2017 TRAVEL ROUND-UP: ITALIAN RIVIERA

NAPLES, SORRENTO, CAPRI, POSITANO: JULY 2017

A summer after the influx of Instagram feeds featuring tourists retreating to Positano, situated in Italy’s adored Amalfi Coast, it was finally my turn. This came just in time for my 30th birthday, which I was embracing, especially because not everyone makes it to 30. As it happened this was going to be a solo trip, which didn’t worry me at all because I knew it meant more freedom to make the trip my own and stop for ages taking in the sights and honing in on my photography. Not everyone enjoys travelling with photography enthusiasts stopping every 5 minutes to capture a shot and I knew that the Amalfi Coast needed my full attention.

July is peak season so staying anywhere along the Amalfi Coast, even if you’re lucky to find a place, doesn’t come cheap. So I took the alternative option and stayed in Naples, which was a train ride away from the scenic coast. My sleeping base was a cute AirBnB apartment, with the stairwell tiles crumbling away and renovation works in full throttle. This was right near Napoli Centrale Station. It was perfect.

I had the kindest Italian host. She had prepared a tour for me, maps, culture guide of Naples and a bowl of her famous Gnocchi on arrival, as she does for all her guests. This was so kind of her, especially as I had no real intention of spending much time in Naples.

I would love to one day go back and give Naples my full attention, but this wasn’t the time for that. However, I did venture to the restaurant Antica Pizzeria da Michele hailed as the best pizza joint in the world and became famous through the film ‘Eat Pray Love’. My verdict? The commotion and queues outside don’t lie. Da Michele is unforgettable and I can still imagine the flavours bursting in my mouth. They go back to the basics and only serve a margarita and a marinara (without cheese). Munching it down twice during my stay I can confidently say that pepperoni is certainly over-rated. It’s 100% the best pizza I’ve ever had.

 

Each day in Naples I would get up early, get dressed and buy some fresh fruit from the market outside, then make my way to the station to head to a somewhere along the coast.

My first stop was Sorrento, also in the Amalfi Coast. I really didn’t know much about Sorrento but I headed there purely on the stunning photos being posted on my instagram feed. Well, I am so glad I went. To me Sorrento had a similar vibe to what I imagine Cannes to have, but more understated. It was rich in Italian riviera beauty.

I had my eye on heading to one place in particular, which was a little bit away from the town centre. A small beach cove called Bagni della Regina Giovanna. I really cannot put in to words how much it was an adventure being there. Once I got off the bus I stopped by this unassuming Italian deli, filled with endless pasta variations, and a counter to make the freshest salads, from the plumpest tomatoes and bounciest mozzarella, splashed in olive oil. I brought lunch and headed down quite a steep path.

I arrived to find it was pretty busy and the only place to find a spot was on top of a boulder or right in the sea. I had to eat my lunch so I sat on a boulder and took it all in.

Eventually I made my way in for a ‘Swim’. At the time my afro hair was in no position to get immersed, so I just walked in with my head bobbing out. After my “swim” I continued touring the area and made my way to the cliffs above and laid there basking in the breathtaking views and watching a group brave the jump off the highest cliff.

Bagni Della Regina Giovanni is a must see when in Sorrento, especially if you love Roman ruins. Buses go there from the central station, but the timings are off, so you may find yourself walking alongside the cars back to the main town like myself.

The following day was Capri. Capri was I place I didn’t even know I needed to see, as it just seemed like a place the rich and famous hang out. But Capri is unapologetic Italian beauty blooming from every uphill stairwell to the coast, lined with caves, and the bluest ocean I have ever laid my eyes on. It was a picture!

After missing the ferry I intended to take, I eventually took the one half an hour later. On arrival the first thing I noticed is the longest queue for the boat tours. The last boat tour was departing soon, which was a surprise as it was early in the day. But this was due to the high tide conditions. I thought I had no chance of getting on. Standing there for five minutes and seeing them call out for the final passengers I had this flashback. I had already brought a ticket for the tour in London! It completely slipped my mind and it wasn’t cheap either. I recommend doing so beforehand and they can be purchased here.

This moment for me was a win, so I glided past the queues with my smug self ready to be fully swept away by charm of this island. If I hadn’t remembered I would have felt pretty foolish. Plus it was the last day of my 20s, so leaving in style was non-negotiable.

We took off, wind blowing through my kinks, and it was a dream. We encountered scenic landscape after scenic landscape, views of  glass mansions which I assumed belong to George Clooney, as with every villa in a fancy part of Italy. We arrived at the various grottos, which were a feast for my eyes and my iPhone.

The piéce de rèsistance was the Blue Grotto, and we rocked up only to find the tide was too high and so over 50 other boats were waiting outside in the scorching 30 degrees plus heat, in hope that we would be able to go in to the blue grotto. Eventually the tour guide gave us the option to wait on their other boat or go back to shore.

As much I would have loved to see whats in the Blue Grotto, I didn’t have enough drinking water to withstand the heat and not fall aboard due fainting from heat exhaustion. Plus I had seen the incredible green grotto and that for me was where I imagined mermaids would live.

So I went back. It was the best choice, as I got to explore the island more, walk up the steep stairwells that led to the town centre near the summit of the island, walk past the designer stores and perfumeries enticing you with aromas that just screamed Capri! I of course went in and was sold to easily. Make sure to spritz yourself in the Carthusia store as it smells divine. Founded in Capri, their garden with the flowers used in their scents lined the path that led to Giardini di Augusto. A must see in Capri as the view of the ocean is like no other and if your a botanical lover, then this is heaven. So much Cacti!

 

And so my final excursion was Positano. And an excursion it was. I took the extra value route and got a train to Sorrento and then a bus from Sorrento to Positano. You can also get a ferry from Salerno or Capri, that’s if you don’t have a private boat or car. The drive there was as beautiful as a Fiat car ad would depict, but as scary as death knocking on the door. I have a very slight fear of heights and I can tell you anyone with an average fear of heights, close your eyes on the drive! Unless you’re the driver of course. The cliffs aren’t protected by high barriers, so trust in the driver is imperative.

We were dropped off midway up the coast and then had to use our wits to get down to the centre of the town and shorefront. I made my way down stairwell after stairwell hidden in streets, but it was cleverly signposted with which way to go.

The town itself was very pretty, however more impressive when looking down from a height. There’s a mix of restaurants, all pretty pricey, galleries, gelato spots, boutiques and the picturesque cathedral that is easy to spot with it’s beautiful oval roof.

 

For lunch I had a feast of pizza and Prosecco at Ristoranti L’Incanto. It wasn’t anything to write home about and there are many more prestigious restaurants in Positano like Chez Black, but it was the age old tale of when hunger strikes, anything will do. However, I made a lovely friend there that had great advise on what to see in Positano. That’s the great thing about dining and traveling solo, people are more inclined to come over for a chat. Post lunch meant dipping my body (not head obvs) in the sea, so I made my way to the public beach.

The picturesque orange and blue parasols you see on every photo geotagged Positano is a private beach for guests in some of the beach front hotels. So the busy public beach it was. It was very hot and the sea was nice and cool but I wouldn’t say the beach was super relaxing. When it was evident the sun was starting to fall I left the beach to explore the town. Here are my five places to visit for aftersun fun.

Church of Santa Maria Assunta From the outside its dome is a picture, on the inside it a peaceful place to take a minute to be grateful for your time on the island.

Collina Positano Bakery for Gelato. My favourite gelato is Tiramisu and can you believe it had chunks of tiramisu in the gelato. Best gelato ever

The spot to photograph that iconic Positano beach aerial view

Bucca di Bacco bar for Martinis or as you like.

Positano smaller beach Much quieter, and cute bars and restaurants along the way. When I saw this place the film prometheus came to mind. The scale of the boulders and coast is out of this world.

When I go back to Positano and have more time there I would love to try out more of the recommended cuisine, secure a sea view Airbnb and go on a hike to get the best views of this incredible coastal town.


My five day trip confirmed that Italy is a place that is so close to my heart and as much as I like choosing new destinations to go to I will certainly be back, hopefully on a yearly bases. From the people, the food, the weather, the natural beauty and architecture, Italy has something for everyone.

Have you been to any of the places mentioned above? Comment below on how you found it. Or if you have any other places in Italy you recommend, especially not so hyped about, also let me know.

Cheryl x

 

 

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