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 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.