It has always been a dream of mine to visit the Amalfi Coast in Italy. Ever since I watched Only You back in my early high school days I have considered it the most romantic place on earth, and the scenery alone is enough to steal your heart. So of course when we booked a holiday to Italy there was no way I was going to miss the opportunity of a lifetime. We decided to use Sorrento as a base, the birthplace of Sophia Loren, and situated at the end of the train line from Naples that curves around the gulf. The train ride was hot and sticky and involved a lot of graffiti, but stepping off the train in Sorrento was a breath of fresh sea air after the heat and claustrophobia of Rome.
Walking past the lemon groves and getting glimpses of the sea en route to our hotel, the Hotel Flora (quite smart with a great swimming pool and views of Vesuvius), felt like the embodiment of an Italian summer holiday to me. I felt as if I had finally found my happy place, and still consider it as such. Lemons symbolise summer to me, and Sorrento is about everything lemon, from lemon soaps and lemon ice cream to lemon liqueur.
Sorrento itself has lovely cobbled alleyways and lovely shops, perfect for summer evening shopping. There are also very nice restaurants, and I tried so many delicious Italian dishes and liqueurs. My favourite was probably the pasta with clams. We don’t get clams in Cape Town (well, never seen any in the shops, ever) and I love seafood, so these were a treat.
Descend about 100 steps and you reach the marina and beach, where you can dream the day away on a sun lounger (at a price, the beaches in these parts are often not free to the public). My most recommended day trip is catching the ferry to the Isle of Capri, which was fashionable for Emperors back in ancient times and is still super glamorous today. We hired a small motor boat for the day and did a circuit of the island. This is an amazing way to see the island from the sea, and there are lovely places to stop and swim off the boat, like the green grotto where you can swim right through a natural tunnel in the cliff.
We took a very cool taxi (literally and figuratively; it was an open-top vehicle) across the island to do some shopping. I wanted coral jewellery. We also visited the awe-inspiring Blue Grotto, quite a feat of boatmanship to get the rowing boats in there without decapitating everybody! Inside is absolutely mesmerising, and I wished I could stay in there for hours, rocking in the boat and listening to the boat men singing in Italian. I couldn’t manage to get the colour of the water to show up in photographs though, so I got the one below from http://www.listshere.com to show what it really looks like.
My other favourite place is Positano. We decided to take a bus there from Sorrento – hair raising on those narrow, windy roads – and when I looked out over the vertical town it took my breath away, as I knew it would. Just make sure you are fit, there is a lot of up-and-down walking when you’re sightseeing along the Amalfi Coast! We browsed the shops, had some risotto for lunch and I had a good, long swim in perfect Mediterranean waters. We took the ferry boat back to Sorrento, the best way to relax and get a cool breeze after a busy summer day.
Last but not least, you know how much I love old ruins? Well, I have always been captivated by the story of Pompeii and Herculaneum and have wanted to visit there since I was a child. So one day we took the train from Sorrento to Pompeii and went back in time. The volcanic ash did a fantastic job of preserving the town and the murals, it is well worth a visit. It was a baking hot day and we didn’t manage to cover the entire city of Pompeii, but we did see some highlights and get a feel for ancient Roman life. Not to be missed!
Whenever life gets me down I still dream about the Amalfi Coast. My trip was probably my happiest time, and I haven’t felt so happy and relaxed since then, my last month or two before pregnancy and motherhood changed my life. I haven’t actually been on holiday since.