Italian Adventure Part 8 – Hunt The Olive Tree


This was to be our last venture out before heading for home. As usual the weather forecast was mixed but, fingers crossed, we headed out. But, not before a couple of pictures taken from our hotel room.

Our target destination was the  Olivenbaum, at Marciano down near the tip of the Sorrento peninsula. As far as we could determine this is a piece of “folk art” initiated and maintained by the local villagers.

The satnag took us out from our hotel, weaving through Vico Equense,  Montechiaro and Meta along  the usual route to Sorrento.

From here we headed out into the countryside, into unknown territory. Needless to say we were presented with many beautiful views, although there wasn’t always anywhere to safely pull over and get the camera out. We did get some pictures ……

and there is more ……

The church and cemetery were situated on, by far, the quietest road that we had driven during our stay in Italy.

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View from via Nastro d Oro, over a small gorge, towards Capri

The following picture, taken by Gerry, shows three rocky islands …. The Sirenusas

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The Sirenusas – Gallo Lungo – Il Gallo Lungo, La Castelluccia & La Rotonda

So named as legend has it they were inhabited by sirens.  The most famous of whom were Parthenope, Leucosia, and Ligeia. One of them played the lyre, another sang, and another played the flute.

In more recent times the islands have been owned by Rudolph Nureyev, purchased in 1988. Following his death, they were purchased by  a local Sorrento hotelier.

According to Wikipedia: The property has been on and off the market for years, most recently a public listing of the three islands in 2011 was for US$268,000,000.

We never did find the Olive Tree. The satnag led us round in circles, telling us to turn when there wasn’t a turning. On one occasion we came across a narrow road/track, which might have taken us there but the road signs were confusing. Implying no vehicular access. Since there were no signs regarding the Olive Tree, we didn’t fancy hoofing it into the unknown.

Never mind, we were enjoying the views, the peace and quiet of the countryside. Well, peace for the most part. However, we were treated to a 21 gun salute. We had seen some signs for a military establishment and they were evidently practicing with their cannon. The puffs of smoke can just be seen in the following photo …

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Gun smoke ?

As I said this was our final day exploring the Sorrento Peninsula. Sadly, it was soon time to head back to the hotel and the inevitable suitcase packing.

Just time for one more shot of Vesuvius, across the bay from our hotel ….

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Mount Vesuvius – Viewed from Towers Hotel

So that is it, the end of our Italian Adventure.

Well not quite, our journey to the airport was nearly as complicated as driving to the hotel on day one. However, we made it to the airport, eventually found our way into the car rental compound and ultimately made our flight back to the UK and home. It was amazing how rush hour on the M25 seemed so tranquil, compared to the roads around Naples and Sorrento. And quiet, not on single toot of a car horn. And so few motor cycles.

 

 

 

 

Italian Adventure Part 7 – Sorrento & Sunset


Having previously, either passed through, or ricocheted off Sorrento, we thought it was time to pay this busy town a visit.

We found a convenient car park, in via Ernesto de Curtis, near the Circumvesuviana station. After a short walk, through Piazza Angelina Lauro,  and browsing the nearby shops, we made our way to  Piazza Tasso.

The Piazza has many eateries and we selected Bar Syrenuse as the venue for our lunch. Not the best choice as it turned out.

I chose this venue for my first “real” Italian Pizza. As it happens, I think it was probably the worst pizza I have had and that is in comparison to a Tescos own brand pizza.. Flavour-wise it was fine but the sauce was sloppy and the base soft. Could only eat it with a knife and fork. Gerry had ordered a chicken sandwich and the bread was stale.  Still the drinks were cold and very good.

After lunch we continued our tour and were soon passing shops / art galleries displaying Capo di Monte

Away from the main roads we found small parks where one could regather your  thoughts after doing battle with the cars and scooters.

Various kinds of wall art …

From Sorrentos Park Villa Comunale the views are superb. Whether looking down on the commercial beaches with their sun loungers and pretty umbrellas, or looking out across the Bay of Naples

Heading to the view-point we were drawn by some rather pleasant violin playing, coming from this beautiful courtyard….

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Sorrento – Catholic Church, Convento di San Francesco

The music was part of a wedding event. The happy couple can just be seen in the background, and here I have cropped in closer ….

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Wedding couple – Sorrento – Catholic Church, Convento di San Francesco

They had lovely weather for their wedding, lucky given the mixture of dull, cloudy and rainy days during the last week.

Now here are a couple of rare shots, I’m usually the one behind the camera.

Now you are over the shock, me too, it’s time to move on.

After a cold drink to bid Sorrento goodbye, we headed back to our hotel where we were treated to the Vesuvius summit playing peek-a-boo through the clouds. And then a superb sunset.

And then it was time to head down for dinner.

 

Italian Adventure Part 5 – Voyage to Capri


I don’t think I mentioned, in the previous posts, that there have been fireworks every night since we arrived. Mostly early evening, up to around 10 o’clock. All of the displays have been across the water, around the base of Vesuvius. Yesterday was no different. Well until around 00:30 when we were woken, me thinking that WW3 had broken out. There had, presumably, been a wedding and party held at the hotel. The celebrations came to a climax with a pretty impressive display just a few hundred feet away from our room. Gerry and I were both hanging out the window for a better view. The most impressive thing was some kind of mortar which fired projectiles out over the water. The projectiles landed and presumably floated. They in turn exploded, creating beautiful bursts of colour. Had never seen fireworks like that before.

 

The display didn’t last very long but it had ensured that we were well and truly awake, so it took ages to get back off to sleep. But sleep we did.

All too soon it was time to get up, get breakfasted and out of the hotel. We had chosen today for an attempt on Capri. It was always going to be weather dependent, mainly because Gerry and boats don’t mix well. Gerry and boats in stormy conditions don’t mix at all. The forecast for today was cloudy with 60% chance of rain and thunder storms. So not looking good.

Suited and booted we headed down the coast to Sorrento, where the Capri ferries depart from. Least ways the shortest distance and fastest route. I had read that there was parking down by the harbour and as we drove down to the port we came across Garage Marina Piccola

The process, is for you to leave your car with the keys. They park the car in their garage (hole in the cliff) and you pay on your return. This is not a fly by night operation but a well established company. The car was there, undamaged, and it only cost twenty-two euros which was not a high price to pay for the convenience of parking very close to the ferry terminus.

As you can see in the next photograph, the weather was appalling.

Sorrento

View Out To Sea From Sorrento

Capri is around about a 30 minute ride from Sorrento. We found somewhere to park, got our tickets for the ferry and headed of to the dock to join the queue and board our ferry.

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Our transport for our trip to Capri

It wasn’t too long before we cast off and started on our grand voyage of discovery.

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View from the harbour looking up to the town of Sorrento

I took a few shots as we ran along the Sorrentine coast line.

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Good-bye Sorrento

At anchor just off Sorrento was MS Silver Whisper, a cruise ship operated by Silversea Cruises. She is currently nearing the end of a one way,  19 nights / 20 days, cruise from Muscat to Civitavecchia. Very nice.

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MS Silver Whisper

One of the more imposing buildings looking down on the harbour from Sorrento is the Grand Hotel Excelsior Vittoria which has been operating since 1834.

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Grand Hotel Excelsior Vittoria

As we sailed serenely along the coast we were treated to our first view of Capri.

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First view – Isle Of Capri

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One Of Many Small Communities Along The Sorrentine Coast

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Villa di Pollio Felice – Regina Giovanna

No space wasted, no opportunity for a room with a million dollar view unexploited. In this case the houses seem to be tumbling down to the sea.

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Another Small Community On The Sorrentine Coast

The journey to Capri seemed very short. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised with beautiful sunny weather and a pretty coastline.

Soon enough we were entering Capri’s port, Marina Grande.

 

On arrival the first thing you have to consider is how you are going to get up to the town of Capri, which is high up on the cliff tops. Needless to say we had no thoughts about walking, certainly not in the bright sunshine we were experiencing. There are alternatives available. These include bus, taxi and the famous Funicolare. This was our choice.

To use the Funicolare you have to purchase tickets across the street then join with the hoards queuing to get aboard. Although there were many waiting when we arrived the whole operation is quite efficient and the trains run every few minutes. The journey only lasts approximately four minutes and supposedly runs every fifteen but it seemed quicker when we were there. We were soon on board and gently climbing the steep hillside. There are fabulous views from the carriage. Unfortunately, it was quite crowded and I was stuck in the middle so couldn’t wield my camera.

Not to worry, on arrival at the top there is a great area, to run off some snaps, looking along the coast, back down to the harbour and to catch the railway in operation from above.

Capri town centre is a real tourist trap. It was absolutely heaving with people, a mix of those on a route march a.k.a. Guided Tour. Those not on guided tours but with apparent knowledge of what they want to see, and where to go see it. And then there were those misguided souls who know that Capri is meant to be really pretty, with lots to offer, but no idea what or where. We settled very neatly into the latter category. My problem was that I had read up on a few things to see and do while on the island however, once we encountered the hoards, all that went out of my head.

Our first port of call on arrival at the top was to find somewhere for a spot of lunch. We ended up in Piazza Umberto I, where we were enticed into il Piccolo. Suitably fortified we embarked on an exploratory tour of the Capri town.

We browsed the windows of many high-priced jewelry stores but to be honest you can go to any city around the world and see such things. We were soon fed up with being jostled by the crowds. Whatever happened to being polite and courteous ? Without being specific, certain nations with a culture of being polite and courteous, even to their enemies, seem to be the worst when out of their home country.

So we struck off into the myriads of tiny alleyways, barely wide enough for two people to walk side by side.

Here we found pretty entrance-ways,  religious shrines and mystery stairways. Also there were many ceramics used for house names and numbers, identifying trades and professions.

All too soon it was time for us to consider the trip back down to the harbour. So we shuffled our way back to the funicular. Descended serenely down to Marina Grande where we had time to walk along the water front. A mixture of bars and touristy tat shops. Perhaps that is a little unfair, many of the shops were selling quite good quality tat.

And we still had time to settle into a bar and have a cold one, people watch and observe the general chaos as taxis vied for the business of newly arrived passengers.

Just like being at an airport waiting area we were able to see an information screen which listed the mooring positions of the many ferries and their times. Our ferry was due to dock at location number five. We made our way to the allotted place, had our tickets checked and confirmed by a sun ripened employee of the ferry company that we were in the right place. The ferry, or perhaps I should say a ferry, arrived. It looked like ours. It had boards on the stern which stated Sorrento, our destination, and 16:05, the departure time on our tickets. It was looking good.

Then that same old sun ripened employee started yelling in Italian, no translations, accompanied by much gesticulation, apparently our ferry was now going to be at dock position number 12. Quite a distance and now we were being harassed and harangued, as we would be late for the boat, or maybe even delay its departure.

Anyway, we made it onto the boat which was pretty much fully loaded. No upper, outside seating on this boat, unlike the outward journey. We managed to get seated and soon after the ferry was underway. A couple of niggles for this short journey, there was little or no air in the passenger area. So it was quite warm and humid.

The safety instructions over the tannoy were non-existent but there was a video that played throughout the trip. It might actually have been worth watching but there was no sound. I gathered part way through that the reason it was repeated  was that there were subtitles in various languages, but on a nineteen inch screen, viewed from fifty plus feet away, nobody could read them. Oh, and to cap that a crew member came and stood in front of the nearest screen while he was talking on his phone.

Still, we had no drama’s, the safety instructions were not needed and we arrived safely back in Sorrento.

We headed away from the port, rescued our car from captivity and set out along the coast, back to our hotel.

So in summary, Gerry didn’t get seasick on the boat, we didn’t get the weather that was forecast which all came together to ensure we got to Capri. All in all a great day out.

Would I recommend Capri ? Probably not. Maybe we didn’t do it justice. The best bit was the tiny back streets where it seemed like someone had turned off the noise. Maybe, we are getting too old for dealing with the hoards. Having said that, we have previously visited Rome, several times. Paris, several times. London, several times. At no time, in any of those cities, have we felt the crowds to be too much, even around the major tourist attractions. Maybe Capri town is just too compact. I certainly wouldn’t want to be on Capri in the peak season, around July and August.

Italian Adventure Part 3 – The Amalfi Coast Road


It blew a hooley last night and the industrial structure that is our hotel, has a number of features which shrieked and howled. Strangely, Gerry missed all of that but was awake for a full-blown thunderstorm, forked lightning, the works. Somehow I managed to sleep through the thunderstorm, even though I was awake every 90 minutes or so during the night.

All of the overnight weather had set us up for a fairly dull day, although it was probably for the best. Who wants to sit in a car being baked by bright  sunshine.

So, sat nav, camera, and water suitably prepared, we set out for Amalfi. Our route initially takes us towards Sorrento. Just brushing the outskirts but giving us some superb views…….

Lido Marinella - Meta

Lido Marinella – Meta

Coastal View Near Meta

Coastal View Near Meta

 

Then onto the Amalfi Coast Road proper. Everything you read about driving this route warns you about the narrowness of the roads and the tightness of the bends. Oh and lets not forget the huge vertical drops to the sea.

I’m not going to say that all those writings are wrong. They are not. What I will say is that you have to drive with due care and patience. The roads are tight but certainly wide enough for two vehicles. After all, even the coaches have to pass each other. Where it gets interesting is when you encounter a coach on one of the many hairpin bends. They usually sound their horns to let you know they are coming. The general etiquette is that you give way to them. Back up if necessary. Many of the bends also have mirrors set so you can see if anything is coming around those blind bends.

Remember, these guys are professional. They drive this route many times during the year and some, multiple times a day.

Back to our journey, we were soon approaching Positano ….

Positano

Positano – Amalfi Coast

Positano

Positano – Amalfi Coast

As we started our descent into Positano we came to a halt and didn’t move for around 15 minutes. Quite a few passengers bailed out of their cars and coaches and walked down. We saw some re-board their coaches later on. I’m just glad it wasn’t a clear blue sky, sunny day.

Queuing Outside Positano

Just one of the inevitable queues on the road leading down into Positano

Coastal Road - Near Positano

You can just see part of the Coastal Road above the archway- Near Positano

We didn’t stop in Positano although it looked a great place to explore. Although this isn’t peak season there were people everywhere. The big issue with the coastal towns in this region is that they are the victims of their popularity. Hence the nose to tail traffic and a distinct lack of parking spaces. What it would be like in July and August I can only imagine.

So, onwards and upwards out of Positano, and back onto the coastal road. We were soon approaching Amalfi. The descent into Amalfi was, as expected, a bit of a stop, go experience although quicker than Positano.

There is some parking down near the harbour but, as expected, by the time we arrived all spaces had been taken.

Harbour - Amalfi

Harbour and Coach Park – Amalfi

In the above photo yo can see the coastal road leaving Amalfi. Just round the corner, out of sight, is an amazing underground car park on multi levels. The park has been hewn out of the rock. One oddity is the fact that they do not allow passengers to enter the park, only the driver. The good news is that there is a tunnel from the car park down to the Amalfi town centre which avoids the road route. And there are very good toilettes as part of the complex.

Moles - Amalfi

Moles, Harbour Walls – Amalfi

The end of the far harbour wall was absolutely swarming with members of the selfie brigade, selfie sticks to the fore.

Marina - Amalfi

Marina – Amalfi

Beach - Amalfi

Beach – Amalfi

Walking down from the car park, we decided to stop for a spot of lunch before exploring Amalfi. Pretty much the first eatery we came upon was the Gran Caffe Tea Rooms. We both had salads washed down with a couple of bottles of Astro Azzurro. We might be suffering withdrawal symptoms when we get home.

Gran Caffe Tea Room - Amalfi

Gran Caffe Tea Room – Amalfi

Energy levels suitably replenished we set out to walk the town. Like any seaside town there are many souvenir shops selling lots of typical mediterranean ceramics, a huge variety of fancy bottles containing limoncello and bags adorned with the Amalfi name.

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Square – Amalfi

Also around every corner there are lemons for sale. The locally grown lemons are huge and are just begging to be paired up  with equally huge gin and tonics.

Coastal Residence - Amalfi

Coastal Residence – Amalfi

While Gerry was browsing the tourist shops I opted for a trip to the end of the harbour wall….

View From End Of Harbour Wall - Amalfi

View From End Of Harbour Wall – Amalfi

Amalfi - Viewed From Harbour Wall

Amalfi – Viewed From Harbour Wall

Duomo di Amalfi

Duomo di Amalfi – Saint Andrew’s Cathedral

 

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Amalfi Showing The Coast Road to Atrani

Hotel - Amalfi

Convento Di’Amalfi Grand Hotel – Amalfi

Beach - Amalfi

Beach – Amalfi

Overlooking Cliffs - Amalfi

Overlooking Cliffs – Amalfi

I Want The Yellow Villa - Amalfi

I Want The Yellow Villa – Amalfi

Boat - Amalfi

Boat – Amalfi

Amalfi is a maze of narrow streets hiding restaurants, pizzeria, fish and chip shops as well as the usual tourist tat…..

Amalfi Mural

The Protontino Wine Cellar

Gerry had a look at really nice leather handbag. The seller tried to tell us that the 180 euros he wanted was equivalent to 70 pounds. Not the actual 158 pounds that it truly converts to.

We are not as green as we are cabbage looking.

Amalfi Narrows

Amalfi Narrows

The streets get narrower and narrower as you head to the back of the town.

Narrow Steps - Amalfi

Narrow Steps – Amalfi

The Duomo di Amalfi is very  popular, not least because of the many steps on which one can rest up from all the touring.

Duomo di Amalfi

Duomo di Amalfi

After touring Amalfi it was time to head back to the hotel before darkness descended. Google maps decided, since I hadn’t programmed any of the Amalfi coastal towns as vias, that our route would take us up over the mountains via Ravello. This route is almost as entertaining as the Amalfi Coast Road, perhaps more so, as the clouds moved in and we were driving up the mountain, in torrential rain, along narrow roads with innumerable hairpin bends. At times we were driving in fog like conditions but after nearly an hour we descended to the coast again and were soon back at the hotel.

Unfortunately no photos. When there was a view it was lashing down with rain.

I would recommend anyone to try the Amalfi Coast Road. Just be patient and be prepared for a little tension especially when you see how close the coaches are to each other. Just don’t expect it to be like in the movies, cruising along in an open topped sports car, wind in your hair and open roads with no traffic. Not in these modern times.

It is still an enjoyable journey, we had a super day.

 

 

Ready For The Off


So here we are, suitcase packed and ready to begin our Italian adventure.

packed

That’s the good news. The bad is that we will have to set out at silly o’clock in the morning. Our flight is due to take off at 06:00 which means leaving the house at around 02:00, and that is my normal time for hitting the hay. So not much sleep tonight.

The flight gets into to Naples around 09:30, which means we will have the best part of  the day to really get our holiday started.

We are staying at the Towers Hotel Stabiae Sorrento Coast

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The hotel is a converted cement works ….

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….. hence the fairly blocky, industrial appearance.

However, its position right on the beach and the superb views across the Bay of Naples more that make up for the external appearance.

The hotel is in the perfect location as a base to explore the Amalfi Coast, Naples, Sorrento, Capri, Pompeii and Herculaneum.

The great adventure starts tomorrow. I’ll let you know how our holiday progresses over the next 10 days….

 

 

Naples, Sorrento, Capri, the Amalfi Coast


In a few days my wife and I will be heading to Italy and the bay of Naples. We will be based at a hotel about half way between Naples and Sorrento. As this is our first time to this region it will be something of an adventure.

Obviously we plan to do the major sites, like Vesuvius, Pompeii (and/or Herculaneum). A day trip up and down the Amalfi Coast road, probably a day trip to the island of Capri as well as the Sorrento peninsula and Sorrento itself.

Does anyone out there have any suggestions with regard to any other “must see’s” or “must do’s” .

We will be out there for 10 days and have a hire car so can get around a bit.

We are not museum buffs, nor are we into adventure sports. We do like nice scenery and gentle walks, interspersed with a bit of food and wine.

So come on, hit me with your best shots. What are the less known about, perhaps less touristy things we should be considering ?