When a great adventure is offered, you don’t refuse it. – Amelia Earhart
Each morning I have sat or stood on this beautiful deck, overlooking the Amalfi Coast and said a prayer of gratefulness for all that life has come to offer me.
Day One – Rome to Vietri sul Mare
On the first day, I arrived in the international Airport at Rome – I knew from my internet research before leaving Victoria that I could get a train from the airport to the main train station and then connect to a train that would take me to Salerno – the timing for both was perfect – I got off the plane, bought my tickets and was on my way. One of the things I noticed was the unique way that the washing is hung to dry here – it is brilliant use of space, hanging from each of the balconies – I couldn’t help but think what some of the condos in Oak Bay would look like with the laundry hanging out – especially when there used to be rules that you couldn’t even have a clothesline! But here, even the most beautiful villa, by the sea uses the air to dry the bed clothes and all the other washing.
I arrived at the train station at Salerno and there was Barb, who whisked me away and straight down to the bus stop where we waited and boarded a bus to Vietri Sul Mare. The Lonely Planet guidebook for Naples and the Amalfi Coast does not do this town, nestled into the Amalfi Coast justice – among the wonderful things that are not mentioned is Pasticceria Cafe Russo which is located just above the bus stop, a wonderful place to have a Cafe Americano and croissant – each small cup of coffee, designed to be drank in two sips, is accompanied by a glass of still water (as opposed to water with ‘gas’ – aka mineral water – it makes me giggle inside when they ask, ‘with gas?’). If you come here Dana and Mario (who’s signature trademark is a different pair of glasses every day) are the two that speak the best English, and the price of an Americano varies from 1 to 2 euro. You can stand at the bar, or venture across to the seating area, enjoying the sounds of the vespas and the Italian language around you, the smell of the fresh sea air and watching people speak animatedly with their hands and facial expressions.
A five minute walk from the town center and we are at the villa – when I first thought about this trip to Italy I was focused on what a great experience it would be to hike and do yoga and spend more time with Barbara – I was not prepared for the beauty of the accommodations. The weather can change drastically during the day here on the coast and so when you leave the villa you shut everything up tight. After climbing the marble stairs to the 2nd floor apartment we entered into the darkness, I could make out the high ceilings and shadows of the large furnishings, including a piano, but I was not at all prepared for the splendor of the view when Barb pulled open the drapes, unlatched the door and flung open the shutters – and I thought, I could stay here all day!
That first night we shared a plate of pasta, focaccia bread and a bottle of red wine, gazed at the almost full moon and planned our week – with so many amazing places to see and explore I wanted to get the most into my seven days here. The silence of the evening was punctuated with barking dogs and more impressively fireworks shows that continued throughout the week, each time a marriage was celebrated.
I retired early, with warnings that the rooster would wake me early, and plans to travel to Pompei the next day.
Day Two – Vietri Sul Mare to Pompei to Sorrento and the long road home
We boarded the train in Vietri Sul Mare to travel to the ruins of Pompei – the one thing that my friend Lynn Webb-Thomas wanted me to do while I was here – having celebrated Lynn`s life at her memorial service only a week before, while ruins and history are not generally my thing, I wanted to do this for her. It was interesting to see the cafes, imagine people lounging in the large baths, and watching the gladiators in the amphitheatre. Given that this trip has also been an exploration into places to take guests on a yoga and hiking holiday, I started listening to the various guides giving tours throughout the ruins – finally at the top of the amphitheatre I came across the woman that I knew I would contact to do a tour with our group. She clearly loves what she does, had a great sense of humour, and when we approached her she was glad to hear that it would not be this year because she only had one day off! I think I loved the soup stores the best, imagining the people walking the streets and coming into choose what type of soup they would have – kind of like my Soul in a Bowl, I could imagine the conversations happening around the soup pot!
We enjoyed wonderful sandwiches of prosciutto, fresh mozzarella, tomatoes and basil and my first lemon/orange juice at the cafe before catching the bus to Sorrento.
Sorrento’s market street was a cornucopia of sensations those that drew me in were the leather store with purses, wallets, briefcases and overnight bags; the pasta and spice stores with mixtures for bruschetta, spaghetti, fish or chicken, and then just these amazing packages of dried spices – up and down the streets we walked, finally stopping for a snack of bruschetta and again, a lemon crush.
We even had some entertainment (all be it at the expense of some French tourists) as we watched a man who had clearly taken a wrong turn, and ended up on the narrow market street, attempting to back his way out, his wife yelling at him in French, all the shop keepers coming out to ensure that he didn’t take their street display home with him! All I can say is I’m glad I wasn’t the wife giving instructions and more-so, glad it wasn’t me driving the car!
It took us a long time to get home from Sorrento, as we talked too much on the train and miss the stop, In all honesty we were partially distracted by the young couple whose faces were less than a half a centimeter from each others, gazing into each others eyes for the forty minute train ride and we were trying to decide if ‘kids back home’ did that with such intensity. I had noticed many young couples in around Pompei wrapped around each other. We jumped off our current train and got a train back to Pompei and walked the circumference of the ruins to get to the bus station back to Salerno and transfer to Vietri Sul Mare – the buses had stopped running by that time and we ended up in a taxi – there is always a way home but this one was quite long!
The Walk of the Gods
This walk, along the Amalfi coast is where we began our video series – up early and ready for another adventure we caught the bus to the town of Amalfi, where we enjoyed a coffee in the town centre and waited for our bus that would take us to Bomerano, located at the foot of the mountains between Sorrento and Amalfi, where we would begin the Walk of the Gods. Described in the guidebook as “a spectacular, meandering trail along the pinnacle of the mountains, where caves and terraces plummet dramatically from the cliffs to deep valleys framed by the brilliant blue of the sea, we walked from Bomerano to the ‘Walk of the Gods’, stopping for some lunch at a family run cafe, nestled into the side of the high cliffs.
Along the way we filmed some videos for the “Pause with Barbara Crompton” series, enlisting the help of some German tourists to explore the benefits of laughter.
Then we continued our walk into Positano along the winding road and finally down a long set of stairs – at that point I was glad I was going down and not up!
In Positano I treated myself to a lemon and strawberry gelato – the lemon was definitely the best, and we boarded a ferry back to Salerno.
Day Three – Vietri Sul Mare to Ravello
While planning my trip to Italy, I shared with the owner of the Villa Marco Polo in Victoria, BC that I was travelling here, and he expressed that Ravello was on place I could not miss – the views, gardens and sculptures were incredible! Given our big Walk of the Gods the day before, I was glad there were two options to get to Ravello, one was to board the bus to Amalfi, getting off to transfer to another bus that would take me to the top. Barb, being fitter than I, and having set herself a goal to climb the stairs ten times while she is here for the month, met me at the top. For those of you wishing the fitness option – this is great – it takes one hour to reach the top, beginning at Maiori.
I had read the guidebook that Tuesday’s there was a lively street market with wine, olive oil and diccounted designer clothes so we determined that this was the day to go. While i wouldn’t exactly call the market lively I did purchase some amazing olives and fresh mozzarella. I had a couple hours strolling through the market on my own.
I met Barbara at 1 pm and we stopped in some shops, including an art gallery featuring the work of Antonio Massa (amazing) and then to another family run restaurant that is adjacent to some villas, available for rent should you decide to come during the Ravello Music Festival – it is necessary to stay overnight if you do this, as the concerts start at 7:30 pm. Another amazing meal of grilled fish, freshly sautéed vegetables, caprese salad and prosecco, followed by a lemon desert (loving my lemons). We stayed until ‘momma’ came out to the terrace and no other guests were left, realizing we had lost track of time, we headed back down the mountain, catching the bus back to our villa.
Arriving back in Vietri Sul Mare just prior to dinner we stopped at one of the many small stores to purchase some prosecco and then another for some Asiago cheese, proscuitto, and salami to go with the olives I had purchased earlier for an antipasto dinner on the deck. We purchased enough meats and cheese to put us through three meals of this type, combined with the olives from the market, and a loaf of fresh bread, the total was less than 10 euros (for three meals if you purchased another two loaves of bread each day, which cost 70 cents a piece).
With full intention of reading our books as the sun went down we again spent hours talking, watching the now full moon rise into the sky and turning in about 10 pm.
Day Four – Vietri Sul Mare to Capri to Ischia
Having obtained more tourist information brochures in Ravello, particularly the one entitled “Spa and Wellbeing” I was certain that I wanted to visit the island of Ischia, which boasted of their spa parks and mineral baths – give me a book that mentions a mineral pool and I am there! But first, to the Island of Capri.
We rose early this day, and set out on foot from Vietri Sul Mare to Salerno, a half hour walk – I am actually not certain that we could have arrived any quicker in the bus as it was rush hour, with everyone travelling from their seaside village into the cities for work – the view was amazing and it was already promising to another warm day, full of sunshine and possibilities.
We boarded the ferry to Capri, stopping at Amalfi and Positano which was so wonderful to see from the water and map out on the landscape where we had walked two days earlier.
In Capri, you have two options to get from the Marina to the town centre – one is the tram, called the Vernicular and the other is to walk – I took the tram, Barbara walked – she is my idol of fitness and next year when I return I will be walking too – at this point, each step I took reminded me of the stairs descending from the Walk of the Gods! Thankfully I did take the tram though because I had the opportunity to talk with an American tour guide from Ohio, who has been living and working in Italy for the past fifteen years – I asked her which was her favourite spa on Ischia – more about that later!
After a caffe latte that cost six euros (and we didn’t even see any movie stars) in the town centre in Capri, we wandered the streets, looking at the beautiful fashions and creative window displays.
We headed southwest to the Giardini di Augusto and the view was breathtaking, including limestone pinnacles that rise out of the sea – from here we took the hairpin Via Krupp down to the Marina Piccola.
Near the base of this road, we met some more German tourists, who, insisting they were not very ‘movable’ were talked into joining Barbara in doing tree pose. There is an option to catch a bus back to the top, but we spoke to the hotel owner and found their was a path that would take us to the top to purchase tickets and board the bus to Anicapri, a much quieter area on the island. We found the most amazing restaurant which, if we return to Capri next year with all the hiking and yoga holiday folks, we will make a reservation for because the pizza and vegetables were mouthwatering – clearly people had been told this was the place to go though because there was a line-up! We opted instead to dine at a restaurant on the main street, sitting and watching the people go by – the woman in the store opposite the cafe said the people who were there were very kind, and the waiter was very interested that they might be featured in a YouTube video! While here, enjoying our Mediterranean diet.
Sadly, we did not have enough time to check out the Seggiovia del Monte, a chairlift that takes you to the highest peak on Capri, but as I have always told my son Russell, you must always leave something undone in each place that you visit so that you have a reason to come back again! Barb, of course was going to walk to the top of the 589 metre park, enjoying the countryside trail.
One word of recommendation, if you have a public boat to board from Capri, give yourself lots of time to get back to the Marina Grande. The bus that would have taken us from Anicapri to Marina Grande was first full, and then seemed to never come, so I took the next less full bus to Capri and decided I would take the venicular down. Barb had taken an earlier bus to Capri and walked back down to the Marina to purchase our tickets – our boat to Ischia was leaving at 5:25 om and I arrived at the bottom to a frantic (well, anyone else would have been frantic) Barbara who said “where were you?” and then in the next breath said “run” and, run we did – from the base of the vernicular to the farthest boat – I honestly could see myself doing a Charlies Angels leap from the dock to the boat – we were the second to last people on board, the last two being the people who had been in the same tram car with me coming down the side of the cliff, and we are on our way to Ischia! I can’t tell you much about this ride, as I had a nap to prepare me for another evening of walking, talking and fabulous Mediterranean food!
We arrived to the port of Ischia and checked out a couple of different places for accommodation, ranging from one that would be 120 euros for the night, and setting on The Hotel Diana, for 80 euros – it overlooked the main street with a small deck and a sweet old Italian couple were our neighbors. We were there long enough to drop off our belongings and walk to Ischia Ponte to watch the sun go down over the Castello Agagonese.
The young boys played soccer on the beach, while the local men pulled nails from boards, preparing for building a deck. The sun set and we walked to a cafe, enjoying some olives, calamari, prawns, pasta, caprese salad, seafood salad, and a lemoncello ‘on the house’ from the charming owner. Again, ‘momma and poppa’ oversee the operations from inside the restaurant, watching all. Another late night, we stroll back along the cobblestone street, into the main street, which is not sleeping at all – piano and vocals stream out of open cafes and couple dance romantically to Italian love songs. I am grateful to be here, alive and experiencing the sounds of Italy, and hope that one day I will be dancing on that same terrace, with the love of my life! I fall asleep wondering if the music and laughter will ever subside, but wake, in the middle of the night to complete silence. I am excited because in the morning we will breakfast and then make the trip to Negombo, recommended by my friend from Ohio that I had met on Capri.
Day Five – Ischia to Vietri Sul Mare
Negombo, a spa resort with a secluded beach was absolutely perfect at this point – based on the high praise from the tour guide the day before, and the fact that we plan to bring people here to Ischia next year with our Ischia to Vietri Sul Mare Hiking and Yoga Holiday, we set out to experience this water park together – one thing that has been very cool on this exploring trip is that we have ventured to places that Barbara has not been, in order to offer some new experiences for people who have been on the Italy trip before.
Barbara, of course, walked to the spa from Ischia Porto, a one hour walk that took her through Casamicciola and Lacco. The bus, which I opted for, was truly preparation for my trip to India as just when I thought that not one more person could possibly be squished into the vehicle, I would find a little Italian lady or man, gesturing and yelling that everyone should (I’m assuming) move back on the bus so they could get in – for those of you who are reading this and have claustrophobia, there is a taxi system on Ischia which is great too! I got on early ans stood my ground, right by the bus driver so he could tell me when it was time to get off for Negombo! About a 10 minute climb down the hill (stairs mostly), I arrived at the resort. The cost to enter was thirty euros, I peeled my sweaty clothes off in the change room, donned my bathing suit, bought a large bottle of ‘gassy water’ for 1.50 and made my way to the large pool to wait for Barbara – thinking, we said we would meet at the resort but didn’t say where – hoping she wouldn’t spend too much time looking for me. Well, clearly we have now spent enough time together because when she arrived and I told her this she said, “knowing your personality now, I knew that you would be by the big pool and close to the entrance, waiting for me”. I had studied the map of the various pool options at the resort and we set off to experience all of them – from the Japanese labyrinth pool (labyrinths being a second fascination for me) to the Turkish bath to swimming in the Tyrrhenian Sea, we know, without a doubt that this is the one place we’ll be coming to next year with the group! Filming some more videos for the “Pause with Barbara Crompton” series, we sadly left this beautiful place and decided to splurge on a taxi back to the Porte – we didn’t want to take a chance on a repeat of yesterday’s running for the boat experience!
At the Porte we enjoyed a latte and a (of course) lemon gelato and the entertainment provided by the pigeons who landed on the table behind us and tried to make off with their pastries – this is a photo of the culprits.
It was here that I experienced the only begging for money that I had seen in my six days – an older gypsy woman, dragging a cane and holding a small plastic tray with a picture of a saint taped to the bottom pleaded with us to give her money – she went to all the tables in the cafe.
A short, one hour ferry ride to Naploi, followed by an hour and a bit bus ride which took us past Mt.Vesuvius and through the town of Cava (next trip!) found us back in Vietri Sul Mare in time to catch the last ten minutes of daylight, enjoying another supper of antipasta from the deck at the villa, watching the sun go down and reflecting on what an amazing six days it has been.
Day Six – Vietri Sul Mare
Again the rooster in the yard woke me to rise early and I began to organize my purchases, clothing and travel information for my return to Canada. After showering, I flung open the doors to the terrace and began writing of my adventures. Barbara went to walk to the top of the Ravello and I wandered down to the Pasticceria Cafe Russo and sat for three hours while Mario who I discovered knows very little English took good care of me, serving me two cafe lattes a ‘non-gas bottle of water’ and a lemon granata (a lemon slushy made with real lemons), he was curious about what I am doing but I don’t know the words to share, and he doesn’t know the words to ask. When I stepped into the cafe to pay my bill(s) he took me to the back of the restaurant which is beautiful, a grand piano gracing the corner, and then up to the next level where there was a private lounge and the artwork of his amiga (friend). I asked him to come downstairs again so that I could take his photo outside the cafe, shy about this, he agreed…
Nearing 1 pm, when everyone closes up shop, I ventured down a different road and came across the cafe what we stopped in the first night to purchase vegetables to toss with our pasta – realizing I was in Italy and not yet eaten a pizza I stopped for lunch, an artichoke, ham,mushroom and mozzarella pizza for six euros at the Ristopud sud est Pizzeria. The pizzas here are simple, with no more than two to five toppings – nothing like our ‘loaded’ ones at home – this makes it easier to convince myself that it is okay to eat the whole thing (minus the crusts of course).
It doesn’t make sense here to buy and cut up vegetables when such a bountiful supply is available in the case at the restaurant – I select some zucchini (corgette), peppers, broccoli with sausage.
Next year I will get a chip for my iphone from the voda phone store for $25 so that I can download the translator app and have more options for communication, that will be important when I am co-hosting the hiking and yoga holiday in Italy group – I did not come here to work so the lack of internet access has been refreshing, but internet cafe’s are few and far between and it would be great to have at least a little bit of access. The texting is $0.60 per text so it has been good to have some communication.
It is time to head home, as everyone will be going for their siesta soon, the shops will close, and it has been a very active six days, I may just have a wee nap myself!
Living a Blissful Life,