October 5, 2012

Limoncello - "I Like It!" - Our Visit to Sorrento

For our last hurrah on the Amalfi Coast, we spent a few hours touring Sorrento, a short 15-minute drive from Massa Lubrense. It was a hot and humid 92-degree day; pretty hot considering it was September 28th. In hindsight, perhaps we should have found a beach club in which we could enjoy our last day on the coast, whilst (I'm feeling British) a cute cabana boy served us delicious and cold limoncello drinks and fanned us with palm fronds while we basked in the sun. But back to reality. I suspect hanging out at a beach club probably wasn't at the top of Dad and Joan's "must do" list while in Italy!

Sorrento isn't a very large town, with only about 16,000 residents. When I was planning our trip to Italy, Sorrento was our desired "home base" for our visit to the Amalfi Coast, but we were unable to find a rental villa there that met our requirements, mostly due to not wanting to climb up/down hundreds of steps to reach the front door.

Although our villa in Massa Lubrense has worked out fine, I think Sorrento would be more desirable just because of the access to shopping, dining and other amenities like ferries. Originally, we were only going to keep the rental car for our tour through Tuscany and Umbria, but we felt it was pretty much a requirement on the Amalfi Coast since our rental villa wasn't very well situated for use of the somewhat limited public transportation. And I'm glad we had a car; although it was certainly stressful to drive the coastal roads, it was nice to be able to be flexible with our time and not be dependent on public transportation.

Our agenda for our visit to Sorrento wasn't that well thought out; perhaps do some souvenir shopping, enjoy a nice lunch and see a few of the local sights. After parking the car safely in a local "parcheggio", we walk to the center of town to see what touristy things we can find.

Given the heat, our first order of business was to find a cool/shady place to sit and enjoy a very cold beverage. It didn't take us long to spot the perfect place.
Although we had seen plenty of Limoncello for sale throughout the Amalfi Coast, we hadn't yet tried any, so the time had come. We were expecting to find some kind of cocktail concoction on the drink menu featuring Limoncello, but we didn't see anything. According to our server, it's more common to either drink it straight (sip it) or cut it with a mixer, like Sprite, Club Soda, etc. So that's what we did. Us girls ordered a Limoncello cut with soda and Dad had an Italian beer. Limoncello is pretty potent and tart. I can't imagine just drinking it straight, but I did enjoy it over ice with a Sprite. Perhaps just slightly too sweet, I think it might be better with just club soda (which they didn't have). Joan and April cut theirs with tonic, which was fine. As usual, sitting at the cafe and people watching was pretty good entertainment.
Refreshed (and perhaps with a slight buzz), we wandered over to the "tourist train we had seen go by earlier.
We purchased our tickets for train and waited a few minutes for the next one to arrive. To be honest, it was pretty hokey, but we did see a bit of the city and we could now check off "Sorrento" off our lists of places visited. I did sit next to a lovely British woman on the train (hence my use of a very British word above) and after discussing our Italian travel horror stories, we spent most of the remainder of our short 30-minute tour of Sorrento talking about Paris. As it turns out, she also adores Paris and often takes her granddaughter for long weekends (or is that "mini-break" in British-speak?) to Paris for some fine dining and shopping. What a lucky girl! I hope somebody I can bring my granddaughter(s)? to Paris to do the same. Of course, being able to just jump on the "chunnel" from a London train station is a much more cost-effective mode of travel then let's say American Airlines, but I thought it was a lovely idea.

April had found a place on Trip Advisor for lunch and I have to say, I think my fellow travelers steered us wrong. Although it was very highly rated (and recommended), the food was pretty mediocre, not that well-priced, and the service was awful. And have I mentioned that I'm getting REALLY TIRED OF PIZZA AND PASTA? After our lackluster lunch, we wandered the streets to do a little souvenir shopping.

With some souvenirs in hand, we return somewhat wearily to the car and head back to Massa Lubrense. I think it was the heat, but even though it was maybe just 4:30 PM, we were all exhausted! We enjoyed another uneventful, disaster-free drive back to the villa. It's these small victories that I can smile about now. It's another beautiful evening at the villa and we enjoy what's left of our stay staring out into that big, beautiful Bay of Naples.

We spend a somewhat leisurely evening at the villa, but also begin to pack up our things and clean up. We're heading to Rome the next day and we'll be up bright and early since we have to first train from Sorrento to Naples, then switch trains in Naples for our scheduled train to Rome.

So here are my reflections on the Amalfi Coast. It's breathtakingly beautiful. I loved being so close to the sea, but I think it would have been nice to be closer to a beach club or pool? I also think staying somewhere a bit larger (like Sorrento) might be nice for the added amenities a larger town provides; we were a bit remote in Massa Lubrense, but once we learned the roads, Sorrento wasn't really that far, so perhaps we could have done more evening activities in Sorrento. The other trade off was that we had a beautiful villa overlooking the sea for a really inexpensive price; we paid only 750 Euros for 5 nights in a 3-bedroom/2-bath villa with multiple terraces. That worked out to be something like 37 Euros per night, per person. Not bad! Villa rentals in Sorrento and Positano were much more expensive.

Should I ever return to this area, I would love to spend more time in Positano to just wander around. It's very charming and definitely worth a second look. There are also other towns along the coast that I would have liked to visit as well, including the town of Amalfi. But as our new-found travel motto goes "that's another trip."


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