The Italian Diaries – Ravello

It’s easy to miss Ravello. It’s a town that doesn’t appear on many maps. When we first arrived in Italy, we had no idea it even existed.  And yet, as we drove around the coast, we kept seeing the sign with an arrow pointing up.  Back at our hotel, we would constantly overhear other guests talking about it, in particular, the spectacular views. Finally, we decided we had to see it.

Ravello is a small town that sits above the Amalfi Coast and truly offers some of the best views of the mountainsides that line the coast.

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Similar to Amalfi, there is a piazza right in the center of town and then the streets and shops branch out from there. Right in the middle of the Piazza Vescovado is a cathedral called Duomo di Ravello.

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Known for it’s bronze door and bell tower, Duomo di Ravello is the centerpiece of town.

As you start branching out from Piazza Vescovado, you’ll encounter quaint details, like stone tunnels and curious doors.

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The one thing you’ll see everywhere you look in Ravello? Ceramics. All hand-made and hand-painted. We actually bought a mail holder to bring back with us.

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We wanted to buy more but were concerned with transporting fragile items back to the states.

Unfortunately, we didn’t get to see as much of Ravello as we would’ve liked due to our late afternoon arrival. But that also meant we got some great pics of the area at dusk.

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Keep in mind though, the drive up the mountains of the coast is NO JOKE! You can only go about 20mph so 10 miles can feel like an eternity to drive! Make sure you allow some extra time when you visit.

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As is often the case, the best spots are the ones you find by going off-the-beaten path. And Ravello certainly did not disappoint.

Next stop…Mt. Vesuvius!

The Italian Diaries – Amalfi

*I’ve asked my husband, Pete, to write another guest post to give his perspective of our trip to Amalfi*

I can’t even tell you how many times Maria has mentioned that the town of Amalfi is her favorite place on Earth. And as we rode along the winding coastline and looked out over the water with Positano in the distance, I started to understand why.

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Look, I’m no world traveler, but I have to imagine the drive from Positano to Amalfi is one of the most breathtaking (and sometimes frightening) trips you can ever take.

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When we finally arrived in town, we quickly learned that it’s not easy to find a suitable parking spot for a minivan in a seaside town full of Fiats and Vespas. But we (eventually) made it happen.

Shops, restaurants, and gelaterias lined the streets, and limoncello was everywhere (that’s not a complaint). We spent some time browsing around and sat down to eat at a little cafe in Piazza del Duomo, the main town square.

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Then finally, after years of preparing for the moment, I had a chance to practice my Italian in my first true one-on-one chat with a local shopowner.

Me: [holding up a hat] Quanto costa? (How much does it cost?)
Shopowner: Dodici (twelve)

…90 seconds later…

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Of course, if you’ve ever been to Amalfi, you know the most memorable part of the Piazza del Duomo is the Cathedral of Saint Andrew.

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What I found most amazing is that a towering cathedral, originally built in the 9th century, sits right in the middle of a fairly small town (around 5500 people) and somehow doesn’t seem out of place. It was truly a masterpiece.

We ended the visit with a round of gelato at Pasticceria Savoia and headed back over to the car for the drive back.

Next stop…Pompeii.

 

The Italian Diaries – Massa Lubrense

*To kick off The Italian Diaries, I asked my husband, Pete, to write a guest post about our first day in Italy.*

Back when we first met, Maria and I decided that we wanted to travel to Italy together. She had already been there twice before (in 2005 and 2007), but it would be my first time in Europe.

In August 2014, we finally made it happen. For two weeks, we had the chance to explore Rome, Naples and the Amalfi Coast (as well as a few other surprise stops along the way). Joining us on the trip were Maria’s brother Joe and their parents, who were both born in Italy and are extremely knowledgeable about the area, the people, and the culture (and they speak the language).

Since we’ve reached the 2-year anniversary of our trip (and are becoming increasingly nostalgic), we wanted to take a look back at all of the incredible experiences.

First stop…

Massa Lubrense

Well, technically this isn’t the first stop. We flew into Fiumicino Airport in Rome, rented a car and headed towards Il Mezzogiorno (Southern Italy). “Mezzogiorno” literally means “Midday” and refers to the area from Naples south (including the islands of Sicily and Sardinia), where the intense sun beats down during the mid-afternoon hours.

After a 3+ hour drive, we arrived at Hotel Delfino in Massa Lubrense, a small fishing village on the Amalfi Coast located near Sorrento. And if we weren’t excited enough about being in Italy, check out these views:

Capri From Hotel Delfino

Capri From the Balcony

Wow!

By the way, that island off in the distance is Capri (we’ll get to that later in the trip).

Maria and I soaked it all in for awhile before making our way down to the pool area for a late afternoon snack. I want to take a moment here to say that a typical late afternoon snack for us at home usually consists of a yogurt or a few pretzels. In Italy, it’s this:

Caprese With Fresh Mozzarella, Tomato, and Basil

Caprese with ingredients as fresh as they come. Not a bad way to start our trip.

Earlier on in the day, the woman at the front desk mentioned that there was a little trail right around the corner that would take us to the town, so after a quick bite, Maria and I wandered out to explore.

We didn’t go all the way down (the trail was a little longer than we prepared for), but we were able to take this shot from above the village.

Massa Lubrense on the Amalfi Coast

I’d say the locals have a pretty good view to wake up to every morning.

When we made it back to the hotel, we joined the family at the on-site restaurant and talked over the itinerary for the next two weeks. My father-in-law is a seafood lover, so of course, he went with the Catch of the Day for dinner.

Seafood Dinner at Hotel Delfino

After dinner, we were just about to call it a night and rest up for the adventure ahead, but the hotel had other plans. In a small room off the main hotel lobby, we stumbled across this:

Italian Music and Dancing at Hotel Delfino

Dancers and musicians playing all the Italian classics, everything from Funiculi Funicula to Volare. And they even let the hotel guests join in.

Italian Group Dance at Hotel Delfino

Overall, it was a pretty memorable first day for both of us. Next stop…Sorrento.