Published: September 12th 2009September 6th 2009
Avid blog readers may recall that in a previous blog And the real holiday begins...
we met a couple on a boat in Belize and happened to be staying in the same hotel with them on the beach in Caye Caulker,
We met a really lovely Australian/South African couple who told us we should go cenote diving in Mexico....
After having spent the day snorkelling with them and an afternoon chatting we headed out to dinner with Alex, as Bekkie was exhausted and couldn't keep her eyes open. We went to a great little place called Wish Willie's
made famous (or infamous) in the book The Full Montezuma
by Peter Moore. We sat outside while the guy that ran the bar cooked our US$5 meals, which were really great, Lara even got to have $5 lobster! The next day we went our separate ways - we were heading north into Mexico and they were going south and on into Guatemala. We shared details and made promises of catching up when we eventually arrived in London.
From that brief meeting we made some amazing friends and since arriving in London we've seen them regularly; we went to their engagement party, we've been to each others birthdays, and even babysat their gorgeous son Leo...and now we have had the priviledge of attending their
wedding in the town of Ravello on the stunning Amalfi Coast. And as we 'had' to go to the Amalfi Coast already we decided to make a week of it, sharing a villa in Amalfi with some of Bekkie and Alex's friends who were also going to the wedding.
We don't seem to learn from our previous mistakes and once again booked ridiculously early flights, and this time they were from Stansted which is across the other side of London from our Brixton pad. So after work on Friday Lara headed to her boss' leaving drinks, followed by Bekkie's 'busty pirate wench' hen's party while Al packed and then they got dressed and napped on the couch until it was time to depart.
Despite our exhaustion we managed to make it to Naples and on exiting the plane we were immediately hit by the sunshine and the heat - something we've been short of in London even though it has 'technically' been summer. We had plenty of time to make it to Amalfi before we'd be able to check into our villa and so we lazily made our way to the port, marvelling at the crazy, hectic city
of Naples which we planned to come back to for a night after a week in Amalfi.
The ferry from Naples to Amalfi is a beautiful trip and a great introduction to what the coastline has to offer - we passed Mt Vesuvius, the Isle of Capri and some of the better known towns such as Sorrento and Positano before our arrival in Amalfi.
Once in Amalfi we carried our back packs past the Duomo and started heading up the hill, following the directions to a restaurant near our villa. A strange phenomenon in Amalfi villa renting is the denial of the address of your villa until you have paid, and sometimes until you turn up and call them - so your villa in 'the heart of Amalfi' could be anywhere but, and you'd have no way of knowing. We arrived at the restaurant thanks to a combination of Google maps and asking friendly locals and awaited the arrival of our villa owner. Thankfully our villa was lovely - three bedrooms, a large living room and a beautiful sun-drenched terrace complete with sun loungers.
After showering we headed into Amalfi to have a bit of a look
around and do our best to stay awake whilst waiting for the others to arrive. We walked through the main town which is filled with shops selling limoncello and pottery, and restaurants serving seafood and pizzas - a little touristy, but still lovely. Our meanderings took us to the port where jazz was being played and the sun was starting to set. We grabbed some slices of pizza for dinner and napped on the couch until we received a call from Kristie and Keith letting us know that they had finally arrived in Amalfi. Kristie, an Australian and Keith, an American from New Jersey have both worked with Alex for the past few years - we stayed chatting to them until we couldn't stay awake any longer and then we headed to bed.
The next morning we headed down to the supermarket for some supplies and then met the other couple sharing a villa with us, Marsha and Brett, friends of Kristie's from Australia who have been travelling around Europe and arrived in the early hours of the morning. We had a lazy day on the terrace, got caught in a rain shower, ate gelati and had a delicious
At the Port in Naples
seafood pasta dinner.
After such a lazy day followed by an early night it was decided that a trip to Pompeii and Vesuvius were in order the following day. As we were travelling with other people we didn't make the direct 7.15am bus as we would have if we were by ourselves but had a much more leisurely start - starting the 2 hour trip at about 11am.
Our first lesson of the day was Italian road rules. Apparently (and it seems to work) if you look at the driver whilst about to cross the road, you are giving them right of way so the best thing to do is just walk across the road without looking at all. This is as scary as it sounds, as you are putting all your trust in the fact that the driver (who is probably talking on his phone and smoking at the same time) has seen you and is going to stop. It is also a natural reaction to look at oncoming traffic so there were some extremely nervous moments and possible near death experiences!
After we managed to cross the road and survive we caught the bus from
Amalfi to Sorrento along the windy cliff road. The 35km journey takes about 1 1/2 hours and involves a lot of reversing, stopping and zigzagging. The first 40 minutes are very exciting, as your enjoying the amazing scenery and then the rest of the trip is tiring and somewhat nauseating when the magic has worn off.
From Sorrento we bought a 'Vesuvius Special' which included the return fare of the Circumvesuviana train, a return trip up Mt Vesuvius, entry into the Vesuvius National Park and entry into Pompeii. On arrival a taxi driver offered to take us to Vesuvius immediately for our bus tickets and 1 Euro which was a good deal as we'd have to wait for the bus for 40mins and wait again for it to take us back, meaning that we would be running out of time to see Pompeii.
We got dropped off in the car park, where we paid 50 cents to use Port-a-loos and then walked the 860 metres to the rim of the crater. Mt Vesuvius' last eruption was in 1944 and there is now some concern as it has been the longest period without eruption in the past 500 years.
Thousands of people now live directly below Mt Vesuvius and there are government resettlement schemes in place, however many don't want to leave and the fertile volcanic soil make farming below Vesuvius a lucrative business.
Much to Keith's dismay you can't see lava in the crater. What you can see from the top are wonderful views of Naples and the Bay of Naples, as well as down into the enormous crater which smells of sulfur and has visible steam rising from it. It's an easy but dusty walk and worth a look, and was something different for Kristie and Lara who had both been to Pompeii previously.
On returning from Vesuvius, we stopped for much needed water and ice cream and then headed in to the ruins of Pompeii. Pompeii was destroyed in 79AD and covered by ash and pumice, preserving much of their lives as it was at the time. Our main aim was to see the brothel because of its raunchy but well-preserved frescoes. Before getting to the brothel we stopped at the foro
which was the city's main piazza, the Granai del Foro
which now houses body casts and amphorae. We also managed to take
in many of the temples and streets as well as the Casa del Fauno
which was Pompeii's grandest private house with many of the frescoes and paintings still intact.
Once we felt we had had our fill of Pompeii, it was back on thr train and bus to Amalfi. By the time we had reached Amalfi it was late and we were hungry so we sat down for what would soon be our standard fare of pizzas and seafood pastas before retiring back to the villa for limoncello before bed!
Another lazy day followed in which we met some more of Bekkie and Alex's wedding guests, lazed around and drank and ate. This was followed by a trip to the Isle of Capri the next day with the villa gang, Kelly and Liam whom we'd met the previous day and Liam's parents, fresh off the plane from South Africa. We took a boat ride around the island, taking in some of the less famous grottos and the beautiful coastline before going onshore at Marina Piccola. We caught the bus to Capri Town from where we walked down to Marina Grande to get the boat to the famous Blue
Grotto. Our photos of the Blue Grotto don't do it justice, it is an amazing colour blue caused by light refracted sunlight. It's a tourist trap and you aren't given enough time in the cave but yet it is somehow still worth the 21.50 Euros entry fee.
We had a lunch of pizza and beer in Anacapri after taking the funculare back up the hill and then spent the rest of the day swimming on the public beach at Marina Piccola before returning home. We'd decided to make dinner for a change and so we stopped at the supermarket to pick up supplies for our bruschetta, pasta and salad meal. It was all very tasty (despite the gas going off in the middle, but this was quickly rectified by our landlady).
The next day was the day before the wedding and with a meet-and-greet cocktail party in the evening we didn't want to head too far. We decided to go to Minori, a ten minute ferry ride along the coast and similar to Amalfi but is much less of a tourist-trap. We had a brief wander through the town, ate yet more gelati and then lazed on the
beach until it was time to return to Amalfi and get into our finest for the cocktail party in a restaurant in Ravello.
The cocktail party gave everyone who had travelled from all over the world the opportunity to meet before the big day in a restaurant overlooking the ocean. We drank and ate and mingled, played with baby Leo and started getting excited about tomorrow.
The following day, the day of the wedding, started with Kristie and Lara doing some pottery shopping as they thought it may be their last opportunity before returning home. After making a few purchases including ingredients for a simple pasta lunch it was time to return home and start getting ready for the wedding. Once we were all ready we made the walk down to the port from where Ravello Taxis picked us up. We arrived at Villa Cimbrone almost 40 minutes early which gave us an opportunity to wander the grounds and take plenty of photos before the ceremony began. Villa Cimbrone is high on the cliffs above the ocean and people pay to come into the gardens for the magnificent views. The ceremony was in the Tea Gardens and Bekkie
was a stunning bride. The ceremony was very moving, made more memorable and romantic by the downpour just as they said their vows which is apparently a sign of fertility! We were given white umbrellas for the remainder of the ceremony and we then took shelter in the reception area until the downpour finished.
Once the rain cleared and the sun reappeared we walked around the gardens in the beautiful light, stopping for some drinks with the Harcourt-Wood clan before aperatifs were served. Dinner was served in the wine cellar and was just amazing. The vaulted ceilings, candles and moonlight were beautiful and the food and service were amazing. It was a really special night which was finished off with dancing and the toss of the bouquet.
The next morning we packed our bags and went back to Minori for lunch with the wedding party. We ate sandwiches from a cafe on the boardwalk until it was time to get the ferry back to Amalfi. In Amalfi we parted ways with Keith and Kristie and we headed to the Hotel Casanova in Naples.
From living the highlife to being grungy backpackers again in one boat trip, so
Pots for sale
Lara was in heaven!
we decided to walk from the port to our hotel, a 2km walk into Naples a city with one of the worst reputations in Europe. We made it to our hotel in the Mercado district at nightfall and went around the corner to a popular hole-in-the-wall pizza joint for some pizza - it being obligatory in the home of pizza.
The next day we wandered around the historical centre, having more pizza in 'the oldest pizzeria' in Naples, admiring the churches and the narrow alleyways - and doing our very best not to be run down by scooters! Naples is a frantically-paced, hectic city but in many ways feels a lot more 'real' than Rome or Florence - it feels like a real glimpse of Italian life, with street vendors, salesmen, washing hanging in the alleys and piles of rubbish everywhere. It was an amazing place to finish such a wonderful holiday....
There are more photos below