“I know you, you’ve been here before?” I was stunned that they would remember me after 4 years and countless travelers coming through their doors. I don’t really think that I stand out at all, I have no real defining features, no distinct accents, and with each year the landscape of my face changes with additional wrinkles which weren’t there before.
But they remembered me.
This happened multiple times on this trip to Southern Italy and Rome because I was retracing a path I had traveled before, but this time with my niece in tow. When I came to Sorrento the first time I had been on the road for my original career break for 9 months and I made the area my home for one month taking Italian language instruction and cooking classes. Of course the moment Bethany said that she wanted to see Pompeii I was excited about seeing my old friends again in and around Sorrento.
I don’t often go back to a location I visited before, but when you spend a month living somewhere, you make friends, and it’s great to be able to get back and visit old friends and locations. I found that some locations had closed, and some had expanded; surprisingly, most remembered me, and we were all able to pick up where we left off 4 years prior.
A trip to the Amalfi coast is a jaw dropping experience. Little towns built into cliffsides, ruins of Pompeii, beaches, limencello, and plenty of Southern Italy food specialties. If you are traveling on the Amalfi Coast, I suggest you put these three stops on your Amalfi Coast itinerary; and say hi to some of my friends!
Positano – Take a Bus
This seaside town is an easy and gasp-worthy bus ride from Sorrento. You can catch the local bus at the train station and take the 50 minute ride down the winding cliff road as you peer out the window and hold your breath as you look straight down into the Tyrrhenian Sea . Try to sit on the right hand side of the bus for the best views.
Bethany had no idea what to expect from the Amalfi coast, and it had been years since I had been there so it was equally surprising to me again as if I had seen it for the first time. She snapped photos out the bus window until we arrived in Positano where we slowly walked down to the beach through the little pathways which led through town.
This was off-season, so many stores were closed or doing repairs, which gave it a more local feel. We sat down by the beach and ate lunch while soaking in the sun and atmosphere of this magical town.
However, after this second trip to Positano for me, I decided if I ever come back, I’m renting a convertible and driving myself next time. Half the fun would be the drive and being able to stop wherever you want to take photos!
Italian Cooking Classes and Restaurant
Who doesn’t want to learn how to make their own pasta and sauces when visiting Italy? We stopped in at Mami Camilla’s cooking school and hostel and was happy to hear that business has been good for them in the years I had been gone. They just opened a new Italian cooking school and hotel (Soleluna) in Piano de Sorrento (a town just outside of Sorrento).
Mami Camilla’s was one of my highlights of my career break and I was overjoyed to go back and see my old friends Augustino and Chaf Baggio. Bethany and I went to dinner at the new school/hotel where the students prepare 4 course dinners for patrons every night at a great value. We arrived and the family remembered me; soon we were all family again drinking apertivos and sharing stories. I introduced them to Bethany and they introduced me to new employees and students.
Bethany and I sat and ate with the students at the school who were doing chef internships; and as expected, it was one of the best, most social nights we had the whole trip. One of my favorite things about the school is getting to meet the students and other travelers; it’s a social experience that a solo traveler like myself craves. Oh yes, and the food was divine of course; homemade ravioli, fried sardines, and a pastry dessert.
Using Sorrento as a home base is a great way to see Pompeii; it’s an easy train ride away via the Cirumvesuviana local train. I had been to Pompeii before, and quite frankly it was my least favorite place to visit in the area; I just have a hard time appreciating and visualizing the ancient history from ruins. I even used the audio guide on my first trip, but it still wasn’t enough to help me enjoy my time there. It’s a personal flaw I suppose, I just don’t have an imagination when it comes to ruins. But this time I really wanted it to be different and I wanted Bethany to get something out of her time there. Thanks to a recommendation from Karina, my expat blogging friend, I hired a local tour guide named Aldo ( third generation Neapolitan tour guide) to help visually paint the picture of Pompeii and it’s history that I needed to enjoy it my second time around.
Aldo filled Bethany and I with history, facts, stories, and theories about the old, doomed city of Pompeii for 4 hours and it changed my feeling about Pompeii. Sometimes people make all the difference, and for me Aldo made Pompeii come alive.
Of course there are many other things to do while in the Amalfi coast area of Italy, but if you have 3 days, be sure to check these experiences out!
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