Italy is an eccentric and beautiful country. Whether you are visiting the Vatican city, buying lemons from Amalfi or taking pictures of the leaning tower of Pisa, Italy is full of character, packed with jaw dropping scenery telling you a life time of history. And of course not to mention, Italy offers fine wine, good cheese and the some of the world’s greatest gelato!
Last summer we decided to venture out to the Amalfi Coast and then head back up to Rome for a of couple days (my husband wanted to see the Coliseum, a Gladiator fan of course). And now that I have visited Italy twice (Rome, Florence and Pisa 2011), I thought I’d share my very own Italy guide with you!
Planning is key: I was a little anxious when planning this romantic little getaway as I didn’t know what there was to do or see in the Amalfi coast and more importantly I was a little worried about getting from town to town and then back up to Rome. So the organizer in me took to Google and talking to people in Italy to make sure we made the most of our time.
We flew directly into Naples as we only had 7 days to make the most of Amalfi and Rome. We decided to start off in Amalfi (3 nights and 4 days) and then head up north to Rome (3 nights and flight back from Rome). We arranged for the hotel to pick us up from airport and take us directly to our hotel. You can also take the Sita bus from the Airport which is much cheaper (like €2-5 each) but I also read there are many windy roads and some buses not air conditioned (and if you are visiting in summer be prepared to melt). You can also purchase tickets for the Circumvesuviana Line at the Naples train station to make your way towards Sorrento or Sarelo.
With all of our luggage and wanting to the most of the time we had, we decided it was safer to pay extra and get to the hotel via car so we could also enjoy a scenic route. Our hotel charged us €100 for a transfer from Naples airport to Positano and it took nearly 2 hours to reach our hotel due to traffic. However we stopped along the way to take scenic pictures of Sorrento and drink fresh orange juice from little street stalls.
The Amalfi Coast is an example of a Mediterranean landscape which includes a combination of great beauty and gripping drama. Gorgeous little towns such as Sorrento, Ravello, Positano and Sarelo make up the Amalfi coast. After much research, we chose Positano as our base town and this was the best decision.
Positano is the coast’s most picturesque and photogenic town, with tiny houses tumbling down to the sea in a cascade of sun-bleached peach and pink dreamy colors. No less colorful are its steep streets and steps lined with wisteria-draped hotels, smart restaurants and fashionable boutiques. An added bonus is that you can reach Capri, easily from Positano.
We stayed 3 nights at Hotel Savoia Positano. Our hotel was great, nice lobby area, clean rooms and a reasonable array of breakfast each morning. We didn’t get any cooked foods but there was enough selection to fill us up. A huge bonus was that our hotel was facing the beautiful backdrop of buildings (make sure you ask for a room with this view). Waking up each morning and sitting on the balcony was just amazing. There is no internet Wi-Fi connection in the room and only available in the lobby and breakfast area (although I was able to steal outside Wi-Fi from other hotels by standing like a human antenna on my balcony!). In our three/four days in Positano, we visited Capri, tried and failed at the attempt of the Path of Gods and then did a tour of the neighboring towns via car.
It is mandatory to eat ice cream when exploring Italy (says me) so we grabbed a cone from Gelateria Artigianale Home Made Ice Cream place everyday. It was literally a 2 minute walk from our hotel and the ice cream was just amazing!!
One evening we decided to have dinner at Le Suirense. This hotel was only a 5 minute walk from our hotel and had some amazing reviews (also a good option to stay although was more expensive). We reached the restaurant at around 6pm, however we were told it was fully booked for the next two months. A little deflated, we decided to get dinner somewhere else. As we were leaving, the manager recommended going to the balcony area of the hotel where they served drinks. We decided to go and at least have a drink and I am so glad we did. We were able to grab a table at the front of the balcony area. The view was A-M-A-Z-I-N-G. We got lucky as we got to keep the table a little longer and we ordered food from the bar menu. It was a limited version of the restaurant menu but we were not disappointed. We dined eating delicious food, drinking gorgeous cocktails whilst watching the sun go down. The pink skies were mesmerizing. A top date night!
Another cool place we had dinner at was Chez Black. This restaurant was a little touristy and we had to wait half an hour for a table, but it was a beautiful place and worth the wait. With cute little lamps, blue chairs and outdoor seating facing the marina area this was a great little sea food gem. We were lucky though as of course they served pizza – which was delicious. A safe bet for a nice little evening meal!
Capri, is an island in Italy’s Bay of Naples and is famous for its beautiful landscape and upscale hotels. One of its best-known natural sites is the Blue Grotto, a dark cavern where the sea glows crystal blue, the result of sunlight passing through. In summer, Capri’s dramatic, cove-studded coastline draws many yachts. The port to catch the ferry was only a 10 minute walk from our hotel. We got the Ferry to Capri which was around €28 each return. I would recommend getting a ferry that gives you a whole day in Capri as you want to make most of your time there as Capri is just gorgeous.
Once we got to Capri, we didn’t join the big group Blue Grotto tours as the lines were long, it was extremely hot and people were complaining of not being able to see the grotto even though they had paid.
We decided to pay a local person around €170 to take us around the island on our own private boat for 2 hours. This was the best decision we made. I would highly recommend getting your own boat, as you can leisurely see the island in your own space and time. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to see blue grotto as it was closed (waves were too high and we had started our tour at 1 – I would recommend getting your own private boat tour first thing in the morning for the best chances to the see the grotto).
After our tour, we also got the train to the top of Capri and walked around the town – which was beautiful. At the top of Capri, we stumbled upon a little juice and ice-cream spot. And it was there I was taken to heaven as I had the best ice cream ever. It was so delicious!
Amalfi, Ravello and Pompeii
On our last day we hired a private car and driver from the hotel to take us to Amalfi, Ravello, Pompeii and then finally Naples train station (so we could catch a 7pm train to Rome). With our own driver and private car, this cost us €35 an hour and then additional €100 to be dropped off at Naples train station. We started the tour around 10-11am and finished at 6-7pm. This was really worth it as going from town to town is very difficult in the Amalfi coast. Buses are hot, no air conditioning and the roads are very narrow! This saved us a lot of hassle as we weren’t prepared to visit the small towns via bus or train lugging our baggage around sweltering in the ridiculous heat.
Our first stop was Amalfi. We only spent 45 minutes here and we walked around the main street. There were little cafes, shops and lemons everywhere! I ended up buying a couple of lemon soaps for my bathroom (they smell so fresh).
When life gives you lemons… make lemon soap.
We then made our way to Ravello. I have to say this was one of my favourite little towns ever. It was so quaint and beautiful. It was a scene of green mountains and pebble streets and was truly breathtaking.
We walked around, ate good food and visited the big estate at the top of the hill. It was called villa Cimbrone. Beautiful! As we were so high up, the views of clouds and luscious green trees just made me so happy. There was a small fee to view the gardens but it was worth it. The gardens were well kept and we got to see some amazing views being so high up. We were literally next to the clouds.
If you are visiting Ravello, you must dine at Cumpa Cosimo. It is amazing!! Our driver had recommended this place to us and he was spot on. Once we got to Ravello, we walked around and decided to eat first. We found Cumpa Cosimo after about 10 minutes of walking and I have to say, we had the best authentic Italian pizza and pasta here. The food was delicious. The food was well presented and we finally got to eat some authentic Italian food. There were news paper articles on the wall of this restaurant being reviewed by critics in 1912 as an outstanding piece of heaven. The owner was a little Italian lady wearing a yellow apron and flowers in her hair. Once we had asked for the bill, she came to offer chocolate cake or watermelon for free. When we turned down the chocolate cake, she couldn’t understand why we had said no. She was very sweet. Big thumbs up from me.
Our final sight seeing stop was Pompeii. This is a huge excavation site of the town left after mount Vesuvius erupted in 24 August AD 79. The people and buildings of Pompeii were covered in up to twelve different layers ash measuring up to 25 meters deep. Pompeii, is a site of everything that was left behind. There are even sculptures of real people left in the same position they were found when they were covered in ash. Pompeii, is worth seeing if you have a whole day as it’s a huge site and can take several hours to view. There is hardly any shade on the site, so remember to take your umbrella for shelter if you are visiting on a hot summers day. We only had limited time didn’t get to see it all but was nice to say we had been there.
Another cool thing to see is mount Vesuvius (close to Pompeii). You can go to top by cable car and eat at the restaurant on top. However, as we only had one day to explore, we didn’t get chance to do this. (Please note you can get to Pompeii and Mount Vesuvius via train from any of the Amalfi towns as well). Our final stop was Naples train station where we caught our train to Rome. Our tickets cost around €43 each and we were in Rome Termini within 2 hours.
(On my first trip to Rome, we did a day trip to Florence and Pisa. We caught the 6am train from Rome termini to Florence (around 2 hours) and then got another train to Pisa (another hour). We were able to spend the morning in Pisa, the afternoon in Florence and then headed back to Rome on the 7pm train.) Totally worth it if you have the time.
Rome is unquestionably one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Known as the Eternal City, I just love exploring Rome on foot, seeing every little cobble street filled with cafes, pizzerias, gelato shops and then all of a sudden you stumble across a beautiful ancient building. For this trip, we stayed at the Hotel Dei Borgognoni. It was walking distance to the Coliseum. It was a decent hotel, with a good selection for breakfast. As we arrived late from Amalfi Coast on our first night, the front desk gentlemen was nice enough to upgrade us and we got a room with our own little back garden. It was beautiful.
As we only had three days in Rome, on our first day, we visited the Coliseum, Forum and Palatine Hill. We bought our tickets for all 3 at the Forum to avoid the long lines at the Coliseum. The Coliseum is a piece of art in itself. It is amazing to think so many battles were held there accommodating 50-80,000 spectators.
All 3 places are connected, so once you see the Coliseum ask someone where the Forum is or if you see the Forum information center – it’s right across the street from it. It took us about 3-4 hours or so to visit all 3 places. The cost of the ticket for Forum, Palatine Hill and Coliseum was 12 euros total per person. Once we got the entrance of the Coliseum, we actually decided to join a guided walking tour and paid around 14 euros. We are glad we did this as we got to listen to all the historical knowledge about the sites as we travelled in a group of around 10 people and our guide was friendly. The only downfall of this was it was extremely hot and if we wanted to stay in a location or the shade a little longer, we couldn’t and had to keep with the group.
The next day we visited the Vatican city. This is a religious and beautiful site. We bought our admission tickets for a tour guide in advance from the Vatican website because buying tickets online is the only way to avoid the long lines at the entrance. The tour guide took us through the Vatican Museum. Then we visited the Sistine Chapel and St. Peter’s Basilica. The Vatican is the only place in Rome we did not walk to. It took us 4 hours to visit the Vatican Museum, Sistine Chapel and St Peters Basilica. The admission price plus tour guide, service & fees cost total 50 euros for both of us when I bought them in advance online. Otherwise, admission only is 14 euros per person. I think it was worth having a guided tour of the Vatican city as well. We got to hear history and stories we wouldn’t have otherwise. It was a little cooler this day, so the heat was much more bearable. Remember, all ladies have to cover their shoulders either by wearing appropriate clothing or wearing a shawl.
We also visited the Trevi Fountain and the Spanish steps. And yes that’s right, I found the cutest little afternoon tea place right near the famous Spanish Steps. We had a cuppa tea at Babington’s Tea Room which is a corner of English style eccentricity in Rome. This was a great way to end our trip.
So there you have it, my little Italian adventure. If you are planning a trip for the summer, make sure to pack your hat, sun block, walking shoes and space in your belly for lots delicious gelato! If you need any help planning, please get in touch!
Happy vacay planning!
British Girl Blogging with a Cuppa