It’s a week since we returned from our two weeks in southern Italy. I feel revitalized, refreshed.The trip was a little bittersweet—an anniversary celebration delayed from May 2012, when we postponed it due to mom’s failing health. I know in my heart my mom would be thrilled that we were going, finally. She was so sad when I told her we were holding off on the trip.
Our trip included Naples, Ravello and Ischia, in the Campania region of southern Italy.
This is our fourth time to Italy and we have long believed in focusing on one area rather than trying to cover too much geography. I want to return from vacation relaxed, not exhausted from too much packing and unpacking, and the use of planes, trains and automobiles.
For me the highlight was our weeklong stay in an apartment in Ravello. This is the town along the Amalfi Coast where Greg and I were engaged in May 2002. Greg did extensive research and secured a gorgeous modern apartment in the very same building as the apartment where we were engaged, with the same gorgeous views of the coast.
By the end of the week, we had gotten to know the owner of Caffe Duomo, a cafe in the main square in town. We would get our daily cornetti (the Italian word for croissant) and cappuccino. I managed to regain enough Italian to be able to have short, basic chats. I realized how much I’d love to continue learning Italian. It’s such a melodic language.
Staying in an apartment for a week lets you get a feel for the rhythm of the town. It also relieves pressure to be constantly on the move. We did experience quite a few downpours, and I was content to sit in the living room of our apartment reading a book while Greg worked on his journal.
Ischia was equally relaxing, being a resort island for Italians. We stayed in a monastery high on a hill overlooking the island. And while the views were fabulous, we paid handsomely for them. After dinner in town, we had to walk across a bridge to the hill on which the castle stood. We would walk down a long tunnel to an elevator that would take us up. And then we had 102 steps (yes, I counted) before getting to our room. So leaving was a real commitment. We had two meals at the monastery, which were excellent.
For the most part, we ate a very typically Mediterranean diet that focused on fish as the protein. We did have some meat dishes, including perhaps one of the best pasta dishes of my life in Naples. But we didn’t have cheese (except mozzarella) or other rich foods.
Naples was intense. We stayed a couple nights at the beginning of the trip and at the end, staying in two different parts of town. The first time was in the older quarter. I had braced myself for an onslaught of stimulation, but didn’t find myself quite as overwhelmed as I’d expected. There are no sidewalks so you share the extremely narrow cobblestone roads with cars and scooters. And there are indeed a lot of people. Honestly, though, I found Amalfi to be much more overwhelming and over-stimulating with its crush of tourists with fanny packs.
On the return trip to Naples, I was getting tired and Greg and I both had come down with colds. So my patience was wearing a bit thin, and I got tired of all the graffiti. I also got tired of being stared at. I’m not sure why the Neapolitans had such a curiosity, but it was really uncomfortable. I also didn’t feel the same “love” that I typically feel from Italians in other parts of the country. It was hard to get a smile from someone.
Overall, though, it was a fabulous and much-needed trip.