Welcome, new blog followers!! I know that many of you discovered my blog through my Instagram photos of our recent trip to Europe… You asked and I’m answering- this post begins a five-part blog series with all the details on our trips to Europe. Healthy & Hopeful is not a travel blog, but I’m a big fan of vacations and the importance of having a work-life balance to reduce stress for better health.
Here’s a quick overview of our two trips and the destinations I’ll be covering. In May 2014, we visited Rome, northern Italy (Tuscany, Cinque Terre, Pisa, Florence, Lucca, Maranello & Venice) and Paris over 16 days with my family. In April 2016, my husband and I visited London, then returned to Italy to the Amalfi Coast and back to Rome over 13 days.
Today, I’m starting by sharing the highlights from our most recent trip to the Amalfi Coast:
Getting There: We flew into Naples, so the easiest way to get to Sorrento was on the Curreri bus – as soon as you walk out of the airport, it’s parked right in front (Curreri is the bus company name – you’ll see a paper sign on the front window). You buy your ticket for 10€ cash right from your driver. The drive was supposed to take an hour, but traffic made it closer to two. The bus will drop you off at the train station in central Sorrento.
Where to Stay: From, the train station in Sorrento and walked 10 minutes down the street to our Airbnb (get $20 travel credit here). Our 3rd floor apartment (totally worth the stairs!) for $100/night had a beautiful balcony and view of the hillside and was perfectly located to explore Sorrento. Sorrento is easy to walk around and fairly compact, so as long as you stay near the town center, you’ll find your location convenient. There are several hotels up in the hills that I’m sure have incredible views, but we liked being able to walk everywhere rather than wait for a shuttle.
Where to Eat:
- Taverna dell’ 800 – We ate a quick lunch here and enjoyed homemade pasta & prosecco for cheap.
- Gelato @ Raki – I’m not sure why everyone raves about Davide… the service, portions, pricing and taste are all way better at Raki. We loved it!
- Ristorante ‘O Parrucchiano La Favorita – Breathtaking atmosphere… rooftop Mediterranean garden perfect for a romantic night. The service and food were great too – I highly recommend the Taste of Sorrento pasta dish: homemade gnocchi, ravioli & cannelloni tossed in the local Sorrento tomato sauce.
- Ristorante Bagni Delfino – This was our favorite meal in Italy… it’s on the Marina Grande, on a pier over the water with a view of Bay of Naples & Mt. Vesuvius. We had the seafood risotto & gnocchi di sorrento- both were huge but we ate the entire plate they were so delicious. Plus, they bring free bruschetta & limoncello. Make reservations!
For Beautiful Views: There are two public parks on the edge of town that are at the top of the cliffs rising above the sea – both provide fantastic views of the Bay of Naples, Mt. Vesuvius and the beaches & piers down below:
- Piazza della Vittoria – be sure to peak into the colorful, wisteria-framed terrace of the Hotel Bellevue Syrene next to this park.
- Villa Comunale – on your way in/out, take a peak into the cool, columned garden of the Convento di San Francesco
Shopping in Sorrento: There are SO many small shops throughout Sorrento you can spend hours walking through the narrow streets browsing. My two favorites were:
- Sapori e Colori Fabbrica di Limoncello – This limoncello production shop will welcome you with tastings of chilled limoncello and an assortment of lemon treats – chocolates and cookies with limoncello filling. We also bought a hand-painted ceramic limoncello cup here to remember Sorrento by.
- Antica Sartoria – This women’s clothing shop is full of super cute beach wear for reasonable prices. (Quite a contrast to all the other expensive linen shops in town)
Nearby Day Trips: Sorrento is the perfect home base for exploring sites nearby. We took a couple of days to visit the ruins of Pompeii and the island of Capri.
Getting There: The Circumvesuviana train leaves from Sorrento every hour and is a 20-30 ride through the mountain tunnels to the ruins of Pompeii (get off at Pompeii Scavi stop). You can purchase your round-trip ticket at the ticket office at the station and you will likely see the train sitting there waiting for you.
Touring the Ruins: Instead of paying for an audio guide, we downloaded the Rick Steves Pompeii walking tour guide on our phones (you do not have to have service or wifi to listen once you’ve downloaded). His walking tour was great, included a map to help guide you – though you should pick up a free map at the ticket office too – and helped us see just the main sites. The ruins of Pompeii cover a very large area and it would really take days to see all of it. You would waste a lot of time with the self-guided option, seeing things that may not be as remarkable. Rick Steves’ guide included 18 major sites & we walked over to see the Amphitheater (mini Colosseum). We spent around 4 hours there and it was just perfect.
What to Wear: Pompeii is HOT, so dress accordingly. There is little breeze and the ruins attract sunlight & provide little shade. Pompeii was probably 15 degrees warmer than Sorrento. Also, wear tennis shoes. The streets are really rough to walk on and your feet will hurt if you don’t, I promise.
Getting There: Take a 20-30 minute ferry ride (schedule) to the island from Marina Piccola. You’ll see the ticket office (arrive early to get a spot) or you can book online. I highly recommend leaving by 9 am so you can get there early to begin your day (we slept in and felt rushed all day). To take advantage of a round-trip ticket price, you’ll have to leave the island on the 4 pm ferry.
Exploring the Island: When you arrive, you’ll dock at Marina Grande. As soon as you get there, head over to the Motoscafisti Capri ticket booth and book your boat tour around the island. Choose the 2 hour tour that goes all the way around the island- it’s only a couple more euros and a way better deal than the other two short rides that only go to one main site each. On your tour of the island, you’ll see several different caves, the ruins of Villa Jovis (home of Emperor Tiberius), and the famous rock formation Faraglioni rocks – and you’ll drive through the arch, kiss & make a wish! The last stop is the Blue Grotto, a beautiful glowing blue cave with a tiny opening… small row boats will come to your boat and you pay them 13€ cash to row you inside for 5 minutes. I didn’t think it would be worth the price but it was truly a once in a lifetime experience!
After our boat tour, we took a very full bus 20 minutes up to the town of Anacapri. We visited Villa San Michele (entry is 7€ cash), a house museum created by the 19th century Swedish writer and physician Axel Munthe. The villa has the most heavenly gardens and incredible panoramic views of the island.
Capri is expensive, so budget accordingly. We only ate lunch on the island but all the transportation really added up. It was worth it for a day-trip, but we certainly couldn’t have afforded to stay overnight.
Getting There: We took the SITA bus from Sorrento to Positano – it leaves from the main station and you can buy your ticket directly from the driver. Get there early as the seats will fill up fast.
When we left Positano to go to Rome, we took the ferry from Positano to Salerno (a 70 minute ride). The 5 minute walk from the port to the Salerno train station was easy with luggage and to navigate. You can then take a train to all the major cities in Italy – the trip to Rome only took a little over 2 hours. I highly recommend buying your ticket online in advance to save money.
Where to Stay: We stayed at Hotel Savoia and loved it! We booked on TripAdvisor for a very reasonable price. The hotel is located up on the hill, great for a beautiful view, and a great location, close to both the SITA bus stop and the walkway down to the beach. We booked a Double room with partial sea view – perfect because while you want to see the water, the colorful homes that make up the town are the most beautiful part of Positano. We loved spending evenings on our private balcony drinking vino & playing cards.
What to Do: Positano is known for it’s beaches, so definitely spend some time there. Spaggia Grande is the main, larger beach, but a 10 minute walk along Via dei Positanesi d’America will get you to a smaller, less crowded beach: Spiaggia del Fornillo. When you’re not at a beach, walk the steps of town browsing ceramic, beachwear and sandal shops. Don’t forget to peak inside the gold-domed church – Chiesa di Santa Maria Assunta.
- Ristorante Max – art gallery + wine bar… they have a beautiful terrace, great service and incredible food. Get the fresh fish of the day!
- CHEZ BLACK – This place is right on the beach, so it’s a bit pricey, but we enjoyed our meal and view there. Since we went right at the start of the season (early April), it was one of the few places open.
- Vini é Panini (The Wine Shop) – Get sandwiches (ask for proscuitto & mozzarella), prosecco & fresh fruit for a picnic on the beach or on your hotel balcony on a rainy night. Note: this does not show up on Google maps, so to find it, go to the church and face away from it – it is just down the steps to the right.
- Lemon Granita Stand – The best local granitas were from this small stand that opens in the afternoon near the corner of Via dei Mulini and Via Cristoforo Colombo next door to Antica Sartoria.
Day Trips Nearby: Positano was our favorite town on the Amalfi Coast, and I am so glad we chose it as a base to explore the area from. We took a couple of days and explored nearby Amalfi and Ravello.
When we arrived in Amalfi, we walked to the piazza and climbed the stairs up to the massive Duomo – apparently where the apostle Andrew is buried. The inside is just beautiful! We spent the rest of our day touring a lemon farm, tasting limoncello and taking a cooking class with the Amalfi Lemon Experience – read all about that incredible experience here.
Take the SITA bus (20 minute ride) up to Ravello from Amalfi. You can buy your ticket from the Tabbachi shop across from the bus stop. Ravello is a small town up high on the mountain with beautiful views. There are two main Villas where you can enjoy panoramic views of the coast:
- Villa Cimbrone – at the far edge of town… we walked all the way there to find out they were closed for movie filming. womp womp.
- Villa Rufolo – when you enter town through the tunnel, on your left. It’s an ancient villa with beautiful gardens and views. We were not disappointed.
Eat lunch at family-run Cumpa Cosimo for a delicious meal and friendly service. The fresh mushroom fettuccine was one of my favorite meals of the trip. Plus, they provided complimentary bruschetta and chocolate cream profiterole for dessert. Longhorn fans – look for the Bevo!
We spent about 3 hours in Ravello; it’s a perfect morning or afternoon trip, leaving the rest of your day to enjoy the beach.
The Amalfi Coast was absolutely stunning and one of the favorite places we’ve visited in Italy – it’s absolutely a destination to add to your bucket list!
What destination should I cover next?
P.S. Looking for more details? I reviewed hotels, restaurants and sites on TripAdvisor here. Or, feel free to email me with questions and for more details at healthyhopefulblog(at)gmail.com.