I have been fascinated with Sorrento and the Amalfi Coast, and the Pinterest pins of the landscape only increased by appetite to see it in person.
The only way to reach Sorrento is to switch trains in Napoli (Naples).
The Circumvensuviana train and its station is notorious for pick pockets and all-around ruffians (street youth, if you will).
We traveled on May Day (like our Labor Day) and the train was packed body-to-body.
Young Italians (who gave the Jersey Shore cast mates a run for their money) filled the train compartments, as music blared from a boombox someone brought on board.
Obscene graffiti (some drawings don't need to be in English to know they are obscene) covered the windows and seats.
Tight denim cut-off shorts and impeccably coiffed hair was all the rage for the young men.
It was delightful people watching.
The further south we went, the rougher the crowd got.
At one point a fight broke out in the impossibly cramped train car and a woman sitting across from us rolled her eyes and sighed, "Sit down. They always fight."
We quickly became friends with that woman and her travel companion even through their broken English and our sad Italian. They were kind enough to help us keep an eye on our bags.
After arriving in Sorrento, we were hot and tired. Finding our bus stop in this resort town was laughable with the crowds and our heavy backpacks.
But it was all worth it when we saw this....
Sorrento is just... wow.
View from our window | our room
Breakfast jam | our host Gianna
We stayed at Hotel Elios on the edge of town on Via Capo. It was a 25-minute walk that felt like an hour with our backpacks on. Time stood still when we wore our backpacks.
Gianna was our host and is a long-time resident of Sorrento. We were her only guests our first night. She made breakfast in the morning with the sweetest homemade jam. She offered us coffee on our first morning and we politely declined. Determined to give us something to drink at breakfast, she had chocolate milk set out the next morning.
She became like our Italian Nonni while we were there, asking us about our day, helping us look up train times, etc. It was not uncommon for her to sit near the door, anxious to hear about our daily adventures.
The sound of the rushing water and the smell of pure relaxation permeated the air.
I took possibly the best nap of my life that afternoon with the windows open.
The view from the breakfast balcony and a shot of our personal balcony.
The main strip in Sorrento is full of fancy shops and little restaurants.
But the real magic of the town came to play on the small side streets.
We keep our cuisine traditional with pizza at Pizzeria da Franco and gelato. (At least one scoop a day when we were in Italy.)
Primavera, the famous gelato shop in town, serves up more than 70 flavors and boasts the Pope as a client.
I kept it simple with a mixture of limone and fragola (lemon and strawberry).
Sorrento and the Amalfi Coast are known for lemons.
Stores like the one above sell every kind of lemon merchandise you can imagine.
May Day also brought in a puppet show, live music and crowds to the center of town.
What is it about little side-street restaurants that is so romantic?
Day 5: Amalfi Coast and Ravello
The next morning we hustled to catch a boat to the Amalfi Coast.
There are two ways to get to the Amalfi Coast: boat or a harrowing bus ride. We experienced both.
When in doubt, take a boat if you can. The whole world changes with that perspective.
Getting on the boat gave us our first real taste of Italian line rules. RE: there are no rules. This was a free for all that included a minor verbal brawl between a woman with a stroller and another tourist. It was heated and we prayed that neither of them was American.
Their altercation created a distraction and we were able to snag great seats on top of the boat.
The Amalfi Coast. I believe this is Amalfi Town or Positano. Both resort towns as idyllic as they are expensive.
The crowds were heavy in Amalfi so we hitched a (terrifying) bus ride and headed for the mountainous town of Ravello.
I surprised myself on this trip. As a self-described "city girl," I was surprised to find myself yearning to get off the beaten path. I fell in love with the small towns, instead of being enchanted by the busy cities. I was itching to get away from the crowds.
Ravello, perched high above Amalfi, offers spectacular views, minimal crowds and many of the "postcard" views.
I swear it.
We kept lunch simple with limone slushes and sandwiches.
Our Italian was put to the test as we ordered everything from a deli: one loaf of bread, three slices of cheese, meat (of a mystery variety, but still good) and sun-dried tomatoes. It was incredible.
The bus ride back was as butt-clenching as expected. We met a darling couple from Boston who were just as terrified.
The curves and hair-pin turns weave in and out of the mountains with steep cliffs on the edge.
Day 6, Part 1: Goodbye to Sorrento
For our final morning in Sorrento, we tried to savor everything: the fresh air, the sounds of the waves, the laid-back vibe, Gianna's homemade jam, and the sweeping views.
The vista above is what we saw as we walked into town each day.
Next we strolled through one of the lemon groves (they had a tree that was sprouting both lemons and oranges, I kid you not) and bought some citrus for our train ride.
Next up was Deep Valley of the Mills.
I saw a photo like this a few years back and became entranced.
It seemed so serene, off the beaten path and magical.
In reality, it is still serene and magical but right in the center of town. It is just over a ledge along a busy street. In fact, we walked right past it without noticing on our first day in town.
Everything appeared bigger in Sorrento.
Our walk to the hotel. Mt. Vesuvius is in the background.
We bid farewell to Gianna and hitched a bus ride back to town to get to our next destination... Pompeii.