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Europe » Italy » Campania » Sorrento
August 9th 2017
Published: August 9th 2017
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I wonder if I'll be allowed into the restaurant for breakfast wearing shorts. Issy says that she will pass on breakfast so I head off on my own. The waiters are all still wearing tuxedos, but there seem to be other people in the restaurant wearing shorts, so I relax a bit. There's a sign on the toaster saying that you're only allowed to put sliced bread into it. I wonder what other sort of bread anyone might contemplate trying to jam into a toaster. I'm pretty sure that a full loaf wouldn't fit. It is very quiet in the restaurant until the silence is interrupted by an American lady shouting "where can I get some coffee honey" across the room to one of the older waiters. I don't think that the waiter is very accustomed to being called "honey".

We head off to explore Sorrento. I passed a nice looking garden just around the corner yesterday when I was looking for the hotel, so we go in there. We enter it through an archway which is part of a villa housing the Museo Correale di Terranova. It seems that the museum is the main attraction, and the garden is only a sideshow. It is on four levels and includes a wide range of exhibits including ancient Roman and Egyptian archaeological artefacts, 19th century furniture, and 17th and 18th century paintings and sculptures. The signage is all in Italian so we're not too sure what we're looking at a lot of the time. The only signs that aren't in Italian are the ones that say "Please do not touch" in English. I wonder if people who only speak English have a particular reputation for touching things that they're not supposed to. Some of the furniture is particularly spectacular, with lots of very fine and ornate detailing and inlaying. A lot of the artwork is very dark and in some cases it is difficult to pick out large figures hidden in the background. We are the only people here, and we are followed from room to room by a lady whose job it must be to ensure that the "Please do not touch" signs are strictly adhered to. This feels a bit creepy. I wonder how she copes when there are lots of people here.

We leave the villa and walk along a path through the garden, which is a large citrus orchard. The path goes through a tunnel and we emerge onto a terrace at the top of a cliff overlooking the sea. It seems that this is part of the gardens of the very fancy Grand Hotel Ambasciatori. We walk on through the hotel grounds and into the hotel. I'm not sure that we're supposed to be here. It looks like it is a playground of the very rich and famous, and it makes our fancy hotel look like a backpackers' hostel. I wonder if they make you wear long pants for breakfast here. We casually say "bonjourno" to one of the guards on the door and manage to make it out onto the street without getting arrested.

We walk around the clifftop towards the town centre, and into the main square, Piazza Tasso. I stop to take a photo of the iconic sculpture in the middle of the square, which is of figures hanging off a column. Issy says she thought it was a dead tree. I hope none of the locals heard her say that. I'm not sure they'd appreciate their iconic statue being likened to a dead tree.

The traffic in the square is chaotic. There are no lines to mark the traffic lanes, and cars, trucks, motorbikes, cyclists and pedestrians are all mixed in together, without there seeming to be any rules or logic. I tell Issy that we should do what all the other pedestrians seem to be doing and stroll across the middle of the square at a steady pace while looking straight ahead. We reach the other side. We may have come close to being mown down, but because we held our nerve and didn't glance sideways we will never know. I think that this is a good thing. There are restaurants all around the square, but there are no lines marking where the traffic stops and the restaurants begin. If we eat here I think that we should be sure not to sit anywhere near the sides of the restaurants closest to the street. I wonder how many unsuspecting diners have been mown down while quietly enjoying their spaghetti carbonara.

We walk down a very narrow alleyway called Via San Cesareo. It seems that this is tourist central. It is lined with shops and packed with tourists. Most of the shops sell the local brew, which is called limoncello. This comes in an infinite variety of bottles including some with taps built into the sides of them. Its alcohol content averages 26%, but varies widely, and apparently the homemade varieties tend to be the most potent. I think that if you drunk a normal sized bottle of any of this at a single sitting you would end the sitting in a coma.

We head down towards the waterfront. The streets are all very narrow, and whilst most of them are two way, there is usually only room for traffic to go one way. It seems that this is often a cause of conflict involving passionate yelling and arm waving. A two carriage tourist train passes us and tries to go down a narrow street which is blocked by a parked car. The driver of the tourist train and the owner of the parked car yell and wave their arms at each other. The tourists in the train are getting impatient to go somewhere, but it seems clear that the owner of the parked car has no intention of moving it any time soon. The driver of the tourist train does a U-turn in the narrow alleyway. This is clearly not physically possible, but we just watched him do it. I don't think I remember us drinking any limoncello this morning, but now I'm not so sure.

We walk down a steep, narrow and winding street and emerge on the very attractive beachfront at Marina Grande. The sand is a dark yellow, and the narrow beach is packed with rented sun lounges and beach umbrellas. We try to walk between them but space is limited. They have offset the lack of beach area here by building timber decks on artificial rock platforms just offshore. The cost of renting sun lounges and umbrellas on the timber decks is more than double the cost of renting them on the beach. This seems like quite a big premium to pay for the privilege of not getting sand on your feet.

We walk back up the hill and around the clifftop to the Convento di San Francesco. This is right near the edge of the cliff, and is surrounded by a garden and terrace overlooking the sea. The views from the terrace are spectacular. I walk into the courtyard next to the convent. There is a wedding in progress,
Iconic statue, Piazzi TassoIconic statue, Piazzi TassoIconic statue, Piazzi Tasso

Issy thought it was a dead tree
and it sounds like the bride and groom are both from England. As we leave we see another bridal party walking in to the convent. It seems that they are from England as well. I begin to wonder if there might be a shortage of wedding facilities in England. Then I remember about the English weather.

We stop for lunch at a restaurant in Piazza Tasso. We remember what we saw of the traffic earlier, and choose a table a long way back from the edge of the street. We spend the afternoon siesta'ing.

Tonight we decide that we will go somewhere for dinner where you are allowed to wear shorts, so we head into town and find a small restaurant in a narrow alleyway. The waiter is very smooth. He calls Issy "his angel". Issy thinks that he has a crush on her. This thought lasts for about two minutes until she hears him call the girl on the next table "his angel". Despite this we chat to him. He asks us if we are from England and we tell him that we are from Australia. He says that he went to Australia twenty years ago, and then he also went to New Zealand. He says that New Zealand was very quiet. He tells us that he went outside at six o'clock at night and the streets were all empty. I think that this would be a massive culture shock coming from Sorrento. It is ten o'clock at night now and the streets are all packed.

We finish our meals and decide to order some limoncello. It comes out in tiny chilled glasses and tastes like lemon flavoured rocket fuel. I think that if you had a few more glasses of this you would feel like you were in orbit, and this feeling would last until just shortly before you went into a coma.


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The hotel liftsThe hotel lifts
The hotel lifts

They have mirrors on all the walls, and on the ceiling.


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