AZinItaly

A couple of Phoenicians living temporarily in Roma

Archive for the month “August, 2012”

Marina di Alberese

Marina di Alberese

It was a holiday August 15th, Ferragosto (Assumption Day, the start of the summer vacation period in Italy) so we took the opportunity to get out of Rome for a few days.  We traveled first to Marina di Grosetto, a seaside town north of Rome and stayed at the lovely Hotel Terme Marine Leopoldo II.  It was a block from the beach, all shiny white granite, with a lovely salt-water swimming pool and a good restaurant.

We were excited to go be staying so close to the beach, but soon became disenchanted by the rows and rows of beach chairs vying for space on the sand and rowdy teenagers engaged in water fights that unfortunately included us.

Not wanting to be in the middle of a water fight while enjoying the sea, the next day we got in the car and headed south to Marina di Alberese, an 8 mile stretch of isolated beach surrounded by a nature preserve. We first stopped in the little town of Albrese, where we saw a lot of people waiting for the bus, and a crowd several layers deep at the only food market in town. We grabbed some quick pizza slices from the little café near the bus stop and headed toward the sea.

When we arrived at the entrance to the beach, a line of cars and a curious arrangement of entry and exit gates met us.  I hopped out to in an attempt to figure out what was happening and stopped to talk to a gentleman in a car further ahead in line. He only spoke Italian, but what I could understand was that only a limited number of cars were allowed to enter the park each hour and then only when an equal number of cars exited the park. Now we understood why so many people took the bus to the beach!

Upon hearing this, we debated if it was worth it to try to get in or to just turn back and settle for the hotel pool.

A sunshade on the beach

Then we noticed a woman standing around near the gates with a clicker in her hands. She controlled the gates! We continued to debate whether to stay or go as we inched forward in line.

At last, she clicked and we were granted entry. The beach turned out to be a beautiful expanse of sand and sea with no beach chair rental service, which is common at all of the beaches we’ve visited.  Instead, we were greeted by Italian ingenuity and a colorful variety of makeshift sunshades built of driftwood, and hauled in umbrellas, blankets and sheets.

We attempted to build our own sunshade, which was a sad imitation of the others we saw, but nevertheless, it turned out to be a lovely afternoon at the sea.

Another sunshade

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Amalfi

The Amalfi Coast

Our adventure continues…

We quickly headed out of Salerno, onto the Amalfi coastal road. The road is famous for it’s narrowness, hairpin turns, mountain curves, and fast Italian drivers.  If you hold on tight enough, it’s a thrilling and beautiful drive. The road first takes you through Majori and Minori, small coastal towns that are less famous than the town of Amalfi, but equally as sweet.

We stayed in a hotel just outside of Amalfi, The Grand Hotel Excelsior, that was simply wonderful. Situated high above the town on a cliffside, the hotel is octagonal in shape and occupies 6 floors. There is a lovely swimming pool, a grotto like lounge, and terraces at various levels for enjoying a meal and the stunning views. Every room is individually decorated and all have balconies overlooking the sea.

Annie (on the right)

The staff were helpful and gracious, especially Annie, who worked at the front desk. She spoke great English and  told us she was originally from New York. She related that her father had moved her and her family to Italy when she was a teenager, but in the end, he was the only one with a round trip ticket! She liked living in Italy, so she was still here.

The key board at the Grand Hotel Excelsior

The hotel was so friendly and comfortable that each room only has one key, on a very heavy key fob, which you would just hang back up on the key board when you left.  The honor system seemed to work quite well.

Upon Annie’s recommendation, we ate at a lovely local restaurant, Il Teatro, hidden off the beaten path in Amalfi. Owned and operated by Nonna and her family, we ate the best ravioli we’ve ever had.  It was one of the specials that evening, filled with cheese and the local lemons, it was heavenly.

Nonna’s Ravioli at Il Teatro

We wondered the streets in the small town; watched a bride and groom pose outside of the Duomo; ate well; took an elevator from street level on the cliffside down to the hotel’s beach were we swam in the warm, blue sea and I collected green sea glass from the rocky shore.

Sad to depart, we drove back to Rome from Amalfi over the mountain, passing through funky little mountain towns that hung on the cliffside. We took in our last views of the sea and held on tight.

Mountain town above Amalfi

The Duomo

The bride and groom

 

Salerno

Frank, the owner of delirium

Michael’s daughter Kelsey came for a visit from the States, so we wanted to plan a trip outside of Rome to show her more of Italy. We decided to travel south to the coastal town of Amalfi for the weekend.

While planning the trip, I looked at a map to see what was the best route to take to get there. It looked like there were two possibilities – drive south towards Naples and then on to Sorrento, and pick up the coastal road east over to Amalfi; or drive more inland from Naples and head over to Salerno and from there drive west towards Amalfi. The later seemed like an easier drive, so I made arrangements to stay the night in Salerno.

So far, I’ve had pretty good luck using a website, Booking.com, to book hotel stays while in Italy. I found a hotel online that was 4 stars, on the water with views and even boasted a spa, so I didn’t hesitate to book it for the night.

While in Salerno, we were also looking forward to having a fabulous dinner at a restaurant called Il Buco, which was recommended by our friend Teresa. Her friend, a chef from Naples, knows the owner and chef of Il Buco, so a reservation was made for us to dine there and we were assured the chef would treat us like family.  Since Teresa had given me the name of the restaurant, I thought we were set.

When we arrived in Salerno and finally found the hotel, we were struck by both the intense heat, which was worse than Rome, and Rome is very hot right now; and by the fact that it looked like we weren’t in the best part of town. We checked into the hotel (no air conditioning in the public spaces) and were shown to our room without a view. Upon our request the room was changed to a view room.  After getting settled, we explored the hotel, which might have been 4 stars in the 1970’s, but clearly wasn’t today.

The only place in the neighborhood that even seemed safe to go inside was across the street from the hotel, a bar/restaurant called delirium. Again, no air conditioning, so Frank the eager young owner, escorted us to the “garden” out back where he assured us it was cooler. The garden was lacking in anything garden-like, i.e. plants, but we were hot, tired and crabby, so we ordered drinks anyway and tried to pretend we weren’t sitting in a back parking lot.

Michael and Kelsey in the “garden” at delirium

We went back to the hotel to get ready for dinner and each took turns to shower. We knew it wasn’t a good sign that there was black mold in the bathtub (it’s not totally uncommon here to have mold due to the humidity), but we weren’t prepared for the bathroom floor to be flooded by water seeping out from the bathtub tiles!

Ready for dinner, after using all the towels to mop up the bathroom floor, we had the hotel call us a cab to take us to Il Buco. I looked up the restaurant on Google maps and found an address that I gave the cab driver, who was surly and spoke no English.  After a 15 euro ride, he stopped the cab seemingly in the middle of nowhere, insisted we get out and pointed to a corner pizza stand indicating that this was Il Buco. We tried to protest that this couldn’t be the place, but he was already gone.

I got on the phone and luckily was able to reach Teresa at home. She attempted to calm me down (at this point no one else would speak with me!) and looked up the address for Il Buco online. It’s at blah, blah, blah in Sorrento, she tells me. “Teresa! We’re in Salerno, not Sorrento!” She apologized profusely, and I kicked myself for not having gotten the address from her sooner. So much for the lovely dinner we were so looking forward to!

Lost in Salerno, we trudged towards the water searching for someplace to eat.  Luckily we found a lively restaurant where we ate a decent meal. We were able to let go of enough of our upset to speak with each other again, and eagerly planned our early morning escape from Salerno, never to return again!

 

 

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