With the relaunch of my old classic blog and start of the new website (Eat Like an Italian) I’ve made a conscious decision to get a bit more focused with my content. While discussing the merits of the bidet and “how to remove the malocchio curse” have been a lot of fun (my most popular posts; go figure), the true pleasures are the enchanting destinations in Italy, and the food that you find once you get there.
If you’ve never been to Italy, then you’d probably want to see Rome, Florence, and Venice all in one go. And nobody could really fault you for that choice. The problem is that a tour de force of those three destinations might just leave your head spinning, even well-after you’ve returned home from vacation. (“Wow, I sure enjoyed that gondola ride down the Tiber River, looking up at all those people on the Ponte Vecchio!”)
Yes, Italy has so many treasures that it can really be overwhelming. It’s no surprise that Italy has the largest number of World "Cultural" Heritage Sites (49) as defined by UNESCO. In my opinion, the ambitious sightseeing should be balanced with a healthy dose of il dolce far niente; the sweetness of doing nothing.
And there’s no sweeter place to do nothing than Sorrento and the Amalfi Coast. (And by the way, the Amalfi Coast itself is a World Heritage Site.)
So it’s not a coincidence that the tour I’m hosting next September will be exactly that: the stunning highlights of The Eternal City, followed up by the relaxing Mediterranean vibe of the Amalfi Coast.
Enchanting Destinations in Italy
While I know Rome quite well, I’m less acquainted with the coastal areas. I’ve been there exactly twice. Once I stayed in Capri, and once in Sorrento.
I've jotted down a few suggestions to give an idea of what a three or four night stay might look like. These are personal recommendations, and therefore random, but here's exactly where I went during my trip to Sorrento, some of which I will revisit during my tour next fall. Here are my notes from my brief stay:
Welcome to Sorrento (or Surriento in Neapolitan dialect). This charming seaside village is near the Amalfi coast just south of Naples, and it's the part of Italy that most of us think about when we conjure up our fantasies of sunny weather and friendly people, along with the soundtrack of those classic Italian folk songs. This is where pizza was invented and where coffee was perfected. Incredible seafood, limoncello… and look at this view!
One of the other things that makes Sorrento so appealing is its proximity to the quaint little towns on the Amalfi Coast. You have several options for reaching them, my favorite of which is the ferry boat. From Sorrento, Positano, Amalfi, Capri, and Ischia are all reachable by water route. The journey itself becomes enjoyable when you're looking at the coastline from the sea and taking photos of all these little villages. It's slow and relaxing, exactly what you need to rightly claim that you’re actually on vacation, and not just working your way through a checklist.
I stayed at the lovely Hotel De La Ville, which is walking distance to everything in town. From the rooftop swimming pool you have an incredible view of the Bay of Naples and Mount Vesuvius.
It’s worth repeating (often) that food is one of the main reasons to visit this area of Italy. For a nice dinner, I would not miss O' Parrucchiano if I were you. Order the paccheri ai frutti di mare if it's available. I had it two nights in a row. (And I’ve recently learned that they have a lovely roof garden dining area with a view of the volcano.)
I was recently corresponding with a “pen-pal” (well, email-pal) of mine, Enrico, who used to live in the area. I told him that I will be in Sorrento next year, and might want to visit Pioppi, where Ansel Keys discovered the Mediterranean Diet. Here’s what Erico wrote back:
“Pioppi is about 1.5 hours south of Amalfi on the Costiera Cilentana. You drive through the city of Salerno, and the ruins of Paestum near Agropoli and Eboli, where you will find the best Buffalo mozzarella in the world. Stop at the ‘Tenuta Vannulo’ and pickup fresh mozzarella on your way south.”
(And so, yes, I went ahead and put that one down in ink for my tour itinerary.)
For something informal but fun right in the center of Sorrento, try Inn Bufalito. Great for mozzarella, salads, sliced meats, and yes, of course, sea food. Seasonal menu, as it should be!
How about an after lunch visit to a limoncello shop to sample this local digestive in all its colors and flavors?
It might seem like a touristy thing to do, but who cares? Go see some traditional folk music and dancing at Teatro Tasso in the middle of town. You'll be humming "O' sole mio" for the rest of your trip, I guarantee it.
Taking a passeggiata is one of my favorite things to do anywhere in Italy, but it's especially enjoyable in the smaller towns in the South. Just stroll and take in the atmosphere. Stop for a drink. Enjoy the view. Chat with the locals.
A day trip to the village of Amalfi is a great idea. The Maritime Republic of Amalfi, along with Venice, Genoa, and Pisa, were the naval powers of Italy, controlling trade in the Mediterranean. The modern day town still gives us a glimpse back at this proud tradition. If you go, you can take a boat to visit the Grotta Smeralda, the Emerald Grotto. Not as famous as the Grotta Azzurra in Capri, but easier to reach and just as amazing.
So there's Sorrento. If you were already flirting with Italy, now you're going to be head-over-heels in love. Why not join me in September and find out for yourself?!? Click the button below to learn more details about this trip.
Hope to see you in Sorrento!