It had only taken us five days in Santorini to get a healthy dose of Vitamin D, our tan was well and truly underway! Though as soon as we touched down in Naples airport and I was graced with the scorching sun of the european heatwave I feared it was time to slip slop slap.
The city of Napoli does have a reputation for being more dangerous for tourists than most Italian cities (we have heard first-hand from other Aussie travellers having had their pockets picked at the train station) though for me the mercury hitting 42 degrees was more concerning. It certainly doesn't mean you should avoid the city or feel scared; we were greeted by some of the warmest local smiles and the most helpful airport staff well before Gianni responded in their native tongue
Unfortunately, this was an '8 course degustation' menu tour of Europe meaning we only had 3 days here to give my parents a taste of a place that I could quite happily spend 3 months at; so we skipped the city, hopped straight into our hire-car and Gianni hurtled down the autostrade. He was travelling at speeds more akin to a racetrack to the cheers of my father (and the backseat berating of my mother and I) Although it seemed as though we were barely moving away from the ominous shadow of Vesuvius. Yep, another volcano; we like to live life on the edge! The mountain proudly watches over the entire bay of Naples, having given life to its most beautiful scenery and simultaneously (once upon a time) taking plenty of life, as the towns of ashes Pompeii and Herculaneum can attest.
The 90 minute drive over the mountains to the Amalfi coast was broken up by a beautiful dinner, spent catching up with some beautiful local friends at a quaint little restaurant with very big views of the peninsula. My parents were in awe of the landscape already and we hadn't even taken them over the peak to see my favourite side yet!
On the Amalfi Coast in high season there is such huge demand for hotels you must be ready to pay a serious premium on accomodation. Most of the 5 star hotels are dated, but this is certainly part of their charm, an homage to the 50's and 60's when they were the playgrounds of world-leaders and the rich and famous. We were now also with two close friends travelling as a party of six, so instead of forking out $1,500 per night for a room for each couple, we very fortunately found a little hidden gem. Villa Principessa was a charming five-storey villa, built into the cliff-side in true Amalfi style that could accomodate up to 9 people and so it proved to be the perfect option for us. It is conveniently perched between the town of Minori and the tourist hub of Amalfi and included parking (which believe me is important in this area), private sea access (another rare and priceless asset), a shared pool, lush gardens and all the modern conveniences. We arrived late that night, greeted by a huge assortment of the freshest fruit, and by the lovely Franco, who gave us a quick tour and willingly ran marathons up the stairs to take care of our luggage for us all. The front door of our villa opened up DIRECTLY to the main 1.5 lane highway that hugs the cliff side; which sounds scary yes, but for those who have visited Amalfi before, it is really actually the best location you can ask for.
The next morning we explored nearby Minori for breakfast and the award-winning Sole del Riso Pasticceria (I had been dreaming of sfogliatelle and delizie since last year). With our belly's full we drove to Santa Caterina Hotel to spend a day by the ocean relaxing. It it one of my personal favourites in the area and as it was linked with the Villa that we had booked we were able to indulge in some of the silver-spoon, water-side service we had become accustomed to in Santorini! We had traded the black sand beaches for a rocky cliff-face, the turquoise Aegean sea for the crystal blue Tyrrhenian sea and the traditional moussaka for a home-made lasagne; slightly different experiences but equally as memorable. A short walk from the hotel down to the beautiful and infamous town of Amalfi for our first (of many) gelato was the perfect end to our first relaxing day.
The next morning we went down to the same pasticceria again for a quick take-away as we boarded our private chartered yacht from Minori. Intent on showing my parents all the best parts of the Amalfi Coast in a such a short time we had no choice but to splurge; but I am glad to say it was worth every penny. Our captain Vincenzo took us wherever we wanted, getting us private and exclusive views of jewels that are hard to see by car or foot including the hidden town of Furore and views of Ravello, Conca Dei Marini and Positano that we had never witnessed. The highlight though was our stop at the island of Capri; private views of the four grotto's around the island finishing with lunch at a charming sea-side seafood restaurant reached directly by boat. We spent a few hours working that lunch off around town sampling the shopping of Capri; mum and I were in heaven, and the rest were certainly not complaining! A quick swim at a private beach and a stop by the famous blue grotto on the way home and we were dropped back to the doorstep of our private villa around 6pm, with its sea access certainly coming in handy. A quick shower and we ventured by car direct to the town of Positano to experience the nightlife and enjoy a light dinner amidst its beauty. That itinerary alone was one of the best ways I can think of spending a single day in Amalfi; needless to say we slept well that night.
We returned on our final day to Positano again to experience its boutique shops and restaurants up close under the natural sun-light. A quick dip in the beach and then up the mountain to Ravello. This town, although further from the seaside action was a favourite of my last trip and I knew it would be for my parents too. It was known for centuries to be the favoured spot for aristocrats in Napoli so we spent the afternoon visiting the breathtaking Villa Cimbrone and Villa Ruffalo; with gardens and panoramic outlooks that made you feel as though you had royalty in your blood! It was up in this little town we had one of our best lunches of our trip, at an unlikely little hole in the wall called Mimi Pizzeria. Their respect for simple, home-style neapolitan cooking along with their access to some of the finest organic produce growing in the south of Italy made this well-priced lunch hard to beat!
It was three short days very well spent; perfect location, perfect weather, perfect itinerary. With Gianni's family hailing from a mountain village not far from here, he left feeling very proud as our travelling party concurred with me; the Amalfi Coast is one part of Italy you simply cannot miss.