#BossaEuropa: Naples and the Amalfi Coast
As promised, here is part two of my very own travel guide to Italy, this time covering what to see and do and the restaurants we’ve tried and highly recommend. I’ve touched on the basics in the first entry (feel free to back-read till you find it!), and I’m really hoping this could help you in your planning. I’ll go city by city, Naples and the Amalfi Coast first then Rome and Florence on the next.
I’m so excited to reminisce on and share all that my husband Joey and I have eaten! Being the pasta junkie that I am and the pizza fanatic that Joey is, the food is what we will go back to Italy for again and again <3. Man, I’m salivating already!
PLANNING YOUR ITINERARY
There are generally two options available for you when city-hopping in Italy, depending on your points of entry and exit. Either you take the north-south route (Milan-Venice-Florence-Rome-Naples) or the other way around. Since Joey had to be in Milan for EICMA at the end of our trip, it made more sense for us to go the south-north route, starting off with the famed birthplace of pizza, Naples.
Note: In choosing which city to fly into or out of, bear in mind that the bigger the city, the cheaper air travel would be. As such, flying into and out from Rome would be way cheaper than let’s say, Venice.
NAPLES / NAPOLI
Say what you want about Napoli - that it’s dirty and disgusting and doesn’t deserve a trip, but for me, it was bustling Italian life at its most alive! Vendors and locals walking about, chatting a mile a minute while smoking their cigars, laundry hanging outside apartments, charming cobble-stoned alleys lined with colourful graffitis, the appetising scent of freshly-baked pizza - we only spent two nights here and got to walk about the small town the morning before we went to Rome so I was bitin. But what I’ve seen and felt was more than enough for me to fall in love with the place.
Be warned though that the amount of garbage you will see can really disappoint and assault your visual senses. I honestly don’t know why they can’t seem to clean up their streets, perhaps an inefficient trash disposal system? (insert shrug here). I just accepted it as an inherent part of their culture that would hopefully be temporary (think of Divisoria and Binondo - you kinda just accept that it’s gonna be dirty and smelly when you go there, that it’s just their way of life).
Also, make sure to arrive in Naples in the day as it can get a bit intimidating at night. Joey and I flew in at around 9pm to a weirdly quiet city considering it was Halloween, haha! There was sparsely anyone around but thank God we made it safely to our Airbnb without any untoward incident.
WHAT TO DO:
We walked along the quaint Via San Gregorio Armeno, more popularly known as Christmas Alley. Trinkets and miniatures and nativity scenes galore, it’s a very short strip packed with artisan shops that feature the classic angels to the more current characters like Ozzy Osbourne and Donald Trump. I had a grand time checking them all out.
WHAT ELSE YOU CAN DO:
You may check out the famed Veiled Christ in Capella San Severo. Also, there are underground galleries open to tour, and I hear the port is quite nice. Make sure to book tickets in advance as Napoli is very small and can get pretty crowded even in the off-season. You can also go to the archaeological park of Pompeii!
Also, pizza place-hopping! Which we didn’t get to do because we had such limited time.
WHAT TO BUY:
Trinkets from Via San Gregorio Armeno to dress up your holiday home, and also, pasta! I saw different coloured pastas in Napoli that I didn’t buy because I thought there would be similar ones in Florence or Milan. Sadly, wala kami na kami nakita o nadaanan huhu. Regrets, regrets.
WHERE TO EAT:
On the many blogs I’ve read on where to have pizza in Naples, I’ve come across three pizzerias that were often mentioned: da Michele, di Matteo and Sorbillo. When I was looking at accommodations, I saw an Airbnb that was near da Michele. Good choice, if i must say! The evening we arrived we already passed da Michele and there was a line at friggin’ 9pm! The following day as we went back to the flat after our Amalfi trip, people were again, in line! So on our last day, Joey and I promised that ten minutes before the pizzeria opened, we would already start lining up. And we were rewarded!!
There were only two kinds of pizzas served in da Michele, margherita and marinara. The place became even more famous after Elizabeth Gilbert, author of the international bestseller Eat, Pray, Love, featured it in the said book. She ate there almost everyday for three months! Joey and I were so eager to try!
And we weren’t disappointed. Finally we discovered what all the rave was about: the dough was baked just right, and the marinara sauce!!! I think kaya ang sarap sarap ng pizza nila, kasi ang sarap at ang fresh ng tomatoes nila. Maaaan I want to go back to Napoli right now so that I can eat their pizza again!
THE AMALFI COAST
I had often seen that to drive along the Amalfi Coast is in many a dreamer’s bucket list. So on our very first day in Italy, Joey and I picked up our rental car from Central Station, armed Google Maps with our first destination - Ravello - and enjoyed the lovely drive to the South of Napoli. I chose for us to take the Ravello - Amalfi - Positano route rather than the usual Sorrento - Positano - Amalfi because I reasoned that many tourists would most likely take that and I wanted to avoid the flock as much as possible.
I was right. Heading straight to Ravello, we took the mountain route rather than the coastal one and was awarded with a relaxed, lazy and mostly shaded drive along winding streets that took us up and then down to our destination. Ravello was breathtaking. I have never been to such a picturesque place. We had an extraordinarily good lunch in Da Salvatore amidst that fantastic view. I’ll never forget it.
We strolled through the Piazza Duomo and again marvelled at how pretty and quaint everything is. There were not that many tourists around so it was perfect. Ravello is known for its cliffside gardens, and while Villa Rufolo was easily accessible from the town square, I asked to see the other famous one, Villa Cimbrone. We got lost looking for it though, teehee; Google Maps wasn’t reliable that time. I suspect Joey got a bit tired and cranky from all the walking, hehe. We did see some nice houses and snap some nice pictures along the way.
Next stop: Amalfi. It was probably around 3pm then and with the season being fall, the sun was beginning its descent, scheduled to set at around 5:20pm. We learned the hard way why Sorrento-Amalfi was the more popular route, for as we made our way down along the coast to Amalfi from Ravello, the afternoon sun was against us, forcing Joey to doubly concentrate on the narrow, winding roads, while avoiding the vespas and steering clear of the big tourist buses. Needless to say, it was a bit stressful for him, hehe. Buti nlng naka-relax siya on the drive to Ravello. By this time other tourists came in hordes, too. Upon reaching Amalfi, it was too chaotic and there was no parking at all, so Joey and I decided to head straight to Positano.
Finally in Positano we were able to park! Joey and I chose a random cafe for coffee and to try delizia al limone - sponge cake with lemon cream, supposedly a Positano specialty. While both the cafe and the sponge cake where forgettable, the setting sun along the coast was not. Again, I was reminded of just how lucky we were to be able to go on this trip. Truly grateful, I was. What a memorable first day in Italia!
Joey asked if I wanted to go down to the beach. From where we parked to the cafe we went down many steps already, how much more if we went all the way down! So I declined, perfectly content to watch that beautiful sunset.
As nighttime fell we slowly began to make our way back to Napoli. Slowly because Positano’s streets were flooded with tourists! But it was so pretty <3 all those warm, glowing lights. It would’ve been nice to stay for a night. Next time :)
P.S. We booked our rental car in advance through easycar.com. I would suggest renting directly through B-Rent or other rental car services, though, as there were other charges we had to pay that we thought were already covered by our initial transaction. Best to book directly and not through third party agencies.
There you go! I hope I’ve been helpful. Rome and Florence for the next feature!
Thank you for reading,