Monday, October 7, 2013

La Dolce Vita- Amalfi Coast, Italy

A lot of Italian's from the North completely disregard the South which is basically anything from under Rome as being truly apart of Italy. However to me for obvious reason the South is a place where I wanted to spend the majority of my time in Italy. Hugging the coast we made our way up slowly from Calabria to the infamous Amalfi Coast. An area that is living proof that the Italians from the North have no idea what they are talking about, the Southern coastline is breath taking. 

Setting up a base camp for a couple nights in the town of Sorrento was a perfect way to start our newest leg. Central backpacker friendly accommodation doesn't come easy along the glitz and glamour of this Italian coast. However we found an amazing resort called Florida that designated two floors of there hotel for hostel patrons. Well priced and within walking distance of the city centre and the beach it was beyond perfect. 

With Sorrento being only a short train ride away from the city of Pompeii we took this opportunity to go on a day trip to visit the ancient city with its museum and historical sites. In AD 79 the city of Pompeii was completely destroyed with the eruption of Mt Vesuvius. With perfectly intact ash formations of victims bodies amongst the old town ruins the town was like a picture frozen in time. Enriched by Italian history Pompeii has always been somewhere I had always wanted to visit after learning so much about it when I was younger. Unfortunately Pompeii is really nothing more then a tourist trap. After spending the last couple of months in smaller local towns I felt as if I was out of my depth being back in the tourist scene. Overwhelmed I was rather disheartened in the city although in saying that I was still glad that I went out there and got to see it all first hand for myself.   

For me the old town of Sorrento was beyond romantic as we watched the sun begin to set over the ocean from the top of the ocean front cliffs high above the breaking waves, the tiny lane way streets began to come alive. As the sound of Dean Martin's Thats Amore blared through the colourful alleyways I was lost in awe. Somewhere amongst it all we found an amazing Gelataria where I was openly sexually harassed by the Italian waiter whilst eating hands down the best homemade gelati that I have ever had in my entire life, now you can't get a more authentic Italian experience then that.

One night we were randomly bailed up by a English bar lady Kelly who coaxed us into her Irish pub with the promise of telling us all her Sorrento dinning hotspots and any cheap travellers tips in exchange for the purchase of some beers. It was probably the best decision that we had made as Kelly set us up with this fantastic Italian Restaurant that was out in a beautifully manicured garden. After telling them that Kelly had sent us we were given the best seat in the house amongst grapefruit trees and were given complementary sparkles. The food was some of the best we had had yet and the chianti wine was bellissimo. Although it blew any food budget we probably should have had, it was all most definitely worth the amazing experience.  

Off the coast just a 20 minute boat ride from Sorrento is the glamourous island of Capri a place of pure holiday indulgence for the well-heeled. Organising a boat day trip with the company Mamma Mia's was a great way to experience the best of what the Island has to offer. We were taken out in a small intimate group on a luxury power boat with our hilarious skipper Mario. We were given a full tour around the island where we sipped on beer and champagne and enjoyed Mario's stories about his love for illegal things. We were taken to the White and Green Grottos where we got to jump in for a dip and swim around in the crystal clear warm mediterranean waters. As of July there was a ban implemented on swimming in the green grotto after an unfortunate accident. Luckily for us we were with Mario who thrived on the idea when I asked him if he was interested in an illegal green grotto swim. Capri is most famous for its Blue Grotto that is tucked away inside a small cave. It is well known that the Mafia within Italy have their fingers in many money making ventures. This was very evident at the entrance to the Blue Grotto as it can only be entered after payment of a 'small' fee. Once permission is granted from three shady looking Italian men you are quickly whisked into the cave for a very brief view of the magnificent Blue Grotto. With some where in the vicinity of 2,000 people a day visiting and each being charged 12euro it is not hard to see why the Mafia have a role to play.
Not willing to buy into any of it amongst the other tourists. I was happier spending my time sun tanning on our boat and enjoying the other beauties Capri has to offer, including the iconic three rock formations, Faraglioni that featured in a Dolce & Gabbana campaign commercial. Exploring the island itself we took a chair lift up to the Islands highest point where the views stretched out over the town and ocean to as far as the eye could possibly see. The view was so enriching a perfect spot to delve into your deepest thoughts and ponder about the wonders of life. 

One of the most prestigious places to stay along the Amalfi Coast is the town of Positano. Lining the coast is fabulous colourful houses stacked neatly onto steep cliff sides. Filled with 5 star hotels and some of the most pristine restaurants it is no wonder that Positano is a prime holiday spot for the rich and famous. During our short stay we also shared the town with Leonardo Di Caprio who casually had his yacht parked off shore, his pal Steven Spilberg and also italian designer Robert Cavalli were in the neighbourhood as well. The town had only one hostel called Brikette that was run by a lovely local lady who had lived in Positano her entire life. Considering the demographic of the city we were lucky to snag a spot to stay somewhere so cheap that was also so clean and friendly. Although possibly the best part of all was it was right down the road from a pizzeria that was known for serving the best slices in town, something I can certainly vouch for. 

Being there for a weekend, Tom the hostels social coordinator took us out to a local club not far out of the city itself. Alongside the beach the club was built into a cave that had glass lookouts cut into the floor with views that lead into the rocky ocean, it was unreal. Some how James ended up drinking in the VIP section wearing his stained vintage Harley Davidson T-shirt in amongst the sleek designer dressed italian men whilst I was being mobbed by hundreds of sleazy ones making love hearts with there hands in my face saying "Australia is my dream!" and "Come with me on my boat to Capri tomorrow" An eye opening situation to say the least the Italian night life is definitely an experience not to be missed. Although my only advise is:
 Men be prepared to feel inadequate and,
 Ladies prepare to be sexually harassed. 

The entire Amalfi Coast is well known for its growth of lemons. Which means on every corner is a stand selling the best lemon granita, I am not quite sure if it is even humanly possible to be so satisfied by something so simple as ice and lemon juice but it is the perfect respite from the Italian summer sun. Limoncello is a must try which is a great liquor made out of lemons and can be found in every restaurant and store. I will never look at a lemon the same again. How the Italians create the most sweetest refreshing products from such a basic product I will never understand. Yet I will never dare question such greatness just sit back and enjoy. 

This stretch of coast is one of my all time favourite travel spots yet. With the perfect combination of Mediterranean Seas meet lavish Italian living. Its also proof that doing Europe on a shoe string budget doesn't mean that you have to miss out on all its extravagant wonders. Although next time I pop over to the coast I think it will be on my yacht parked right next to Leo… A girl can dream right?

The Wanderer's Daughter xx

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