When Franny got an opening in her schedule, we booked an impromptu trip to several Italian West Coast Cities, a week in advance. Best. Decision. Ever. You can easily spend 2-3 days in most of these cities, but one full day was all we could do. I may just retire here after all, Italy has my heart.
Day 1: Landed in Naples. Flew Meridinia airline – cheap, not exactly much legroom or personal TV’s like jetblue but I had no complaints. We left on time, the staff was incredibly kind, the food was good for airplane food (I would even venture to say better than average) and the Italian people on flight made it a delight – especially since we made friends with a bunch of people who were also on our return flight.
Which Italian West Coast Cities did we cover?
Went through Viator – had a guide named Maria who was excellent. The tour mentions seeing Mt. Vesuvius – you only see it on the highway in your bus as you’re driving by. The tour also includes pizza/pasta at a nearby restaurant to Pompeii. We opted for the option where you’re taken to Sorrento and do a walking tour. Highly recommend this trip for its money. Most went back to Naples after – we stayed in Sorrento.
Cool facts about Pompeii:
- A big commercial town, where people often had fast food for lunch
- People worked from 6a-12p – on the seventh hour they would rest and have SIESTA!!!! (get it?? seventh hour!! that’s where it comes from!!) Siesta consisted of going to the spa which had 3 pools (one frigid cold, one lukewarm, one hot)
- Pompeii was built on a slope so that dirty rain water would drift to the bottom
- They had a big and small theater – the big theater was used for comedies & tragedies. The small theater was used for concerts (in more recent times, Pink Floyd played the big theater). Back then, all shows were free as they were paid for by politicians. The original marble floor remains. Terracotta was used to amplify the sound (we had a guy sing in the middle, and his voice carried beautifully)
- The phallic symbol was a sign of fertility and good luck, so everyone had one in front of their stores, bakeries, etc.
Never have I felt so enthralled by the little streets of Europe as I did in Sorrento. Prague was amazing, Sorrento was even better (I just love Italians, maybe that’s why). The stores up and down the streets were adorable (daytime is cute, nighttime is fairytale like), and the overlook around the corner from The Cloister made me appreciate Italian way of life. We stayed at Hotel Il Faro – very convenient in terms of getting to the ferry, the beach, and pretty central to the city – but it’s the most budget hotel we stayed in. Aside from one tiny part of the beach, it costs money to lay on the beach and the sand has a lot of rocks.
We took a ferry from Sorrento. The island is divided into two sections – we stayed in Anacapri (the cheaper section). In Anacapri, we:
- Rode the chair lift in Monte Saloro. Highly recommend this, it’s quite an experience, lasts 12 mins, and you see stunning views. Remember to make faces or say funny things to the people riding down to make the lift more exciting. On the chairlift you see people’s vineyards, lemon trees, homes on mountains and a beautiful view of the ocean.
- Did the grottos (caves filled with water) – the octopus grotto, where fishermen would fish for.. octopus, the green grotto, and the “little window” grotto – known only to locals (we hired a private boat tour). One of the most stunning experiences to swim into a dark cave from the ocean, feel like you’ll get caught in the darkness and sucked in by the water into the cave only to find that when you swim in it’s completely illuminated by a “little window” – a hole above that brings in the sun and the water is a translucent blue/green. Subscript: you still can get sucked in.
Walked through the town square piazetta (little square) during the day and then sat down for a drink at night to people watch. My favorite moment of the trip. When the clock struck 10/11 (like Cinderella), it was as if everything changed, all people were dressed Vogue-like, interacting in the most beautiful Italian high-end ways. Have to see it to believe it. I also met a stunningly gorgeous man there who happened to be from NY.
Best meal: Faglioni Restaurant – most amazing pasta shelled beef I ever had. I loved it so much that I ordered a second entree of it. The waiter looked at me with shocked eyes when I asked and then said “You are not a woman,” to which I looked down, and instantly replied “I know” and then he finished his sentence and said “you are paradise!”
Took a bus back to Anacapri, where we then proceeded to walk about a mile without a single person, no street names, stray dogs.. so maybe, don’t do this.
Giardini di Augusto & Certosa di San Giacomo – gardens and church self-guided package tour. The gardens were spectacular, as was the artwork of the church/sanctuary.
We wanted to do one last hike (Via Krupp), but then discovered a store called Eco Capri by the Piazetta. The story behind this store made missing the hike worth it.
Fun Facts: only one hospital on the island (have to get airlifted for “serious” cases); only one roundabout on the island; Capri is the island of “goat lovers”; cabs in Capri are essentially convertibles with covers on top
We didn’t do much here besides have a few meals and walk around the center. Souvenir shops would have been wonderful to visit.
- Incredibly picturesque
- Expect to walk an absurd amount of stairs to get around anywhere in the town
- A population of only 3,000 people
- Casual yet good people-watching spot to eat is Bruno
- We met the chef at Buca di Bacco – not a bad place for a bit of a fancier meal in the center of town
- Music on the Rocks – the only club for miles (carved into an actual cave). It’s so packed on Saturdays you can hardly move (or so we heard), while other days are more locals. The nightlife didn’t exactly compare to NY nightlife, but few places do ;]
- We found out that learning to ride a scooter on your own is actually incredibly difficult, so yes – we got on the backs of two gentlemen’s bikes instead and rode through the town in the most cliche Italian way possible.
Amalfi Coast + Ravello
We took a ferry from Positano to Amalfi and then a bus to Ravello.
- Villa Rufolo – did a self-guided tour. The museum wasn’t bad. If you come in the summer, try to catch an outdoor concert on the premises (check this site).
- Villa Cimbrione – you can walk the grounds here for a solid few hours, they are gorgeous! I teared up at the thought of getting married here, as most ladies with souls probably would. If you only have time to do one Villa, I strongly recommend this one unless you’re catching a concert.
- Maria Restaurant – most amazing view and wonderful service. This was my second favorite restaurant on our trip – the food & dessert was to die for
- Ravello to Amalfi hike – about a 2.5 hr walk when walking at a relatively quick pace with hardly any stops, mostly down a lot of steps overlooking the city. I loved this hike.
- We did walk around the town of Amalfi for a little – lots of shops, just like all the other towns, and a beautiful church, but didn’t do much beyond a 30 minute walk.
- The bus from Amalfi to Positano was the most packed bus I had ever seen in my entire life. When we got on the wrong one, for the first time in my life, we were “booed” and all we could do was laugh our butts off. Do yourself a favor and take public transportation somewhere in these towns. It’s just an experience.
We took a ferry from Positano to Ischia. Ischia is known to be a far more local island than Capri. People can easily spend days here – it’s Italy’s weekend/week getaway.
- Poseidon – Dutch baths (which most Italians themselves recommend over Italian baths). Incredibly clean, thermal hot springs (20+ pools), beautiful gardens, and simply the most relaxing way to end our vacation. The only baths I’ve been to that “recommend” starting with the beach first, which by the way is quite clean and a pleasant experience.
- La Strambata restaurant – honestly some of the pizza I had in Italy (don’t forget, I’ve been to Italy before).
These were the Italian West Coast Cities we covered. Next in Italy – Sicily perhaps? What are your due centesimi (two cents)?