Splendidly replete in Sant Agnello di Sorrento

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May 26th 2010
Published: May 29th 2010
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We arrived in Sant Agnello di Sorrento around 2.30pm, walked to our hotel, showered and caught a bus into Sorrento. We walked around the town in the late afternoon sun and caught a train back to Sant Agnello, arriving around 6.30pm. We headed out to a local restaurant for dinner, and my anchovy pizza was perfect. After dinner we walked along the cliff top and looked out over the breathtaking Bay of Naples in the moonlight. It had been a long day after a long night, so we retired early in preparation for our trip to Capri the next day.

We wanted to make the most of our limited time on Capri, so we woke early, caught a 7am train to Sorrento, scurried down the steep and many steps to the Marina Piccola and purchased tickets for the ferry. When we arrived on the island we purchased tickets for a boat trip that circumnavigated the island. When we arrived at the Grotto Azzurra (one of the destinations of the boat trip), we purchased tickets to get into a smaller boat with a singing oarsman who took us into the Blue Grotto. You wouldn’t be mistaken to think the main activity on Capri is buying tickets - endlessly. The place is driven by tourism, and it is impossible to do anything without buying a ticket first. You even have to buy a ticket to get onto the beaches!

We returned from the boat trip and purchased tickets for the funicular (a tram that whisks you up the steep incline from Marina Grande to Capri Town) and started our planned walk to Villa Jovis. We took a wrong turn (or more to the point missed the turn we should have taken) and chanced upon the Arco Naturale, a huge hole in a rock pillar that rises hundreds of metres out of the sea (we saw it from our boat trip). It was a fantastic walk through the island’s narrow streets and the views along the way were breathtaking. Notwithstanding the fact that money disappears quicker than time itself on Capri, this is a beautiful place, and it is understandable why people flock here. We returned to the main centre of Capri Town and decided to lunch at a restaurant with an amazing view over the Bay of Naples. The food was fantastic and the wine even more so, and while the meal was without question the most expensive we have had in Italy, it was worth every cent. We jumped onto the funicular for a quick trip back down to the Marina Grande, purchased tickets for our return trip to Sorrento and piled onto the hydrofoil with thousands of likeminded tourists who had just enjoyed a fantastic (albeit expensive) day exploring Capri. I know I will never return here, but the time we had wandering the streets of Capri was fantastic.

We arrived back in Sorrento and met up with two travel friends in a bar in Piazza Tusso to laze away the rest of the day in the mid afternoon sun. We headed out to a limoncello tasting at 7pm, where we tried five types of the ubiquitous liqueur before buying a bottle of meloncello. We then bussed back to Sant’Agnello and dropped into a supermarket to pick up ingredients for a picnic dinner on our way back to the hotel. Armed with a formidable array of food and wine, we walked the short distance from our hotel to the coastline overlooking the Bay of Naples and commandeered the corner of a public viewing terrace with sheer drops to the Mediterranean below. We sat in a circle on the terrace floor and spread the food out in front of us - baguettes, pesto, salami, prosciutto, pecorino, buffalo mozzarella, tomatoes, olives and red wine. Our guide set up his iPod and we simply lazed the night away eating, drinking and listening to great music with the silhouette of Vesuvius on the horizon in front of us. We received some priceless looks from people walking past us, but we felt very alive. We eventually made our way back to the hotel at 12.30am, as we had a 9am start for the Amalfi coast the next day.

We caught two quick trains from Pompeii and we were in gorgeous Sant Agnello di Sorrento in no time. We are spending two days here on the way to the Amalfi Coast. Sant Agnello di Sorrento is a suburb of Sorrento and I would highly recommend staying somewhere like Hotel Giardino delle Esperidi if you don’t want to be constantly surrounded by tourists or pay exorbitant prices for food and lodging in the Sorrento town centre; and the 10 minute bus trip to and from the town centre is just gorgeous. Hotel Giardino delle Esperidi is a lovely Mediterranean style resort with lemon and orange trees contrasting the white buildings and manicured lawns encircling the cabins, but the cabins were tiny and badly needed upgrading. We ate close to the hotel in Sant Agnello on our first night because we were tired and also because the pizzas at Ristorante Capanno came highly recommended.

Sorrento is pretty as a picture, built on cliffs and seemingly hovering just above the water, but as pretty as it is I’m not convinced that Sorrento lives up to its brochure hype. Andrew and I loved wandering around this cute town with its marinas, clean piazzas, glistening white marble churches and walls draped in jasmine in full bloom. However on the whole there really isn’t a huge deal to do in Sorrento...unless you’ve come here for some tacky ceramic shopping (everything has lemons on it) or for some r&r of course.

The island of Capri comes with a warning of being ultra touristy and ultra expensive and did not seem to be a place we would want to spend time, but being just off the coast and only a 20 minute ferry ride from Sorrento, we visited it early one morning with Fiona, Katie and Lisa. The hydrofoil ride was great, but once we got there we were not prepared for the massive lines to do anything...basic things like buying bus tickets, catching the funicular which takes you to the city centre, or getting a ferry meant dealing with MASSIVE queues. We braved the crowds and did a two hour ferry trip around the island which stopped at the famous Grotto Azzurra (Blue Grotto). Here we transferred into little row boats in which we lay prostrate to gain access to the very small opening to the grotto. Again, as lovely as the grotto was, neither Andrew nor I thought it was worth the €25 or the hour wait to get into the grotto. I may be getting slightly ‘travel jaded’ but I really wish we had spent that time doing something else.

Back at Capri’s Marina Grande, Andrew and I caught the funicular up to Capri Town and walked around for a few hours. The centre of Capri Town itself was uninteresting to us (brand boutiques and bland trattorias), but the walks outside the town were glorious! We were in no rush so the mostly uphill walks were broken up with stops to pat kitties sunning themselves on footpaths and detours down little rocky paths to take photos of sheer vertical drops to the sea. We highly recommend the walk from Capri Town to Arco Naturale - a huge hole in the limestone cliffs that creates a window through to the sea. We had seen this natural wonder from the ferry and loved exploring it further. We stopped for lunch at Ristorante Capricorno and having mainly picked it for the stunning views, we were very pleasantly surprised with the gorgeous crespelle alla caprese (four times folded thinner than silk crepes with all manner of finely chopped vegetables within it) and timballo alla napoletana (baked linguine with a cream and bacon sauce) that the waiter recommended. And a major bonus was that we ate and drank with the Bay of Napoli laid out in front of us! Capri Island is full of little lanes, multilevel tightly-packed-in houses, street-side grottos, beautifully manicured gardens and grand old white villas draped in bright red, pink and orange bougainvillea. And the ubiquitous lemon tree. 😊

I would be remiss in not mentioning the lemons in the Campania region. The area is famous for lemons that are very tasty, and as big as..er..melons - seriously! Lemons feature very heavily in southern life, working quite well with the predominantly seafood diet. Another very big use of lemons is the local limoncello (which Andrew loves very much and has been having as an after dinner shot). It’s a lemon liqueur - pure alcohol, water, sugar, and the skin of six melon-sixed-lemons are mixed and a week later you have limoncello! We visited a small limoncello producer for a tasting and a brief education on the production process. Of all their range of liqueurs, I liked the meloncello the best and Andrew bought me a bottle ‘to drink on the deck in Yarlington’. 😄

On our last afternoon we caught up with Pete and Susie from our Umbrian travels and had drinks in the sun in Sorrento’s main square - Piazza Tasso. It was really lovely to see them again and catch up on travel stories from the past week; we were all a bit merry when we said our goodbyes...we have plans to catch up back in Australia. That night we shopped for a picnic that Davide had planned for us back in Sant Agnello. Davide, Katie, Lisa, Fiona, Andrew and I gathered at the waterfront in Sant Agnello for a sunset picnic - a balmy spring evening…watching the sun set behind Mt Vesuvius…having baguettes with salami, ham, pesto, pecorino cheese and the bestest creamiest buffalo mozzarella ever...with a glass of red wine...just heaven! Not long after the sun set, the city lights of Naples (at the foot of Mt Vesuvius) and Sorrento (on the other side of us) started to twinkle in the growing darkness. It was so wonderful to be able to watch a landscape transition in this way.

We travel to Amalfi next...


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