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caroline_edinburgh Jul 4th, 2006 04:18 AM

Trip report - Naples, Ischia & Amalfi Coast

I'll try not to make this too long, and just list what I think may be useful � any questions about specific topics welcome, though. May have to wax lyrical about eating experiences in parts, though :-)

I should perhaps start by saying that we are fairly lazy people ! We are interested in seeing sights but not in getting up early to pack in the maximum amount � it is a holiday, after all. We spent one week each in Naples, Ischia & on the Amalfi Coast (near Positano). We've been to Campania a few times before, but this was our first visit to Naples & Ischia. The idea was to start off with a busy (for us) week, then have a medium-ish week, & wind up with a week of doing nothing.

Naples, May 27-June 3

Getting there : flew to Naples airport, got express bus which only stops at Piazza Garibaldi & Piazza Municipio, €3. From Piazza Municipio it was only a 5 minute walk to our hotel. All very easy.

Hotel : we were very pleased with the Hotel Executive, which was very conveniently placed for walking round the Centro Storico, catching buses (most stop at via Medina, just round the corner) & a 10 minute walk from both the main ferry port (Molo Beverello) & the Teatro San Carlo. The room (superior, €114 pn) wasn't large or fancy but was pleasant enough. Nice roof terrace, friendly staff. Booked through Venere.

We saw 'Otello' at the Teatro San Carlo. Very trad production, theatre very hot (no ac !) but it was nice to go out into the palace gardens during the intervals. Booked through in December - good seats (apart from the fact DH had to sit sideways), €80 per head including booking fee.

Sights seen � Castel Nuovo; Catacombe di San Gennaro; the Duomo including baptistry & excavations; church & gallery of Pio Monte della Misercordia; church of San Lorenzo Maggiore including excavations; churches of Gesu Nuovo, San Domenico Maggiore, Madre Incoronata del Buon Consiglio; Capella Sansevero; Museo Nazionale Archeologico; Museo di Capodimonte; Museo d'Arte Contemporanea Dionna Regina (MADRE); trail of contemporary art at metro stations; via Pignasecca market; Parco della Floridiana. Plus general strolling, of course. Didn't tour the Castel Elmo or Certosa-Museo San Martino as they'd changed the closing day and we couldn't be bothered to go back. We'd thought to take a tour of Teatro San Carlo but it seemed the tour only went to the stalls so we wouldn't have seen any more than we'd seen in the course of attending a performance.

Transport. Walked most places. Not worth getting a bus for short distances as they are usually very crowded & quite unpleasant. Worth getting buses to Mergellina to sample ice cream from the 'chalets' and to Capodimonte for the catacombs of San Gennaro & the Capodimonte museum. Got funicular from Montesanto to Vomero & from Vomero to Chiaia. Never got a tram.

Pizza. Since this was a 3 week trip we saved money by largely devoting meals in Naples to the search for the best pizza, mainly restricting ourselves to the 2 classics. Lombardi a Santa Chiara (on via Benedetto Croce, part of Spaccanapoli) was our favourite : IMO the best Marinara with cherry tomatoes & lots of garlic and the best Margherita with particularly tasty mozzarella. Antica Pizzeria Da Michele fine & ridiculously cheap at €5 for a pizza & a beer (take a ticket to reserve your place in the queue � we waited c.15-20 minutes). Brandi nice but not outstanding. Pizzeria Antica del Port'Alba poor ambience and service but the pizza DOC was very good.

Ice cream. Our favourite was La Torteria in Chiaia, although even it wasn't a patch on San Crispino in Rome. Also tried Chalet Ciro & Remy Gelo in Mergellina, Otranto in Vomero, and others not worth mentioning.

Pastries. Discovered that in addition to sfogliatelle riccie which we know and love at home, there is also sfogliatelle frolle made with shortcrust pastry. The latter could be a bit heavy; but warm from the best bakery, Attanasio just off Piazza Garibaldi, we actually preferred them to riccie. Pastiera, which reminded me a bit of Yorkshire curd tart, and coda d'aragosta (especially with lemon filling) also very good.

Negronis : good everywhere, best at Dante 33 on pizza Dante.

Overall impression : Naples is incredibly interesting with so much to see and a great atmosphere � we would go back. In fact there was so much to see and do in the city, that after 5 trips to Campania & this the closest yet, we *still* haven't made it to Pompeii or Herculaneum (and me with a degree in archaeology !). Ah well, back to the idea of visiting those during a long weekend at a cooler time of year.

A lot of people seem to think or feel that Naples is dangerous but we never felt threatened. But we were careful as we would be in any city - didn't take out more money than we needed, left credit cards in hotel safe, etc. (didn't use money belt or similar, though). Just got ripped off once, at a restaurant � La Tana dell'Arte.

Ralstonlan Jul 4th, 2006 04:35 AM

I'm just in the beginning stages of planning a trip to Amalfi Coast next year. Looking forward to hearing more.

AnnMarie_C Jul 4th, 2006 04:54 AM

Greetings, Caroline, and thank you for the trip report. DH and I hope to visit Rome and Naples later this year. The info you provide will come in handy, especially Antica Pizzeria Da Michele. I am fascinated by the varying degree of reviews on Naples and look forward to the experience.

SHADRACH Jul 5th, 2006 04:33 AM

You're the first person on this forum that has good things to say about Naples. I was going to travel there this month, but I read so many negative posts about it that made me changed my mind and erased it off my itinerary. I kind of regret it now. I am looking forward to reading the rest of your itinerary.

caroline_edinburgh Jul 5th, 2006 04:50 AM

Shadrach, what a shame. Couldn't you change your itinerary back again ? I have seen some other positive reviews of Naples, either here or on Tripadvisor.

I get the impression that people who think it's dangerous probably aren't used to big cities. And I think that maybe people who aren't used to historic cities think it looks very rundown, which they equate to poor and thence to threatening.

There were certainly other tourists there, mainly German & British as far as I could tell. I don't remember hearing any American accents.

Another caveat I missed out about Ischia : as others have mentioned on this board, the 2nd language is German. So you might have a little difficulty if you don't speak Italian or German.

caroline_edinburgh Jul 5th, 2006 04:53 AM

This is very odd. I saw my second instalment (Ischia) posted here earlier, then Shadrach's comment - but now instalment 2 has disappeared ! Trying again...

ira Jul 5th, 2006 04:58 AM

Hi CE,

Thanks for a very interesting report. Look forward to more.


caroline_edinburgh Jul 5th, 2006 07:43 AM

Thanks Ira ! That means a lot coming from such a seasoned 'old hand' as yourself. Here's the disappearing Part 2 again...

Part 2 is back !! What's going on ??

caroline_edinburgh Jul 5th, 2006 07:47 AM

Oh no, it's gone again ! What is going on ? Trying again - apologies if it ends up here twice :-

Ischia, June 3-10

Got hydrofoil from Beverello to Ischia Porto. Had v. nice & cheap lunch of fritto misto di mare at O'Fraulese right on the harbourside (liked it so much we had the same on the way back !), then got bus to Sant'Angelo.

An aside to thank those who urged me to stay in Sant'Angelo instead of Forio as I'd initially thought to do. Sant'Angelo is definitely the nicest place on the island !

Walked from bus stop (downhill) to hotel.

Hotel : we were even more pleased with the Casa Celestino, which was perfectly placed facing the sea just before the main square. Our room (€150 pn for a double) was lovely and had a nice large balcony with table, chairs & loungers. We only ate in the hotel restaurant once but the menu seemed quite nice. Most people were on half board but we went B&B. The only reservation I have is that the staff weren't very friendly, with the exception of one nice waiter.

Alternated lazing around with gentle activities : one trip to the beach in Sant'Angelo, an afternoon at the grandly-named Giardini Termale Aphrodite Apollon at the Hotel Miramare, a visit to La Mortella including a concert introduced by Lady Walton, Ischia Ponte to visit the Castello Aragonese, day trip to Procida.

Most restaurants served mostly seafood as we were by the sea; but we knew we'd be eating excellent seafood for every meal during the third week so didn't eat it much in Ischia. Ate at Da Pasquale (mainly a pizzeria pizza quite good but not as good as in Naples) a few times quite cheap. Had surprising difficulty finding anywhere in Sant'Angelo to cook us rabbit, but eventually had that too at Da Pasquale and it was fantastically tasty. They served us penne with rabbit sauce to start, then the main parts of the rabbit just chopped into chunks (plus brain, heart etc), all cooked with lots of mountain herbs and maybe a touch of chilli. Needs ordering a day ahead.

We also enjoyed nice pastries in Sant'Angelo, from the wonderfully named 'La Dolce e Vita' in the main square. And large ferocious Negronis, everywhere :-)

Overall impression : Ischia is idyllic and we will go back. My only reservation is that every afternoon, Sant'Angelo beach got very windy and since it wasn't that hot to start with, that made it too cold. I'd be interested to hear from any regulars whether it's always like that ?

And as others have said, German is the second language; so you might have a bit of difficulty if you don't speak Italian or German.

SRS Jul 5th, 2006 10:33 AM

Caroline, Welcome back. Very much enjoying your report as we are going to be in Italy next month with a week of our vacation spent between Naples and the Amalfi Coast. Thanks for sharing! Have written down your pizza comments as our plan is to only eat pizza in Naples!


welch Jul 5th, 2006 10:50 AM

Anxiously awaiting the Amalfi Coast!

SHADRACH Jul 6th, 2006 02:55 AM

I enjoyed the Ischia part of your trip report. However, I would've liked to read about your daytrip to Procida.

caroline_edinburgh Jul 6th, 2006 03:35 AM

Thanks folks.

welch, I'm afraid you won't find my Amalfi Coast section very useful as we basically did nothing there !

But first, here's an unscheduled Part 2.5, just for Shadrach...

Day trip to Procida

This was rather a disorganised day so we didn't spend as long on Procida as we'd have liked. Bus to Ischia Porto was unusually slow so we had to wait until 12 to get a hydrofoil (not having realised that the previous one was from Casamicciola). So it was almost lunchtime when we arrived and we just started by strolling up & down the front in Marina Grande to look round there & find a place to eat.

We'd so far been frustrated in our quest for 'Ischian-style rabbit'. Nowhere in Sant'Angelo seemed to offer it apart from one place where it was incredibly expensive. I'd even resorted to asking our breakfast waitress "dove possiamo mangiare il coniglio ?" to which the answer was "in montagne". We were only about 2 miles away from these mountains ! But we were beginning to think we might have to make a special trip there on our last day. However our guidebook listed a beach bar near the port of Marina Grande, the Grotto Blu, which was supposed to do 'Procida-style' rabbit. However it looked as though it was only open for drinks & maybe snacks maybe too early in the season ? Then we tried another place quite near the dock but it was explained to us there that the rabbit needed 24 hours notice, for marinating as far as I could make out. We had a final try at the place next to that which advertised 'Boconcini di Coniglio all'erbe' and we were in luck ! It maybe wasn't the authentic local recipe, but we wanted some. In fact we had a very nice lunch there the Ristorante Bardero.

Unfortunately it was such a nice lunch we didn't have much time left for sightseeing we wanted to get the hydrofoil back at 1645 as the one after that wasn't until 1845 (and we would have up to an hour's bus journey back to Sant'Angelo after that). So we just followed part of a walk in my guidebook, up from the port to the ancient walled village of Terra Murata. Great views of both sides of the island on the way up especially of Corricella which looked very nice. When we got to Terra Murata (note to self get bus next time :-) ) we looked round the abbey but unfortunately didn't have time for the museum and tour of the catacombs, which the guidebook made sound very interesting. Then walked back to the dock via a lemon granita.

Even without seeing the main beach area we thought Procida was lovely and agreed we'd like to go back and stay there for a few days another time. At the time of year we were there, it was lovely and peaceful. And must finally get round to watching 'Il Postino', which was partly filmed there, first.

SHADRACH Jul 7th, 2006 11:59 AM

Thanks Caroline for adding your daytrip to Procida to your trip report.

I have always been interested in that isle since I saw "The Postman" and "The Talented Mr. Ripley".

Thanks for sharing your experience!

caroline_edinburgh Jul 18th, 2006 07:00 AM

Amalfi Coast (near Positano), June 10-17

As always in this part of the world, journeys were long and complicated; although having said that, each journey, although long, went very smoothly.

Took 7 hours to get from Sant'Angelo to our accommodation near Positano !! (about 30 miles ?!). Walked to taxi stop, taxi to bus stop (uphill), bus to Ischia Porto, lunch, hydrofoil to Naples Beverello, hydrofoil to Sorrento, local bus to Circumvesuviana station, SITA bus to Positano, walked down to Piazza dei Mulini, gave suitcases to porter, walked to dock, got boat (the "hotel shuttle" !) to accommodation.

We stayed at Le Sirene on Spiaggia Laurito, a couple of bays south of Positano (just past the hotel San Pietro) - not to be confused with Le Sirene in Praino. It is essentially just a beach bar with rooms and we stayed there for a week last year too (after a tiring week in Venice). Rooms (€120 pn for a double) fairly basic (no aircon) but adequate; but the place is totally relaxing & most importantly does fantastic fresh seafood and seafood-based pasta dishes. At lunchtime and when there is the demand at night, they light the barbeque & cook the best fish in the world on it and my very favourite mozzarella barbecued on lemon leaves. We first came across this place a few years ago when staying actually in Positano, when we got their boat from the main Positano dock for a day at the beach. There is another place on the same beach - Da Adolfo - which also runs a boat from Positano & also does lunch but doesn't have rooms.

I only left Spiaggia Laurito once all week, to go up to Montepertuso for my birthday dinner. I chose Il Ritrovo which was a big mistake free transport but awful food (I was actually sick) and totally populated by non-Italian tourists. Goodness knows how it made it into the Slow Food guide. Nice bottle of Taurasi though :-)

The rest of the time I just ate, drank, sunbathed, swam, read and enjoyed the views and the peace & quiet. DH also got the boat into town each morning for a paper, and watched some World Cup matches in the bar.

The journey back to the airport was less arduous than expected. Since we would be arriving back in Positano by the Le Sirene boat, it was easiest to leave Positano by boat too : but when we visited last year the Metro del Mare to Naples didn't start running until July, and this year it was looking as though it would be the same again. So we resigned ourselves to the walk uphill from the dock to Piazza dei Mulini, local bus or taxi to SITA bus stop, SITA bus to Sorrento, Curreri bus to airport. But when we arrived at the dock lo & behold, there was a Metro del Mare ready to leave for Naples ! I think it had just started running that day. So nice cool, comfortable boat ride to Naples, then the airport bus from just across the road from the port at Piazza Municipio - €9 each including the bus ! So a mere 3.5 hours travelling - then 3.5 hours at the airport

Three weeks is definitely the way to go : although we had been in the throes of trying to moving house for 3 months before the holiday, and returned to more of the same, we were able totally to relax.

The only downside is that we were a bit unlucky with the weather. I've visited Italy mostly in June and it's nearly always been hot. This time we were a couple of weeks earlier than normal but apart from that I think it was cooler than usual, and we had two days of rain and several cloudy days. In fact something seemed to have got mixed up, and we had Scotland's weather part of the time, while Scotland had southern Italy's weather ! The first day intended for doing nothing on the beach was 16 degrees C & raining in Naples, and 22 degrees in Edinburgh !! And the water was really too cold for swimming, prior to the last two days. Resolved not to go any earlier than my birthday in future, despite DH's whingeing about it being too hot then :-)

Roll on next June.

dcd Jul 18th, 2006 07:15 AM

Thanks for the report! The Amalfi Coast is on our future trip radar.

JJBhoy Jul 21st, 2006 02:14 PM


Had been wondering about your trip report - I just clicked your name on another post to find it & I'm very glad that I did - really enjoyed it!


caroline_edinburgh Jul 24th, 2006 01:57 AM

Thanks Jim !

i_am_kane Sep 4th, 2006 06:58 PM


I just found your trip report, and it piqued my interest. (My husband would love to take a relaxing trip like yours.) He's tired of climbing hills and mountains in Italy!

I am in the early stages of planning our May 2007 trip to either Ischia, Capri or Positano. The last time we were on the Amalfi Coast in the month May there was a heat wave, but that certainly wasn't the kind of weather you experienced.

No one has responded to your reporting afternoon windy conditions on the beach in Sant'Angelo, Ischia, and I wonder if it was an anomaly.

Mamma Mia! 7 hours to get to Positano! The way the bird flies, it's probably only an hour.

caroline_edinburgh Sep 5th, 2006 12:14 AM

Hi, i_am_kane. Yes the weather was disappointing this year - although it sounds like it got even worse later on. I've nearly always been between late May & late June before & it's always been hot - apart from Ravello which I put down to its altitude. I used to take a sweater just in case, but didn't bother this year, for the first time - typical ! I shall take one next year :-)

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