Packed up and full of breakfast we said goodby to most of the “cooking” group, including MaryEllen & Bill (who were headed home), and Randye & Michael (who were off to rent a car to visit a friend in Umbria and then to Florence and surrounds). Nancy, Jeff, Marsha and I waited to be picked up by our driver/tour guide, Paolo. He was highly recommended by Randye and Michael who used his services on a previous trip. They were right as you’ll see.
The weather forecast for the duration of our trip was pretty dismal – cooler with very high winds, rain and thunderstorms. Boy, did we luck out as you can see. Some sporadic sprinkles here and there, clouds and sun, and most of the real rain and wind overnight.
These photos were from the trip from Naples on the Bay of Naples around, over and through the mountains to the other side of the peninsula to Sorrento and the Amalfi Coast along the Tyrrhenian Sea and the Gulf of Salerno. Paolo was a great driver on the narrow mountain roads, diverting to the coast road so we could see these sights before landing at our hotel in Sorrento. He was a font of knowledge about the geology, geography, culture, history and people of the area with his quiet, non-stop banter. We were so glad not to be driving – just looking and listening!
The beautiful, modernistic, four-starHotel Continental in Sorrento would serve as our “home” for the next 3 1/2 days. The views from the balconies and the park in front of the hotel were magnificent. That’s Naples and Vesuvius off in the distance.
Sorrento itself, especially in the old town (where we were) is fairly flat, a layer above the beach front and below the mountains above. It was late lunch time, and we also found out the the Naples soccer team was playing Rome that afternoon. So, we tried our best to find a cafe where we could eat and watch. Forget it! Games from the English Premier league and Germany’s Bundesliga, but no Napoli??? We asked a waiter at an English Pub who promptly told us that they “hated Napoli” in Sorrento and would never put them on their screens! Oh well, he was a character and fun, so we decided to forgo another Italian meal for some good ol’ fish & chips and draft Guiness. Turns out to be the best fish & chips we’ve ever had (besides maybe the Grouper in that format in Alaska). The local white fish filet was huge, moist and lightly breaded — it was the perfect diversion. We were so full from breakfast and lunch that we decided to walk it off for a while, exploring the neighborhood.
We got a little lost wandering by the shops, restaurants and hotels and the ladies didn’t believe us – that the quiet downhill route would lead to the hotel (they didn’t feel like going back up if we were wrong – actually neither did we). We asked the cute little fellow above at a stunning, roman-walled event facility just above the sea, if we were going the proper direction. He meowed, “yes”. And, fortunately for Jeff and me, he was correct.
It was late and we really didn’t feel like scrambling out for another proper dinner, so we headed to the bar for a drink, some snacks, and a couple hands of mahjong (we had all insisted that Marsha bring her travel set – in my suitcase).
This is where we met Giovanni, the bartender and a lot more (note: he’s the poster boy for the hotel – above), right out of central casting. With light jazz, Sinatra and Tony Bennet tunes in the background, we were really in the midst of a 1940s feature film. Jeff and I were impressed, and the ladies were totally enamored. Giovanni’s been at the hotel for 30 years and couldn’t have been more gracious and hospitable. The season was coming to an end, the hotel was quiet and would be closing in a couple of weeks, so Giovanni made us feel like his best friends. Over the next few nights he gave us Happy Hour prices on all our drinks (though they hadn’t offered Happy Hour for a few weeks), gave us little sandwiches and special snacks, and even brought special bread and his neighbor’s first cold pressing of his olives (glorious) – just for us.
We had a decision to make with Paolo early the next morning. The weather forecast was terrible, with storms, high winds and potential flooding. We’d make our decision to do the Amalfi Coast tour with Paolo then, or postpone for the following day. If postponed, we would put on the rain coats and bring the umbrellas for the Sorrento walking tour in Rick Steves’ tour book. We’ll let you know tomorrow too. Good night.