We had an early start in the morning ahead of our 4-hour drive from Rome to Positano. Roy and Carol were taking us to see the Amalfi Coast, which is a 50-kilometer stretch of coastline along the southern edge of Italy’s Sorrentine Peninsula, in the Campania region. It’s a popular holiday destination dominated by sheer cliffs and a rugged shoreline dotted with tiny beaches and pastel-coloured fishing villages, straight out of a painting. Trevor was spending the weekend with his Aunt Gracie.
Roy showed us how you drink Cappucinos in Italy. Standing upright at the “bar” in a roadside AutoGrill, elbow-to-elbow with the other patrons. ☕️ Way to go!
Roy couldn’t resist buying us a looney-looking goose to partner our travelling mascot “Amalfi” the mouse. We christened the goose “Capri”.
We bypassed the city of Naples, swept below Mt Vesuvius and the famous city of Pompei and hit very heavy traffic as we reached the coast at Sorrento. We were heading through a winding mountain pass, and the traffic was virtually bumper-to-bumper. Going slowly allowed us to admire the absolutely stunning coastal views. The weather was sunny and clear, the sea was like glass and we could see the island of Capri just off the coastline.
Positano was even more enchanting than we expected – it feels almost imaginary. The colourful houses are stacked along the cliffside and it’s hard to think that there could be a spot in town that doesn’t have a pretty view of the sparkling blue sea below.
It took us some time to reach our hotel and as people whizzed past our virtually stationery vehicle, we discussed the plan of hiring motorbikes for the weekend. Carol had booked us in to the Punta Regina Hotel. It is a lovely, upscale, family-run hotel with breath-taking views of the sea and surrounding mountains from its rooftop terrace and infinity swimming pool. Our charming room had a balcony looking out to sea.
We settled in and unpacked, opening the windows for the refreshing breeze and enjoyed the view. In true Roy style, he had already pre-booked the brand-new, Piaggio motorbikes and they were delivered to our hotel. It was time to head out to cruise the winding roads through town. Getting bike-ready was hysterical. Roy gave us medical hair nets to wear under the helmets and we had a good laugh at how ridiculous we looked and teased Carol for putting her helmet on backwards.😁
We zoomed through the busy streets of Positano. It was quite scary at first because of the intense congestion of cars, bikes and people. Also the road is narrow and windy. The bikes were easily powerful enough to feel safe when having to swiftly overtake, even on an uphill. Another benefit of the bikes was that it was fairly easy to find parking. We took a stroll down to the Spiaggia Grande, Positano’s main beach, which borders the esplanade and has some of the town’s best restaurants. These restaurants open up directly onto the beach.
Just above the beach is the tiled dome of Chiesa Santa Maria Assunta. We admired it from the outside but the church is also an architectural delight within, and home to a 12th-century Byzantine-style icon of a Black Madonna and Child.
Naturally Roy had not left our lunch restaurant up to chance and we had reservations at “Chez Black”. This authentically Italian seafood restaurant is a stalwart of Positano. It has been family run since 1949 and recently their grandson has taken the reins.
The Grandfather (the Godfather?) of the family opened the first restaurant shortly after the war, renovating old boathouses on Positano’s main beach. Apparently the name “Chez Black” comes from the original owner’s nickname due to his swarthy looks and dark eyes.
We had a long and leisurely lunch. From the photographs of all the famous people on the wall (e.g. Roger Moore; Elizabeth Taylor) it has been a rather glamorous celebrity haunt over the years. The décor and atmosphere is a bit like being on a beautiful ship out at sea. The food is good with a wide choice of foods and we tucked in to some delicious seafood and pasta and sole. Luckily we were supplied with complimentary bibs, allowing us to get down and dirty with our tasty crustaceans. True to form, we over did it with desserts and things got very festive when we tasted the local limoncello.
Having over indulged, the only option was to return to the hotel for a siesta. We slept, then had a nice bath and met Carol and Roy at 8pm. Of course it was only just getting dark! Roy had booked us at “La Terrazza” restaurant. It has a beautiful setting right on the rocks overlooking the ocean. We admired the natural stone walls and crisp white table cloths and the white curtains, gently blowing in the evening breeze. Oh my goodness, we were still full from lunch. It was hard to order food again, but of course we did and as usual we ended up having a three-course meal!
After supper we wandered around the shops that were still open even though it was after 10pm. Roy took us to a trendy place in the hills for drinks and we got back to our hotel at 2am.
We slept til 9h30, had a quick shower and met for a light breakfast on the terrace of our hotel at 10 am. The plan was to take a long ride to Ravello which is further along the coast. We were advised that the restaurant we had reservations with was rather upmarket and the boys packed long trousers to replace their shorts at a later stage.
The coastal road between the Positano and clifftop Ravello, winds past grand villas, terraced vineyards and cliffside lemon groves. We couldn’t have had a more ideal day. The views were incredible and made me think of our own Chapman’s Peak, except that this went on for miles and miles. We stopped occasionally to admire the rocky outcrops into dazzling blue sea and to marvel at the homes clinging precariously to the cliffside. There is not much beach anywhere, just calm, blue ocean lapping against the rocks. I couldn’t get over the complete absence of wind and the mirror-like water.
We hit unbelievable traffic at the resort town of Amalfi. The bikes paid for themselves as we sneaked past a mile long line of cars that were only inching forward!
Ravello is a charming and romantic village located high up in the hills, 1000 ft above sea level. It features winding cobblestone streets, quaint little shops and offers some of the best views of the famous coastline, with the gleaming Tyrrhenian Sea and breath-taking scenery. It was a beautiful steep drive and we stopped halfway up to our destination hotel for the boys to make a quick change to lose their short pants. We were hysterical as they hopped around on the side of the road in their underpants, putting their legs into the pants.🤣
Suitably attired, we arrived at Hotel Caruso and sat on the veranda marvelling at the exquisitely curated gardens with its lush lemon and olive trees. This former 11th-century palace is sumptuous with its luxurious touches. Marbled hallways lead to rooms brimming with fresh flowers, antiques, arches, chandeliers and paintings by old masters. The hotel was originally built by a wealthy family, apparently shipwrecked on their journey to Constantinople. It was once called Palazzo d’Afflitto—the Palace of the Afflicted.
While the origins of Ravello date back to the Roman era, it was the Middle Ages that gave it wealth and status, when the inhabitants were involved in maritime trade with the Orient. The newly enriched families of that age built castles, villas, churches and civic buildings to show off their wealth and to rival their richer, influential neighbour, the town of Amalfi. Amalfitans gave Ravello the name, “Rebellum” (rebel).
We had an extravagant lunch of cheeses and tomato and then mixed seafood and fish platters. Dessert was exceptional – sorbets and tiramisu. We had coffees and then paid the most exorbitant bill of 500 Euros. We wandered through the verdant gardens and then meandered through the village, admiring the summery fabrics and ceramics on sale.
The ride back to Positano went quickly although because there were less stops, I found I was stiff from sitting on the bike for so long. Also by the time we got back to our hotel it was close to 6pm and we were definitely feeling chilled to the bone.
We had a snooze and met up again around 8pm. We spent some time wandering around the streets of Positano, investigating the shops and the pricey boutiques. We found a casual pasta place for supper and I had ravioli stuffed with spinach and Geoff had a delicious pasta with courgette and parmesan cheese. We shared some fresh pineapple for dessert before hopping back on our bikes and heading home.
We slept late, lying around reading and feeling like we were on holiday! We all met for brekkie at 10 am. We reluctantly packed up and checked out and headed towards Sorrento which is a town on the peninsula just a hour away from Naples.
Roy had a final surprise for us. The Campania region of south-west Italy is know to be famous for pizza. Naples, the capital was founded in 600 BC as a Greek settlement. By the late 1700s it was populated by throngs of poor working class people. These Neapolitans required cheap and easy to eat food, and street vendors would sell flatbreads with simple toppings of cheese and anchovy, oil and garlic.
Pizza A Metro da Gigino is known as the “University of Pizza” and churns out kilometres of pizza every day. Back in the ’30’s, Gigino came up with the idea of making pizza long and rectangular, instead of the traditional round jobs we’re all so familiar with – so for lunch we selected slices from pizzas a metre long! Delicious and nice to be eating pizza in its authentic home. 🍕
After lunch it was a direct drive home, by-passing the city of Naples and getting to Rome just in time for its usual crazily congested traffic. We were tired but happy and so grateful for this wonderful experience that Carol and Roy shared with us.❤️