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
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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