Travel Report from Sorrento, Italy

Travel Report from Sorrento, Italy

Friday May 18, 2007. We are on anchor off the town of Sorrento. We are close to the shore, but the wind has picked up and there are white caps that slightly roll the ship. Last night was the roughest of the trip. Not bad enough to make you sea sick, but enough to keep you from sleeping well.

We had arranged a driver and car so when we got off the ship at 9:00 am. John Luca was waiting. Actually, I know his name is more Italian than that, but he wanted us to use that name so we did. Traffic in Sorrento is slow and the narrow streets are bumper to bumper going out of town. Motor scooters weave in an out around us on both sides darting back in line just in time to avoid a collision. We are on our way to Positano and wonderful small village we have visited many times in the past and also to the famous San Pietro Hotel, which we have stayed at as well. The driver takes us on Amalfi drive one of the most twisting narrow roads at the top of a sheer cliff in all of Italy. What has changed since the last time we were on it is that there are now police man on the sharp curves to stop traffic to allow the big buses to get around the corner. Before, the system was simple. The bus blew a very loud horn as it came to the sharp curve and cars on the other side had to stop and get out of the way. You could hear the sound of bus horns all day on Almafi. It is still a spectacular view from a view high vantage point and lot less exciting to drive.

We go first to the San Pietro. Built on a stone cliff down the side of the cliff, this hotel has an elevator that goes from the top many hundreds of feet to the rock platform at sea level. The elevator shaft took six months of dynamiting to create. The hotel has a wonderful view of the ocean and the town of Positano. We have stayed here many times. There is a small chapel here and seven years ago Lita and I flew friends and a good friend, Fr. Frank Costello from Gonzaga to this hotel where we renewed our wedding vows in the chapel. It is a very special place for us and we had our photograph taken there. The man who took our photo was a lawyer from Austin.

From the hotel we drove to a small ceramic factory a short distance away which  was created by blasting an opening in the cliff side. They are very well known for their ceramic work and we wanted to buy an Italian bench for our yard with Positano in the ceramic. We selected what we wanted and went from there to the top of the hill where we got out and walked down the hill a mile or so to the village. The walk is along a cliff with houses built down the side all the way to the town itself. The view is beautiful of the sea, the town which stretches from the water high up the hill, and the surrounding area. We stopped at a hotel where we had our reception seven years ago and had a coffee.

Lita stopped at many of the small shops located on the opposite side of the narrow street. When you get to the bottom of there is a very small square where the bus stops and a few taxi’s wait. Cars are not allowed in the village. I walked hundreds of stone steps down a narrow sidewalk all the way to the beach. There are many small shops along the walk and people going up and down. I got some good photographs and returned another way. There was a very strong smell of garlic at one point, but I couldn’t see a restaurant. The sun kept coming our and clouding over, but it is pleasant weather.

I sat at the square where the mini bus stops every half hour or so. A man walks buy with an intercom device on one hip and a cell phone on the other while he is talking on another device. I wondered why he need all of them. Two young men meet a short distance away. They hug and then they kiss on each cheek. No hand shake. It looks very normal to me for some reason. While I am sitting on the bench, several women show up and began talking in Italian. They are inches away from me as if I were not there. Others show up and they are all conversing. They didn’t say anything I could understand to explain why they met there and were talking, but a yellow school bus strops and children get off. The women walk off holding the hand of their child.

The regular bus stops and an older, overweight woman slowly down the steps right in front of me so I got up and held out my hand to assist me. She takes my hand and makes the last step with difficulty, but gives me a big smile and says "thank you very much" in Italian. "Prego" I answer.  Lita shows up with a purchase of lemon soap and lemon drops. She has walked at least two miles up the steep sidewalk to check the stores and then back down towards the sea. She is ready to quit. We find our driver around the corner in the parking area and leave.

We drive back to Sorrento where the driver has arranged lunch at a small family restaurant in an upper residential area. The driver from the restaurant picks us up and drives us on a lane that was supposed to be a sidewalk. It is so narrow the sides of the buildings are only inches away . We meet a car coming the other way and it finds an indentation to pull into to allow us to pass. We enter what was once a house, but has been converted into a very lovely restaurant with two very large pictures of Sophia Loren. The restaurant is called "Sophia’s" of course. We sit by an out door patio. One other Italian family is there eating. Mario, the owner speaks very good English and gives us the specials. Lita has a meat pasta and I have a shrimp pasta. We have local red wine and Zucchini squash blossoms. Above us large yellow lemons grow on trees along side orange trees. The food is wonderful and very fresh. The chef comes out and we applaud. He is very happy. Mario sends us desert on the house which we taste, but can’t eat anymore we are so full. After meeting Mario’s wife, the assistant chef and being introduced to Mario’s new baby we are allowed to leave. A wonderful experience. The restaurant drives us all the way to the port platform along the water where we catch the tender to the ship.

Then comes packing because tomorrow we get off this ship. The cruise is over. We will be driven to Rome where we are going to a wonderful museum of sculpture which we have seen a video about and are anxious to see. I am not particularly fond of spending time in museums, but this work is so outstanding I want to see it. From there, we go to the small, 28 room, hotel just outside Rome on the ocean which we love to stay at when in the Rome area. I’m not sure when I’ll be able to up date our travel report again, so this may the last report until we get home.

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