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Trip Report: Italy in October: Sorrento, Pienza and Rome

Trip Report: Italy in October: Sorrento, Pienza and Rome

Nov 14th, 2009, 02:55 PM
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Trip Report: Italy in October: Sorrento, Pienza and Rome

Part I: Three days in Sorrento.
Day 3: Achy feet, Wild Bus rides, and a fish fry…..

This is the first time that I get to write anything about our trip, so I’m starting backwards, with Day 3! It’s Sunday afternoon, the third day of our trip and our final day in Sorrento, and we just returned from a scary bus ride on the Amalfi Coast. Tom is showering and I am resting my tired feet while sitting on one of the 2 great chairs that are strategically placed in front of the huge ceiling to floor windows in our room at the lovely Maison Le Minervetta in Sorrento. It will be a little sad for me to leave this place…. I absolutely have loved the charm, sweet silence, great décor and vibe of the hotel, and have been particularly thankful for the cleanliness of our room.

Today, we took the 12:30 bus to Amalfi, going down the coast thru Positano into Amalfi. Tom felt sick during most of the bus ride there, we still don’t know why. Was it the food from last night (more on that later), or just that feeling of “lack of control” that one has when one is at the mercy of a bus driver in a foreign land? I took some great shots of the coast, though the sky was overcast. We “landed” in Amalfi after a long 1.5 hour drive thru the hair pin curves and narrow roads, visited the lovely Amalfi cathedral and cloister, then walked up the town’s streets to what seemed like the last building, where we ate a most delicious “caprese” sandwich at a mini pizzeria type place. They obviously made their own pizzas there because the man was folding up little and skinny pizza boxes (only ‘personal size’ pizzas in Italy, you know!). We have learned by this our 3rd day in Italy that one should always get pizza at a place that has a “forno” since the pizza is guaranteed to be both home-made and hot. This was a wonderful tip that Giovanni, our driver (“Tour of Italy” recommended by Fodorites) told us as he drove us from Naples to Sorrento.

The 4 pm bus back was crazy . We got there at 3:45 or 3:50 and the bus was standing room only. We actually rode standing the entire way. I guess no room or thought about getting sick then, huh? I actually ended up sitting for the last 25 minutes, after a couple got off and nobody sat in their seats. I offered the seat to a lady in front of me, who sat down, then to another lady who was standing behind me. She did not want to sit down, so I sat down, and ended up getting to talk to Fina from Barcelona, who reminded me of Mom’s cousin Sarina from Spain. She told me a great story about Siena and the “Il Palio” race, which I quickly shared with Tom once we got off the bus.

So anyway, was the bus ride worth it? Yes, and no. No because Tom felt sick.... Yes, because I am glad that we were able to see the Amalfi Coast. The views were definitely breathtaking, the way that the villages almost spill over into the sea. The jagged edges of the coast were spectacular. Unfortunately, the skies were mostly grey, so the colors were not as bright as they show on the postcards! It was fun recognizing the names of some of the hotels I researched. But, the best thing about the day was the confirmation that Tom & I picked the right place for the first leg of our trip. We had contemplated (long and hard) staying in Positano instead of Sorrento. After the bus ride, we both agreed that Positano looked way too crowded, that there was probably not enough to do other than to look at the views –and that this would have been a “waste” for us because the skies were gray the 2 full days that we were there. We absolutely loved our hotel in Sorrento, and the fact that we could walk into town in 15-20minutes. And it was so cool to know that we heard from the Lord, made the right choice and “communicated” correctly that day when we were in the Keys last July celebrating our first anniversary, when Tom said to me, “Yes I like that place, let’s stay there!”

Our last dinner in Sorrento was at Trattoria da Gigino, also recommended by Giovanni. I had the homemade pasta with shellfish; Tom had a delicious pizza, and we both shared a side of eggplant parmesan that was out of this world and a carafe of house wine.

Day 2: The fish fry, or La Sagra di Pesce Azzure. Saturday night, previous day.

This was a festival of sorts that took place on the Marina Grande on Saturday night, right below our hotel. Giovanni pointed at the banner hanging on the main street in Sorrento as he took us to the hotel and told Tom that they would be having local fish, sardines, etc. We heard the little Italian music and the loud speakers outside our hotel window, a sound which was muffled in our dreams since we had both collapsed after our day trip to Capri and took a little nap.

At first, we hesitated attending because it was raining and it was already almost 8 pm, plus the lady at the hotel (Chiara) didn’t show too much enthusiasm about the festival when we asked her about it. Tom was starving and suggested we go get some fish at the festival, then walk up to town to go to the Gigino restaurant that our Giovanni had recommended. I thought that the hike up to town from the marina may take us longer than just 15-20 minutes, but anyway, I was willing to eat wherever Tom wanted.
We walked the 300 steps from the hotel down to the Marina area and walked into an extremely lively scene and happy crowd. It was like being at a country fairs in the states, except that it all revolved around fish instead of elephant ears! We quickly figured out the festival’s system: One ticket (5 Euro) buys you a plate of food. We bought 4 tickets and went off to the first booth. First booth: a 5-10 minute wait and 2 plates full of fried calamari, shrimp, little fish and bread, plus a little plastic cup of white wine! We ate standing up by the stage and devoured the food, which was piping hot and delicious, eating even the skin of the little fishies, parts of the tails of the shrimp, and all of the scrumptious calamari. Thought about how much Jerry Messano and Mari would love the fried fish and how blessed we were to be there.

It was one of those great events that you stumble unto, that mark your trip and a little piece of your soul! I’m sure we’ll be talking about that one for years to come.
… just like the Il Nido di Oro in Capri…..
That was earlier that day……

Day 2: Capri: an Italian Guido on the Ferry, making friends with other tourists and enjoying the best pizza yet.
We took the ferry from the Marina Piccola in Sorrento to Capri, at 10:30 am or so, after a fantastic breakfast at the hotel. They prepared an omelette with cheese, tomato and basil for each of us, and had a wonderful spread of breads, cheeses, hams, fruits, yogurts and many other goodies set up.

The ferry was full of tourists, some of which we got to chat with later in the day. Like this guy whom we nicknamed Guido, who was there with his wife, kids, brother (?) – a large group of 6-8 of them – and looked like came straight out of “My Cousin Vinny.” He had the John Travolta SNF-type of hair, combed up by the forehead and then greased back a little, and was wearing black shorts, a black Tommy Bahama shirt, a sweatshirt with the word “Italia” across the front and an Italian flag on the sleeve (which were rolled up), beat-up white loafers without socks and lots of silver rings, bracelets and chains. I just kept looking at him interacting with his family and thought how wonderful it was that he was probably having the trip of his lifetime, getting back to his Italian roots. Turns out he lives in Daytona Beach, not NYC as we mistakenly thought. We ended up meeting up with him (and them!) on one of the bus rides later that day and hooked up in casual conversation.

Capri was not at all like either of us imagined. Much bigger, More beautiful. It is a tourist trap but it also is a fishing village. The transportation system is pretty good. Buses run on time, the funicular up the mountain to Anacapri is great, and the chair lifts that take you farther up looked cool. We didn’t take that since the weather was crappy. It actually started to sprinkle, so we had to buy 2 umbrellas, which I was able to negotiate down to 4 Euro, saving us a precious Euro each. We went around one of the cliffs, got to what looked like the end of the mountain, and looked down to find another small village, with soccer field and all! Tom was excited to take a picture for Sarah and used his new Blackberry like a pro. We were disappointed that the weather wasn’t nicer, but we managed and didn’t complain!

After getting some Dollars converted, we walked away from the main square up a non-touristy street in search for some pizza and a refuge from the rain. We saw a Pizzeria sign ahead, but ended up walking into another place. I recall that there was a little easel by the door and a young lady standing near it, whom I asked if they had pizza. I understood that they were just making some in their forno, their oven, and I told Tom. It was exciting because Giovanni had told us to look out for places that don’t have their own ovens because then they sell pizza that was previously frozen. Indeed, you could smell the wood in the oven burning.

The place was very small and simply decorated with little square tablecloths and matching curtains on the doors. The food, though, was out of this world. The waitress did not know English, and I realized (as did Tom) how bad my Italian really is. All we wanted was pizza. We ended up w/ some wine, a Napoli style Pizza (Tom’s), which had AWESOME flavor, just tomato, cheese and anchovies., and my pizza, which she recommended and called some weird name like tartuffo or carruffo or ???, and was a pizza that had the inside cut out (2 cuts, like an X down the center), allowing it to be folded over to reveal an opening, which was filled w/ half a mozzarella ball, prosciutto and basil and arugula. Tom was wowed over. We both loved it. The whole experience, with the bad Italian and sweet exchanges, was “priceless.”

Day 1 to come!........
pattytravel is offline  
Nov 15th, 2009, 01:36 AM
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What a great report! Looking forward to reading about day one.

I feel for your aching feet - been there, done that! If you can manage it, soaking them in iced water will help. It hurts more than you can imagine at the time, but after about 20 minutes of this torture, your feet will be ALMOST as good as new! I must admit that I've begged our hotel reception for ice and then soaked my feet in the bidet (last resort) but don't tell anyone
cathies is online now  
Nov 15th, 2009, 02:31 PM
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tartufo is the famed wild truffle mushroom. doubt if it would appear on a pizza there as its fairly hard to get and very expensive
petertherabbitt is offline  
Nov 15th, 2009, 05:57 PM
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yes, petertherabbit, it wasn't tartuffo...I vaguely remember that connection...it just sounded like that!! how I wish I would have kept the hand-written bill/receipt!!....
pattytravel is offline  
Nov 15th, 2009, 06:07 PM
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Day one just got erased..... ugh!!!!!
pattytravel is offline  
Nov 15th, 2009, 06:07 PM
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Perhaps "cartoccio"?

This literally means "paper bag" and is used to described when food is wrapped in paper or foil and served at the table that way--you open the cartoccio.
ellenem is online now  
Nov 15th, 2009, 06:13 PM
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Or perhaps carciofi (artichokes)?
kybourbon is offline  

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