Thelma and Louise made it.

It was a great trip. I loved taking my mom on her first big trip to Europe. It was great to follow Cathy Brady through her journey to find relatives. I must give myself credit, that pairing my mom’s first trip and Brady’s search for her roots was a great idea. The two of them got a long swimmingly, and it actually freed me up to be on vacation, and not focus on being a host.

There are plenty of funny moments, not recorded in this travel log. Whenever I think of the phrases “I don’t give a shit,” “The pizza/water/view is better in Italy,” or a debate  on the ease in which one can procure an unlicensed water taxi, I’ll think of this trip. It was a good time.

And let me finish with this story. I was the third and final member of our party to vomit. On my way home, American Airlines fed me a pepperoni pizza as a snack. It was horrible. Within 20 minutes I started to get a headache and a knot in my stomach. When I got into my house I rushed to the bathroom and vomited. This poor man’s hot pocket, was complete and utter garbage and it made me puke. Normally, I have an iron stomach and rarely vomit, but this piece of trash served to me as food was an embarrassment to the food pyramid. Hell, it wasn’t even on the pyramid, it should be in the gutter of the cistern below the pyramid. Foul. American Airlines, you are terrible.

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DANGER! American Airlines pizza is microwaved food poisoning.

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Not all pizza is the same.

Our AirBNB host, Genarro, offered to drive us to the train station in Sorrento for our visit to Pompeii. Instead of stopping at the train station he drove us all of the way to Pompeii! It was incredibly generous of him. We stopped for coffee at a road side gas station for coffees and sfogliette. He claimed that it was the best coffee in all of Sorrento.  My espresso was quite good and Glenda and Cathy loved their creme cafes.

On our way to the ruins of Pompeii, Genarro wanted to show us a church in the center of contemporary Pompeii. It was Shrine of Our Lady of the Rosary. We were rushed for time, so it was just a quick peek inside. This is the first time my anxiety about timeliness came to a head with the relaxed nature of the trip. While we were in the church, communion was happening. Cathy expressed interest, but I was quick to remind her that this stop was not a visit. This was merely a quick peek and we needed to get back in the van if we were going to be on time for our Pompeii guide.

We met our tour guide at Pompeii. His name was Antonio and I thought he was excellent. We hired him through a company called Emiliano’s Archaeological tours. The sun was brutally hot and intense that day. Cathy decided to take a break half-way through the tour to check out the visitor center. Glenda and I stuck with the tour, but we were hot and exhausted when it was all over.  I am not sure what to say about Pompeii, but if you enjoy history you should go. I really loved learning about the city and the ancient/extinct culture.  It was super fascinating. It’s a massive site and we only saw 5% of it during our 2.5 hour tour.  Sexual libertinism seems to have been quite popular in ancient Pompeii.  The erotic art in the brothel is cool and silly.

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The people in Pompeii were really into big dicks.

When Pompeii was finished we grabbed the train to Naples to find pizza. We made our way to a pizzeria called Jeri, Oggi, Domani Trattoria-Pizzeria (Trattoria-Pizzeria Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow) that was Sophia Loren themed. It was verified by the Naples Pizza Association (Vera Pizza Napoletana). That is how serious they take pizza in Naples. Pizzerias get certified. I want to be very clear. I am not a pizza snob. I love and prefer a slice of pizza from an uninteresting pizzeria when I am at home. I like cheap pizzas with things like pineapple and banana peppers on it. I’m into garbage pizza and I know it.

Then I had pizza in Naples. This was the best pizza I’ve had in my entire life. It was amazing. I am smiling as I write about it, it was that damn good. We ordered the Margarita DOP (Denominazione di Origine Protetta translates to Protected Designation of Origin), which just means the mozzarella and tomato sauce was a higher quality. The crust was perfect, the ingredients were delicious.   I loved it.

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Margarita DOP at Ieri, Oggi, Domani

After lunch, we planned to take a hop on hop off bus tour, but the last tour was at 5, and we didn’t get to the ticket counter until 4. The attendant suggested that we do not buy the ticket. We decided to take a taxi to the historic center of Naples.  We walked on a couple of old streets and looked into some shops, but did not spend much time in Naples.   We discussed taking the ferry back to Sorrento, but it left too early for us to be able to make that happen.  We said good-bye to Naples and took the express train back to Sorrento.  I’d like to return to Naples and dig into its art and museum scene in the future.

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An ancient street in Naples.

We returned to Naples for some shopping, a drink, and a small tram tour of downtown Sorrento.  After all of that we headed to dinner.  For our final meal in Sorrento we went to Restaurant Bagni Delfino.  This was the best meal of the entire trip for me.   It’s a nice Italian seafood restaurant on the water.  We had a lovely bottle of white wine from southern italy.  It was dry with a hint of citrus.  I really enjoyed it.  We started with a fried shrimp appetizer that was wonderful.  It was not overdone and the shrimp were soft and flavorful. It was perfect. Cathy had gnocchi with fresh arugula and shrimp; Glenda had pasta with clams, shrimp, and zucchini; and I had the seafood risotto.  We told the waiter we were celebrating Cathy’s 60th birthday and my mom’s upcoming 60th birthday.   They brought us tiramisu with a candle and limoncello for dessert.

 

When dinner was over we did not have Genarro to take us home.   We had the restaurant call us a taxi and they dropped us off at the top of our hill.   We took the 10 minute walk down the hill with our cell phones as flashlights.   We all went to bed pretty quickly when we got home.

Next: One last day in Italy

A speed boat to Capri

We took a boat to Capri on Monday. We hired the tour through our AirBnb rental. It was €95 for 8 hours. We met at the port in Sorrento at 9 AM and boarded with 8 other people. Our boat traveled along the Sorrento coast on a calm sea and lots of sun. Our captain’s name was Jean-Carlo and he brought his wife/girlfriend and daughter with him. We sat on the front of the boat and while we made our way to Capri. There was beer, prosecco, and aperol spritz. It was a lovely way to enjoy the sun and water. We made our way to the different grottos that are on the outside of Capri island. After the white grotto we anchored and swam from the side of the boat for 20 or 30 minutes. The water is a cobalt blue color that reminded me of the water off the northern coast of Oahu. It is beyond beautiful.

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A lot of different boat tours try to get into the grottos, so each boat needs to wait a few minutes. While we were waiting to get into the coral grotto, vomit spell number 2 hit our group. The boat was rocking enough to flip a stomach and within minutes one of us were vomiting off the side of the boat. The captain was incredibly accommodating and no one was judgmental. If you are keeping score: 3 people, 2 have vomited on this trip so far.

However, if you want to write a comedy scene (it was not funny in the moment) this could be a good one. Piture it: Youthful hard bodied lovers drinking proescco on the bow of a speed boat rushing toward Capri; Joie de vivre at its finest. This scene is juxtaposed next to a woman 2 to 3 times their age trying not to drop her sun hat while vomiting over the side of the same boat. Funny in the darkest sense possible.

Our tour included a Caprese sandwich at a restaurant for lunch. Cathy and Glenda stayed on the beach in Capri at Marina Piccolo and I hiked up to the main town. I had a lemon gelato and snapped a number of photos. On my way out I found a boutique in Capri that had the cutest shirts and I bought my husband one. If there is a god, I am praying to her right now. The shirt was way more money than I thought it was going to be so I am praying it fits him.

We made out way back to the boat. The transfer from the water taxi to our boat was only a slight issue for us and then we were back on the water. We tried to go to the Blue grotto but the sea was high and rough. Our guide said that he recommended that we do not try to get into it. We parked the boat in a nearby cove and went for one last swim.
On our way back to Sorrento a storm came in and the water was very rough. We all had to leave the sun deck and come back with the captain. When we made it Sorrento we discovered an elevator from the port to the main town for €1. We took it to town and had dinner at the Red Lion.

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This is my only bad meal of the entire trip. I decided to order a pizza. I was not paying close attention and saw “Sorrento Special” so I ordered it without really looking at it. What came was a white pizza (I never prefer it) with with a couple of types of meat (not a huge fan for pizzas), and french fries! Here’s the thing, was it prepared poorly? No, the execution seemed spot on, I just did not want that pizza. It was totally not my style. That’s on me and not the restaurant. Glenda had a good steak and Cathy ordered pasta with mixed seafood. Both liked their meals, though the thick noodle pasta (scialatielli) that Cathy ordered was not her cup of tea. We ended the night with gelato and Genarro volunteered to pick us up and drive us home. That’s right, I had gelato twice in one day.

Next: Not all pizza is the same.

Driving through Italy is a roller coaster

We checked out of Masseria Stomato and headed up to Castroregio one last time. Cathy left mass and we jumped in the car for Sorrento. The GPS told us that we should drive through Parco Nazionale del Pollino. This is a beautiful drive that was nothing but small  winding roads. This made the ride an absolute hell for my mom and Cathy. Motion sickness was their enemy for at least 90 minutes. This was the first vomit spell of the trip (first? You ask. Sorry, spoilers.) We should have driven south from Castroregio to Amendolara and drove the highway to Sorrento, but we did not do that. If anyone on you trip suffers from motion sickness do not follow our path.

We eventually made it to Sorrento and went straight to our AirBnB home. It is called Casa Peach and it is owned by a generous man named Gennaro Iaccarino. The view from the home is breath taking. It looks at Mt. Vesuvius and overlooks the Bay of Naples. It sits on small Roman road that leads to Marina di Puolo. The property has lemon and plum trees, 3 bed rooms, a roof deck and plenty of chairs.

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The view of Mount Vesuvius from my AirBnb.

We walked down the hill for 10 minutes to get to the beach. It’s a small, clean, public beach. We swam for an hour and then had an early dinner. We ended up at La Tavernetta Sorrento by the beach. I had a perfectly cooked sea bream, Glenda had a really nice pizza with arugula and prosciutto, and Cathy had a mediocre steak. The mediocrity of the steak was very disappointing as this dinner was Cathy’s gift from Anje & Dennis for her 60th birthday. The bruschetta was excellent and my marinated fish appetizer was lovely. We schlepped up the hill and went to bed with the sound of a breeze coming off of the sea.

Next: A speed boat to Capri

It’s time for a festival in Castroreggio

We woke up in our hotel to a gorgeous view of the sea and the valley. Our breakfast was homemade cakes, fresh fruit, and strong coffee. It was really nice. We drove down the hill through the charming town of Amendolara and onto Marina di Amendolara. We stopped by the beach and walked in the water. The beach is extremely rocky, but the stones are round and smooth, so it is quite nice. From there, we drove to Oriolo, saw its Medieval castle and then decided to return to Castroreggio to find Cathy.

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The view from Masseria Stomato.

We discovered that Cathy had not been feeling well and missed mass. She found the local bakery and bought a couple small escarole hand pies. I had more than a bite, they were very good. The entire town had left to go to a wooded area about a mile out of town. This is the festival dedicated to the Madonna of the Snow. This is where the statue of the Virgin Mary stays in the summer. Why does a statue need a summer home? I don’t know, but religion by its very nature is weird. Let’s leave it at that.

It’s an oak forest with a small chapel and big stone picnic tables. There were a couple hundred people milling about and picnicking with their families. There were a lot of vendors and 85% of them sold nothing but junk toys and knock off clothing. The vendors selling local cheeses, meats, and honey were the best of the lot. This included the guy selling pork and sausage sandwiches for lunch. I ordered a sandwich with thin slices of fried pork and marinated eggplants. It tasted great.

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The virgin leaving her chapel in the woods.

After lunch, we left the forest and took Cathy to Marina di Amendolara. One of Cathy’s cousins stayed in the forest and was a part of the 2-3 hour procession to carry the virgin Mary back to town. Summer is over and it’s time she got back to work. After a visit to the sea (Cathy’s first dip in the Mediterranean) we went to our hotel to enjoy the view with a bottle of wine made on our hotel’s farm. The wine costs €3 and was excellent.

After relaxing on the terrace we made our way back to Castroreggio only to find out that the procession was just arriving to the church. Some of our crew was very hungry and wanted dinner ASAP, but Ada was nervous that the town’s restaurant owner may not be open. Ada escorted us to La Tana Del Lupo and asked them if they could make us a meal. They could, so all were relieved. La Tana Del Lupo is a restaurant, but is also functions as a corner store. There are 3 tables on a small terrace. The owner made us each an antipasti plate and a bowl of cavatelli with sausage in tomato sauce. A young cousin of Cathy’s family stopped by and bought us a round of after dinner drinks. Amaro di Capo is good and packs a punch.

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Hand made cavatelli.

The night ended with a band and dancing in the town square. My mom was right in the middle of it dancing the night away. We made it back to our hotel around 1 AM and quickly fell asleep.

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Glenda is hitting the dance floor.

Next: Driving through Italy is a roller coaster