At some point later, if not right now, the overuse of adjectives like “stunning” and “gorgeous” and “lovely” are going to cause reader fatigue. Clearly, I need to expand my vocabulary, but when something’s stunning, it’s stunning. The Costiera Amalfitana or Amalfi Coast is stunning. National Geographic describes it well, and they have a great route mapped out too.
Starting our drive from Otranto heading to Sorrento we departed foot loose and fancy free having no idea if we would stop somewhere along the way. We stopped, oh-so-close to Sorrento, in Salerno.
But the drive was interesting. In retrospect, we would’ve added another week to this trip and toured the entire foot of Italy. Instead, we had to cut it off at the heel and head north away from the toe with the final destination, Rome, from where we flew to Portugal.
We went through some gorgeous (see, there I go again) little beach towns like Gallipoli (though a tad busy for our tastes) and Sant’Isidoro, and we hung out for a couple of hours in the cool stone city of Matera. Known for its cave dwellings, Matera is a place like no other I’ve ever seen. It’s dubbed la “Città Sotterranea” (Subterranean City) for a reason. A world heritage site, the ancient part of town (Sassi di Matera or Stones of Matera) is supposedly the location of the first settlements in Italy. The Sassi are homes that have been dug out of the rock. Really, these homes are curious cave dwellings, some more sophisticated than others. And by sophisticated, I don’t mean indoor toilets or electricity. I mean, some caves had separate rooms and maybe a place to sit. Around the early 1950’s about 15,000 folks who were still living in the caves had to be evicted because of unsafe and unhygienic living conditions. You think? There’s a lot of good information about this town on the inter web. Check it out, and if you’re ever in the area, visit! Matera is definitely worth an overnight.
Arriving late after 11:00 PM, we made the game-time decision to stop instead of continue driving to Sorrento. Otherwise, we had no business being in Salerno. Despite the panoramic views of the Amalfi Coast, we only saw an industrialized city and a shockingly dirty beach. I’m sure there are some good parts to this town. We didn’t take the time to visit.
Lodging: Grand Hotel Salerno
This hotel is a high-rise – not our kind of joint. And it was expensive to boot. Modern and semi-chic interior, the best part of this hotel was the balcony with the Amalfi coast view. And breakfast really good. I don’t think I ever remember a breakfast like the one served in Salerno. There were a few stands of food and buffets in a large dining room. They had soy milk and lots of vegetarian and even vegan options. I probably haven’t mentioned that like in many US hotels, breakfast is included in the cost. But unlike in many US hotels, the breakfast is a real breakfast not a 2-year old sticky bun wrapped in cellophane.
Highlight of Salerno: Leaving
Photo album – Driving to Salerno
Sorrento is considered the gateway to the Amalfi Coast. We passed through and stopped at some of the small towns and villages of Marmorata, Maiori, Vettica, Furore and Positano (beeeautiful). The calm turquoise Mediterranean coastline with its all-encompassing panoramic views contrasted with steep cliffs swathed in lush, green vegetation and groves of trees bursting with citrusy lemon yellow, transports one’s senses to Happyville. And yes, the roads on the Amalfi coast along the cliffs are narrow and busy and dangerous. Thrilling.
Having been here before in a former life when I was a young backpackin’ lass, I’ve held fond memories of Sorrento. It’s changed since the 1990’s, but is still the charming town I remember it to be.
The photo album includes pics taken on the way to Sorrento, scooting around Sorrento and a side trip to Pompei. My second visit to Pompei did not disappoint. Check this site for some detailed history.
Lodging: Hotel La Tonnarella
Dio Mio! Okay. This place was a splurge. And totally worth it because of the million dollar views. But then again, one can have those standing from almost any high point in Sorrento. But they were RIGHT there on our TERRACE. We felt like royalty. It’s not often where we go all out and spend the big bucks for lodging. Probably once per each country we visit we experience the luxury side of life. This was it for Italy. I highly recommend this place. We think we had a pretty good meal, but we don’t remember. But the view…W.O.W. And the room itself was lovely, comfortable, clean, and GREAT service. Just W.O.W.
Highlight of Sorrento: I love this town. Probably because I have sweet memories of it from the first visit, but the second go-around was just as nice. I like the cozy feel of the streets, the spectacular and striking views from any cliff, the people, the music. Everything.
We had a lovely meal at Ristorante San Antonio (Via S. Maria delle Grazie), in an outdoor courtyard setting. Our server, Michael, was kind, gracious and helpful. Half Italian, half English, he spent part of his childhood in England, and so his English was impeccable. He introduced us to his wife and baby. I felt like we were hanging out with family. My bestie and I ate at this restaurant in 1991 when we were backpacking. In each country, we had a good restaurant meal. In Italy, it was at Ristorante San Antonio. The place was full and lively. An accordion player serenaded us with sweet Italian charms. Good memories.
After two nights in Sorrento, we took off for Rome and hung out there for just a few hours before out next adventure: Portugal. But of course, we experienced some Roman highlights – throwing a coin in the Trevi Fountain, the Colosseum, St. Peter’s Square, and Altare della Patria.
If you’re planning a visit to Italy, this article on 100 Things to Know If You’re Going To Italy will be helpful.
Where is your favorite place in Italy?
Time stays long enough for anyone who will use it.
~Leonardo da Vinci
If the sight of the blue skies fills you with joy, if a blade of grass springing up in the fields has power to move you, if the simple things in nature have a message you understand, Rejoice, for your soul is alive.
~ Eleanora Duse