After 6 days in Puglia and Basilicata we now had two final nights ahead of us with nothing booked.
Not something we normally do but there was so much available accommodation online we decided we’d risk it.No argument about where we wanted to be- it had to be the Amalfi Coast area which we had bowled us over during two previous trips based in gorgeous Positano.
For more on the whole week’s itinerary:naples, puglia and the amalfi coast EXPLORING SOUTHERN ITALY – Puglia PUGLIA CONTINUED: alberobello, locorotondo, martina francAOTRANTO, LECCE AND MATERA
It’s a 3hr 20 drive from Matera to Sorrento ‘on paper.’ The reality was somewhat longer to say the least!
I can’t honestly say I enjoyed the actual landscapes in Puglia though I knew that was not the area’s main appeal. Of course, we enjoyed several of the towns very much, Trani and Otranto in particular. And Matera (in Basilicata) was one of the finest crab sights I’ve seen in Italy.
But I love great scenery and much of the driving we did in Puglia felt, to be honest, dull. However, the closer we got to Salerno, the more scenic and interesting things became with atmospheric views of mist shrouded and snow dusted mountain ranges, still impressive despite the rainy weather. Way to the west, the Cilento’s coastal mountains were wrapped in glowering cloud but looked appealing nonetheless. Another trip perhaps!
Blue skies returned once we approached the Amalfi coast (Salerno end) and I got a first peek at what must have been the pastel coloured village of Cetara sitting spectacularly on a cliff. It looked absolutely stunning, a head – turner even from afar. Oh, it was good to be back in this wonderfully scenic (if crazily busy) area!
It had been such easy driving on quiet roads so far but once into the Bay of Naples area, the traffic began to build.
Of course, we’d forgotten that a sunny, warm Sunday afternoon in March would see half of Naples head to one of the most famous, celebrated coastlines in the world, just as we were!
At Torre Annunziata we hit HORRENDOUS traffic which continued all the way into Sorrento. As a result was, the drive all in had taken us nearly 5 hours.
Not that an alternative route would necessarily have been any better…
On one occasion years ago, faced with similarly awful traffic, we left the motorway at Castellamare and headed for the hills, taking the twisting, narrow, endless mountain road to Bomerano, a small village high above the Amalfi Coast. This route had nothing to recommend it and I’m sure it took us just exactly the same time…possibly more…to finally reach Positano.
So…we stuck it out, Google Assistant warning us at one point that ‘ traffic is getting worse!’ It’s the first time I’ve heard the voice say that! Depressing when we were already at a crawl!
Finally getting off Sorrento’s Corso Italia, we tried to find some short term parking and have a stroll through town but it was impossible- firstly, there were no spaces to be had and secondly, there seemed to be a standard 25 euros charge, no matter how long you parked for.Time to escape Sorrento!
I had noticed that on good old booking.com , a family run hotel was showing vacancies, situated a 10min drive outside Sorrento near Massa Lubrense.Worth a look, I thought.
HOTEL BELLAVISTA FRANCISCHIELLO
Finally escaping Sorrento’s traffic , a 10 min drive further along the coast found us pulling in – with relief – to the free parking area of the Hotel Bellavista Francischiello where a family event of some kind was in full fling; it seemed a good sign that locals had chosen to celebrate here .
Yes, they still a double room with balcony and seaview, the price was reasonable and soon , we were standing in a pretty, brightly decorated room with sunshine streaming in to it, a balcony overlooking the sea across olive and lemon groves and Capri on the horizon. We loved it.
My only worry was, we were right on the main SP7 road and I HATE road noise but the whole place was perfect otherwise , so we decided we’d book for one night and see how it was.
What a delight to relax after that long drive, sitting in warm sunshine looking across the a sparkling blue sea to Capri and Ischia! Wine for Chris, tea for me and a seat out on the balcony soaking up the sunshine.
Chris decided to stay put after all the driving, but on a whim , I caught the local bus into Sorrento( which stopped right outside the hotel) as I’d never visited it properly before.The hotel, handily, sold bus tickets and in less than 10 mins I was walking along the pedestrianised section of the Corso Italia.
Sorrento is built on cliffs, with a lift or steps leading down to small swimming areas though none looked hugely appealing to me.
Some very grand hotels are set in lush, flower filled gardens with busy outdoor terraces full of people enjoying a drink or lunch.Pastel coloured buildings added to the colourful look of the town and there was some upmarket shopping too. But. overall, Sorrento had too much of a big busy town feel for me and I wouldn’t have enjoyed being based here.
Having seen what I wanted to in an hour, I was back on the bus and glad to arrive back at our more rural abode.
Dinner in the hotel was good with tasty home cooked food- Spaghetti alla Pomodoro again for me, super simple but with copious amounts of Parmesan, it’s a big favourite.Steak with Pepper sauce for Chris. A portion of excellent chargrilled peppers, courgettes and broccoli to accompany plus nice chips.Good sourdough bread served too(chips, pasta, bread…very healthy😀)
I couldn’t decide which dessert to have so they offered me a small portion of each from the trolley! Really nice to see a dessert trolley…I used to love these. The hotel was fairly quiet though there were perhaps ten other diners.Peak season I imagine it will be pretty full as it was a large dining room.
We sat out on the balcony after dinner, just admiring the sun going down and watching the wonderful, changing light.
The road, thankfully, was very quiet and we slept well.A second night was a definite!
Another beautiful morning dawned as we made ourselves some tea and sat out to enjoy the vista, the air so clear and the sun shining on the cliffs of Capri.
Above the hotel, a very pretty pink church looked intriguing…
Breakfast was first class…cereals, muesli, prunes, seeds, yoghurts, cold meats, cheeses, tomatoes, scrambled egg , boiled eggs, toast…croissants…so much! Nice staff in the hotel too, very welcoming and friendly.The Bellavista really was a find.
Our last full day – time for some local walks to better explore the peninsula. Off we drove to Massa Lubrense village and picked up an excellent free guide to the area’s walks. It’s a pleasant village, quiet and picturesque down at the small harbour, a million miles from the buzz of Sorrento and much more appealing.
A tiny church (actually the Cemetery) looked down over the harbour, just a short drive off the main SP7 road.
It was in such beautiful spot, surrounded by lemon trees and high above the sea.Suddenly, I was slightly overcome with emotion thinking that this was indeed as lovely a spot to be buried as any.
We headed on to Termini, the village at the start of the remote Punta Campanello peninsula (the hike out looks great.)I spied a small white church – Chiesa di San Constanzo – at the top of hill which looked like it would offer a superb view.The walking booklet suggested driving a narrow road through the village which then climbed the hillside to a small parking area.I thought it might be a bit precipitous but it was an easy 5 min drive on a decent road.
Parked up, we followed an obvious trail through the pinewoods, carpeted with wildflowers.
Once out of the woodland, steps led easily up the final short slope to the church, passing the Stations of the Cross.
In all, it had barely taken us more than 15 mins to walk here, such little effort for stunning views!
I reviewed it in more detail here:
Tiny Nerano lay below, the Mediterranean was as blue as it always seems to be, Capri was looking rocky and dramatic and the air was so clear, we could make out the mountains of the Cilento.The church was locked unfortunately but what a wonderful viewpoint.
Back to the car and Nerano was next.
We’d passed it several times on the ferry to Capri and it had intrigued me, a tiny slightly remote place tucked away on a quiet part of the coast.In fact, the whole area of Massa Lubrense does feel quite rural with olive groves and lemon trees everywhere and quiet roads.That said , it’s still quite heavily populated, with many small villages, villas and small holdings.
Nerano was an attractive wee place with an ancient church and a small shop – Rachele’s- where we bought some fruit. Inside, Rachele herself was sorting out gourds of fresh Mozzarella which looked fantastic.
If we hadn’t planned to be out all day and the temperatures being what they were, we would have bought some.Since my experience of good quality Buffalo Mozzarella in Naples, I’m a convert to the Real McCoy.Before this, it had seemed a fairly tasteless, rubbery cheese.Wrong!
The place I had seen from the Capri ferry was actually Marina del Cantone just below Nerano and it wasn’t quite as pretty up close. Newish buildings were a bit messy looking and didn’t add to the little resort at all.A long pebbly beach was washed by the usual gorgeous aquamarine water.High above, I could see Chiesa di San Costanzo looking down over all.
No cafes open yet, a bit of building work going on , so we headed up the coast to Torca where an interesting looking , longer hike to remote Crapolla Cove appealed.
I’ve detailed this beautiful and not easy walk, here: AMALFI COAST – CRAPOLLA COVE HIKE
The Amalfi Coast at last…
It was 2.30pm by the time we arrived back at the car from the Crapolla hike and it felt like luxury whirling along the Amalfi Coast on four wheels after what had been quite a tough 2 hours.
The views were to die for….I had almost forgotten how fantastic the Amalfi coast is.Truly stunning.
We stopped at a few spots where it was possible to pull off the road a little but the best view to me was beyond Positano itself, giving a view of the pastel coloured houses of the spectacular village tumbling down the almost sheer green mountainside. What a wow!
There was NO chance of getting into the village itself.
The main vehicle access was blocked by the Police, it was all so busy. Along the few miles or so of possible car parking on the main coastal road, high above the village , not a space was to be had.And this was only mid March! Traffic seems to have got far worse than we experienced previously and even that had been bad.Next time, we’ll arrive by public transport though that is not an easy option either.The transport is good but from memory every bus is jam packed – in fact, it’s not always possible to get on the first bus that arrives.Then, it can be a case of standing room only and holding on tight as the bus weaves and lurches its way along the busy coast road.Ferries were packed too from memory and the journey out to Capri was on a ferry with no outdoor access.However, things may have changed for the better!
We followed a slightly different route back to Massa Lubrense and the hotel as there is a network of tiny roads all over the peninsula.
Back at the hotel we watched the sunset over Capri again and the stars coming out.No wonder the Roman Emperors had their villas along this coast and on Capri! They knew a good thing when they saw it.
At dinner, Veal Limone for me plus a good selection of grilled veg. Beef stew for Chris which was tastier than last night’s steak and nicely done.
Our last day tomorrow and hopefully, a visit to Vesuvius – ah, little did I know the stress that lay ahead over what I thought would be the simple matter of buying tickets online!
One thought on “SORRENTO AND THE AMALFI COAST”