Friday 8 September
Very wet start to our day for a flight from Birmingham to Naples for a week in Sorrento. Flight full and taxi waiting for us at airport, what could go wrong, we were flying with Monarch Airlines?
Well, absolutely nothing went wrong, flight on time and comfortably full but I am so glad we are not hiring a car, the drivers here are maniacal, there seem to be no rules of the road or if there are, no one follows them.
Hotel Caravel at Sant’Agnello
Our 32 mile journey to our hotel (Caravel at Sant’ Agnello) takes over 2 hours during which time we nearly get hit by a coach when we pull out onto a roundabout, nearly go into the back of a stationary queue on a motorway and sit crawling through a 2000m tunnel at about 10 km/hr. Not sure my lungs have recovered.
Buffet dinner tonight in the hotel as it is late, we are tired and there is thunder and lightning in the air so it promises rain.
Very pleased with room, functional although perhaps a couple of drawers in the bedside units would have helped.
Free bubbly was appreciated. although we didn’t appreciate it until the next day.
Saturday 9 September
Clear day today (which is not what was forecast) and we have a view from our balcony of Mt Vesuvius so after a leisurely late breakfast take advantage of the free shuttle bus and head for town. We are the only takers on the shuttle bus so we all get a window seat.
Mt Vesuvius from our hotel room’s balcony
Sorrento is crowded with tourists although it thins out after lunch when cruise ship passengers (including some from P&O) head off elsewhere.
Past the main roundabout and we head off down Corso Italia which seems to be the Main Street, stopping to admire the interior of the Cathedral before continuing to stop for lunch at Hotel Rivage where for €23.50 we have two large pizzas between the three of us, three drinks and a coffee. Not bad value for money we thought.
Retracing our steps, we dive down an alleyway to discover loads of shops hidden away on via Fuoro and via S. Caesarea which are well worth browsing.
Nothing particularly expensive here, many items €5.
One of the churches had a photographic exhibition by a local photographer who specialises in Black and white prints but at €85 each, I did think they were a tad expensive.
Chiesa dei Servi di Maria
The ice creams at a nearby café were definitely not expensive at €2.50 each though and the view to the church with the exhibition was worth it.
Saint Francis Cloister
We had talked to a guy at lunch who was getting married in Sorrento on Wednesday at Saint Francis Cloister, so we had to go and find it and glad we did.
Not only had the courtyard been set up for a wedding, another nearby church had also been well decorated and vintage cars abounded including a Fiat 600 rear engine car that really would only fit the smallest of people but was used for a wedding couple.
Church of Santi Felice and Baccolo
So many weddings today but it is a Saturday.
Vintage Fiat 600
We are near the coast but high up so the views from here are stunning in the virtually cloudless sky.
Swimmers are in the sea, people are out and about on their boats and there is a view across to Naples and the area is very vibrant.
Swimmers from above
Catch shuttle back to hotel for a rest before venturing out for dinner in a lovely cliff top open air terrace venue, Belvedere La Marinella with it’s lovely views out to sea.
Lazing about on the water
We were lucky to get a table, this place is popular although it is noticeable that unlike in the IoM and the UK, smokers are allowed so near the cafe building.
Lovely trio of fish followed by a proper Italian Tiramisu and a stroll back up to the hotel after watching a great sunset.
Sunset from Belvedere La Marinella
Sunday 10 September
Another day for a late breakfast and a walk up the hill to Sant’ Agnello.
Coffee in Pina, said to be the best coffee shop in town (adjacent to the petrol station on Piazza Matteotti) and some essential supplies bought in a local supermarket before lunch in the same restaurant we had dinner in last night.
Memorial in Sant’ Agnello
There is a storm coming, we are told several times but this doesn’t materialise until after dark so we stay in hotel for dinner, it was an Italian themed night with a Lute player.
Only an OK meal although the Lute player was a bit of a character.
Monday 11 September
It is raining and quite frankly the less said about today the better as it rained all day. Another late breakfast and a shuttle bus ride to Sorrento for a walk, along with everyone else it seems, to look for lunch.
End up dodging raindrops in various shops until we reach Hotel Rivage again. This time on the way back we have to shelter for well over 30 minutes whilst the rain just pelted down causing torrents rushing down the paths and the poor shopkeepers not selling anything.
Rain in Sorrento
Eventually we leave our shelter and head for the shuttle bus but stay in hotel again tonight for dinner as it is too wet – bad decision as Omelette seems to have mushrooms in and ice cream is hazelnut neither of which were advertised on the menu.
As I said, the less said about today the better.
Tuesday 12 September
An early start for a coach drive along the Amalfi coast. We are the last pick up (from a nearby hotel we walked to) so not that many seats left in the 25 seat coach although I do get a window seat at the back on the right hand side of the coach alongside some very uncommunicative Germans from Berlin.
Off up hills outside Sorrento climbing steeply in our small bus winding left and right and, once at the top of the road, cling to the cliff side with some amazing views.
First stop is in sight of the island of Gallo Lungo once owned by Rudolph Neureyov but after he died, bought by Giovanni Russo.
A 15 minutes stop turns into nearly an hour as the bus doors fail (open) along with the air conditioning and the speaker allowing a few more photo opportunities.
Amalfi coastal town
The driver summons an engineer from Sorrento but he fails to resolve the issue and we head on with the door open and towards Possitano and stop again at a place more suitable to resolve the problem.
Partial fix means we can get on to Amalfi for our 2 hour stop whilst the problem is looked at properly.
Amalfi is a largish town but built vertically with houses clinging to the side of the cliffs.
We climb the 62 steps up to the Cathedral and manage to persuade the cathedral’s guide that we could go into the cathedral without paying to go through the museum.
A bit darker than other churches we have been in but well worth the climb.
Inside Amalfi cathedral
Out and walk up the narrow main shopping street to just beyond an 18th Century crib named De Cape ‘E Ciucci.
Previously used by donkeys transporting fruit & veg, it also now (since 1974) has a nativity scene at Christmas.
De Cape ‘E Ciucci
Of course being in Italy, there are several fountains on show, one of which has interesting water spouts!
Water fountain in Amalfi
We should have bought a huge Lemon for €5 to make our own Limoncello but thought we could get it in Sorrento – sadly not.
Some splashing waves at the Amalfi coach park whilst we wait to board our coach which now has a properly fixed door.
Waves at Amalfi
Loads of people in orderly queues for public buses, and it is more than likely that some of them won’t get on the first two that arrive.
We leave and head on around the coast for a drive to La Margherita, Villa Guiseppina for a lunch which at €13 per head was pretty good value, 3 courses and on a table set for 8, 2 bottles of very quaffable wine.
A long walk down to the restaurant so, a long walk upwards afterwards but the restaurant does have it’s own wine and good views across to Ravello.
Overlooking Minori & Maiori
A short drive after lunch to the musical town of Ravello for a stop and view, through a tunnel, of the next two towns on the coast.
Walk up one area of town not as popular with the tourists who are concentrating on the town square and the view to Minor & Maiori passing a hotel where D H Lawrence stayed whilst he was writing Lady Chatterly’s Lover around 1926 and 1927 as well as an artist drawing in a vineyard.
Artist at work
Our drive back is over the hills, the authorities operate a one way system for tour buses so we are not going back along the coast, takes us to the beginning of the Sorrento peninsula past thousands upon thousand chestnut trees.The area has an annual chestnut celebration/festival in November but by the looks of those on the trees, they are almost ready to fall now.
Once again, there is a long queue get past the village of Meta as the festival we encountered on our first night continues, I am guessing the queue is caused by the local traffic police giving priority to pedestrians. Arrive back at hotel at about 7pm, some 2 hours late.
Il Ruttino restaurant
Dinner tonight in the local pizza establishment, Il Ruttino which can be thoroughly recommended and was far better than the dinner in our hotel.
Wednesday 13 September
A half day tour to Herculaneum which is a smaller version of Pompeii and a coastal settlement unearthed many years ago after it had been built upon.
We are given a guided tour with a headset which was very informative even if some of the connections to the headsets were a bit iffy.
Still lots of crowds and many school children obviously studying that era of history.
The tour took about two hours and you needed that to view the various rooms, columns and ancient walkways, bones of the skeletons we gave a miss though.
Wall murals around a fireplace
One room in particular contained more or less in pristine condition, some fantastic murals and the town square could have been built recently, the buildings looked just like turn of the 20thC buildings.
Town square buildings
On the way back, we are blessed with a lovely view of Vesuvius without clouds – a rare sight during our stay.
Vesuvius (from a moving coach)
Back at the hotel and after lunch at Il Ruttino which did include some alcohol, we fell asleep before we headed out again for dinner at Il Ruttino where we had a lovely Omlette for €4 – bargain and crashed out for an early night.
Thursday 14 September
We have booked a day trip to Capri which we know goes from Massa Lubrense which is along the Amalfi coast and whilst we are picked up in plenty of time, the main road in Sorrento is closed, for a funeral, and we are diverted inland along a circuitous route and then stop at a hotel to pick up some luggage, as you do, still making it in time for our boat crossing.
Massa Lubrense harbour
Not a particularly comfortable boat, wooden bench seats along the side rather than from side to side, so we don’t get to see much and the boat is rocking somewhat.
Fenicular from Marina Grande to Capri
Have a coffee on arrival and queue up to get the fenicular railway (€2 single) up to the town from the port.
You get the tickets from the bus station just by the port, you can’t pay at the entrance to the railway.
The place is absolutely heaving with people, the port’s landing docks seem to have a boat come in as soon as one leaves.
Carole Feuerman sculpture
The town on the hill is even worse for the volume of people with loads of tours and even some school parties.
We lunch outside da Alberto (Opposite an interesting art work) which is expensive at €39 but a good spot for people watching but taking in smoke fumes from nearby diners.
One couple may have paid a premium to eat underneath a nearby bell tower with a wonderful view.
Glasswork for sale
A walk down one of the shopping street (expensive shops here) and catch local bus down to the harbour ( €1.50 each payable to the driver ) and grab some seating near the Power station for a gelato whilst watching boats come and go taking passengers back to the mainland.
I am not an avid follower of fashion but there are some weird sights here, some dressing elegantly for the expensive island that is Capri and some more appropriately dressed for a holiday destination.
Get on our boat at the allotted time, at least two people who came over haven’t made it and set off around the island; the sea giving the boat an interesting ride.
Archway island south side of
First stop is the blow hole (high tide, it wasn’t blowing) near St Michael’s hotel high up on the hill, then the green and blue grottos on the other side of the island. We pass the mini port which was made famous by Audrey Hepburn.
Then it is on to the archway which we were able to go through, despite the choppy seas and past a few designer motor yachts, one of which was registered in the somewhat recently devastated British Virgin Islands.
Massa Lubrense port
Back now to the small port of Massa Lubrense which is looking somewhat stunning in the evening sun and an efficient coach transfer back to the hotel before another fabulous meal at Il Ruttino meeting a couple from the Isle of Man by chance!
A few weddings tonight with a spectacular firework display to send us on our way.
Friday 15 September
Our last day so a leisurely morning with a stroll down to the high cliffs restaurant for a drink and service from a very grumpy waiter – surprised he didn’t break something the hardness with which he deposited our drinks.
Lunch in Il Ruttino, do you think we like it?, and a prompt pick up and a one hour drive to Naples airport for our flight home. We have arrived somewhat early and as the wait goes on the airport becomes even more crowded.
Our flight home on Monarch Airlines was on time, comfortable and full. It is such a shame that 16 days later the Company ceased trading.
Saturday 16 September
A drive to Clearwell to trim the hedge overhanging our drive and then to Reading to catch up with the family.
Sunday 17 September
Late ferry back from Liverpool for a catch up on what needs to be done at home including stripping the wallpaper in advance of some re-decorating