It is sunrise on a cool, damp early October morning in Rome. As the sun climbs into the azure Italian skies, passengers clammer for seats on the Eurorail as it prepares to embark south toward Napoli and the Sorrentine Peninsula. Next stop – the main Naples train station for a transfer to the Circumvesuviana line. This is where things can become “oddly” interesting and, well, odd in general. (Travel guru Rick Steves warns in his guidebook on Italy that the Circumvesuviana is a local line which is quite famous for pick pockets, thieves and criminals of various sorts who prey on unknowing tourists, so keep your valuables safely tucked.)
The hour or so train ride seems to stop at every ramshackle, graffiti ridden platform from one end of Naples to the other. But on arrival in Sorrento, an astonishing wonderment of the Amalfi coast’s stunning beauty will swiftly replace any worry one may rightfully feel while on the Circumvesuviana line. Author’s note: the journey from Rome to Sorrento may be a perfect time to forego the train ride for a car rental or hired driver. In hindsight, the travel time would certainly be less stressful and more enjoyable.
Hotel Parco dei Principi is situated high on the cliffs just north of Sorrento. This five-star resort, designed and built by Italian architect Gio Ponti in the 1960s, is a lesson in contemporary design. Stark white walls meld with cerulean blue tiles, furnishings and accents, creating a seamless coexistence with the azure waters of the Bay of Naples splashing against the cliffs below. The hotel’s accommodations are uniquely refreshing and the staff is incredibly hospitable!
Lushly manicured grounds lead to meandering paths throughout the property, and to a lift which carries sun worshippers through a chamber in the cliffs and down to the sundeck, where chaise lounges beckon weary travelers for a mid-day siesta in the sun. Here in this little slice of heaven, guests leisurely relax to the soothing sound of waves slapping onto the rock barrier which encases the deck before preparing for dining and evening revelry.
A cab ride to the village of Sorrento lands visitors amongst quaint boutiques, luxury hotels, piazzas and other attractions. Be sure to pause along the cobblestone verandas of the vibrantly colored buildings that cling to hills and cliffs to watch the sun setting over The Bay of Naples and on the radiant isle of Capri, as colorful fishing vessels bobbing rhythmically on the glistening harbor water. Without a doubt, the Sorrentine Peninsula and Amalfi Coast are breathtakingly picturesque … and befittingly the subject of innumerable post card photographs!
Dining in Sorrento is a food lover’s dream! L’Antica Trattoria is tucked at the bottom of a meandering side street, and exudes a cozy, intimate atmosphere. Several dining rooms inside the restaurant display colorful Italian art and ceramics hung on aged plaster walls. And the ristorante’s whimiscal outdoor framed in vine-wrapped columns welcomes al fresco diners.
The waitstaff is exceptionally courteous while emphasizing that chefs use the freshest ingredients when creating entrees. Feast on a bevy of delectable entrées including homemade angel hair tagliolini with lemon sauce, prawns and spinach, or seabass with fennel, orange and an endive pernod sauce served over parsley potatoes. No meal on the Amalfi coast is complete without an after-dinner digestif of limoncello, a locally prepared lemon liqueur. L’Antica Trattoria is, simply, culinary nirvana!
Visitors to the Amalfi coast must take the time to enjoy and explore Positano along with Ravello and other spectacular villages lining the Gulf of Naples and the Tyrrhenian Sea. In a 1953 interview with Harper’s Bazaar, John Steinbeck remarked, “Positano bites deep. It is a dream place that isn’t quite real when you are there and becomes beckoningly real after you have gone.” Those words still ring true. How the boldly colored homes and cottages manage to cling to hills and steep cliffs is absolutely bewildering. This village is so alluring and engaging, it almost seems unreal.
Located in the heart of Positano and right on the beachfront is Hotel Buca di Bacco. With 46 rooms and panoramic sea views, each room is uniquely furnished and adorned with beautiful paintings, Italian marble and classic Vietri hand-painted floor tiles. The in-house restaurant offers savory cuisine along with an opportunity for guests to learn about their regional food style at cooking classes.
There are a myriad of cafés, and ristorantes in Positano serving traditional Italian cuisine and modern interpretations of local fare, allowing diners to select from virtually any style of restaurant and food preparation imaginable. However, one classic Positano landmark is Casa e Bottega, located in the heart of the village at Viale Pasitea 100. Serving organic, freshly prepared dishes with a vegan twist, this charming eatery is well worth a visit for hungry travelers.
With breathtaking – and cliff scaling scenery, vibrant buildings, warm and friendly Italian people, and a deeply rich history, Italy’s Amalfi coast and the Isle of Capri are on the bucket lists of many wanderlust travelers. If you’ve not spent some time luxuriating along this spectacular coastal region, please move the Amalfi Coast to the top of your travel list. And if you’ve been lucky enough to enjoy Amalfi, perhaps it is time to plan a return.
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