09.08.2011 30 °C
Benvenuti a Sorrento!
What a place the views driving in are spectacular. We had a very animated Neapolitan driver, Enzo who was great. He explained all the sights even stopped for photos and made us laugh with stories about Naples and its peoples. Our hotel, the Hotel Caravel was a pretty good pick close to the beach, nice pool and the bathroom passes the Angela test. We were all keen to hit the beach but after having travelled for most of the afternoon our stomachs took over and we headed to Sorrento central in search of food. Our hotel is in San Agnello which is about a kilometre away from Sorrento’s central piazza but it’s an easy walk (Italian standards) there you just have to dodge the scooters, buses and cars that want to kill you and also deal with a footpath that appears and disappears depending on buildings and road width. But here in Sorrento they will stop (eventually) if you cross at the zebra crossing you just have to show no fear or hesitation and go for it.
The gelato here gets a thumbs up from Cristian not as mind blowing as Vivoli in Florence though. In fact the food here is pretty good we have eaten at a few places and no dodgy meals yet. The weather has been great and the people very friendly. Once they find out you have some Italian blood they become really friendly. If you read my Facebook entry for Capri I wrote about the waiter who talked us into a seafood meal when we only really wanted pizza. The story goes once he found out we were of Italian stock he took away the menus and basically organised the whole lunch for us he even took me into meet the kitchen staff and showed me the pizza oven. It was a pretty good lunch with seafood from the bay and it only cost 150 euros about $200!
We got to catch up with family while in Sorrento. It was only a short train ride to Napoli and then onto the bus bound for Benevento, the home town for my father and the regional centre of the other villages that our parents came from. When we arrived in Napoli in Piazza Garibaldi I don’t think we were ready for what we saw it resembled Mogadishu in Somalia from the movie Blackhawk down. There was rubbish everywhere piles of it some in bags some just loose paper blowing around the streets an endless trail of cars going around the piazza which was under renovation ( it’s been 10 years our driver informed us on our return to Napoli to catch the Freccia Rossa to Rome) then there were more multicultural people than Neapolitans. People were everywhere trying to sell you stuff or asking for money It really shocked me and put me off doing sightseeing and I was on edge the whole time and really feared getting everything stolen and I could not wait for the bus to leave for Benevento.
We basically ate then visited some relatives then ate some more visited some relatives then ate I think you get the picture. One of the visits was to Isernia to see Angela’s auntie who was in an old person’s home despite being of sound mind and body. Some background to this story is that she had polio as a child and has a dud leg and she has visited Australia on a few occasions and she built up a relationship with all of us in particular Isabella. She is in the old folk’s home because of family related matters and she recently broke her good leg so mobility has become even more constrained. It was great to visit her because she is a kind generous person with a good sense of humour, immense faith which we think is what keeps her going and needless to say it was very hard saying goodbye. Angela started crying before we even thought of saying goodbye and by the time we did she was a blithering mess and that made it even harder for the rest of us and the 100kms back to Benevento was unusually quiet. It was heartbreaking to say goodbye and leave her but I think it might have been even more heartbreaking not visiting her. This visit left a big impression on me I could not stop thinking about her for days after and because she spent so much time in Australia and was almost going to live in Australia with Angelas mum it has strengthened my resolve that if life opens a door you need to walk through it and make the most of those opportunities.
At the beginning you would have noticed my mention of a train & bus ride to get to Benevento well the family wouldn’t let us go back the same way and insisted on driving us back. Well the original plan was to catch the 1.30pm bus from Benevento and the 3.00pm train to Sorrento and be back at our hotel by 4.30-5 latest. Well we could not leave without lunch so by the time we hit the road it was 4.00pm. It was a warm day mid 30’s and we made Napoli about 50kms in 40 minutes then we missed the turn off and headed into Salerno 25 kms away. Once we had sorted that out we headed back and its only 18kms from the freeway turn off to Sorrento well that took an hour and a half. It seemed that the entire population of Napoli was on this road and although it was evening by now the car air con which I describe as asthmatic with emphysema trying to blow out birthday candles had given up so we were bathing in our own sweat crawling along at a snail’s pace wishing and hoping for our hotel turnoff to appear magically 10 kms earlier.
We also visited Angela’s other cousins who live in Salerno. These guys are how the other half does it. They have an apartment by the sea and commute on the weekend and holidays there. It’s a nice setup with the apartments and villas fenced off and secure with your own patch of beach including a brolly. This beach has sand but don’t get too excited the sand ends at the waterline and slippery slimy rocks appear which makes entry and exit interesting but the residents all own paddle boats same as you find on River Torrens and basically paddle out without ever setting foot on the rocks. The paddle boat comes complete with a little ladder out the back to enable you to climb back in and have a flat area to lie down and sunbath after your dip in the Med. The funny thing is they cost nearly 3000 euros about $5000!
Well with all this traveling and daily excursions we finally hit the wall and were ready to kill each other and anybody that crossed our path. We had basically been out or visiting family 7 days straight. It started when we arrived in the breakfast hall placed our keys on a table returned with bowls placed them down and then returned to the buffet and came back to our table to find the keys and bowls gone. The waiter had taken them off because the table we chose had been set for dinner! Only in Italia would they be setting up for dinner when they haven’t even finished serving breakfast yet. Well in the move my spoon was lost and all the spoons at the buffet had disappeared so that was it I was ready to kill for my spoon, Angela is trying to calm me down the kids are shaking their heads thinking not again. Eventually I was given a spoon and it was decided we may need to rest so I think we all slept most of that day and then most of the afternoon of the next.
We finally hit the beach and paid our 40 euro for a lounge and brolly and did the beach Italian style, no sand, fish &chips or cricket. It’s not really relaxing because some kid or old lady is screaming or walking past even 30 seconds and everybody is watching everybody else. The water though is fantastic we chose to dive off into the ocean side first and it’s disconcerting at first not gently walking into the water and acclimatising but that is soon forgotten when you realise over the horizon is France.
We spent our last night dining by the beach watching the sun set over the Sorrentine Peninsula and walking through the San Agnello pizza festival.
Sorrento was fantastic, great food, weather and people and I think we will return. But our time has ended and its now time to leave and head to Rome.