Italy (Amalfi Coast) Travel Tips

Sharing travel tips from my week on the Amalfi Coast.

Bring Cash (i.e. Euros)

The tax rate is 52% in Italy (!!!). Almost every single activity we participated in either requested cash as preferred payment method, or only took cash. From classes to adventures to drivers/cabs to hotel tax, it is all about the cash.  There are plenty of ATMs along the coast, but beware that you will have to pay a transaction fee.

Also – hotels will charge a city tax. It’s not much – ours was only 15 euros – but they only accept cash. The rest of the balance can be paid on the card. Be smart, don’t be like us, running to the ATM when we were already running late during check out.


The Amalfi coast is a great place to relax, but if you can’t handle the beach or pool every day, all day, plan some activities. Hands down my favorite thing I did on this trip (and maybe ever!) was Mamma Agata’s cooking class. It was an incredible experience and still allowed me to soak in some sun rays in her beautiful mountainside garden and learn about Italian cooking. If do you this, do not make dinner reservations. You will eat a lot, all day long.

The yacht tour and the kayak tour were also a lot of fun. The yacht tour gave us an opportunity to see the entire coastline and also visit Capri. The island of Capri is filled with shops, but it’s definitely not something you want to do for a full day (especially because none of it is affordable!). The yacht tour gave us a few hours on Capri, and also gave us the chance to see the different grottos, go swimming in the Mediterranean and we didn’t have to worry about making ferries and waiting in line.

Kayaking also gave us the chance to see parts of the coast we wouldn’t be able to on foot or in car (including a stop at a beach only accessible by water). Free activities? Go hiking! There are tons of trails that lead into quaint towns. You’ll discover breathtaking views.

Hiking Tips

If you do go hiking on the Amalfi coast, I highly recommend buying a guide book. We used “Sorrento, Amalfi Coast & Capri: Car Tours and Walks” which provided helpful instructions such as “when you get to the mural of the immaculate conception, go up the stairs to the right of it.” You’ll also save your phone battery and have a bit more bearings on where you are (maps aren’t that helpful!). Bring lots of water, a hat, sunscreen and BUG SPRAY. I have never been bit by so many mosquitoes before. I used a ton of bug spray and I’m not sure it even made a difference. I probably needed heavier duty stuff.

Some trails have helpful signs to guide you along the way. These are not always the easiest paths! Hence the guidebook…

In the summer, it’s hot, and you’ll drink a lot. But don’t worry, there are spigots along the paths and the water is safe to drink. We refilled our bottle every time we found one (some paths have more than others).

A good pair of sneakers will do – but if you want to bring hiking boots, go for it. Gym clothes will also be more comfortable (I don’t know how people hiked in denim shorts and blouses, but hey, to each their own).

Getting Around

Travelmar ferry!

The coastal towns are connected by the Travelmar ferry. We found this to be the easiest way to move between the towns, as well as the quickest. It’s a bit more than the SITA bus, but worth it, as you get spectacular views from the seat that you wouldn’t get otherwise. We took it frequently between Amalfi and Minori.

The SITA bus is affordable, and definitely preferable to driving. I was not a huge fan of being on a bus, overlooking a cliff, on a winding road with a lot of crazy drivers. But, it is the most cost effective other than walking.

Do not take cabs! The prices are OUTRAGEOUS. They charge a tax plus an astronomical fee that goes up depending on the time of the day. A 20 minute cab ride from Ravello to Minori could cost upwards of 60 euros or more. If you want to take a car, ask your hotel to call you a private driver. The prices are still ridiculous, but in bad weather, or late evenings, they are worth it. We paid between 40 and 55 euros for a 20-25 minute drive. And the driver guarantees to pick us up at the end of the evening.

Walking is a great way to get around, but don’t expect to walk between towns unless you are hiking or planning to sweat a lot. Everything has an incline and decline and there are a lot of stairs. There are no sidewalks on the main road unless you are in a town. Between? Nothing. And you may die (I’m being serious!) if you decide to try and walk.


Take it from me – don’t rent a car. It was nice to have, because it did dictate my arrival and departure time, and we were able to make a day trip to Pompeii, but it was an unnecessary expense. The car itself was cheap to rent (less than $100 for the week), but garaging it was very pricey (20 euros a day). Plus, anytime we wanted to use it, we had to give the hotel an hour to get it out of a very jam packed lot. This is pretty much the case with all lots on the coast. If you park the car on the street, someone is likely going to hit it. We saw may mirrorless cars and big dents on sides.

The roads are the size of a one way street with two way traffic. Add steep inclines, incredible curves and very fast drivers, and you may have a heart attack. Even the driver we hired made a lot of exasperated and fearful sounds as other drivers careened towards us. Driving in the mountains is a bit easier because there aren’t any cars parked alongside the road (making the roads slightly wider). All in all, we probably spent the same amount renting the car and garaging it as a private driver would have cost to take us to and from the airport – but I’m not sure it was worth the headache. We luckily made it out unscathed.

Food & Wine

Gluten free diners, rejoice! Italy is fabulous with gluten free meals. I emailed most restaurants before going, but for those that were last minute decisions, I didn’t have that opportunity. “Senza glutine” will take you very far, and almost everyone has gluten free pasta available. They were also surprisingly accommodating of vegetarian diets, with numerous options on menus.

The best wine I had was homemade wine (at Mamma Agata’s and at Agriturismo Villa Maria). It was sulfate free, lower alcohol and amazingly refreshing. At restaurants without this option, I stuck with the house wine. It tended to be significantly cheaper than all other glasses on the menu, and tasted great (5-6 euros per glass vs. 8 – 9 euros).

Mozzarella, lemons, limoncello, seafood and pizza are big in Southern Italy. Pasta transpires throughout the country of course, but not risotto. Learn the food that the area is famous for and stick with that. And the tomatoes? To die for. Seriously.

Pastries & Gelato

Unlike the U.S., if you want a pastry or ice cream, you must pay for it first, then go up to the counter with your receipt. We would check out the dessert case first, then make our way up to the cashier, pay, and return to order the treat. It’s just how it is. Gelato comes in cups or cones and in three sizes. You can get two flavors in a small, so don’t feel pressured to order bigger (unless you want it!).


Italy Day 6

Our last day in Italy – how bittersweet! We decided to take advantage of the sunshine and… hike! (no, no beach). There are a few trails that connect Minori to Amalfi, if you are willing to climb a mountain. We started the morning by taking a ferry from Minori to Amalfi, and made our way through the main street. I bought a hiking guide that provides landmarks to look for instead of actual maps (actually helpful!) and so once we made it to the traffic light on the main drag, we were off.

View of Amalfi after hiking up about halfway

We climbed (according to my phone), more than 120 flights of stairs, weaving our way to Minuta, a small town nestled in the Italian mountains. From Minuta, we walked to Ravello, this time taking the main road as it was a bit more direct and would take about half the amount of time as continuing through the mountain.

I had one goal in Ravello (okay two goals!): buy myself a pair of custom made Italian sandals and eat at Villa Maria because their garden looked spectacular after passing it on our first day here. We went to the sandal shop and I picked out the sandal style and the colors. And then the woman made them, customizing them to my feet and ensuring that they were comfortable. I’ve never had a pair of sandals, or any shoes for that matter, that have not gone through a break in period. They fit like gloves. Perfect. Even better? They were only 60 euros.

Lunchtime view

Gleeful with my new purchase, we headed off to Villa Maria for lunch. The views were amazing. I wasn’t even expecting that! The food was also spectacular. James had pizza and I had smoked mozzarella with garden vegetables. It was positively delightful. We rested our aching feet and took in the views.  Shortly before we left, a couple we met at the previous nights dinner sat down next to us. Funny how the world really is “so small.”

We finished our hike by descending the rest of the way to Minori. If you ever want a challenge, walk down 80 flights of stairs. Our legs were shaking by the bottom, but it didn’t stop us from grabbing our final cups of gelato at Sal Del Riso. (For 2 euros, you can get two flavors of delectable gelato). I had pistachio and crema and James had stracciatella and strawberry. The pistachio tasted as though I had just deshelled some and popped them into my mouth. Amazing.

With the sun still out, we changed into our bathing suits and spent a final afternoon at the pool before packing (always more difficult than I anticipate). We had dinner reservations at Ristorante Eolo in Amalfi that evening – somewhere I was very excited to try. The restaurant is situated in the cliffs, overlooking the town and ocean. The views were stunning – especially as the sun set.

This might be the most beautiful place on earth.

Our next door tablemates were slightly ridiculous (a mom and daughter celebrating a birthday and arguing for a good portion of the evening) but once we started eating it was easy to forget that they were there. For my first course I had octopus and veal tongue served with lemon mashed potatoes and a red sauce. For my pasta course, the most amazing risotto with a sundried tomato powder and for my meat course, fresh grilled fish, served with grilled vegetables and a lemon. James had lobster for his first course, a beautiful seaweed pasta with rabbit and oysters for his pasta course and for his meat, the sucking pig. Everything was wonderfully delicious.


For our last adventures, we had to figure out how to use the SITA bus system to get back to Minori (because calling Ambrosio just wasn’t going to happen again). We luckily did, and I’m happy to share this ride back cost us less than 3 euros together.

Italy Day 5

I must have been in fourth or fifth grade when I learned about Pompeii. I was entranced by the story and history. All those lives lost – a city buried and rediscovered. I yearned to visit the archeological site, and even sat through a painfully boring “slide show” my mom’s boss shared with us about his trip there (it was only boring because he shared nothing about Pompeii and everything about the tour group he went with…). When we booked our trip to the Amalfi coast, I hadn’t realized how close Pompeii was to Naples and Amalfi.

We hadn’t driven since arriving on Saturday – but we had planned to go on a day trip to Pompeii today, and that was going to require use of the car. We woke up early to call the front desk and ask them to bring it around the front by 8:15. We ate a quick breakfast (I found a stand that sells avocados so I am the weirdo pealing them at the continental breakfast to mash on my gluten free pitas – and top with the delicious sun ripened tomatoes they serve here!) and then hit the road. We opted to take the mountain route over the seaside route – mostly to see if it was as terrifying and just to do something different.

The mountain route was amazing. The curves are crazy, and the drivers are still maniacs, but there are less of them on the road and no one just parking on the side. No pedestrians, no tourists, just locals. Potentially a sleeping dog (we hoped!). When we reached the top, we were absolutely amazed by the view of Vesuvius and the city below. It was truly breathtaking and welcomed after a very green drive up.

After figuring out the parking situation, we skipped the lines to pick up our tickets (will call people!) and entered the park. Pompeii is massive. We wandered for more than three hours and still missed entire sections. Because September is the tail end of high season, we enjoyed significantly less people and tour groups (though there was a fair share of them). The ruins are really something special.

Fun facts we learned along the way –

  • There are holes in the sidewalk curb – these were to tie your horse or donkey to (the original parking spot)
  • Most people in Pompeii didn’t have kitchens, so there were fast food restaurants EVERYWHERE.
  • The city boasted three amphitheaters. The largest one could hold 20,000 people and cheering from the stadium upset a neighboring city so much, there was an all out brawl that caused the Roman “government” to shut it down for ten years (but that only lasted for three due to an earthquake that hit).
  • We saw the laundromat where clothing was washed in urine to remove stains.
  • The lower class worshipped Egyptian gods in hopes of life after death. Mozart visited the site in the late 1760s and was inspired to write The Magic Flute.
  • One of the conspirators that murdered Julius Caesar owned a home in Pompeii. It was impressive.
  • A few homes took up entire city blocks – one of them had a swimming pool inside.

We left the park around lunchtime (splitting a granola bar and banana to make it back to Minori because we had leftover fish waiting!). The drive back was mostly uneventful. We did get on the wrong highway but Google faithfully turned us around. This time we opted to take the sea route back. It was not nearly has horrible as the first time around. I was relieved. James was relieved. I think arriving on a Saturday afternoon on one of the last summer weekends did not work in our favor. I could see driving here in October being rather pleasant and almost fun!

It had started raining on our drive home. We had originally planned to do a walking tour of Naples but it was cancelled due to low interest. So we returned the car to the garage, and wandered around Minori for a bit (using our umbrellas, and not getting flooded out this time). We stopped by the Antiquarium – Villa Maritima – an ancient Roman villa that was two thousand years old. The structure was well preserved due to floods and debris that covered it until the 1930s when it was excavated. Very cool, and free of charge!

Afterwards, we stopped by a different bakery so James could pick up some cookies, and I could get an espresso. I had it Italian style, standing at the counter, quickly drinking it, and relishing how much better it was than the hotel coffee. I wish I knew that a few days ago!

Given the change in our afternoon plans, we decided to try another restaurant in Minori. There is a little farm in the hillside of Minori that had rave reviews and also a gluten free menu called Agriturismo Villa Maria. We made the trek upwards (this was once again, many stairs) to be greeted by beautiful views of Minori and Ravello. Once we made it to the top, we had to climb a steep driveway and even more stairs to get to the villa!

There is no menu. The family cooks what is caught fresh or harvested from their garden. After multiple tries they finally understood “senza glutine” and we were off to a marathon of food. We started with an antipasto plate – all homemade cured meats, cheeses and vegetables from the garden. Our pasta course had eggplant, tomato sauce and mozzarella (mine was gluten free). Our main course was swordfish – it was amazingly fresh and once again, they served it with the most potent lemon. For dessert, they brought James a homemade cake and me fruit. The wine was made onsite, and refreshing and delicious. Our total bill for a bottle of wine and all the plates of food was 70 euros.

We made our descent back down the mountain and feel fast asleep.

Italy Day 4

The forecast predicted rain ALL day. We were pretty sure that we’d be washed out – or at least that our kayak tour would be cancelled. I am pleased to say that neither was the case (and yet, the forecast continued to remain rain all day… hmm… Italian weather is like Italian time?)

View from the ferry to Amalfi.

This morning James and I hopped on the 8:45 am ferry to Amalfi. Once we arrived, we desperately tried to figure out how to get to Duoglio beach – about a mile from the city center. Eventually we realized we had to walk on the highway – something I was not pleased with at all. Italians here drive like maniacs, but I am slowly getting used to it, and starting to understand. After about 40 minutes, we made it to the steepest set of stairs I’ve ever laid eyes on, and made our decent down to the beach.

We booked our kayak tour through Amalfi Coast Sea Kayak. After a brief lesson on sea kayaking, we were on our way to Furore Fjord. Our guides were comical, and gave us an overview of the history of the different cities, pointed out spots where the road was exceptionally perilous with not much sandstone beneath the pavement  and even gave an explanation of the cave that was above the five-star hotel our yacht captain told us about. In case you’re wondering, it’s just a cave, but rocks keep eroding away. Time will tell how long that property sits there…

GoPros are awesome.

We kayaked through arches, into a sea cave and eventually made it to the fjord. The water was pleasantly warm, which helped make up for the amount of it that ended up on my clothes and in the boat!

At the fjord, we had a quick snack, tried to swim (the water here was less warm) and watched dare devils jump from the rock formations. After about a half an hour, we loaded back into the kayaks and experienced super tired arm syndrome. At this point, we’d been kayaking for about two hours! We eventually returned to the hidden beach, and opted to enjoy a late lunch at the restaurant on shore. I had the freshest fish – grilled and served with a potent lemon. James had pasta with mussels.

View from lunch.

The restaurant then drove us back on their inflatable dingy boat to the center of Amalfi, where we proceeded to walk around the town for 45 minutes before the ferry took us back to Minori. Amalfi is cute – and has numerous shops and a lot of tourists. We enjoyed gelato (ricotta and pear, niccotella and stratatella) and made a few purchases (my favorite wine is 9 euros here – a bottle at home runs me around $40!). We hopped back on the 4:30 ferry and relaxed at the hotel before dinner.

James on a dingy.

Dinner was again in Ravello. We could have walked but we were beyond tired after kayaking all morning. So… we called… Ambrosio. He raised his price too. Same drive, 55 euros each way. I know, I know. But if you were here, you would understand.

We had dinner at Ristoro del Moro – a Michelin star rated restaurant on a cliff overlooking Minori and Maiori. The views are AMAZING. I couldn’t get enough of them. And even though the temperature had dropped significantly, we opted to sit outside because when else will we get a chance to enjoy this?

HOW does this exist?!

The restaurant earned extra bonus points because they also had a completely gluten free menu which included pasta (and not just pasta from a box, we’re talking raviolis and gnocchi). James and I both had the octopus salad for our antipasto course – which was served with a green bean sauce and tiny diced potatoes. For the pasta course, I had the gluten free agnolotti stuffed with ricotta and spinach with basil pesto and pistachios. Oh my god. James had pasta with prawns and tomatoes. We both had red tuna for our meat course. It was served with this delicious balsamic vinegar and honey sauce. Neither of us could make it through even half our fish. Our waiter took pity and wrapped it up in lots of tinfoil for us to take home (luckily our hotel has a mini fridge!).

Following dinner, we had booked tickets for a piano recital in the Annunziata Historic Building (luckily the concert was indoors because we were both frozen!). The music was beautiful (mostly Chopin I believe). We left the recital to see that Ambrosio had called us seven times (you know, Italians can get away with this stuff – that’s borderline crazy girlfriend in America!). He just wanted to make sure we still needed a ride. And we did…

PS: They serve limoncello during the intermission.

Italy Day 3

What an absolutely wonderful day! Day 3 entailed a cooking class that I had read rave reviews of. It was a bit pricey, but I decided to go ahead and splurge.

James and I woke up early, grabbed a very quick bite to eat (and light – we were warned if we ate a regular breakfast we wouldn’t “make it” through the day by our instructor) and headed back on the hiking trails to Ravello. The wind was blowing mightily, and we were better prepared for what the walk entailed, having already done it once on Sunday. We made our way to Ravello center and people watched as the town woke up and started to come alive.

So much less sweaty this time.

30 minutes before the class was scheduled to start, we started weaving our way through the streets of Ravello and finally arrived at Mamma Agata’s Hidden Treasure.

We were ushered into the family’s home and out on a terrace that overlooked the Amalfi coast. The views were absolutely breathtaking.

The table we sat at, which overlooked the above picture. You can see in the mirrors they’ve positioned on the wall.

The rest of the class arrived and Chiara – our host and trusty translator – started serving us lemon cake and cappuccinos. Chiara did an absolutely STAND OUT JOB with my gluten intolerance. She took great care to ensure that I was able to try everything – and that it was made for me specially. I felt such warmth and happiness from this experience. Compared to our dinner last night – which did not offer me a lot of flexibility – this was a warm welcome.

My little gluten free lemon cake.

Following the light snack (ha ha), we huddled into the kitchen to meet Mamma Agata – a woman in her late 70s who speaks only Italian, but enough of it to ask all of the newly weds when our bambinos were on the way (ha ha again). We started the morning with a demonstration on how to make the eggplant for eggplant parmesan, as well as a tomato sauce (a staple in all Italian cooking). While the sauce simmered, we returned to our seats with eggplant to try along with bread, homemade olive oil, red hell (a red pepper spread) and smoked provolone cheese. Everything for me was made gluten free. It was divine. The wine was also made onsite by Chiara’s husband – and it was amazing. Low alcohol content, not too sweet and very refreshing.

Italian breakfast.

While the sauce simmered, we were able to roam the property, which boasted lemon groves, a farm, animals galore and an amazing lawn with chairs and couches facing the sea. It was truly magical.

My new friend, Moppa.

We were herded back into the kitchen to start preparing the lemon chicken and finish our eggplant parmesan. This time we were asked to try the tomato sauce, and top with parmesan cheese and red hell. Once again, they provided me gluten free bread so that I could partake. Next up we prepared two sauces – one that cooked down all the tomatoes and included sausages and peppers; another that was a much faster cooking time that included capers and olives.

Another short break back on the wonderful property, more wine, lots of water and breathtaking views.

We returned to the kitchen a final time to finish off the sauces, try the olives added to the sauces and tomatoes that were used throughout. We finished the lemon chicken, make zucchini fritters and finally sat down to enjoy a late lunch.

The food was absolutely delicious. Everything tasted amazing, and for me, everything was gluten free! I wish I could have taken all the food back to the hotel with me. The meal ended with more lemon cake and homemade limoncello. It was divine.

After saying a sad goodbye, we embarked on our journey back to Minori through the mountain hiking trails. We immediately changed at the hotel and ran to the beach for a quick swim. It took some coaxing, but eventually James joined me. The water was refreshing and I was even able to get in a little swim. We returned to the hotel, showered and walked down to the patisserie for some gelato for dinner – because who really needs to eat more food after consuming a four course late lunch plus snacks and dessert?

Italy Day 2

The weather gods were in our favor, and so we set off on Day 2 in a yacht (though small in comparison to most yachts around here) to tour the Amalfi Coast and explore the island of Capri for a few hours. The boat picked us up at the end of the Minori jetty (which is really just a pier, or a dock) and we took off to Maiori to visit Pandora’s cave. Afterwards, we jetted back across the coastline, and stopped at the Emerald Grotto. It was a bit cloudy, so not as ideal to see the green shimmering water inside this cavern in the middle of the ocean, but we paid the five euros each anyway. There were a few patches, and we enjoyed the miracle of nature.

Emerald Grotto entrance
Emerald water

We stopped between Positano and Capri for a quick swim. The water here is the purest blue. It’s absolutely breathtaking. And eerily clear. Needless to say, I’m glad I packed my goggles on a last minute whim.

The “tour” part of the boat ride was a bit comical. The first mate was in charge of telling us facts about the coastline. Instead of telling us how this massive cavern appeared in the middle of the cliffside, he instead shared that Amalfi’s best hotel (5 stars!) was directly beneath it.

We arrive at Capri around  1pm and had three hours to explore the island. Unfortunately, there was a lot of Capri I wanted to see (like an ancient Roman villa) that was just too far to get to in the time we had. So we took the funicular up the cliff to what I will describe as rich people Disneyland. The Kardashians are currently vacationing in Capri, if that helps set the stage for you. The town itself reminded me of Miami or Naples, Florida – palm trees, lots of color and way too much glitz. We people watched outside a cafe, enjoyed surprisingly decent salad (me) and pizza (James), and eventually made our way to Giardini di Augusto.

View from the Garden

On our return back to the pier, we stopped for some amazing gelato (toasted almond, crema and strawberry), got lost in the maze of streets and eventually climbed down the cliff (if only we had known there was a foot path to go up!).

We fully expected the boat to drop us off in Minori, so when they docked in Amalfi and told us we were on our to figure out how we were going to get back, James and I did a bit of a “oh crap” dance. Taxis were 35 euros (for a ten minute drive!!). The buses just look terrible. So we took a ferry and made it on with a minute to spare.

At the hotel, we showered and got dressed in our fancy clothes for a very nice dinner in Ravello at Rosellinis. The weather app told us rain was imminent. The doppler showed nothing. So we grabbed some umbrellas and decided to brave the walk (it’s about 40 minutes, but breathtaking views) and figured we would cab back. Driving here is just not an option for us. We make it up the first layer of stairs, it’s raining lightly, but nothing too bad. We feel embolden by this and start walking with some purpose. And then… the heavens (maybe the hells!) opened. It was pouring so hard that the streets started flooding. I ran underneath someone’s garage for cover and we realized that we were defeated.

So I did what any respectable girl does. I took off my shoes and started to make my way back to the hotel.

I saved my shoes by doing this. I figured anything bad on the ground was washed away by this flood. *Hopes*

James did not fare as well as I did. I would say I was damp. James was soaked. His one sole pair of pants was soaked from the ankle to thigh. Covered in mud. His shoes were another color of brown. We asked the hotel to call us a car while we dealt with this outfit disaster. The hairdryer and hair straightener did nothing for the pants, so I used a Tide to go stick to get out the mud stains and James put on his only other pair of “pants” – his new lululemon athletic pants. Shorts weren’t going to fly at this restaurant. We died laughing. He put on his soggy shoes and a new button down and we went downstairs…

This is  where we met Ambrosio – our driver. Not a taxi, a private driver who lived up to every Italian stereotype. Super tan. White capri pants. Fancy shoes. A light blue racing jacket. Aviators. Perfectly oiled back hair. And an “A” tattooed on his neck. He spoke about as much English as James speak Italian. So this made for an interesting drive. But he got us to the restaurant in one piece, and we essentially figured that we should only call him to drive us around because the other guys steal your money (we later realized this is true).

Our dinner continued our trashy American theme. Now soaked, and in athleisure, we proceeded to wrestle with the menu. The sommelier kept trying to convince me to get a glass of rose until I told him I didn’t want to spend 40 euros for a glass of wine (so he only charged me 10…) and everything gluten free on the menu was tuna, prawns or spaghetti. So I got the tuna and spaghetti (no, I don’t want a meat course.. you eat too much… I am content with this amount of food….) and James had a four course tasting menu: egg foam soup, rabbit ravioli, suckling pig and a hazelnut box with cream inside.

Ambrosio picked us up afterwards, and we made our way down the winding roads of Ravello. He charged us 80 euros – which yes is outrageous, but he saved the day, and I can’t believe I’m saying this, but we’ll probably call him again later.

Italy Day 1 (+ Night 1)

We arrived in Naples on time and made our way to the car rental agency. 45 minutes later, we climbed into a rather large automatic vehicle (for Italy that is) and took off. Everyone warned us about driving in Italy. It’s awful. People are horrible. We felt it wasn’t really that much different than congested cities in the US… that is until we reached the Amalfi coast. 15 kilometers took more than an hour. The curves were insane to begin with. The drivers? On another planet. We crawled (sorry to those behind us!) and even that didn’t help. Honestly, if scooters were banned, this would have been a breeze. Or if the cars on the road weren’t just parked there (in not a spot, just parked on the side of a very narrow road). It was stressful and horrendous and I would highly recommend hiring a car to drive you here.

We arrive at the hotel, quickly changed and headed out to explore a little Minori and find something for dinner. We ended up at Pasticceria Sal De Riso (which sells more than just pastries – though we’ll get to those too!). We sat outside, facing the ocean, I ordered a “SparkLady” which was a cocktail made from limoncello and prosecco and some other array of citrus. For dinner I ordered gluten free crepes filled with ricotta and herbs. James had a trio of mini pizzas. The food was surprisingly good (we had low expectations, especially because this place had everything you’re warned about avoiding – pictures of food, over the top decorations, outdoor patio seating…). But the real gem was inside the bakery. For dessert James got some strawberry cake and I had a gelato sundae with coffee and dark chocolate flavors. Divine.

We crawled back to the hotel and promptly got ready for bed – only having to deal with the sounds of those horrific scooters buzzing past every few minutes.

The following day we had literally nothing on our agenda, and purposely. The sun was out and we decided to hike to Ravello, which is the city next to Minori. Some things we didn’t take into account: mountains, stairs and more stairs! Google Maps said it would be a 45 minute walk (more like 90!!), but the views were breathtaking and it was fun to meander through a quaint neighborhood that did not have any roads or cars. We paused outside a church (it was Sunday) and listened to locals sining hymns in Italian. Stray cats were everywhere. It was truly remarkable and very, very sweaty. When embarking, we had little concept of the amount of water we needed. I am here to say that the random water spigots on this trail are indeed water and I have lived to tell the tale. Also, we purchased a trusty guide book that helped us navigate our way through the countryside and they called these out.

Very sweaty.

My friend, the hissing gato.

Ravello itself is absolutely charming. There are very few roads, almost everything is entirely walkable, and it was quiet. I was determined to find the Terrace of Infinity, and so after recognizing a few names from my research, we set off towards Villa Cimbrone. We were surprised by the 7 euro cover fee, but it was hands down, totally worth it. Also there were public restrooms and this is always important. We weaved our way through a beautiful garden that was restored by an Englishman after his wife passed away. The views are spectacular, and the though a bit late in the season, there were still some flowers in bloom. Infinity Terrace is stunning – and even better than every picture taken of it and posted online.

After the gardens, we strolled back through the streets towards the center of town. We stopped at a limoncello factory and a ceramics shop. James was hungry but we quickly realized that the cafes here are definitely tourist traps and definitely don’t have anything I can eat. So we headed back into Minori. James was hangry – I’ll spare you of the details – but we eventually were able to pick up some olive oil, prosciutto, fontina and bread (I had my trusty gluten free pitas at the hotel!). We enjoyed a leisurely lunch in the hotel, and then went to the pool for a few hours.

For dinner, we went to Ristorante Giardiniello in Minori, and only a few minutes from our hotel. We were seated outside, under a roof of trees. For dinner, I had the seafood salad and seafood risotto (so much seafood!). James also had the risotto and tuna for his appetizer. I stuck with the house white wine (so good) and at the end of the meal, they brought complementary limoncello. It’s a good thing I like this stuff!

We opted to do dessert at Sal Del Riso. James had a pear and ricotta cake while I had a dome of chocolate and almond mousse, filled with a cherry jam and covered in chocolate. It was delightful.

PS Italian mosquitoes are a real thing. They do not seem to be deterred by American bug spray. I’ll keep trying though.

Italy (Getting There)

Back in January I tore my ACL skiing. When my doctor gave me the clear to have surgery later down the right (vs. that winter/spring), I jumped on the opportunity to buy tickets to Italy. But instead of our usual city dwelling excursions, we opted to do the Amalfi coast and a little bit of Naples.

I booked tickets through Alitalia. We splurged and spent an extra $200 round trip each to upgrade to Premium Economy. Days leading up to the flight though, I started reading horrific reviews of Alitalia, the Premium Economy class and luggage weights. Uh oh. I am hear to dispel the myths that plague travel forums and blogs! And also to share a little bit about my elite packing skills.

Alitalia only allows carry on luggage that weighs less than 8kg (a little over 17 lbs) in addition to a personal item (which I always convince people is a backpack. Americans here afterall!). We bought a luggage scale back when we flew Wow Air and had a 5 kg limit. I knew I could do this – but I was going to Italy for a full week, not a long weekend. And no, checking a bag was not an option. I did not want to deal with picking it up, rechecking it during our layover in Rome to Naples, and that’s just not my MO. If I can get away with not checking a bag, I don’t.

So here’s what I packed:

  • I purchased a light weight Kenneth Cole suitcase before my trip to California with the family. This proved to be a lifesaver. It took up a very minimal amount of my 8 kg.
  • 3 bathing suits +  3 cover ups
  • 5 dresses (3 nice for dinner, 2 day dresses)
  • 2 pairs shorts (1 workout, 1 black)
  • 4 tops
  • 1 Longchamp duffle bag (these fold up to next to nothing and make coming back with all my souvenirs significant easier – I will check my bag on the return trip home)
  • Undergarments + pajamas
  • 2 workout tops
  • 1 hair straightener (purchased in the EU because it’s just not an option to use one from the US with a converter)
  • 1 pair nice sandals

Yes, that’s it. In my suitcase at least. Alitalia does not weigh your personal item. I purchased a Tumi backpack for travel and let me tell you, other than it not having an outside pocket for a water bottle, this thing is amazing. In the Tumi, I managed to fit:

  • All of my toiletries, makeup, liquids, chargers, glasses, sleepmask, etc.
  • 2 pairs of shoes (Birkenstocks and water shoes for the rocky shore!)
  • A turkish towel (also an amazing buy, rolls up super small, and doubles as a blanket on the plane)
  • My camera, an extra lens and charger
  • Kindle
  • Purse with the usual inside
  • Tickets, papers, international drivers licenses
  • Food! Against the Grain pitas, Kind bars, dried chickpeas, almonds
  • Scarf
  • Compression sleeve (sadly, the ACL does bother me on flights)
  • Neck pillow
  • Baseball hat
  • Umbrella
  • Hiking trails of the Amalfi coast

My suitcase weighed 7.8 kg. James made it in (barely!) at 8 kg. A luggage weight was absolutely critical to ensuring this success. I also typically bring iron spray, a tide to go stick and a small packet of tide for any bathroom sink laundry. My backpack probably weighed more than my suitcase.

OK, let’s move along to the airport/flying experience. Because we saved $100 each by not having to check a bag, we treated ourselves to passes to the first class lounge in Logan. Air France lounge is not exactly the best, but it beats the horribly crowded and angry airport. This is not posted anywhere online, but you can purchase a day pass for $35 to the lounge. It’s quiet, there is free wifi, plenty of food (at one point they brought out sushi and roasted veggies, so I had a snack) and if you drink before red eyes, lots and lots of liquor, wine and beer. My rule of thumb is nothing to drink but water and a melatonin. Magic.

The Premium Economy class is absolutely fine. In fact, I was thrilled after reading so many horrible reviews. I would compare it to first class on a domestic flight – thought the flight attendants are not as attentive and the food is sub par – but I never really expect much from airplane food (hence bringing all the aforementioned above!)

The seats recline significantly more than coach, they are wider (for four seats in coach, there was three in premium) and larger screens for their entertainment system. There was even a foot rest! We each got about 5 hours of sleep on the 8 hour flight – not too shabby. Enough to drive to Minori once we land in Naples.

Of course the Italy stamp was faded. I have literally 1090384983 stamps from Iceland though.