One of the advantages of traveling with a tour group, obviously, is that so many decisions are made for you. No worries about "Where am I going to stay?", "What are we going to do?", "How will I be able to see what I want to see?, "How will I get from here to there?", etc. I know from my solo travels that those kind of decisions, while at first exciting to make, become a tiring kind of drag. (sort of like the mundane decisions you're always making at home, just harder because you're now making them in a strange place, with people speaking a different language!). So, it was a nice thing at times for Deborah and I to know that all we had to do once we made it to Italy was to "just show up": Just follow the group to where we were going, show up when we were supposed to show up, "eat, drink, and be merry".
Ah, but as an ancient Roman said, "Never go to excess, but let moderation be your guide." (Marcus Tullius Cicero, ancient Roman notable). After three days of being shuttled around like one big herd from one guided tour to another "excursion" (which usually cost us extra Euros!) with little chance to breath or relax, and three days of schedules dictated to us like we were in boot camp ("Bags outside the room at 645 am; breakfast until 730; on the bus at 745; wear your headsets; Everybody stick together - andiamo!"), we were ready for a "vacation" from our vacation. We were tired; we were a little cranky. And then, thankfully, we arrived in Sorrento.
Ah, Sorrento! The first "jewel" of the Amalfi coast. A town of 20,000 residents perched on cliffs overlooking the Bay of Naples, Mount Vesuvius, and the Isle of Capri. Deborah and I fell in love immediately with the beauty of this place. And then we came to our hotel.
The Parco dei Principi hotel, Sorrento Italy
(We thought we had died and gone to heaven when we first walked into this place! What a view!)
Unbelievable, right! Well, yes and no. No question the Parco dei Principi was a luxurious, beautiful hotel. But it came with a "price" and some disappointments. First disappointment: We didn't get a room with an ocean view - instead were facing the mountains and hills. When Deborah asked if we could change, we were dismissed snobbily by the staff, "You're with Perillo? No! There's nothing we can do!" (we would have other encounters with these "Parco prigs", but why ruin a good blog recounting them!).
The second disappointment was that our group's schedule seemed to leave us no time to simply sit and enjoy all of the beauty of this place. We checked in late Tuesday afternoon; were scheduled to spend all the next day on the Isle of Capri, and then we were leaving the following morning. While we wanted to see the Isle of Capri and its famous Blue Grotto, we longed for a slower pace and some time to ourselves. Thank goodness, God, Life, was "listening"...
Due to high tides and a "bouncy" ocean, we were unable to get into the Blue Grotto Wednesday morning (will have to save that adventure for a return trip sometime!). Instead, Deborah and I were "granted" an entire day to spend, just as we wanted. No rush, no schedule, just the two of us alone to do whatever we wanted to do. Perfect! We decided to walk down the hill from our hotel into old town Sorrento - to do a little shopping, have some lunch, and soak in a little Italian culture and sunshine... Bellisimo!
Downtown Sorrento was a great place to explore. The sun was shining and its old town was an enticing maze of narrow, medieval streets, lined with little shops, selling all sorts of wonderful wares. Shoes, scarves, jewelry, glass beads, lemons the size of softballs, limoncello made that day, linen shirts and dresses, and shoes, sandals, shoes, sandals, and more shoes and sandals! (Deborah was in heaven! Her head was spinning at all the beautiful pumps, slip-ons, and gladiator sandals!). We wandered and shopped; laughed and pointed at all we saw; strolled hand in hand, happily and carefree. Now this was a perfect place to "do nothing and take all day to do it."!
Here's a photo of the narrow little streets of old town Sorrento. Very fun!
Here's Deborah pretending to shop for fruit (I just wanted a picture of the lemons and her :-)!)
We ate a late lunch at "Il Leone Russo" restaurant (The Red Lion): risotto al funghi, a carafe of wine enjoyed al fresco at a sidewalk table - and then shopped and wandered some more. Before we knew it, it was 330 pm, and so, bags in hand, we hiked back to the hotel. We wanted to have some time to do some serious sun-bathing and swimming in the Bay of Naples.
We had had a minor setback while in Sorrento. My digital camera broke, but we bought a disposable camera to take pics with, and then even found a camera shop and bought a new Nikon digital. All was well. (or so we thought). It wasn't until a few hours later that I was shocked to find that the new camera had been snipped off my wrist by a crafty local thief! Rats! But even that wouldn't spoil our time here!
We ended the day splashing around in the warm waters of the Bay of Naples. We laughed and told stories with some of our "Perilloista" friends, shook our heads and said "Can you believe it? We're swimming in the Mediterranean Sea!" We felt like "jet-setters" for a little while and basked in the luxury of it all.
When we came back to the room to get ready for dinner, I discovered the loss of my camera. And yes, I was upset...yes, I was distressed and anxious about not having a camera for the rest of the trip...and yes, the hotel staff were not sympathetic or helpful at all, but all ended well. Our friend Diana loaned us a camera to take pictures with for the rest of the trip. And another fun dinner enjoyed together, with the magnificent beauty of the setting sun on the Bay as a backdrop, helped put a smile on my face again. After dinner, Deborah and I sat in a soft couch on the terrace overlooking the bay, snuggled close, enjoyed a cocktail, and soaked in the sweet summer night.
It was hard to leave Sorrento the next morning, and spend 8 hours on a bus to get to Florence (back to the "grind" of the tour). But our best memories from our trip will definitely be of Sorrento. We hope to return someday to this jewel by the sea! I'm grateful for the fun we had and the beauty we shared at the Amalfi coast. Ciao!
"For whatever we lose (like a you or a me), it's always ourselves we find in the sea." (e.e. cummings)