The International Writers Magazine: Italy - From Our Archives
Before taking the tiny, jam-packed bus from Sorrento to Positano, passengers should consider writing a will before boarding. My four day adventure around the Sorrento area included Pompeii, Sorrento, Capri, and Positano, some of Italy’s most beautiful cities.
For one to experience all of these places within four days, one must have stamina and be able to laugh at all of the Italian surprises that come along with travel in Italy! The Amalfi coast offers adventure and the most beautiful views I have ever seen.
Sorrento in spring time captivates tourists: the typical piercing blue Italian skies, fresh lilacs, and the streets filled with Italian families out on a “passeggiata” for some gelato. The citrus scents of the lemon and orange trees wafted into my nostrils making me feeling refreshed as I walked down the streets, leaving a craving for a fresh lemonade smoothie or gelato on my tongue. Now, Sorrento might not be Naples, but their pizza certainly resembles the typical Neapolitan slice. My pizza tasted much better than the typical flat, cheeseless, Roman pizza I had grown accustomed to; this pizza was Roman pizza’s sassy sister: thick, garlic crust (which makes my mouth water as I remember it now) with mozzarella and ricotta cheese practically flowing like a waterfall off of the perfectly baked dough. Surely this pizza was made in Heaven. I don’t think I have ever had pizza so incredible, and had I the time, I probably would have eaten another but alas, Pompeii waited!
They say one needs 8 hours to fully experience Pompeii, we only had three. Going to Pompeii felt like going back in time. I studied abroad in Rome and saw ancient ruins every day, but this blew me away! The mosaic tiles remained perfectly intact on some of the floors, and the staircases appeared in nearly mint condition. The amphitheater seemed ready to host a gladiator battle and the temples adorned to host an ancient ritual. Although Pompeii fascinates like no other, an eerie feeling hovers in the air. Plaster casts of people trapped by the volcanic dust and lava bring the visitor back to the reality that Pompeii didn’t simply decay over time; all of the damage occurred in one day. Pompeii’s enormous area makes the visit completely exhausting, and if you don’t have a tour guide like us, all of the ruins start to look the same after a while. Our trip to Pompeii ended with some delicious lemon-ice drinks that helped to wash away the heat of the afternoon sun.
||Sorrento goes all out with its Easter celebrations. Thankfully I did some research before we left and prepared myself for what we were about to witness. Two ritual processions occur on Good Friday: one at 3 am, where the male townspeople dress up in head to toe white costumes (which actually resemble KKK uniforms) and parade through the city.
The second display, which we attended, occurred at 8 pm. In this procession the townsmen wear black robes instead of white which makes for a darker, intense feeling in the air. The men carry lots of incense which made me feel a bit dizzy. The onlookers remained completely silent in total awe of the spectacle happening before them. I could hear the hum of some sort of Gregorian-like chant coming from the participants which sounded eerie but also reminded me that this tradition has been repeated for hundreds of years. This event made a great impression on me and became a cultural experience I would never forget.
Oh, Italian men, need I say more? Coming from America where the men are considerably less confrontational than in Italy, I couldn’t help but giggle while rolling my eyes at the Italian men’s comments or actions. While abroad, a friend dated an Italian from the Naples area, a relentless Italian. She broke off the relationship before our Amalfi Coast excursion. Somehow he learned of our travels to Sorrento for Easter weekend and went to Sorrento to find us! As I said, Sorrento has only one main street, and if someone is visiting the town for the first time, they probably will walk up and down that street in the evening. Well, he found us. It took four people and countless hours of convincing him that their romance had seen its course until he finally gave up. Ironically Pasquale prepared us well for our Neapolitan male encounters to come! One night our waiter refused to let us pay for our upcoming feast and called us his “three tigri (tigers),” rolling his tongue on the r’s quite dramatically. Naples is famous for its gnocchi, and since we weren’t footing the bill, we all decided to try different types of gnocchi on the house. The “Gnocchi Neapolita” provided me with the doughiest and softest gnocchi I have ever tasted topped perfectly with freshly blended tomato sauce and stringy mozzarella cheese. Our “tiger” looks not only awarded us free dinner but also provided us with lots of complimentary wine and limoncello. The limoncello was the perfect combination of sweet and sour: the strong lemon stung my lips and the sweetness helped the liquor go down my throat.
Capri captivates and enchants all who visit. The mountainous island rises dramatically out of the clear-blue water met by beaches covered in smooth and rugged stones.
|Capri is filled with many secrets such as the Blue Grotto found by the Romans and adorned with statues on the inside. It can only be reached by small motor boat, and to enter, one must lie down in the boat as to not hit their heads on the cave entrance. Once inside the incredibly neon blue waters steal your breath away! It’s no wonder that Caesar once used this cave as his personally swimming hole!
Many visit Capri to see the Blue Grotto, but the view from the top of the island will steal your breath away. To get to the top, a nauseating bus ride which makes 90 degree turns while climbing up the mountain is required. (Not for the faint of heart…or stomach!) Once the bus stops, the adventure to the top still has a while to go, a rickety single chair ski lift takes you all the way to the tippity-top. My feet dangled from the chair lift, and the tops of the trees scratched against my feet! The outlook is worth a hundred million dollars: a completely panoramic 360 º view of the entire island, Mount Vesuvius, the Bay of Naples, Sorrento, the nearby island Ischia, and the pristine surrounding blue waters. A day trip Capri including transportation food and some small souvenirs can cost one person up to €100, but the adventure is completely worth it!
We visited Positano on Easter Sunday. In case you are not an avid fan of romantic comedies based in Italy, Under the Tuscan Sun uses Positano in its storyline. I do not have a sensitive stomach, but the bus ride from Sorrento to Positano made me feel sick! In Italy, bus drivers pack the bus like a carton of sardines, and usually there are screaming babies thrown into the mix! The ride took about 45 minutes and literally around every slight turn the driver honked the horn so we wouldn’t collide with oncoming traffic and be catapulted off the very high cliffs. We had no particular agenda for our trip to Positano except to walk around and enjoy its incomparable beauty. The rustic colors of the buildings, the beach, and listening to the rough waters splashing onto the shore combined flawlessly into the perfect setting for Easter lunch.
The Amalfi Coast provided the perfect adventures and beautiful settings for our Easter weekend vacation. Although we had to deal with some crazy men, strange parade rituals, and nauseating bus rides, we were able to experience all Italy has to offer from its hospitable and romantic culture to its beautiful sights and passionate people.
© Leah Depue May 2011
leahdepue at hotmail.com