hotel Mignon and none at the Villa Rita.

Wi-Fi: I had reliable wi-fi in my room at every hotel save the Marina Riviera and not for lack of trying on their part. As I understood it, the hotel, which was comprised of more than one original structure, had more than one wireless system which may have been a factor in the problem. My room was also located pretty far from the reception area where I was always able to get on the web. A service person came twice and even changed the router in the room. Moving was not an option the first two nights, but on the third night, they offered to move me to a suite closer to reception (My ipad worked better there, but I declined with thanks as it was late in the day and the room had a lesser view).

SORRENTO: Sorrento fulfilled its mission as the right place to recover from the 19 or so hours it took me to get there and as the jumping off point for daytrips to Herculaneum and Capri. I arrived in the early afternoon and spent that afternoon and the following day adjusting to the time change and wandering Sorrento’s pretty alleyways, the scent of orange blossoms wafting in the air a delight. There was a cruise ship in town and Sorrento was hopping. Obtained the SIM card for my iphone at the TIM store on the Corso Italia.

The cozy Mignon Meublè with its fresh white walls and blue and white tiled floors was perfectly located on a pedestrian street just off the Corso Italia. It delivered on cleanliness, comfort,and convenience, and the public areas in particular had charm. My room had a balcony with a view over the garden and up to the hills behind Sorrento, its bath’s weensy shower the only appreciable negative. The breakfast room looked out on the small garden and a citrus grove belonging to a neighboring restaurant. The 24-hour market next door supplied me with my first night’s supper which I enjoyed on the balcony. The Mignon is looking to its future--there was a brand new elevator and the roof top terrace was being refurbished. Just outside the close-by city walls and to the left was a bank with an ATM located inside.

Food: All three restaurants I chose, Inn Bufalito, the Fauno Bar (good energy and people watching), and Bagni Sant’Anna at Marina Grande, were serviceable, the lunch of grilled seafood at Bagni Sant’Anna being the best of the lot. Enjoyed gelato at both Raki and Zini.

Daytrips:

First up Capri, the beginning of a number of let’s see what the fuss is about forays. I visited Anacapri, walked the loop from Capri town toward the Arco Naturale returning along the sea with a view of the Faraglioni, and returned to Capri town to purchase small souvenirs for friends. Highlights: little Chiesa di San Michele in Anacapri with its majolica floor depicting Adam and Eve’s expulsion from the Garden of Eden, the sea views along the walk, the tiny white towns with their rabbit warren byways.

Even in early May Capri’s shops (the most high-end of the coastal towns) and tiny streets were filled with shop-til-you-drop patrons. Still, it is physically beautiful and has glamour. On another trip, I’d spend a night or two there to soak it in.
Tip: The individual lily-of-the-valley sachets by Carthusia (€5) made excellent mementos.

Having been to Pompeii on that first trip in 1969 and wanting to include an ancient Roman site, I chose Herculaneum, its smaller size a plus. I met up with a couple from Northern California walking toward the ruins from the train and we became part of a group of eight needed for a guide. My normally do-it-yourself mode not withstanding, I know our entertaining and informative guide greatly enhanced the experience. Well worth a visit for its examples of Roman engineering applied to everyday life (e.g. the cloakroom of the women’s bath with its vaulted grooved ceiling that kept condensation from falling on one’s head) and relatively intact structures with frescoes and mosaics still in place.
bon_voyage is online now  
Reply With Quote
Aug 5th, 2015, 02:05 PM
  #2
 
Join Date: Feb 2006
Posts: 52,036
sounds like a great trip, bon_voyage.

thanks for posting.
annhig is offline  
Reply With Quote
Aug 5th, 2015, 02:54 PM
  #3
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Dec 2005
Posts: 899
Thanks, annhig, I thought of you as I was getting to know Sorrento. I went in search of the black precepe but never succeeded in finding it.
bon_voyage is online now  
Reply With Quote
Aug 5th, 2015, 03:27 PM
  #4
 
Join Date: Feb 2006
Posts: 52,036
that's a shame. bon_voyage. [not that you were thinking of me, that you didn't find the black precepe!]

perhaps it's not there any more.

I'm not sure that we would have found it if we'd been staying in a more central part of the town though.

did you think that Sorrento was a good place to stay? one of the other members of my italian group goes every year - I'm not sure I'd go that far but I do think it makes a good base for touring the area.
annhig is offline  
Reply With Quote
Aug 5th, 2015, 03:43 PM
  #5
 
Join Date: Mar 2007
Posts: 9,258
Thank you for a really great report!
Sassafrass is offline  
Reply With Quote
Aug 5th, 2015, 05:34 PM
  #6
 
Join Date: Aug 2008
Posts: 1,762
My kind of trip report! Really looking forward to this. Will be making a return stay at the del Senato over Labor Day weekend.
Weekender is offline  
Reply With Quote
Aug 5th, 2015, 07:40 PM
  #7
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Dec 2005
Posts: 899
Sassafrass and Weekender, thank you both for those kind words! Weekender, I wish you a wonderful return visit to the del Senato.

annhig, I even asked the precepe maker--I think he was on San Nicholas--and some of the other shopkeepers, all to no avail!

Sorrento worked well for what I wanted on this trip. I was looking for a soft landing for those first few days, e.g. no glitches making myself understood while buying the SIM card, in addition to a springboard for Capri and Herculaneum. Now,having visited Capri, my ideal trip might begin with a few nights there. In that case, I would work to fit Herculaneum in some other way and leave out Sorrento. But...even now, the thought of making my way to Capri after arriving in Rome from California makes me want to lie down.
bon_voyage is online now  
Reply With Quote
Aug 6th, 2015, 02:57 AM
  #8
 
Join Date: Jan 2015
Posts: 1,131
On my bucket list. Looking forward to more.
Adelaidean is offline  
Reply With Quote
Aug 6th, 2015, 06:42 AM
  #9
 
Join Date: Aug 2008
Posts: 1,762
bon_voyage:

I have used a Lipault 22" 2 wheeler for a number of years now and am still amazed at the amount of stuff that bag will hold. Been used many, many times and absolutely no sign of wear and tear.
Weekender is offline  
Reply With Quote
Aug 6th, 2015, 07:06 AM
  #10
 
Join Date: Jun 2008
Posts: 21,778
Thanks for the TR, bon_voyage. Would you please say what your Frecciarossa from Naples to Rome cost and how long it took.

Also, did your bus trip to Ravello originate in Sorrento? Or did you go from Amalfi.

Thanks again!
TDudette is offline  
Reply With Quote
Aug 6th, 2015, 09:37 AM
  #11
 
Join Date: Aug 2012
Posts: 522
More please!!
Judy_Rosa is offline  
Reply With Quote
Aug 6th, 2015, 10:07 AM
  #12
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Dec 2005
Posts: 899
Thanks Adelaidean, TDudette, and Judy_Rosa! Amalfi will be coming soon.

Weekender, I agree--that little Lipault took an amazing amount of stuff and it was so light!

TDudette, my Naples to Rome Frecciarossa ticket, which I was able to print out on my home computer, cost €29, half the price of a regular ticket. It was a very comfortable hour and 10 minutes in Business Silenzio--leather seats, a restroom at the end of the car, drink service, and no cell phone chatter. Then--at Rome Termini it took me 40 minutes to get to the head of the taxi line. Likely some of our savvy fellow Fodorites will know a better way.

I took the regular, local bus from Amalfi to Ravello and back. I saw people getting on the hop on-hop off bus in Ravello so that might be another option.
bon_voyage is online now  
Reply With Quote
Aug 6th, 2015, 10:58 AM
  #13
 
Join Date: May 2008
Posts: 8,439
Hi, bon_voyage! I went to Rome & Bologna solo last summer, so this is great reading for me, particularly as I want to visit Naples soon, possibly in 2016. Thank you so much for writing this up. I am following you happily along.
Leely2 is offline  
Reply With Quote
Aug 6th, 2015, 02:45 PM
  #14
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Dec 2005
Posts: 899
Hi, Leely! Thanks--good to see you! I'd noted with interest that you'd been to Bologna. Reading about your solo travels and those of others was a source of inspiration and reassurance. I think you will find a lot to like in Naples.
bon_voyage is online now  
Reply With Quote
Aug 6th, 2015, 04:33 PM
  #15
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Dec 2005
Posts: 899
AMALFI: The most dramatic part of the drive to Amalfi was at the beginning, after the meet-up of the road from Sorrento with the coast road. Truly spectacular. I’d selected Amalfi as my coastal base because it was relatively flat, centrally located with easy bus and ferry options for daytrips, and for its history as a maritime republic and a center of the paper industry. I was completely happy with this choice and, except for its problematic wi-fi, that of the Marina Riviera with its beautiful views and gracious hospitality.

My room at the MR, its balcony just large enough for a small wrought iron café table and two chairs, had a fine view over the town of Amalfi and its harbor and up the coast. In five minutes I could be right in the center of things. While the MR was perched over the coast road, I wasn’t bothered by noise (background noise does seem to bother me less that it does some). Loved Amalfi’s central piazza with its imposing duomo. Wandering through arches leading off the piazza, you were quickly in less trafficked territory and back in time. There was a Deutsche bank with an interior ATM across from the piazza from the Duomo tucked away just to the left of an arch.

Snapshots: As those assembled waited for the Sunday bus to Ravello down by the harbor, a processional of children robed in white for their first communion appeared, a wonderfully real moment in the life of the town. At breakfast one day I noticed a pair of boats out on the water, one with a crew and the other following. The answer to what’s going on was that they were practicing for the regatta in which the four ancient maritime republics, Amalfi, Genoa, Pisa, and Venice, compete each year.

Food: I enjoyed the entrées at all of my dinner choices, the spaghetti alle vongole at the Marina Grande, the sea bream with a lemon breadcrumb crust (this was particularly good) at l’Abside, and risotto with crispy zucchini at Buonvicino. A delizia al limone at the Paticceria Pansa was perfect way to end an evening.

Daytrips:

Positano: an easy and picturesque ferry ride up the coast
I had scoped out some shopping possibilities ahead of time and meandered toward the Emporio Sirenuse having a tentative plan to lunch at the Bar Bruno with its iconic view of the village. Now, I love shopping for local crafts/food products/clothing, whatever really, and window shopping is good, too. Even so, added to Sorrento and Capri, the acquisitive mass of humanity began to get to me, and, unable to find the perfect something on my way at, to, or from the Emporio Sirenuse, I descended in search of a more serene setting. A seaside stroll took me to Lo Guarracino for a relaxed lunch—much better.

Ravello: The bus ride up was reminiscent of the Wild Mouse at the fairs of my childhood.
Only having the day and a Sunday at that, it was difficult to gauge the vitality of this jewel box of a town, but its beauty is undeniable. Highlights: the Duomo and its ambo featuring a mosaic of Jonah and the Whale, walking through the pergola of wisteria in the gardens of the Villa Cimbrone, the feeling of being embraced by the mountains and suspended between sea and sky at the Villa Rufolo. I could understand what drew the artists, writers, and musicians. Ravello, the most refined of the coastal towns I visited, has magic.

I had originally planned to walk down from Ravello to Amalfi via Atrani, but my walk on Capri changed that. While not aerobically challenging, that walk had involved many, many steps, mostly shallow but without rails and requiring full attention to avoid an untoward spill. I nixed the walk and took the return bus which luckily made a stop at Atrani. Off I hopped. Quickly meeting up with a woman who guided me through its Escheresque maze of arcaded stairways to one the main piazzas, I made my way from there through a tunnel that eventually led me to the cathedral in Amalfi. I enjoyed my taste of mysterious little Atrani and wish I’d had more time to wander.
bon_voyage is online now  
Reply With Quote
Aug 6th, 2015, 05:40 PM
  #16
 
Join Date: Aug 2008
Posts: 1,762
Too funny. I loved the Wild Mouse as a kid. Such an innocent looking ride and yet...
Weekender is offline  
Reply With Quote
Aug 7th, 2015, 03:32 AM
  #17
 
Join Date: Jan 2015
Posts: 1,131
From what I've read about those bus trips, they are best undertaken on an empty stomach.

Always interesting to read about where people choose to base in Amalfi Coast and how it works out.
Adelaidean is offline  
Reply With Quote
Aug 8th, 2015, 11:32 AM
  #18
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Dec 2005
Posts: 899
Weekender, how funny to meet a fellow Wild Mouse fan after all these years!

Adelaidean, I am so prone to motion sickness that I put on a scopolamine patch the night before the ferry to Capri which carried over for the drive to Amalfi. Not sure if it was still on/working for the bus rides to and from Ravello, but I had no problem.

PAESTUM: Standing alone in the stillness next to the Temple of Neptune, the sky as blue as it could be, I felt as though I had been teleported back 2500 years. My younger son had spent a semester in Rome that included visits to many of the ancient sites in Southern Italy. He advised me that Paestum was not to be missed and he was so right. The three main temples are well preserved. They tower above you. I wrote in my travel diary: stupendous. The site, dotted with umbrella pines and ancient stones, is in the midst of water buffalo farms, and modern civilization encroaches much less than in many places. When I visited the site in the afternoon and early morning the next day, there were few other visitors. If you are a sacred sites/ancient ruins person you will be happy to have made the effort to get here.

The wonderful little museum onsite is perhaps most famous for its frescoes from the Tomb of the Diver. My favorite objects were the metopes from the Temple of Hera, in particular that of Sisyphus pushing the boulder uphill, a demon on his back for good measure. The krater, the Rape of Europa, returned to Paestum from the Getty Villa in LA, was on loan elsewhere. Asterisk: The temple often called Neptune/Poseidon is alternatively thought to have been dedicated to either Zeus, Apollo or Hera.

I’d gone back and forth about the best way to do this part of the journey. I try to avoid one-night stays and the initial quotes (€180-200) I received for a private transfer from Amalfi made me feel like tourist prey. I considered day-tripping from either Sorrento or Amalfi. Golden Tours in Sorrento offered a weekly bus tour that was reasonable priced (€40pp) that also stopped in Salerno. But the thought of spending 4 hours on a bus, my least favorite form of travel, and unable to roam as long as I might like at Paestum was not appealing. I also looked at public bus/train combinations via Salerno which were much less expensive but would have required a speedy exit from Amalfi that last morning and a good bit more effort. When Ugo came in at €100, I jumped.

The Villa Rita came well reviewed. It was within easy walking distance of the ruins and offered dinner, both important variables. Another option that looked good, Il Granaio di Casabella, didn’t offer dinner at the time I was booking. Luigi and his daughter, Rita, were both warm and hospitable. Rita took my laundry when I arrived in the early afternoon and it was returned before dinner, nicely done and very well priced, and Luigi drove me to the train station the next day. My room on the first floor was clean and comfortable, the shower just fine. I enjoyed sitting out by the pool after returning from the ruins in the afternoon. My only real ding here is the food, which given the many positive reviews, was a disappointment. The tables at dinner were set with cloth tablecloths and napkins and fresh flowers, but, while the bruschette with smoked cheese were tasty, the mixed salad with corn, the fusilli with meat and tomato sauce, and the pork in a cream sauce were bland. At breakfast, many items were packaged, the fruit canned. The bufala yogurt, however, was a revelation, light but not thin, tangy but not too sour. Luigi said that you can’t get it outside Paestum because it is too delicate to travel.
bon_voyage is online now  
Reply With Quote
Aug 8th, 2015, 12:19 PM
  #19
 
Join Date: Jun 2008
Posts: 21,778
Thanks, bon_voyage! We had hoped to go straight to Ravello by bus and then take our time returning to Sorrento. With our fractured Italian and English, respectively, we thought the bus clerk said you couldn't get one ticket to Ravello.
TDudette is offline  
Reply With Quote
Aug 10th, 2015, 02:21 PM
  #20
 
Join Date: Feb 2006
Posts: 52,036
Adelaidean, I am so prone to motion sickness that I put on a scopolamine patch the night before the ferry to Capri which carried over for the drive to Amalfi. Not sure if it was still on/working for the bus rides to and from Ravello, but I had no problem. >>

bon_voyage, you remind me of the time, many years ago when we took the ferry from Sorrento to Capri, and despite the shortness of the distance I threw up on the quayside!

still enjoying your travels along with you.
annhig is offline  
Reply With Quote
 



Thread Tools
Search this Thread
Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are Off
Pingbacks are Off
Refbacks are On


FODOR'S VIDEO

All times are GMT -8. The time now is 05:47 PM.