400 days to travel the world…only stopping to eat, drink, and everything in-between.

Amalfi Coast

Day 156 of 400: Pompeii – Italy

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Your alarm goes off, you jump in the shower, get dressed, grab breakfast and leave the house.  Within a few hours, the day turns pitch dark and pumice rocks start falling from the sky.  The air is so thick with ash, it is literally suffocating and the poisonous gases in the air are killing you and everyone around you.

When Mt Vesuvius erupted in 79 A.D., they think it erupted close to 12PM on August 24th and started with a deafening sound which was the top blowing off the volcano.  The explosion blew up 20 km high into the sky forming a huge cloud of matter…then the pumice rocks started falling and then the ash fell over 70 km.  Within hours, the entire city of Pompeii was dead and buried.

To walk the streets of this old Roman city and look at the ruins is kind of eery but also fascinating.  The streets are long and gridlocked.  There is a huge amphitheater, tons of what were probably houses and stores, a bath house, pillars standing without the buildings to hold up etc.  The streets seemed to go on forever…there must have been so many people…

Giff and I spent a couple of hours walking up and down the stone streets and could have spent many more.  We walked through some of the old buildings, taking pictures and reading our booklet to help navigate us around.  One of the areas we found most amazing was “the garden of the fugitives”.  13 plaster cast bodies including children were frozen in the positions they were in when they were taking their last breath.  It’s amazing how archeologists are able to find where these bodies were, but since they decomposed…they pour plaster through a hole in the ground into the cavity where the body was, and then dig around the mold.  The end result captures the body down to the facial expression.

Many Roman towns have been rebuilt at some point during history but since Pompeii was buried in ash, it was preserved and therefore the streets we were walking on and the building remains we were looking at was all exactly the way it was so long ago.  They have also uncovered paintings on some of the walls as well as statues amongst other artifacts.  The archeologists continue to dig to uncover more and more.

We climbed some of the steps to get a view of the town which was dominated by the volcano in the background…it was unreal to be able to walk through the streets of all those people who were suddenly killed by a volcano they thought to be just a mountain.

After our long hot walk through Pompeii, we were ready to go back to our hotel.  We walked back outside of the ruins (old Pompeii) and into the new town of Pompeii which is active with people, tourists, shops, restaurants and hotels.  The main large piazza with the cathedral are right outside the old area of Pompeii.  Giff and I had tried one of the mom & pop type restaurants before we went into the Pompeii Ruins.  The food was one of our least favorites in Italy but we ate at a table next to the owners and enjoyed watching them chat and eat their lunch…even offering us a juicy peach from their table.

We went back to our hotel, grabbing a take out pizza and salad on our way to the room.  We ate and caught up on our Internet stuff before going to bed.  Tomorrow we will be in Naples!

Day 155 of 400: Capri – Italy

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The price to take a ferry from Sorrento to the island of Capri was the same price as a guided tour around the island by ferry-boat, so we opted for the tour.  The boat itself was nothing special…there were probably 100 people aboard with us…all of us listening to the tour guide tell us little facts about the island and where to go etc.  The ride was about an hour before we arrived and docked.

The city center of Capri had loads of tourists (apparently the beauty of this island isn’t a big secret)…and we played that same role looking at all the shops and taking pictures of the cathedrals and cobblestone streets.  The pricing in the little boutiques were definitely on the pricey side, so we did mostly window shopping.  After walking around a bit, we escaped the madness and started walking off the beaten path to the edge of the island where we found a trail.  It was about 95 degrees and high noon so the hike was especially difficult as we climbed up and down steep flights of steps…but the views were extremely rewarding…it reminded us of Hawaii.

The rugged cliffs were massive, the rocks sticking straight out of the water, the hidden caves and the gorgeous coastal views of the island were stunning.  There were tons of little lizards slithering around as we hiked up and down the mountain.  It was nice to just stare out at the horizon as all the boats sailed by.

As we were getting close to the end of our hike…my face was beet red and Giff was sweating to the point where he could ring his shirt out several times.  We saw umbrellas below and what looked like beach access.  We took the 300 meter hike down towards the water even though this meant we would need to hike back up.  Once we got to the bottom, we found out the beaches were private…we could have access but it was about $25 per person just to stick our pinky toe in the water.  We couldn’t justify the money, so turned around for the long hike back up.

It would have been smart of us to bring a bottle of water or some fruit on this long hike…but didn’t!  By the time we got to the top, we were extremely thirsty.  Thankfully there was a lemonade stand and we quickly ordered two lemonades.  We were given two small Dixie cups of lemonade for $6 each!  It was highway robbery but we needed the drink.

Once we cooled off a bit and bought some large waters, we saw the clock was ticking.  We needed to be at a certain port by a certain time to catch our boat back and wanted to see the top of the island first.  We quickly caught a public bus full of people dripping in sweat (including us) as we were all squished together to get to the town at the top called, Anacapri.  We only had about an hour but were hungry so found a touristy food place to grab a quick snack.  We continued through the town, looking at the main sites and taking a few pictures.  It was much quieter up there, not as many people.  Both the town of Capri and the town of Anacapri had their typical squares with old buildings and cute streets, but the real reason to come to this island has nothing to do with the center.  It is a must to get out of the town and onto a hiking path in order to appreciate the landscape.

Once we got back down on the bus to the main town of Capri…we opted to take the downhill walk the rest of the way to our port.  We made it back with a few minutes to spare, and then got back on the boat to finish our island tour and head back to Sorrento.  They showed us a few different sites like a statue hidden in a cave and some of the beautiful coastline from the boat view.  They also pointed out the blue grotto which is one of the highlights of Capri.  It is sea cave and the way the sun shines through the water into the cave causes it to light up with a blue color.  The lines were quite long with people wanting to enter the cave so we didn’t do it, but probably would have had we stayed on Capri for another day.

A bit sunburned and sticky from our hike, we got back from the boat and back to our hotel.  We went next door to a restaurant and ordered a pizza and salad to take to our hotel room before climbing into bed.  Our overall opinion of Capri is that the island itself is gorgeous and the hikes are challenging but rewarding with the breathtaking views.  There are however way too many tourists swarming the streets.

Day 154 of 400: Sorrento – Italy

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How cool is it to have a huge bin of fresh oranges just waiting to be freshly squeezed right into  your glass for breakfast?  And right next to the unlimited supply of oranges a coffee machine grinding the beans per cup of coffee?  Our first impression of breakfast was a great one.  We sat down with our OJ’s/coffee and munched on the warm pastries, fresh fruit and granola while sitting outside looking past the lemon trees to the water.  We could really get use to this hotel!

After breakfast we took the free hotel shuttle down to the town of Sorrento which was on the same road as our hotel at the bottom of the mountain.  We started our tour of the city looking at their old fortress wall and then made our way to the cobblestone streets.  There were lots of shops set up with all kinds of shopping and this time the prices were good in comparison to Positano.  We played around, trying on hats…looking at leather belts and more lemon stores.  Giff saw an Amore & Baci charm bracelet in the window (the Italian version of Pandora) and brought me over to see it. I have been wanting to form a charm bracelet with a charm from different countries to highlight our trip.  Giff found one that was all about Italy.  We went inside and had fun looking at all the charms and picking a bracelet and some charms to get it started.  These charms are so detailed and represent major highlights in Italy like the Vatican, a lemon, a gondola etc.  It will be fun to look in the other countries on our trip to complete the collection.

In between the shops were plenty of ice cream parlors and we found one that looked dangerous.  We picked a couple of flavors and sat down to cool off from the hot sun before continuing our walk.  We ended up walking around town for quite a while finding little back roads in the city.  One area lead us to the water where people were swimming.  We had to climb down several steps to the bottom of the cliff to get to the water, and once there…saw that it wasn’t a typical sandy beach.  It was more like a blocked off swimming area. It had all kinds of beach chairs and umbrellas set up all over the docks and water chairs attached to a rope in the water.  We looked around and then climbed back up the stairs enclosed by tunnels until we reached the city again.

We worked up an appetite walking all over the place and found a table at a pizzeria.  It appeared to be a pretty local place and we had fun listening to the Italians chat at their tables as we crunched on our pizza and salad.  We walked around just a bit more after our late lunch and then caught the shuttle back to our hotel.

We were tired and decided to enjoy our early evening at our hotel where we ordered food from the same restaurant, opened our wine and watched a movie in Italian.

Day 153 of 400: Amalfi Coast and Sorrento – Italy

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Before checking into our hotel in Sorrento, we drove further north enjoying the Amalfi Coast drive.  For some reason the views just never get old!  The driving was like being in a video game.  Since the road was built into the mountain right at the edge where the water and cliff meet, it was very narrow.  Specifically around the dozens of twists and turns, the road was not always wide enough for two cars and there were so many buses carrying tourists back and forth between coastal towns.  There was definitely not enough room for the cars and buses.  This is not a road where looking down at your phone while driving is even an option.

As we weaved our way around the mountain, we passed through the town of Amalfi which was full of pastel colored buildings and crowds of people.  We continued driving because the parking lot was so packed.  We went a bit inland through another small town and stopped for a picture.  We drove back down the mountain to Sorrento to check in after our driving excursion.

Sorrento is a coastal town right in between Positano and Naples.  It is always an adventure looking for our hotel or B&B.  We usually get in the vicinity and drive around the area or stop and ask someone who speaks no English but through hand signals we figure it out.  This time, we ended up driving down an unpaved road…we both got the feeling it may be leading us the wrong way but we kept going because there are plenty of dirt roads in the countryside.  This one however lead us directly into a barn at someone’s house.  We literally could not drive any further or we would hit the barn, then a women came walking out speaking all Italian asking us what we were doing.  As we smiled and pointed to Bridgette (GPS) she smiled back and kept talking in Italian and we kept replying in English…it would have made a great Seinfeld episode.

Back on the correct road, we found our hotel, Il Nido (www.ilnido.com)and it was sitting up on a mountain overlooking the sea.  We checked in and got all our things in the room (we have quite a lot of stuff now with all of the wine we have accumulated).  Our room had a balcony and a panoramic view of the sea, Mt Vesuvius(volcano), Naples and the downtown area of Sorrento.  It also had air conditioning…something our last place didn’t have…air conditioning in Italy in July is crucial!

Since the hotel was nice and the views pristine…we decided to order dinner from the hotel restaurant and open one of our bottles of wine.  The sunset was beautiful on the water and we had front row seats.  Dinner was great…the noodles were homemade and seafood fresh.  We enjoyed relaxing and settling in for the evening.

Day 152 of 400: Positano – Italy

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Because today was our last day in Positano…we wanted to walk all over town.  We decided to walk down to the water to see the beach…367 stairs later we were at the bottom.  The beach was packed and it was about 90 degrees.  We dipped our toes in the water and then turned back around to climb the 367 stairs back up to the town. Needless to say, we were panting and gasping for air as sweat poured down our red faces.  Hopefully these steps will take some of the pasta we’ve been eating off our waistlines!

We continued our “walk” around the town, going up and down a few more narrow streets before deciding we needed to stop to eat.  We stopped at a restaurant that had tables outside overlooking the water.  We sat and ordered fresh seafood…octopus, shrimp, sardines, smoked salmon, mussels/clams etc.  We ended up spending a bit more on lunch than we normally do…some of these places are priced specifically for tourists although the food was good.

We continued walking around the winding streets.  There was an area that was full of shopping…boutique after boutique filled with high-end linen clothes, name brand sunglasses, shoe stores where the shoemaker would make the sandal from scratch to fit your foot…etc.  This was by no means a place to find good deals or items on sale…these were very expensive places but good quality too.  We did our fair share of shopping.  We tried on clothes for fun and enjoyed looking at all the luxurious stuff.

Lemons were everywhere…we’re not talking about a normal lemon…these lemons were HUGE.  There were lemon trees, lemonade stands, limoncello (an after-dinner drink that tastes like vodka, lemon and sugar), lemon flavored chocolate, lemon soap stores…you get the idea.  We bought some little lemon bath soaps, they were bright yellow shaped like lemons, a lemon candle (to help keep the millions of mosquitos away) and lemon mosquito spray.  If there is one negative with Positano…it is the mosquitos…we are getting eaten alive with all these bugs.  There are 60 types of mosquitoes in Italy and we have met quite a few.  We also stopped at a lemonade stand for a lemon slushy…made with fresh lemons daily…they basically scrape the big chunk of lemon ice into a slushy consistency and fill a little dixie cup for 1.50 euros.

After a long day of walking and shopping…we made our way back to the hotel to shower and get ready for dinner.  We had a glass of wine and some cheese and tomatoes on our balcony before walking to the other restaurant owned by our hotel.  We had a table outside and ordered a couple of salads and homemade pastas.  We are really starting to be pasta snobs as far as eating the homemade noodles vs dried noodles…this could be a problem but we love the chewy texture of the homemade version.

Dinner was good and we walked back to our place to sit on the deck in our lounge chairs and unwind while drinking a glass of great wine and talking.  The view here is so nice…we could easily stay another couple of days but have to check out in the morning and head to Sorrento.