Last but certainly not the least was the picturesque Amalfi Coast located in the south of the country.
We boarded the high-speed train from Rome to Naples Central , where we had arranged for a private transfer to Sorrento from Di Nocera Car Service.
Our chauffeur cum guide, Paulo described the various sights during the one hour journey to Sorrento, our base for the next two days. Naples was truly an urban jungle and it was the first time that we had seen modern buildings since our time in Italy. It somehow reminded me of Mumbai, with the bustling traffic, uniform apartments and the sight of laundry hanging in the balconies. Paulo also showed us the active volcano- Mt Vesuvius and told us that the highway we were travelling on, was built by Mussolini during the world war.
We were breath-taken with the first glimpse of the Amalfi coast with the azure blue Mediterranean sea and the stunning coastline.
We soon arrived at Sorrento, which was a small town but definitely far less touristy than Rome and Florence.
People generally seemed to be more relaxed, shops open for longer durations and during the night, it seems that like the entire town was one large party with street performers pulling funny pranks on passers-by, roads closed out to vehicles and pedestrians strutting around demonstrating the art of “passeggiata”. One could notice young teenagers, honeymooning couples, families with kids and elderly people all relishing the slow pace of the city.
Lemons were found to be growing in abundance in this region due to which it was incorporated into almost every aspect of the local lives, such as food, drinks and even perfumes and soaps.
We stayed at a small B & B called Old Taverna Sorrentina, a family business including a gelateria run for more than three generations, a restaurant and a cooking school.
We also got to spend some time with the owners where they explained that these days it was not easy run the business and we could see them wooing the passing tourists with free samples and inviting them to the gelateria. The main owner who also was the chef- William could be heard saying cheesy comments- “One spoon will not make you fat”. And as we bade him goodnight, he wished -“Go to bed, but not to sleep.”
We had signed up for a private tour of the Amalfi Coast again through Di Nocera and we were pleasantly surprised when we were met by Paulo again.
The landscape was pretty as a picture with white yachts dotting the blue seas, colorful buildings on the coastline, dome shaped churches and multi-coloured umbrellas on the beaches.
We were driven along the entire stretch of the Amalfi coast which consisted of several little towns. We stopped in the towns of Positano and Amalfi. They were much smaller in size than Sorrento and whose main attractions were the beach and various resorts. The towns were also famous for their shopping districts and designer brands.
Contrary to the general opinion, I found Sorrento much more beautiful and lovely than these cities. However, heat unfortunately played a major spoil-sport for us during the trip. These cities were also famous for their ceramic shops where we stopped to purchase some gifts and souvenirs for friends and family.
We did stop for a gourmet lunch (the most expensive meal of our trip) with waiters serving the dishes with a Masterchef like description such as Baked Zucchini flowers stuffed with mozzarella cheese served in a delicate tomato sauce topped with basil , another one being Lemon profiteroles served with a fresh cream made with lemons from the region garnished with lemon zest. To describe the view from the restaurant as breathtaking would be an understatement.
After the lovely drive of the coast, headed back to our room as I had registered for a private cooking class. What I thought would be a solo lesson turned out to be a couple class with both of us learning how to make a full course Italian meal consisting of Bruschetta, Ravioli, Chicken Escalope in a Caprese sauce and Tiramisu.
It couldn’t get more authentic than an Italian chef teaching us Italian course in Italy ! The dishes were simple, easy and could be quickly prepared. We got an insight into Italian cuisine and the essential do’s and don’ts.
We spent the rest of our last evening in the country by browsing the local shops and ended up purchasing some olive oil, lemon candy, hand-made lemon soaps and a few spices. We further ended the night with some time at a café on the Piazza Tasso observing the passers-by strolling around.
Thus came the end of our memorable holiday in this beautiful welcoming country.
Grazie mille Italia !