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Thoughts on my 3 week trip to Sardinia; Bonifacio, Corsica; Paestum; Maratea; Tropea & Gioiosa Ionica in Calabria with a day trip to Taormina thrown in

Thoughts on my 3 week trip to Sardinia; Bonifacio, Corsica; Paestum; Maratea; Tropea & Gioiosa Ionica in Calabria with a day trip to Taormina thrown in

Old Sep 17th, 2004, 05:33 PM
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Day 9-

We drove to Santa Teresa di Gallura and took the ferry to Bonifacio, Corsica. We didn't plan to take our car over, but people who did and didn't have a reservation were out of luck as tickets for cars were all sold out. This day was the only overcast day that we experienced during our 10 days in Sardegna. The ferry ride was about an hour.

Bonifacio is a really charming town that is pretty tourist-friendly. It appeared that everyone spoke French and Italian. We were there about 4-5 hours and walked all over. We arrived at the Escalier du Roy d'Aragon, which were steps that led down to a walkway carved into the side of the cliffs that the town is on top of, as well as down to the water. Based on my father's complaints about the steps that "I made him do" at the Grotta di Nettuno I suggested that perhaps he sit this one out. Yet again he wouldn't hear of it. I think there was only 145 steps, but they are quite steep. The rocks and the sea at the end of the walkway are beautiful, as well as the views.

We grabbed snacks during the day but didn't sit down for a real lunch. There were so many restaurants that looked really worthwhile. The souvenir shopping was better than most of what I had encountered in Sardinia thus far so I bought lots of little things. I know this sounds stupid but I was happy to just have set foot in France, as I have yet to explore this country at all. Next year if I only do a 2-week trip to Europe I may do 1 week in Corsica and 1 week visiting my family, my mind always has to start planning the next trip as soon as one is over!!!!

That evening we ate in Cannigone, a town not to far from San Pantoleo. We ate at Palma D'Oro which was a really cute restaurant right on the beach, you could walk out the sliding glass door and the sand was right there.
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Old Sep 17th, 2004, 05:46 PM
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Day 10- our last day in Sardinia

My father really wanted to take it easy this day. We went to Spiaggia del Principe (aka Portu Li Coggi). It's noted as being one of the best beaches in the area. It's a 10-15 minute walk to the beach from where you park, and there's very little development in the area to spoil the setting (which is rare in the Costa Smeralda). We arrived quite early in the am, around 9 and it was peaceful. As the day went on it definitely filled up, but we had a nice, quiet spot around some rocks.

Later in the day my dad had sun overload, and since he was weary of me traveling around alone in the car we had a bit of an argument. Finally we resolved it by him staying at the hotel to rest a bit and I drove to a mall outside Olbia a did a bit of last minute shopping.

All in all I LOVED Sardinia. It's a totally different experience from other areas I've been to in Italy. The itinerary wasn't so driven by historical sites as it was by beaches, towns, and just plain gorgeous scenery. I'm also toying with maybe 1 week Sardinia next year and then 1 week with my family. I was very sorry to have missed out on Castelsardo, the Golfo di Orosei and on renting a boat to explore "hidden" beaches with. The bottom line is that I'm a beach bum, no matter how much I love cities I'd rather be on an amazing beach.
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Old Sep 19th, 2004, 06:40 PM
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Day 11-

We flew from Olbia to Naples on Meridiana. We rented an automatic from thrifty, I booked an Alfa Romeo but they ended up giving me a large, 4 door smart car. The drive to Paestum was pretty easy, there were tons of places along the way that had signs for "Buffalo Mozzarella," we stopped at a place that we thought had it, but they didn't and we were so hungry we just ate there anyway.

Paestum was so beautiful and expanse. As far as siteseeing goes, I love temples. I was pleased to have visted a place that was on par with what I had seen in Sicily 1 1/2 years ago. My father isn't an archaeology buff, but there was a "photo shoot" going on at the site that seemed to somewhat interest him. There was a very blond woman walking around in a thong bikini with stiletto heels posing all over the place. If you access my photos at Ofoto you will see (sort of, it was at a distance) what my father saw that was interesting.....

If anyone recalls my post awhile back, I had booked our hotel in Maratea on Expedia. As soon as I did it I had regrets. I was a bit impulsive with it because I was getting so many e-mails back (this was in March-April) that many hotels in the area were booked, or that they did not accept 2 day stays in August (only at least a week). So I booked Hotel Il Gabbiano, and I had an Italian-speaking friend of mine call a few weeks later to confirm the reservation.

Before we left Paestum I felt like we should call the hotel and just make sure everything was ok. My dad called and was told that they did not have a reservation for us. We spent at least an hour on a payphone between the hotel and Expedia. The rep at Expedia said that she would work on it, in the meantime we decided to just go to the hotel. The drive to Maratea from Paestum consisted of about 65 miles, and the last 20 or so were serious, twisty and curvey mountain rounds that take a lot of concentration and time. We arrived at Gabbiano and my father proceeded to have a huge argument with the front desk and the manager, they then pulled out some paperwork from Esperia, who I assume Expedia uses to book hotels in Italy. It contained a fax from the week before that stated that they were unable to confirm our reservation at Gabbiano, and that they had tried to reach us but didn't have our phone or e-mail address. Which absolutely does not make sense because Expedia had everything. It then explained they had booked us at Grand Hotel Pianeta, which was actually in Maratea. It was at the top of the mountain, not on the coast like Gabbiano.

At this point I told my dad to please stop arguing, as I recalled that Pianeta was supposed to be a much nicer hotel than Gabbiano. I do not know why the man that we spoke with from Paestum did not know this had happened, we then could have had bypassed going to this hotel and wasting another hour. By this point it was about 5pm, and we were only staying for 2 nights.




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Old Sep 20th, 2004, 05:40 AM
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The drive from Gabbiano to Pianeta took at least an hour, due to some wrong turns. By this point I was probably delirius as this was an extremely long day with lots of driving. Once we arrived, just about when it was getting dark, we could see that this hotel was really beautiful. The decor isn't so great, very 1970s, but the views from all over were stunning. Our room faced the statue of the "Il Redentore," which what actually was the reason why I wanted to go to this area. I had seen some really stunning pictures of the statue on webshots, and made it my mission to see it in person. We also could see the sea.

Our stay also included dinner, and the food at this hotel was exceptional. The first night we had a buffet, and I normally am not a fan. This buffet was full of 100s of different items; fruit, cheese, bread, pastas, meast, desserts.... all very high quality.

Day 12-

First thing in the morning we drive up Mount St. Blaise to see the "Il Redentore." It is a 72 foot high statue of Jesus Christ. The views from all around the staue are absolutely amazing. We drove down to Maratea, the actual town and spent some time wandering all around. There are really cute shops and restaurants, it was a fun town to spend a few hours in.

We returned to the hotel and took the shuttle bus to the beach. The "sand" was almost black, and the ocean was much more of a green-blue than a pure blue like in Sardegna. The hotel had lounge chairs all over for their customers. It was a small beach but very scenic.

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Old Sep 20th, 2004, 06:04 PM
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The last 8 nights in Calabria

This day we drove to Calabria, it took 4-5 hours as there was some serious roadwork going on road A3. We spent the next 8 nights in Calabria at my aunt's home. This was my father's favorite part of the vacation because he spent most of his time just hanging out with his 2 sisters. I have been studying Italian for about a year now, and found that my communication skills probably improved about 20% over last year. The thing is that my family speaks a dialect, and it is so different from the proper Italian I am learning. They understand what I said, but when they came back at me in rapid dialect it was very hard for me to understand. My younger cousins are a bit easier to communicate with.

I love going to see my family as well because the way of life there is so simple in a way. My aunt's grow/make or raise 99% of what they serve on their tables- fruits, vegetables, cheeses, sausages, breads, sopressata, chicken... My one aunt makes homemade ricotta and it is to die for. They hardly buy anything from a supermarket, and because of the climate they are able to do this year round.

One day we took a drive to ruins at Locri. There honestly wasn't that much to see except a bit of an Ionic Temple, and the Greek amphitheatre was closed. Another day we actually got one of my aunts (they very rarely leave their homes) to go with us on a daytrip to Taormina, Sicily. I had been there a year and a half before, but I wanted my dad to see it. I drove on the A3 to Villa San Giovanni (this stretch of A3 was quite curvey) and drove onto the ferry to go to Messina. It was pretty easy, and once in Messina there are plenty of signs to follow in the Catania direction (Taormina is before that). Unfortunately that day my dad felt quite ill, he said my aunt's chickens kept him up all night. It was also at least 100 degrees, so my dad & aunt sat on benches most of the day while me & a younger cousin roamed around the town. I was ecstatic to be able to see the Teatro Greco again, it is definitely my favorite teatro that I have ever visited within Italy and Greece. The day was overcast so we couldn't see Mt. Etna.

Coming back from Taormina was poorly timed, my dad somewhat rushed me to start heading back as he was nauseous. I think we ended up in Messina around 4- what a nightmare. It took 1 1/2 hours to get back on the boat. I was advised afterwards to wait until at least 6 to get back on the boat at Messina.

The next day we took a daytrip to Tropea, 2 of my cousins went with me. It's only about 53 miles but it took about 2 hours because of that awful A3 roadwork. Tropea is an absolute gorgeous town that I hope to go and spend some time in, during a future trip. The town is situated up on cliffs and the sandy, picturesque beach is below. The church of Santa Maria dell'Isola is built upon a sea stack opposite the town on the cliffs. While walking up the steps to the church there are many amazing photo opps with the sea as a backdrop. My favorite part of the church was the gardens in the back. I'm sure they set it up this way on purpose for the tourists, as there are many cute, fuzzy animals in the garden. There were exotic birds in a cage, and as we kept walking we saw a bunny that was a little too easy to take a picture of. I definitely think he was or is someone's pet. There were kittens playing in the grass, and I took the cutest picture of one cat with one blue eye and one brown. In the back of the garden there were more stunning views of the sea. I couldn't have dreamed up a more picturesque place, as I am a huge animal lover. The town itself had lots of interesting shops and restaurants.

We drove a bit further to Capo Vaticano as I really wanted to find a particular spot that I had seen a picture of, but we were tired so we didn't stay long and I never found that particular spot I was looking for (this is the spot that I had hoped to find: http://community.webshots.com/photo/...68506587OcWnjq
Oh well, next time!

Just when I thought I had enough of mountain driving, my family planned a picnic in the mountains. About 20 of us followed one another up some crazy, crazy curvey mountain road for about an hour. Once up there the temperature was dramatically cooler, and we were surrounded by tall pine trees. We had a really enjoyable day full of amazing food and scenery.

The last Sunday of August was the feast of San Rocco in my family's town. We missed the most interesting portion of the feast which was early in the morning, where they carry the statue of San Rocco through the streets and dance the Tarantella. We went in the evening when they had concerts and all kinds of booths selling food, and various other items.

For anyone even thinking of going to Calabria, I say JUST GO. From what I've seen so far there are many wonderful, not-so-touristy places to be seen. The food is amazing and the people are nice. There are not too many English-speakers, but I think it just makes the experience that much more authentic. There was nothing more annoying to me in Sardegna when I would speak in Italian and the people would respond in English. I know it was nice of them to do so, but I did want to use what I had learned. Places that I've seen so far that are worthwhile are Gerace, Stilo and Tropea. There are so many people who just hit the big three when they go to Italy, but there are so many other wonderful places to see!

I hope this report will be helpful to others in the future who decide to see these parts of Italy that are so often overlooked by American tourists, and I'm sure many other nationalities as well.



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Old Sep 21st, 2004, 03:34 AM
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If anyone has any questions that they don't want to post here, you can e-mail me at [email protected]

Please just put something like "Italy" or "Trip Report" in your subject line.
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Old Nov 4th, 2004, 04:28 PM
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AP, I'm late in reading your report but I wanted to compliment you on your stylish writing and great info.

Thank you,
Linda

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Old Nov 5th, 2004, 03:49 AM
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Thanks Linda, that was very nice of you!
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Old Nov 5th, 2004, 05:26 AM
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AP, thanks for a very interesting report on areas I've not read much about. I can't believe you packed so much in to your stay on Sardinia - you are truly an example.

I'm thinking of a relaxing (cheap) week at a Southern Italian coastal town next year, following an energetic week in Venice : do you recommend a week in Maratea or Tropea ? We'd like to be in a town, able to walk to the beach & have a choice of good restaurants. Thanks.
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Old Nov 5th, 2004, 06:24 AM
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In Maratea, the town (from what I saw) is not walkable to the beach. You have to remember with both of these places the towns are set up somewhat of a mountain, and then the beach areas are at the "foot" of the mountain. The hotel I ended up with in Maratea was up almost at the top of the mountain, but they had a shuttle bus to the beach. I think in Tropea there may be a stairway that goes from the main town to the beach. It seemed like there was a much shorter distance involved in going from the town of Tropea, because it directly overlooks the beach areas.

I liked the town of Tropea more than the town of Maratea, and actually I liked the beach better too. It would probably be cheaper as well. In both places I would recommend a car, because there are some really interesting day trips that can be done.

Both places seem really off the beaten track for English-speaking tourists, but there are many Italian tourists.







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Old Nov 5th, 2004, 06:47 AM
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Caroline, I agree with AP that Tropea would be a better beach destination than Maratea. Tropea has several beaches within walking distance of the town, just remember at the end of the day you will have to climb a long flight of stairs. Depending on the time of your visit it may be very busy or wonderfully tranquil. Lots of restaurants to choose from. If you do not have a car, the walk from the train station is about five minutes.

The train station for Maratea is not at Maratea but at Fiumicello. There are buses but they coincide with school hours and not the trains. It is a 45 minute walk, without relief, up to Maratea. The beaches are not as nice as Tropea's but the coast is jaw droppingly gorgeous (Amalfi coast without the development). Maratea's port, Porto, far below Maratea, is a chic spot to have a meal.

Good luck on your travels.
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Old Nov 5th, 2004, 03:49 PM
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What a useful trip report for off the beaten path travel spots! We spent time in Calabria last year as my husband's family comes from Guardavalle. As you say, a really interesting part of Italy with hidden treasures. Thanks for the info on Sardinia, I have saved it for future reference as it looks likely that my daughter will marry a lovely Sardinian boy. By the way, he has eaten the cheese a la maggots, as it is a delicacy over there, but would'nt do it a second time, ooh too awful.
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Old Nov 6th, 2004, 04:06 AM
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How lucky for you to have a great reason to go to Sardinia, over & over again! I had read about that cheese, needless to say, I had no interest.
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Old Nov 6th, 2004, 06:05 AM
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I'm keeping this great report in a file of future trips! Very nice. How special it is to take a trip like this with Dad.
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Old Nov 8th, 2004, 02:16 AM
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AP & JQ: thanks very much !
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Old May 11th, 2005, 06:04 AM
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I figured that I would update the link to my pics:

http://www.kodakgallery.com/I.jsp?c=...3&x=0&y=8rcqzb
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Old Jul 21st, 2005, 08:00 PM
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I just read your trip report after doing a search for Sardinia. (I miss it and want to go back!) Anyway, I can't believe that I never saw this until now. I really enjoyed reading about your trip. Thanks-OH! and the pictures are great too.
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Old Jul 25th, 2005, 06:15 AM
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I'm glad you enjoyed it! I am wishing I was headed back to Sardinia this summer.
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Old Jul 25th, 2005, 08:51 AM
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AP,
Came across your report while searching for Gioiosa Ionica (not many hits). It was a pleasant surprise finding your post discussing San Rocco; I'm gearing up for the processione!!! I'll be visiting family there in August so I'm using this forum to come up with ideas for excursions beyond Gioiosa. Heard plenty of wonderful things about Tropea and after seeing your pix, it is certainly worth considering. Thanks for your thorough report.
ALPS
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Old Jul 25th, 2005, 10:19 AM
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I somehow missed the actual procession of San Rocco, but went in the evening. Other nice excursions are:

-Gerace
-Stilo
-I've heard that Serra San Bruno is worthwhile, but I haven't gotten there yet.
-Taormina is a LONG daytrip, but worth it if you have never been there, especially.

Tropea is my favorite beach town in all of Italy, and I've been to many!
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