After months and months of being back in the US, we finally made our triumphant return last month. We had been discussing a trip to Amalfi (just South of Naples, on the Mediterranean coast) for years, so it seemed like a good first big trip now that we're back.
And ahh...what a trip! Getting there was more difficult that we'd become accustomed to (no more 2 hour flights) but we still had a great time.
Our first few nights we spent in Sorrento, the heart of which is situated at the top of cliffs overlooking the sea, with two marinas connected by steep winding roads and staircases.
The main square was busy and bustling most days,though in the evening it's all shut down to motor traffic to better allow for the traditional evening stroll. Have I mentioned lately how much I love Italy?
Our hotel was unusually close to the main square for us; we usually stay more on the outskirts of the old town. It was on the smaller side, but ended up being quite nice despite being located over a frozen yogurt shop.
The first marina is basically a second small town situated outside of the city walls. The focus here is has historically been fishing, and that's carried through to today. (Sorry for the glare here, this trip has convinced me that I need some form of UV filter for the camera if we are going to visit sunny places.)
These days Marina Grande still has a neighborhood feel, with its own personality and vibe. It was a bit more rustic overall, which tends to appeal to our sensibilities. We had amazing seafood at one of the restaurants lining this stretch, and found ourselves drawn down here on many of our strolls.
The second marina is the "small marina", which despite the name always seemed the larger of the two. The bulk of the waterfront is taken up by 'beach clubs' that are built on piers stretching out into the water, most of which are covered in brightly colored huts.
While it was warm or hot the entire time we were there, we are not really folks to spend a vacation sun bathing, so we didn't spend any real time at these.
This is also where the passenger boats depart from, and where we took a boat to Capri.
Capri itself is a very small island off the coast with just two cities (and a bunch of houses we could never afford.) The port was bustling and confusing, though we did eventually find our way from our big boat to a small boat to take us to one of the island's chief attractions, The Blue Grotto.
Just getting to (and into) the grotto is an adventure in itself. From our large boat from Sorrento, we got into one that could hold a dozen passengers and made our way to the entrance. There we parked in a mass of boats ranging from huge yachts to tiny row boats.
Turns out, the tiny row boats were everyone's destination. The entrance to the grotto (a sea cave) is a tiny hole in the cliff wall only accessible when the waves ebb out. Not the tide, the waves. The boat rowers have all their passengers lie down, then time their dash into the cave such that it happens during a trough and yank the whole shebang in using the chain on the side.
Inside, the cave is pitch black at first. Once your eyes adjust, however, you find that the sun slanting in through the entrance reflects off the limestone floor, illuminating the entire thing in a ghostly blue glow. This picture hints at how amazing it was, but it really does need to be experienced. I had been a bit wary of it as a pure tourist trap, but man is there a good reason that it's the main attraction on the island. Just stunning.
From there we headed to the second town on the island, Anacapri.
Another big attraction on the island is taking a chair lift up to the highest point for scenic views. Mary did not look quite as relaxed as the lady in the painted tile mural, but as a lover of heights I thoroughly enjoyed the ride.
Going up lends not only a great view of both towns on the island (Capri and Anacapri), but also of the terraces that have been cut into the hill to allow for the planting of crops and gardens.
The top of the mountain indeed did not disappoint. Here is a view over the bulk of the island. The buildings down below us are from the city of Capri, and the land off the point of the island is the mainland of Italy.
Back down in Anacapri, we grabbed lunch (two caprese sandwiches, which are named after Capri itself) and then headed to a villa which is open to the public. I want a villa! I'd even open it to the public when I am at one of my other villas. Alas, for now I shall gawk at this one.
The interior of the house was actually fairly modest, because most of the living was done in open galleries, courtyards, and gardens. These outdoor spaces were amazing -- ornately decorated and immaculately kept. They really gave a sense of the glamour of pre-war time in Europe (if you had the money and power to be a part of it.)
A ton of the pictures we took are views down over something lovely (often taken from somewhere lovely.) Here is a view of Capri and the port taken from a scenic outlook at the villa.
Our boat back to Sorrento departed from the marina pictured.
The final sight on Capri was a church whose entire floor is covered in a painted tile mural depicting the expulsion of Adam and Eve from the garden of Eden. This painted tile is actually Spanish in origin, but based on what we've seen is common around the Mediterranean. It's certainly a bit more busy than I'd like in my bathroom, but it's quite stunning to see it in this setting.
I encourage all readers to click on the image and get a load of the sheer approximate-ness of the elephant, which was clearly painted from a description in a book. It really is a sight.
Up next: Onward to Amalfi.