After wonderful rest to the sound of the bow wake, we met the little group of seven I put together for our tour. Salvatore, a wonderfully gregarious friendly Napolitano who now lives above Amalfi was waiting as promised just outside the cruise terminal. We set off for the Amalfi coast to the tunes of Anreas Bochelli with Salvatore singing along. I had read about Salvatore and the tour company run by he and his wife Katherine, on both Cruise Critic and Trip Advisor. All reviews were positive and some mentioned Salvatore’s beautiful singing and a few said that he had cooked lunch for me at his house. Our trip was to include the ride down the coast to Sorrento, around the end of the peninsula, with quick stops in Postano and Alamlfi, then lunch at a restaurant overlooking Raffallo, the a return towards Napoli with a two hour visit to the ruins at Pompeii.
The entire drive once we were out of Naples proper was beautiful, hairpin turns, steep cliffs, beautiful views of hillside towns and little beaches, way down there! Salvatore’s English was pretty good but he seemed to enjoy me trying to speak my broken Italian, and truth be told, so did I. He was very good at trying to teach all of us some Italiano. About the time we reached Sorrento, he asked if we would like to have lunch at his house rather than a restaurant. (yay, he likes us!). “Si, Si, Mille grazie”, I say. He calls someone and gives them a grocery list and continues singing.
At some point, Salvatore said he was going to take us someplace special without tourists- by this time the road had started to get pretty busy and at each turn he blew his horn, it apparently had two buttons, one sounded the normal horn, the other sounded a more friendly staccato beep-beep-beep-beep and then he would listen to see if some warned him back that they too were rounding the bend. We wove (and I mean wove) down down down down towards the sea, threw tiny little towns, where sometimes either we or oncoming traffic would have to stop to give the other room to pass. Finally we reached the westernmost point of the Sorrento peninsula where the view lookin both ways was beautiful. We could also see across to the Isle of Capri…another one of the worlds most beautiful places.
On our way back towards the regular route, we approached a valley I guess where because we were up high we could see the Bay of Naples on our left and the Bay of Sorrento on our right. At about the same time, one of Salvatore’s three(????) phones rang and he had an excited conversation and then turned to me to tell me that due to the priest of his town’s death, all the stores and stalls were closed so his helper wasn’t able to find the food to buy for him to cook. So back to plan A, the restaurant. We continued our amazing, edge of the cliff, hairpin curve drive towards Amalfi, the actual city, with traffic getting busier and busier. Just before reaching town, one passes through a couple of short tunnels, the last of which is one way, so when we got there and didn’t make it through, Salvatore suggested we walk the rest of the way into town and he would pick us up at the main square. So off we went, threading our way between the cars and the tunnel walls. We probably walked five minutes but it took 15 before the van arrived. Very short stop, really only time for a toilet break and a quick look around. Then we started climbing back up away from the sea and towards lunch. I had envisioned a restaurant on top of the ridge with a view of the sea….that was not to be, we ate at a typical small place in a typical small town. No view or atmosphere what so ever, but very tasty. When we arrived the table had a spread ( unfortunately it was the only picture I remembered to take). It included a chopping block with prosciutto, salami and other similar meats, a plate of fresh sardines in olive oil, a plate of house made pickles, a plate of sliced tomatoes, and another of sliced mozzarella, a couple bottles of water and another couple of house bottled wine ( I suspect it was really pumped from a huge container in the regular sized bottles but who knows….I just know it was tasty). We then were brought a plate with a delicious big ravioli stuffed with ricotta in a tomato sauce and really wonderful pappardelle with fungi ( mushrooms). We then were offered either tiramisu or the local dolce (sweet) which Salvatore highly recommended. Most of us got it. It was a two then pie shaped biscotti layered with sweeter ricotta and pears. It was yummy! Then came lemoncello and Salvatore said he didn’t like lemoncello because it was too sweet, he like grappa instead so he brought us a glass so we each could taste. Very strong!
Then after poking my head in the kitchen to be introduced to Mario, the chef with a physique similar to mine to say Grazie e Molto Buono, it was back to the van and off to Pompeii.
Pompeii was very interesting. Because the ash (not lava) from Vesuvius buried it, and because the buildings walls were of stone, the whole town was protected until it was excavated. Unlike other ruins, you don’t have to use much imagination to recreate it in your head….most of it is there, including beautiful mosaic floors in the rich folks houses and very interesting frescos which served as advertisements in the brothels.
The most interesting thing to me we’re the streets. They were built 18″ or so below sidewalk level but have stepping stones every so often. This allowed them to be flooded with water to clean them but allowed pedestrians to still get around. Guess the Pompeians didn’t like to have to put diapers on their horses?
We then made our way back to the ship with more Italian ballads from Bochelli and Salvatore with a couple of KC and the Sunshine Band ditties thrown in for good measure. All in all it was a wonderful day, but if I had it to do over, I would pick one (two at the most) town on the Almalfi coast and just go enjoy it…..next time!
As I write this we are sailing threw the gap between the toe of the boot and Sicily. (Madison and Jack- can you find it on a map?) on our way to Messina. Included below are a fe pictures I just took of it.