A stunning Sorrento and its peninsula…

Location of Procida in the Tyrrhenian Sea

Location of Procida in the Tyrrhenian Sea (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We are about to leave Sorrento and its peninsula after three enjoyable days, heading South for the Amalfi Coast proper.

When we left Umbria, it was raining heavily, and rain stayed with us until we were virtually in Sorrento. The worst time was a cloud burst on the motorways around Naples, which was quite stressful driving as we watched in amazement, the Italians zooming past us, as though only they had perfect x-ray visability of the road ahead! After clearing the Naples area, the SatNav (GPS) took us on some very twisty narrow roads, all in this heavy downpour. However, as we descended into Sorrento the rain stopped for us, which was a good sign.

We spent three days in a very nice family run hotel, high up in the hills, with stunning views of the Gulf of Naples. The owner of the hotel recommended that we explore the extreme West of the peninsular, following the coastal paths towards the headlands of Punta Penna and Punta della Campella (two kilometres from Capri). Twisty roads took us through the beautiful villages until we got to Nerano which is the closest Italian mainland village to Capri. We put on our hiking boots, packed the rucksack with water and set out to explore a narrow coastal path over the cliffs to the most Westerly point on the peninsular. It was hot and sunny but the slight breeze on the cliffs made it comfortable. With the most stunning views, including that of Capri, we completed the enjoyable circular hike in about three hours. We stopped in the next village of Termini for lunch and ate the best fish we have had since being away, the restaurant was perched on the cliff overlooking the Med, with wonderful views in every direction. Later in the day, we explored Sorrento, which is still a busy holiday destination after supporting tourists for many decades. We were surprised by the large number of Americans in the area – most were on tours, often from cruise ships, but we met a number of very pleasant Americans staying in our hotel who were independent travellers.

The highlight of the second full day was a trip to Capri. We took the local bus to Sorrento town centre with the hand-waving locals, walked down to the harbour and got the ferry to Capri. Arriving in Capri, we decided to start at the top and firstly went to Annacapri which is a quaint area, with lots of lovely shops and restaurants and finally took a chair-lift to the summit of the island. The views were spectacular in all directions, and we soon identified the Italian mainland where we had been hiking the previous day. After an hour at the summit, we descended to Capri town which is beautiful but extremely touristy. The bars and restaurants in the town square are nothing less than a total rip-off, i.e. 10 Euros for a glass of white wine! We escaped on a narrow path West out of the town and were rewarded with some lovely bars and restaurants, more competitively priced, with stunning views of the sea and the rugged vegetation. For us the afternoon, exploring this narrow path, with pleasant architecture and amazing views was the highlight of the day – we were also away from the crowds. Eventually, we back-tracked to Capri town, and descended on foot the twisty path to the harbour. Waiting for our ferry, we sampled some delightful homemade ice-cream. In the evening, we went back into Sorrento town for our last night here, and enjoyed a very nice restaurant sitting outside, and watching the people pass us by. We are now sad to leave, but know that the stunning beauty is about to continue in Amalfi!

This morning we head for the Amalfi Coast, the South side of the peninsular…

Sampling the delights of Umbria, Italy…

English: The cathedral of Santa Maria dell'Ass...

English: The cathedral of Santa Maria dell’Assunta in Spoleto, Umbria, Italy. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

For us, Umbria was a huge contrast to its neighbouring province of Tuscany which is known throughout the World for its art, architecture and red wine. Umbria boasts many famous towns perched on hills, including Perugia, Assisi, Todi and Spoleto, wonderful food with truffles seemingly added to everything except breakfast, more fish and wonderful white wines. So foodies who like red meat and red wine should target Tuscany and leave Umbria for white wines and truffles!

We based ourselves for a two night weekend in Spoleto, Southern Umbria, World renowned for its outdoor festival of performing arts, including music, dance and theatre. Just an hour from Rome, we noted that Spoleto was a favourite weekend retreat for Romans. Split into two levels, Spoleto abounds with Roman ruins, wonderful architecture and stunning views. We were staying in a comfortable and inexpensive hotel, adjacent to the famous Roman amphitheatre and the wall of the old city. Our first afternoon took in seeing a wedding at the beautiful cathedral, wandering the ancient hilly streets and alleys, climbing the hills to the castle and crossing the viaduct, taking hundreds of photos, and resting for a glass of the famous local white wine. With a thousand years of history, beautiful architecture, superb food and wine, and apart from the Spring arts festival, Spoleto is largely off the tourist radar – a true gem.

Sunday morning we set out for Assisi which we immediately noticed had more tourists than Spoleto. We arrived to the sound of the church bells. Apart from Italian families having a day out, we met Japanese groups, Americans and French. The old town, perched at the top of the hill is quite beautiful. We started our visit with a climb to the castle and stunning views of the Umbrian panorama. It was Sunday, so settled on a simple restaurant for lunch, popular with the locals, and tasted pasta with truffles and wild mushrooms. We had a pleasant conversation with a French couple at the next table from Toulouse, swapping travel tales. In the afternoon, the SatNav was being naughty and took the car around some dangerous mountain ledges, which was quite scary at the time but on reflection provided some wonderful and memorable views of Umbria.

Today we head South for the Amalfi Coast…..