Dubrovnik,Croatia

Holiday in King’s Landing: Dubrovnik, Croatia

Your first glimpse of the Old City in Dubrovnik is an incredible sight.  Whether you’re driving in from the craggy hills of Croatia or if you’re on a boat in the Adriatic’s cerulean sea, the city is breathtaking.  The Old City’s walls are up to 20 feet thick and 72 feet high in certain places.  This fact makes Dubrovnik one of the most preserved cities in Europe since potential conquerers weren’t able to get through these barriers for centuries.  No wonder this city is the perfect site to protect the Iron Throne! If you got that reference, then you might already know that the Old City is one of the sets for King’s Landing, a fictional setting in the series Game of Thrones.  I couldn’t help making up my own GoT tour each day when adventuring within the city walls.IMG_4218

We met Zach and Amanda at the airport, and caught a cab to our Airbnb which was right inside of Buza gate, the Northern entrance into the Old City.  Once you enter the gate, picture steep staircases like in Positano, Italy, flanked by weaving vines and ferns alongside the limestone walls.  Laundry lines hang outside of flat windows and you’ll see from my pictures that I was smitten with these historic streets.

A random start to our trip: our Airbnb host’s mother was actually born in Camden, New Jersey if you can believe it!  She welcomed us with a bit of her family history, showed us around the flat, and then suggested Lady PiPi.  It’s a restaurant around the corner from ours but people come from all over the city for a meal.  We lucked out with only two people in line before us.  We had our first tastes of meat and mead (ok, really meat and an Adriatic feast of shellfish and fish grilled with lemon and garlic and potatoes)…and Croatian wine.  I learned that the whites are dry from Konavle, Korcula, and the Peljesac Peninsula.  Reds should come from the Peljesac Peninsula as well and one should sample bottles of Dingac, Plavac, and Postup. I digress…

The terra cotta rooftops were stunning from our restaurant’s outdoor veranda, and we were covered from summer rain showers since the roof of the outdoor space was a trellis with thick grape vines.

First stop after lunch, and after picking up an umbrella, was figuring out how to climb the walls of the Old City.  We picked our way down to the Stradun, the main thoroughfare paved with smooth limestone slabs.  Amanda stopped into the bulk Pirate Candy shop for a ‘healthy’ gluten-free snack to nourish us on our adventures.  Past Onofrio’s large water fountain, you can buy tickets to walk the 1.2 km of the Old City walls.  I described how Varys’ little birds were scurrying along notable corridors, and how Cersei was plotting from the same lookouts we were scaling.

Zach conquered his fear of heights for this trip, and did an amazing job of walking the entire perimeter of the Old City!  He held handrails, sometimes with his knees shaking, and always leaned on his best bud (see video c/o Amanda!).

The views from atop the walls were gorgeous even on a rainy day.  The waters are too clear, and the rain kept other visitors away for the time being.  We shared stories of our travels as we wandered the ins and outs of the walls.  Each lookout seemed more beautiful than the last.  Of course, I continued my GoT story-telling – ‘here is where Jamie Lannister was practicing his one-armed swordmanship’ and ‘these stairs lead to where the Mountain lives’ 😉

The harbor was quiet because of the stormy weather and most tourists were parked at cafes to wait out the rain.  I liked how the lanterns on the streets doubled as storefront names, and how we could fill up our water bottles at the fountains around town.

Buza Bar, a no-frills joint without food or hot drinks, came highly recommended as a wonderful spot to watch the waves crash as the sun sets.  We arrived earlier than most so we could get a good seat to relax before dinner.  I wasn’t a big fan of the Croatian beer they served, but it’s worth taking a rest here for the views!  Buza also means ‘hole’ hence walking through a passage, or rather, a hole-in-the-city-wall to get there.

We ate at Azur on our first night, a spot that cleverly calls its food ‘Cro-Asian’.  Sitting outside for meals was one of the highlights for me, and this little tucked away spot didn’t disappoint.  We had a wonderful server who rightly suggested the tacos to start.  My laksa had a wonderful bounty of seafood but the broth left something to be desired.  We also got a proper wine bar suggestion from our server- D’Vino Wine Bar. It’s in the heart of the old town and it’s incredibly cozy whether you want to sit inside with subtle lighting or outside with a cushion on the stairs that lead down to the doorway.  It was a really fun night because we met up with Corey’s colleague Tondi, her sister Nyasha, and their good friend Ella, who had just come back from a private boat tour around the Dalmatian islands.  Their pictures were amazing!  I also learned a bit about the reputations of Northern and Southern Germany, and a lot about how Hamburg is an unsung hero when it comes to visiting Germany (I’m in!).  Side Note: Our server also said that Matusko Wine Bar was another spot we should visit but our group didn’t make it past D’Vino that night.


Good morning, Dubrovnik!  Today, we decided that we’d take a trip to Lokrum which is just a fifteen minute ferry ride from the old port.  Admittedly, we didn’t have a serious plan scheduled–we just walked down to the docks and lucked out that the next boat was leaving in five minutes.  The landing dock at Lokrum is a quiet cove that makes you feel as if you’d discovered a quaint island away from it all, even if the major hotels are just across the way.

Lokrum is a mix of shrubs, trees, and beaches with huge stone slabs, rather than sand. It’s highly recommended that you bring or buy water shoes to avoid sharp rocks and infamous sea urchins–though we didn’t see any of these probably because the beach areas we visited were didn’t have actual shores- it was more of a drop directly into the ocean type deal.  It’s also worth a mention that Lokrum is known for its peacock and rabbit populations.  They’re pretty bold if you have snacks, and are indifferent to your cameras.

This first set of pictures was taken on Lokrum’s nude beach.  The signs leading to the beach warn you that you are not allowed if donning a swim suit, but the local woman at the cafe said no one was sunning themselves this early.  It really is a prime location for a beach, nude or otherwise.  The slanted rocks basically give each person their own platform for laying out.

We trekked further around the island and found the main beach on site.  You can see more rocks form the beach area rather than sandy shores.  Check our our little pool below!  We enjoyed taking it all in even though the waves were higher than usual due to an incoming storm.   It was crazy seeing tourists try to brave the waves.  I couldn’t look half the time since I was worried someone would get taken out to sea!  It was sunny at the beach, but once back on the boat, we hit some choppy waves.  Zach suggested we play a game so that I wouldn’t have a panic attack on the boat. Thanks for that!

This afternoon started our actual attempt at finding the Game of Thrones landmarks in the city.  First, we found Rector’s Palace.  Apparently, the stairs at Rector’s Palace are adorned with hands on each rail, but we didn’t pay the ticket price to get that close to see them. Instead, I captured this shot when the guard wasn’t looking to make sure that I could prove I was in the same place as the spice trader from Qarth (images far left, top and bottom).

Next, Cersei’s famed walk of atonement starts atop the Jesuit Staircase.  If you are going to watch the series, then that’s all I can say to avoid spoiler alerts.  (center images top and bottom)

Finally, the exterior of Museum Rupe stunts as the outside of Littlefinger’s brothel.  Tyrion and Oberyn Martell are seen walking away from this space in deep conversation about an upcoming plot for revenge (far right, images top and bottom)

 

We ate huge pizzas at Mea Culpa, one of the many pizza places located in the Old City. It’s a cheap meal if you avoid a bottle of Zindfandel which basically doubles your bill.  After lunch, we caught a very small Dali exhibit with a lot of work that I hadn’t seen before. Still bizarre for my taste, but interesting to see earlier works before his melting clocks.

Another beautiful sunset from our Airbnb as we all took a bit of rest before the main event: Konoba Dubrava.  You have to call in advance if you want to order meat ‘under the bell’ which is the restaurant’s version of a slow cooker or of a smoker. I couldn’t tell you entirely, but definitely call ahead! We were told there would be lamb and veal, and we were not upset by double ‘sheep’ on our plates.  With stewed potatoes, and a suggested order of veggies/salad, you will be stuffed to the gills.  The seafood salad was also a nice touch and they serve an aperitif of cherry, walnut, or plum- basically like a sherry before dinner.  We whiled away the final night even while a storm hit.  Guests are all seated outside under awnings, and we saw a few of the coverings give way and soak guests as the nearby tables.  We stayed cozy, filled our bellies, and talked finances, family backgrounds, politics, and debated about sending our future kids to GS or nah.

Back at our airbnb, we sang 90’s r&b, finished a bottle of rose, and tried to plan our excursions for the following day.  Unfortunately, we had to say our goodbyes to Amanda and Zach the next morning. They decided to ride the gondola to the top of the hill, and then a walk down.  They were heading out for the islands of Split and Hvar and only had the morning before leaving Dubrovnik.  Since Corey and I didn’t have any big island tours in our agenda, we decided to make our way out to Gruz Harbor which is just north of the Old City.


Gruz Harbor the main port where ferries and cruise ships are carrying passengers further out along the Dalmatian coast.  Our plan was to head out to the three Elafiti Islands (Kolocep, Lopud, and Sipan).  Lopud, we heard, had the best beaches yet still didn’t allow commercial vehicles on the island like Sipan, so we started there and figured we’d hop back to Kolocep later in the afternoon.  The ferry was relaxing and the waters were so clear you could see fish swimming below the boat.  We were the first boat to arrive at Lopud, and we discovered then that there wasn’t a need to island hop.  We recommend taking one of the golfcart cabs to Sunj beach since it’s a literal hike to the other side of the island. You can catch the cabs about a 10 min walk from the harbor, if you just follow the signs to the beach.  I picked up a couple of snacks and water bottle along the main strip as well.

When we arrived, we rented the 50% off chairs and umbrella even though we weren’t really sure why they were cheaper.  I should mention that we didn’t need water shoes for this trip as the beach is one of the few sandy shores in the area.  Private boats anchor outside of the cove buoys so that passengers can swim into the beach area.  We took the opportunity to swim out to see the yachts.  I was happy we had our snacks (a peach and pastry with ground meat and large water bottle) since there was only one restaurant in the area.  The sunshine was wonderful, and we couldn’t help but reflect on how lucky we were to be swimming in the Adriatic sea.

We caught a golfcart back to town for the 3pm ferry.  There wasn’t a lot to explore around the main strip. We saw a few stalls and more pizza restaurants, but decided to beat the crowds that would be piling into the last boat at 6pm.  We looped past Sipan, before being dropped off at Gruz harbor.  We had another pastry and a glass of wine in Lapad while waiting for Pantarul Restaurant to open.  Umm, but it never opened.  I failed to read that the restaurant is closed on Monday. Well…. more exploring down near the Lapad harbor! It’s definitely more of a neighborhood feel, and there were families at the restaurant that we finally found on the water- Orsan. The moonlight on the water was my favorite of the meal- oh yea, and Corey finding out how just how sunburnt he’d gotten during our first course.

After dinner, we decided to find the best ice cream spot, and all online votes pointed to Dolce Vida in the Old City.  It had the infamous After Eight ice cream (looked like mint chocolate chip ice cream).  I enjoyed the Forrest Berries though my stomach paid for it later.  We walked along the moonlight lanes for as long as my tummy could handle it.  The streets are so magical!


Our Airbnb shared on the morning of that we wouldn’t be able to have a late check out, and that we wouldn’t be able to store our bags. Argh!  So we solved the problem by renting a car.  I’d read that Ston had something akin to a mini-Great Wall of China, and that Mali Ston, Ston’s next door neighbor, was known by gastronomes for amazing seafood.  The gentleman at the car rental also suggested Seosko Domaćinstvo Ficović for lunch.  That was enough for us.  We’d figure out the rest when we got to the seafood restaurant.  We drove along the bright green pines and looked down the cliffs at the sparkling waters.

Ston does have 14th century fortifications to guard against an attack by sea.  The town is incredibly small and very relaxed which is probably very different from when it was a town poised to protect the Republic of Ragusa (the former name of Dubrovnik).  Mali Ston is only a walk away from Ston but we didn’t spend any time there.

The restaurant, in Hodilje, is neighbors with an RV campground, but the grounds are so small that you don’t really notice them unless you go around to the side of the restaurant. If you had to choose a spot to camp or live in a trailer then this isn’t such a bad location at all– in fact, it’s absolutely gorgeous!

Seosko Domaćinstvo Ficović was too perfect. The outdoor seating was serene with a warm breeze and with cleverly draped fishing nets as decoration.  It’s an understatement to say they had amazing ambiance.   We hit the jackpot!

We had divine oysters straight offshore from Mali Ston, and the waitress kept apologizing because they didn’t have everything on the menu.  She said ‘We only have what’s fresh so I’m sorry there isn’t a lot of choice.’ We said ‘Perfect! Bring us what ever is fresh!’ My favorite was the clams, mussels, and venus shells (I think that’s what she called them. They don’t open when you cook them actually but they are yummy!). The garlic sauce was too good!  Then we had tuna and sea bream. I was over the moon!  It was the best meal of the entire trip.

We also watched as Croatian families actually take swim breaks between their courses at the restaurant!  What a life!  The waitress there asked how we found out about the place since we were the only tourists in the area, and she kindly suggested that we visit the numerous wineries in the area.  We didn’t think wine tasting while driving was a good look, so we inquired about the beaches in the area.  She said her favorite was an untouched beach called Vucine.  ‘It’s better than Prapratno’ were her words (Prapratno was in my guidebook but Vucine was not).  So, of course, we wanted to take on the beach less traveled!

As you can see, Vucine was just gorgeous. It’s a bit difficult to find, but once you get there, it’s a small strip that you don’t want to leave.  We turned a lot of heads when we set foot on the pebbly beach.  The families there hadn’t predicted that a mixed couple would show up that day.  Corey received a warm ‘he-llo’ from a small boy swimming next to us.  He was definitely trying out the few words he’d learned in English which was really cute.

On the drive back to the airport, we stopped a few times for the look-outs, and also for the honey and olive oil stalls.  We couldn’t commit to checking a bag so we didn’t get anything.  Our final meal before the airport was at a pretty terrible spot (Dalmatino), but at least we got to watch the Euro basketball cup.  Too bad Croatia lost to Spain.  Croatia actually has two players who are on the Sixers this year, and I should put in writing here that Corey has claimed the Sixers will win the chip in the next five years.

Traveling in Dubrovnik was a really relaxing trip, but, upon reflection, this (s)log took longer to write since we did end up doing more than just sunbathing.  This is a random mention but I saw two different Croatians with the same tattoo:  ‘My life my rules’.  It’s not particularly dreamy like ‘ Live life to the fullest’ or ‘Dance, Live, Love’ (I think that’s a magnet somewhere), but I liked the straightforward realistic nature of the phrase.  When you’re surrounded beaches, sun, wine, and fresh seafood, and your country has also recently experienced a siege in the last 20 years, I imagine that it’s not a bad motto to live by.  We’d highly suggest Croatia as a place to visit, and I look forward to seeing the islands and to traveling to neighboring states asap!


Quick Shot: 

Eat / Drink at:

  • Konoba Dubrava: as seen in the NY Times article; order ahead for meats ‘under the bell’ (takes 3 hours to cook)
  • Seosko Domaćinstvo Ficović: order the mussels & clams in garlic (need a car to get here, there is no website, and it’s on an unnamed street)
  • Lady Pipi for whatever meal you can get without waiting in line 🙂 Do it!
  • D’Vino Wine bar
  • Dolce Vida for ice cream and pancakes
  • I’d suggest a winery too even though we didn’t get to one; they all looked lovely!

Day Trips to Beaches:

  • Vucine- need a car
  • Lopud- boat from Gruz Harbor
  • Lokrum- boat from Old City port

Sights:

  • Walk the city walls
  • Opt in for a do-it-yourself Game of Thrones tour (or pay to have an expert take you around)
  • Ride the gondola for stunning views of the city

 

 

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Amalfi Coast, Italy

My post from the Amalfi Coast

IMG_9491To quote my friend, Anna Moyer: “It’s hard to overstate the beauty of the Amalfi coast.”  On the bus, every hairpin turn was breathtaking.  You’re incredibly high up from the waters below, and the towns living in the mountainside are beautiful as they peak around each curve in the road.

We arrived in Positano after an early morning flight and two crowded SITA buses, yet time stood still for the rest of the day as we explored the many nooks and crannies of this dreamy place.  Positano is full of numerous staircases, and long winding roads, that will do a number on your calves.  We took a very, very leisurely pace the entire time as this was Corey’s first trip since Tignes.

Near the main docks, there were numerous linen boutiques, sandal shops, and limoncello grocers.  Lemons are big here- not just in popularity but also in size.  I also loved the stores selling ceramic-ware painted with bright lemons against navy on all sorts of bowls and platters.

We dipped our toes in the super clear water, and took a nap on the pebbly beach late in the afternoon, before making the trek back up to the local Trattoria.

The streets are lovely as you can see.  Many of them are draped with wisteria or have brightly painted building.  We imagined how crowded it must feel in the summer as you can barely walk two by two on the narrow lanes.  On the street sides, single file is a must so you aren’t nipped by a local bus or scooter.  I couldn’t stop taking pictures around every twist and turn.


This morning, I tried running stairs to get the day started but I only lasted about twenty minutes.  The Positano steps kicked my butt, but there is no photographic evidence as I could barely breathe, no less snap a selfie!  Wouldn’t an early lunch be a better idea?  Corey found Fattoria La Tagliata, a true gem, up towards the town of Nocelle.  I wanted to visit Nocelle as this is where the Il Sentiero degli Dei (Path of The Gods) trailhead starts/ends, but honestly, if you didn’t want to hike, then I’d still highly suggest a trip to this restaurant as your main activity for the day.  It felt like the Italian grandmother-chefs were picking young garlic right out of the garden to use for our family style meal (and later we discovered there was a mini-farm outside!)  You arrive on the terrace and three small plates with a bottle of house wine are immediately brought to your table. There is no need for a menu.  Prego!!!

We didn’t do the Path of the Gods as it was too strenuous for my kidney-healing man, but we did take the bus to Nocelle so that I could at least say I saw the entrance to the path.  If we return to the coast, I’ll be bringing a solid pair of hiking boots.

The remainder of the day was spent on the small terrace in our hotel room just taking in the gorgeous scenery and reviving my blog (or ‘slog’ as Corey has taken to calling it as it’s majorly delayed in posts (slow + blog= slog).  Better yet, wait for the exclusive to Corey’s blog- or ‘clog’- coming out…. TBD 🙂


Day three took us on a day trip to Amalfi, another town just a thirty minute boat ride along the coast.  The town has a smaller beach, but a livelier square and Duomo.

Visitors can enter the crypts and cathedral for a mere three Euro to see the Monumental Complex of St. Andrew.  We had a seaside lunch followed by a gelato cone (I found the sorbet yogurt flavor and felt very satisfied).  We didn’t indulge in the fried seafood cones along the way, but did some window shopping for linen, leather and limoncello.

We caught another crowded SITA bus up to Ravello, a very pretty town, high up in the cliffs.  Suggestion for SITA straphangers: buy your round trip tickets at the tabacchi shop, and get to the busstop early.  We were visiting in April when it’s less crowded and still felt the pushing and shoving to climb aboard.  Though SITA looks like our version of a charter bus, they line people up into the aisles like a local city bus.

Ravello was as picturesque as ever, and we spent a majority of our time in the Villa Cimbrone, an exclusive hotel with gardens that are open to the public.  The wisteria that hang down along the walk and the stunning views of the Mediterranean made it well worth the 7 Euro.

On the way back from the gardens, we opted for Mimi Bar Pizzeria for a quick meal before our Ravello Piano Concert.  Jackpot!!! The pizza crust was chewy and delicious, and it was the best pasta with ‘sea fruit’ (clams and mussels) I had on the entire trip!!! I can’t say enough good stuff. The trip advisor reviews in the link below don’t have enough exclamation points to do the restaurant justice. We will definitely return if we are in Ravello for more red sauce and seafood.

Ravello’s Concert Hall offers weekly concerts in a small venue with great acoustics.  If you’re into classical music, this would be a must see.  This is illustrated by the fact that we ran into one of Corey’s colleagues while waiting for the concert to start!  She had heard similar reviews of Ravello’s concert society and made sure to stop in as well.  Giuseppe Di Bianco’s piano recital concluded our already peaceful afternoon.  Unfortunately, after the limoncello at intermission, we had to leave to catch the last bus to Amalfi and Positano.  Stepping out into the quiet stone paths after hearing a talented musician made for a great evening.  Add to this, the local church was holding their Good Friday procession, complete with babies dressed as angels, and a candle lit parade.


We left Positano mid morning and spent the day wandering the new, flatter streets of Sorrento.  The area feels a bit less ‘beach-vacationy’ as the beach is much smaller here, though the waters are just as clear blue when you look over the edge of the boulevards. It’s easy to take day trips from Sorrento as well so there is a city/ transport feeling, in my opinion.

There’s more affordable shopping here, and more space for outdoor eateries. We didn’t find a great lunch spot, but we didn’t find a lovely linen shop where the gentlemen dressed Corey to the nines! The fashionista spirit of Italy is still strong though we were many miles from Milan.  We were offered delicious samples at Nino and Friends, a souvenir shop featuring local treats.  I found a purse that I couldn’t resist, and then we made our way to the grocery store to ensure we had provisions for Easter Sunday and Monday.  We learned that many restaurants would be closed or would have limited hours for the holiday so it was time to stock up for an Easter picnic.  Would you believe we met a family from Ewing at the grocery store!?  Corey has a magnet for meeting people around the world!  While he reminisced about dirty Jersey highlights with two college-aged siblings, I purchased mortadella, parma ham, olives and artichoke hearts with their mom.  Her son is studying abroad in Germany, and he and his sister bought their mom a ticket to travel to Italy for the first time on their spring break.

Dinner was around the corner from our hotel, and the fish of the day with homemade pasta was a major thumbs up.  We also spotted many tables sharing multiple pizzas so it seems you can’t make a bad choice at Il Convivio.


Since Sorrento is a hub for day trips, we caught an early train to Pompeii and Erculano to see the historical ruins created by Mt. Vesuvius.  On Easter Sunday, the trains stop running at 1pm so we did a quick tour at each site, and promised to read up on these when we had more time.  You can see just how intricate the cities must have been, and Ercolano still had paintings on the walls as well!

We ventured into the side streets of Ercolano and saw Easter parades with flags and traditional dress.  The slight drizzle couldn’t stop the celebrations and chants. I wondered how much I should be considering that Mt. Vesuvius is still an active volcano even though we were most likely just hearing thunder rolling in with the rain clouds.

We found a serious bakery selling Easter treats and gelato. Yes, of course, we joined in with the purchasing of pastries and spun gelato cones, even in the rain.

We enjoyed our picnic lunch by the hotel pool and spent the remainder of the grey afternoon between the hotel lobby tethered to wifi and the hotel bar for a beer and wine happy hour.

Dinner was at Ristorante Bagni Delfino, a restaurant right on the docks that was open on Easter Sunday.  The staff was incredibly nice, and I must say the gratis pre-dinner prosecco was a nice touch.  After the sun set, the main square in Sorrento still felt lively, with many people out celebrating the holiday.  Everyone was dressed up and out with kids and loved ones, treating themselves to gelato or just enjoying the night lights.


For our last full day on the coast, we caught an early boat out to the Isle of Capri.  We hit a bump in the road, or should I say, a bump in the waves, as they felt reminiscent to the waves on our Thailand trip. Corey soothed me by telling me the waves were not nearly as rocky as we’d experienced before (which was true), and that we were ‘almost there’ numerous times even when we weren’t.  I admittedly found myself pumped with more adrenaline than I’d expected while on the boat so getting back on solid ground was a good start to being on the island.  Truthfully, the views didn’t compare to Positano, Amalfi or Ravello as we took the uphill walk to the town center. High end shops and small cafes line Piazza Umberto, the main plaza, where you’ll find many day-trippers.

We wandered to the Giardini di Augusto to look out on the Faraglioni, two distinct rock formations in the true blue sea.  Unfortunately, there weren’t boats being allowed into the Grotta Azzurra, as the waves were too choppy.  We hear the magnificent blue ocean is supposed to be unreal in this cavern.

We sat along the garden walls with our parma, olives, tomatoes, pesto and bread picnic lunch as many of the Capri eateries are expensive.  Corey treated himself to a ‘Capri Special’ drink: fresh orange juice with lemon granita.  It dawned on me that Capri Sun must be based on this very juice!  We traveled back down to the Marina Grande on the funicolar, a train that goes straight up and down the hill on one track (just like the one on the snowy mountains of Tignes).

O’ Parrucchiano had the most stunning ambiance.  It felt like dining in a magical citrus grove, and I asked that Corey propose to me again because it was such a fairytale.  Stick to the seafood dishes as my veal Milanese wasn’t much to write home about.  As we walked home from dinner, teems of people were spilling out of Gelateria Primavera so we had to try it…When in Rome? (the saying still applies even in Southern Italy, right?)



Naples

A few people told us to skip Naples–that it wasn’t worth dedicating a night of our trip here.  But we liked seeing the different personality of this city.  Yes, it’s grittier than any locale on the Amalfi coast, but it’s also the third largest city in Italy.  It’s a mix of graffitied walls, and quaint restaurants, with neighborhoods that are definitely showing signs of change in many ways.

Our first day of walking was close to Piazza Dante.  The neighborhood lanes had two sides. The main strip, Via Dei Tribunali, was lined with pizza shops, souvenirs booths, and churches offering tours of the underground cities of Naples.  Off this main drag were dollar stores, tobacco carts, and drabber alleys brightened only with hanging laundry.

The central duomo’s interior was beautiful, and the plaza in front was a hangout for teens, and boys playing futbol. We participated in a slightly uneventful tour of the San Lorenzo Maggiore Scavi Museo to see the ancient market buried below the foundation of the church.  The fact that Naples has underground tunnels, markets, and piazzas is really neat, but the tour wasn’t too exciting…more of a tourist trap upon reflection.

Via Toledo is full of commercial shops like H&M and Adidas but this huge street does lead you right down to the water.  We stopped for a caffè nocciolato at Il Vero Bar del Professore, a cafe renowned for rich hazelnut cream coffee.  Before heading to the seaside, you pass the gorgeous Basilica Real Pontificia San Francesco da Paola.  Cars aren’t able to drive along the waterfront (Via Caracciolo and Via Partenope) and it was nice to see joggers in the evening, and friends strolling along enjoying the views of Capri and Mt Vesuvius in the distance (we were sure we were looking at one of these!)

We passed Castel dell’Ovo, a fort-looking castle jutting right out on the waves.  Taking a right up past the huge waterfront hotels takes you to the Chiaia neighborhood. This is an area that feels completely different from the lanes we’d walked earlier in the day. There are boutiques and fine art galleries.  I’d read that we should visit a wine bar with a rooftop but before we found it, we passed BISI.  The owners swept us up before we could say no and they were terrific. The cocktails were perfect, especially since they were keen to create something based on our personal taste. With each drink, you’re served a board of small snacks done incredibly well. Apparently, the owners also have another spot called Trip which we will hit up on our next visit to Naples.

We still hadn’t had dinner but it was good that we had emptier stomachs for our meal at Tandem.  They are known for their rich meat ragu and meatballs.  I loved the checkered tablecloths in the intimate space.


 

 

It was amazing to see Corey’s energy returning each day. For our final day in Italy, he were up for more walking.  We took the funicular up to the Castel Sant’ Elmo to see the view of the entire city.

We visited the Museo d’Arte Contemporanea Donnaregina, or Madre, a contemporary art museum listed in the 36 Hours in Naples article. The entrance makes you feel like you’re in a funhouse.  We saw large walls highlighting art with one off kilter photograph, or a large circle with abstract scribbles.  I liked the gallery dedicated to imago mundi, a set of published books.  The works are voluntary and published in a collection to show contemporary art from countries all over the world.

By noon, it was time to brave the crowds to see if we could get a table at Pizzeria Gino Sorbillo.  If you’re in the birthplace of pizza, this is one of the most popular places to dine.  We arrived at twelve on the dot, and we were seated immediately–lucky us!  It definitely lived up to its reputation, and I even had a few bites with cheese to get the real experience.  A YUMMY last meal!!! It’s worth noting that there is another Sorbillo down the block, but it’s easy to tell the difference as there are swarms of people outside of the best one.

My summary for this trip: I can’t wait to visit Italy again! Neither can Corey. Check him out feelin’ good.

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Quickshot:

Positano (and the small town of Nocelle)

  • Eat at Fattoria La Tagliata (this is a 20 min bus ride outside of Positano so get yourself a bus timetable). Fattoria means farm, but I thought it could be a hint that you’ll gain weight after eating here….’fat’toria…get it?
  • Give yourself 4-5 hours for the Walk of the Gods (there are many other websites so if this one doesn’t suit you, no worries)
  • Spend an evening at a local trattoria- this is a more laid back vibe, less formal than a ristorante;  any locals can point you in the right direction. We enjoyed C’era Una Volte, up about 200 steps from our hotel.
  • Get lost in the shopping lanes and winding roads of Positano- no maps needed.  Just take in the views when you need a break.

Amalfi

  • Yes to gelato. All of it will be good.
  • See the Duomo di Amalfi (crypts and cathedral for a quick 3 euro)
  • Boat travel seemed optimal for a day trip to many of the coastal towns. Just make sure to check when the last boat leaves.

Ravello

Sorrento

  • Eat at Il Convivio (pizzeria and ristorante)
  • Walk to the seaside and sit on the docks on a sunny day
  • Eat at O’ Parrucchiano to feel like you’re in a fairytale grove
  • Shop at bottega21 for a bag or wallet or glasses case
  • Walk the main cobblestone lane to Nino and Friends for generous samples of Sorrento treats… even if you don’t have room in your suitcase

Napoli Food Suggestions

  • Apertivos must be at BISI– the owners are too good to their guests!
  • Eat at Tandem for ragu (make a reservation if you can)
  • For pizza, the first choice is Pizzeria Gino Sorbillo (Via dei Tribunali, 32). I’ve also heard that Da Michele is tasty and a close walk nearby if you didn’t want to wait.
  • Il Vero Bar del Professore for a coffee pitstop (Piazza Trieste e Trento)
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