And we are back! We spent the last few weeks working on FoodysTravel in the background to make your experience richer. As you would have noticed, we moved to our own website (hope you liked it!). Over a weekend consumed with flu, A decided that we need our own domain (of course, I had to stick to my divergent opinion and well, it took some grumbling and dithering but A's efforts paid off!) and then we started the journey of zeroing in on the hosting website, the appearance (both of us being consultants with very high respect for aesthetics - you can imagine the fights on text font, size, color, alignment, theme and the list goes on) and then finally moving all the content. On top of this, a (much) younger colleague of mine urged me to be on Instagram or 'gram' (as am told) and volunteered to 'teach' me. So I went all prepared with a list of questions for him - right from what are hashtags to how do I get followers. Well lets just say it was an experience that initially made me feel OLD (especially considering its my birthday in 10 days) but now am really enjoying it!
The most stunning and memorable part of our 2 month long sabbatical - Amalfi Coast. You will find much written about the place (Conde Nast Traveler publishes about it often) and frankly, I got confused when planning our base location.
Where to stay: Basically Amalfi Coast has several well-known towns - Amalfi, Positano, Sorrento and then some might speak of Ravello. Having been to all these towns, I would recommend staying in either Amalfi or Positano (and you will see pictures of both later in the post that might help you decide). Sorrento is like any town and is huge in area - does not really match ones idea of Amalfi Coast. Ravello is a cheaper town and higher in the hills from Amalfi - too far from the action. One thing to keep in mind when planning a holiday in Amalfi Coast is that the terrain is quite hilly and the towns are a fair distance apart, leaving you at the mercy of the buses (cabs are quite expensive). Hence, try and stay in the heart of the town. Coming to Amalfi now - try to stay as close to the bus stop. Right there is the main area - with lots of shops, restaurants, gelaterias!
How to get there: From Naples we booked Trenitalia train to Salerno. From here, we were told there are 2 ways to get to Amalfi - bus (3 Euros) and ferry (8 Euros). The bus station is next to the train station and ferry is a 5 minute walk to the port. We decided on the ferry and would totally recommend it (though bit more expensive)! Grab a beer, head to the upper deck and grin away!
With our heavy bags, it was a bit of a struggle lugging them up a few stairs to our hotel. We were staying at Hotel Lidomare. Conveniently and centrally located, its a very nice hotel - our room had a balcony with a fantastic view (which turned into a laundromat as soon as we unpacked!).
Ravenous from our travels, we searched for places to eat on trusted TripAdvisor but unfortunately most places had shut post lunch and would reopen only at 6:00 pm. Bit of a cloudy day, we walked around to get a feel of the place - lemons in every shape and form (limoncello, lemon, soaps, scents etc.) were everywhere!
For dinner, we found this cute restaurant with indoor and outdoor seating called La Taverna di Masaniello with delicious and reasonably priced food. Most places in Amalfi are a bit expensive and have a 2 Euro cover charge.
Spaghetti ala puttanesca (capers were a good touch)
House red wine
Most people you see during the day are actually people from cruises. As a result, by late evening, the town is relatively quieter.
For dinner, we just picked up a wine bottle and a broccoli-sausage sandwich (6 Euros) from Amalfi Terminal and headed towards the port. It was just lovely - the sky was clear, the water was soothing and it was all quiet around us. We spent a few hours just sitting and talking.
Day 2 was a rainy day and we decided to eat lunch at Amalfi Terminal as its outdoor seating gives a good view of the port. We decided on a simple margherita pizza that cost us 6 Euros (that's really the cheapest meal you can find in Amalfi). Except for the excruciatingly slow service, wasn't a bad deal.
By now the rain had stopped, so we walked along the main street of Amalfi starting from the Cathedral till the very end of the road, stopping to peer inside the tiny shops.
Of course, so much walking calls for a gelato break! There are several on this street - we of course settled for a dark chocolate with dark chocolate chunks!
In the evening we noticed from our hotel balcony that a stage had been set up on the road for people coming off the cruise ship - we opened our bottles of wine and enjoyed the show!
Day 3 we took one of the ferries to Positano (#tip: grab a copy of the current bus & ferry schedule as there isn't an updated version online). Positano is a really picturesque town and we loved it as much as Amalfi!
We had read somewhere about Fornillo beach close-by that is slightly more secluded. There are 2 ways to get there - short walk (there are steps) or wait for one of the private boats that the restaurants run to and from the beach.
As you can see, the beach has umbrellas and lounge chairs that you can rent - it is a private beach (which means that you have to either hire these chairs or sit in the shack). Being a very hot day, we chose the shade of the shack and headed to Da Ferdinando. We loved the atmosphere here! Its a family run cafe and saw/ chatted with 3 generations (even the owner was sitting there!). The best part was that the family had a pet puppy who kept bouncing (literally!) everywhere and urging people to play with him. He also insisted on accompanying guests on the boat ride back to Positano port!
We tried the fresh squid pasta and Peroni Rossa (recommended!) for 13+ Euros.
Positano is known for its hand-made sandals - reason to shop! Average price is 60 Euros and they make it right there in front of you.
Ceramics are also popular souvenirs in Amalfi Coast but a bit expensive - prices also vary from one shop to the other.
Tired, we walked up to the main street to the bus stop - the view of twinkling lights is stunning! Unfortunately, we missed our ride and ended up waiting for over an hour for the next Sita Bus. The roads are really windy and narrow (hence do not recommend driving yourself - this comes from an Indian driver who is used to near-death experiences on the road!) so carry any medicine you may need if this makes you uncomfortable.
Exhausted, we collapsed in Masanielo Art Cafe for a classic hamburger, hand cut chips and beer (check out the size of that!) - costing us 19 Euros in total. The burger was light and juicy; the place was mostly filled with locals and had a relaxed feel to it.
Day 4 we lazed around and just got a margherita pizza as take-away. Bit of research on TripAdvisor guided us to a restaurant called Donna Stella - for reasons unknown to us at that time, it was packed with people and had a long wait. Bit impatient, we endured it wondering what's so great about this place. We were finally seated under a ceiling of lemon branches with actual lemons hanging! We ordered a smoked ham, buffalo mozzarella, rocket and cherry tomato pizza (13 Euros). One bite and we were in heaven! This was undoubtedly the BEST pizza in our entire Italy trip. The crust was slightly salty and perfect, the buffalo mozzarella balanced the sweetness of cherry tomatoes and rocket and ham just added to the perfection! Apologies, but the pizza was so awesome that we completely forgot to take a picture and realised only mid-way.
For Day 5 we had booked a day-long cruise from Sorrento to Capri through Gianni's boat (85 Euros per person). Given their popularity on TripAdvisor, they get booked out pretty quickly - so would recommend making your reservations well in time (and they really are amazing!). We loved this experience - our guide, Andreas, was fun and kept supplying us with chilled beer and Limoncello! Its semi-private (maximum 12 persons) and slow paced - enough opportunities to jump into the cool water (with or without life jackets, depending on your comfort) and snorkel. We stopped at White Grotto, Green Grotto, Emerald Grotto (Blue Grotto was shut that time due to high tide).
After a couple of hours, we reached Capri Island - this is the more posh part of the island and accommodation is pretty expensive. The views from here are mind-blowing!
Capri has narrow, quaint streets lined with high-end brand shops. We picked up beers from a supermarket and strolled around.
Capri is also known for its perfumes - do try some at the labs where you can even see them being made. Next we came across a garden that had a 1 Euro entry fee. The panoramic views from here were outstanding!
After the amazing cruise experience, we headed back to our hotel. Now, when doing our bookings, for some stupid and illogical reason we booked a different hotel for our last night in Amalfi. The hotel - La Ninfa - had fantastic reviews. The problem was that the hotel was a bit far from the main area, which meant that we lug our bags into a bus, get off at the nearest stop, pull the bags up the incline to the hotel and then down a flight of stairs - all for one night! There is just 1 restaurant close-by - G.A.S bar, that has decent food and amazing view. To top it all, we had a very very early morning train back to Salerno. We had to walk till the bus stop at 5:30 am (the first bus passing our hotel was only later) as there are no cabs available at that time either! A rather dreadful experience, but the only plus was the view of sunrise from our hotel room - we were literally hanging on the cliff and had unobstructed views!
Amalfi Coast, undoubtedly, is one of our favorite destinations now and would love to go back one day!