Hands off veggie buffet at Aurora

The Amalfi Coast of Italy was stunning in its scenery. It was the furthest point south we visited and I looked forward to exploring the culinary delights of this region.

Day One

We arrived in Sorrento after a stop in Pompeii. Our Pompeii tour guide told us THE place to eat in Sorrento

1/2 pizza 1/2 calzone

is Aurora pizzeria, on the Piazza Tasso, the center of the town. Aurora is more than just a pizzeria – they own two more restaurants next door, so it’s a compound at this point. I was pretty excited about dinner here. You walk past the side of the restaurant and there is an open window into the pizza kitchen, where you can watch the chefs making the pizzas and baking them in the wood oven.

The restaurant has what looks like a small buffet near the front. This is a selection of vegetables for the

Pizza oven at Aurora

“selection of vegetables” listed as a starter. My daughter and I each got this. Just when we thought we had the hang of this whole Italy thing, they showed us we did not at all. It’s not a buffet in the American sense. You go up with your waiter and you tell him which items you want and he fills your plate. Now, this is hard to do when really I just wanted a tiny taste of everything, but I felt like a huge pig to ask for this. There were also cheeses on the buffet but I was told “no, no” when I pointed to them. Turns out they were extra.

Fish at Zi’Ntonio

The vegetables were cold on the buffet (previously cooked) and stuck in the microwave once we selected them (I am not a fan of the microwave approach here). Despite this, all had interesting flavor combinations. It was a nice selection. My son started with ravioli Caprese style and my husband had stracciatelli soup, which is very similar to egg drop, and thus he loved it. For our secondi, we went with pizzas and calzones. My son got a Romano

Deboning the fish

pizza (anchovy, mozzarella, tomato, and mushroom). He enjoyed that. My husband got four cheese pizza which we thought was a bit boring (no sauce). My daughter got a calzone Napoli (cottage cheese, ham, and mozzarella). She liked it for the most part, but again, there’s no sauce, so it is kind of dry. I got the Aurora No. 4 which was supposed to be half pizza, half calzone with ham, cheese and mushroom. It ended up being a calzone with just one little flat part. I wasn’t a fan. A pizza without sauce

Unnamed fish

is like a sandwich as far as I’m concerned. I don’t care if it is red or white, it needs something to make it tasty. Overall, we were disappointed by the pizzas.

Day Two

A guided tour took us to the town of Anacapri on the island of Capri where a lunch was included in our tour. Hands down the worst meal of the trip. You know you are in trouble when you are asked to choose between “fish or meat.”

Wild strawberry cake

Sorry, but I need more details! Which fish, which meat, and how is it cooked?  Everything here was pretty bad – cooked in huge pans and served at the table by the waiter. Just disappointing.

We rebounded however and dined that evening in the Marina Grande area of Sorrento (on the waterfront) at a restaurant recommended to me by my hair stylist who grew up in Naples and visits Sorrento often. Zi’Ntonio Mare was magical. It’s situated on a pier over the water, next the sand

Sorrento Lemon Cake

beach where we came and swam the next day. Mount Vesuvius is in the background. You can see the cliffs of the coast and hear the water lapping.  The language barrier was heavy here, and because we ordered some specials I am not exactly certain what we had! I started with a Caprese salad which was perfect. Then I had a special which was fish. I originally ordered something else from the menu and was told they were out of it. The waiter suggested this fish instead, the name of which I could not


understand, but which he said was like a sea bass. It was fantastic. White, flaky, mild, but filling and full of the flavors of the sea. My daughter had linguine with scampi and these shrimp were huge and delightful. My husband had spaghetti with clams (which I think he ordered just about every other day on this trip!) and then sea bream baked in salt. The sea bream was fantastic. I’ve had salt-crusted meats and fish before and it is always a surprise how non-salty they are, and how the salt crust keeps the moisture and the flavor inside. My son had ravioli and deep fried squid and

Inside L’Antica Trattoria

shrimp. Every item on the table was magnificent, but we weren’t done yet. My daughter had cannoli and the rest of us shared a wild strawberry cake (teeny, tiny, amazingly sweet wild strawberries all over this moist cake) and a lemon cake, a specialty of the Amalfi Coast. The cake is baked inside a meringue. This is on my list to replicate.

Day Three

After a morning at the beach, the


kids collapsed at the hotel and my husband and I did some shopping and brought sandwiches back.  We also brought back

Another wild strawberry cake

a wonderful little wild strawberry cake which was just as wonderful as the on we had the previous night. Where are the Italians growing all these wild strawberries? Why can’t we get them at home? What strikes me about the sandwiches is that they only have meat and cheese

Angel hair and prawns

on them. You can’t get lettuce or tomato or anything else, at any kind of traditional sandwich shop.

Dinner that night for our final evening in Italy was at L’Antica

Lamb medallions

Trattoria, chosen in most of my guidebooks as “the” place to eat in Sorrento. It was truly a beautiful setting. There is a small restaurant inside, but most of it is outside under an arbor. There is artwork and pottery all over and the service was quite elegant. I began with gnocchi (always good no matter where we had it) then had pesce bandieri with fried prawns. The husband had angel hair pasta with prawns served in half a lemon (loved the presentation and as always, loved the prawns), then

Pesce bandieri with prawns

lamb medallions with Mediterranean herbs. Unlike the lamb in Rome, this was cooked properly and was delicious. The son had ravioli and the daughter had quail. We finished our last night in Italy with another Sorrento lemon cake I’ve really got to work on replicating this) and a plate of lovely cookies.

Italy was the best food I’ve had on a trip, hands down, anywhere to date. I would go back in a heartbeat. The

Sorrento Lemon Cake #2

beauty of it was none of us gained a single ounce. As always on vacation, I lost weight because we are constantly moving and you just eat less when someone else is portioning out all of


your food.

The Amalfi Coast of Italy was stunning in its scenery. It was the furthest point south we visited and I looked forward to exploring the culinary delights of this region. Day One We arrived in Sorrento after a stop in Pompeii. Our Pompeii tour guide told us THE place to eat in Sorrento is Aurora … Read more

View from the road

The final stop on our Italy trip was the Amalfi Coast. A driver picked us up in Pompeii and drove us to Sorrento. The drive to get there is stunning, along high cliffs, with sheer drops to the gorgeous Bay of Naples on the Mediterranean Sea. The road twists and turns a bit.


Sorrento is a very compact little town, also situated on the cliffs. The main section of town is the Piazza Tasso, around which shops and restaurants are clustered. You cannot see the water from the main part of town (except from one tiny viewing area). You can however walk to a park with a beautiful view.

Sorrento was a shopper’s heaven. Lots of interesting shops clustered in a small area. The

Piazza Tasso

shopping area is pedestrian only on narrow cobblestone streets. They sell lemon products (including limoncello), custom-made sandals, lots of leather bags, and souvenirs. The town feels very quaint and comfortable. I felt very comfortable here. It’s nice to have everything within walking distance.

Teatro Tasso

One evening we went to see Teatro Tasso, a musical revue that highlights the songs and dances of the region. It ended up being rather bad community theater, but we thoroughly enjoyed watching one of the guitar players on stage who rolled his eyes, talked to his fellow musicians, laughed at

Teatro Tasso

the dancers, and made faces at the tech crew. He was the highlight of the night.

I had Rick Steve’s book, which promised a discount if you showed the book when you bought tickets. The woman at the desk informed us they limited that discount to two people (the book did not say this). My husband was able to convince her to give us the discount for all four! They serve complimentary drinks on the terrace beforehand (and you can see the water from here, which is beautiful at night). It was something to do in the evening, but honestly it was a bit cheesy.

Swimming in the Mediterranean

Narrow streets of Sorrento

The highlight of our stay in Sorrento was our morning at the beach. We took a taxi down the cliffs to Marina Grande (it wasn’t too far distance-wise, but the cliffs are very steep and it would have been many, many stairs), a tiny little harbor area with a miniscule sand beach. We rented chairs and umbrellas and swam in the Mediterranean, with Mount Vesuvius behind us. The water was warm, the sun was hot, and it was a wonderful interlude.

The Blue Grotto

We took a guided tour to the island of Capri. We were picked up by bus at our hotel and driven to the ferry station (which is again, down the cliffs at the edge of the water). We took the ferry to the island of Capri. Upon arriving on Capri, we spent a few brief moments in the harbor area (where there are a handful of fairly junky souvenir shops) before getting on a small boat with our group to go to the Blue Grotto.

Swimming with Vesuvius

The Blue Grotto was on my list of top sights in Italy, so we were thrilled to go. Our boat drove us around the coast of the beautiful island with its soaring cliffs. Even more stunning though was the water. It was an incredible deep, sapphire blue and very, very clear. I later read that there are no phytoplantkton in the Mediterranean, giving it this color and clarity.

Our boat took us to a grouping of boats just waiting offshore. Through the crowd of boats, you could see a tiny little opening in the rock. This was the entrance to the Blue Grotto. You wait your turn (we waited about half an hour) and a rowboat comes next to your boat. 4 people climb in and you sit on the bottom of the boat. You are rowed over to the opening and then you all lie down or at least bend forward with your head down. The driver waits in front of the opening until there is a break between waves and he grabs hold of some chains that are strung along the top of the opening and pulls the boat through the incredibly tiny hole.

It is absolutely terrifying for a couple of seconds. As you are waiting to go in,you think the


boat can never fit through the hole, you will surely be decapitated, and I was also getting a bit claustrophobic, thinking about going through that tiny hole into a cave.

Let me assure you, it is absolutely worth it and if you are there, you must go. The opening is not deep (width-wise) at all and you are through it in a second. The boat is pulled through and you enter this magical circular cave with a high roof and magical, glowing blue water. I have never seen water this color in my entire life. The boat captain told us it is because of the minerals in the rocks under the water.

The entrance to the Blue Grotto

You are rowed around the cave twice, and the rowers are singing the entire time (we were treated to “Volare”). There is a little staircase carved into the rocks on one side, made by the Romans apparently, which is no longer used. The moments you are inside are like something on another planet. The cave glows, the water is alive, and you are a part of it.

Exiting is not nearly as scary as entering since you know you will fit and before you know it,you are back on your boat. But first, your row boat captain will hit you up for a huge tip. Our tour had already paid our boat fare and our guide warned us they would ask for a tip. My husband gave him 5 Euros and he complained it was not enough for a bottle of wine. We heard other people having the same problem. They are pushy and rude, so be prepared to deal with this if you go.

The magic of the Blue Grotto


Our tour then took us back to the harbor then by van up to the town of Anacapri at the top of the island. You go up terrifyingly winding roads on the very edge of the cliff, certain that you are inches away from falling all the way down (our guide told us this is called the Mama Mia Parkway).There are buses coming up and going down and they pass within millimeters of each other on this incredibly narrow road. At some points, they cannot pass, so one bus must back up.

Anacapri has a small shopping area and a beautiful sccenic viewing area (unfortunately it was a bit misty when we were there). There was not a lot to do and I’m told the town of Capri (farther down the island) is much better for shopping. There is a chair lift from Anacapri that will take you up to the

The view from Anacapri

very top of the island, but we didn’t do that. Other members of our group did and reported that it was very, very hot on the unshaded chair lift, but once you got to the top, the view was spectacular. There is also an old church in town which can be toured.

I would have loved to have seen more of the Amalfi Coast, but enjoyed the parts we did see very much.

The final stop on our Italy trip was the Amalfi Coast. A driver picked us up in Pompeii and drove us to Sorrento. The drive to get there is stunning, along high cliffs, with sheer drops to the gorgeous Bay of Naples on the Mediterranean Sea. The road twists and turns a bit. Sorrento Sorrento … Read more