Tag: amalfi Coast

Lemons, Oranges, . . . ‘And-Yellows’!?

Lemons, Oranges, . . . ‘And-Yellows’!?

Wait. What?

No, ‘And Yellow’ is not the name of another fruit.  But it is similar to the pronunciation of a lovely fruit-filled town in Italy on the way to Sorrento and the Amalfi Coast.

The Bay of Naples with Mount Vesuvius

Sant Agnello

If you are traveling in Southern Italy and looking for an inexpensive, yet lovely location to stay, look no further than Sant Agnello (pronounced Sahnt Ahn-yellow).  It’s the perfect combination of small town feel and close to attractions.

We took the Curreri Commuter Bus south directly from the Naples airport. (The traffic is crazy –  just as we had heard! We were very glad to have decided not to try to drive in Italy! No rules. No ‘wait your turn’. Just smoosh your way in. And many folks drive motorized scooters. We saw a terrible accident involving a scooter driver. Not a nice sight, but they still weave in front of traffic with only a few inches to spare.) Sant Agnello is located about an hour and a half bus ride (or an hour on the Circumvesuviana Train) south of Naples – about 15 miles (25 km). But the road winds along the coast and depending on the time of day there can be plenty of traffic on the 2 lane road, since many of the folks who live in the little towns along the way commute to Naples. It’s a beautiful drive, skirting Mount Vesuvius and the hill country of the Sorrento coastline, with a view of the Bay of Naples.

Sorrentine Peninsula south of Naples

That bus ride was by far the best part of the day’s travel, because the scenery is SOOOO Italian!!  Not only gorgeous scenery, but also very typical Italian architecture, old people sitting and chatting with each other on park benches, very narrow streets, etc. If we hadn’t been so tired, and the bus hadn’t been going so fast, I would have taken a hundred pictures or more just on that bus ride alone.

Narrow streets in Sant Agnello

We rented a charming Airbnb located on one of the many narrow back lanes not far from the town center, and it was one of our favorite stays in our three-week long tour of Italy.

Upon arriving in Sant Agnello, we sat on a park bench attempting to look like locals while waiting for our hostess to pick us up. (Fail! Our luggage sat beside us, with no heads, arms or legs, and unable to join in the conversation.)  Instead we watched the Italian world go by. One of those was a very little Italian boy of about four or five who waved at us through the bus window, with his little nose smooched up against it, and whom, after waving and smiling, commenced to blowing kisses at us and smiling. They learn to be charming really young there!

A Loaded Lemon Tree in Sant Agnello

The fruit laden trees in people’s yards screamed ‘pick me’ as the enormous fruits hung heavy on their branches, though of course one cannot just enter someone else’s yard and pick their fruit. I have never seen such large lemons anywhere else, and to see street lined with orange trees filled with the ripe orange globes, was something I had never experienced before. This area of Italy also boasted many Olive groves, as well as Fig trees.

With a population of roughly 10,000, it’s small enough to feel homey. Considered a municipality (or what some might call a bedroom community) of Naples, it is a safe and beautiful area for making home base as one explores the area. And there is much to explore.  Consider staying a few days and take time to see all that southwestern Italy has to offer.  We only gave ourselves three days and wish we had stayed longer!

The Sorrentine Peninsula

Sorrento

Sorrento is the Gateway to the Amalfi Coast, and Sant Agnello is Sorrento’s northern doorway.  (Less than 3 miles away, Sant Agnello is practically a suburb – perfect for retiring to at night after a busy day amidst the crowds of the popular Coastal cities.) Sorrento is a city of cliff-side homes clinging to the rocks, terraced gardens, and spectacular views.  One can begin or end a boat tour to and from Naples or the Amalfi Coast at the Marina, meander the hillside shops, dine in the cafes that line the square, take the bus to the southern side of the Peninsula and visit Positano, Amalfi and Ravello, and take the ferry across to Capri, a beautiful island just off the coast, and home to the beautiful Blue Lagoon.

Positano

The coastal town of Positano is a popular tourist attraction boasting dozens of lovely shops filled with beautiful Italian clothing, leather handbags, Italian hand-painted pottery and all things lemon.  It is a perfect destination for the whole family, offering shopping, swimming and sunbathing, boat tours, lots of outdoor dining, and incredible views. Like its neighbors, Positano clings to the hillside and its colorful shops, restaurants and homes are stacked upon each other, meandering up the slopes of the hill, with the roads curving here and there along the contours of the hilly topography.  It is picturesque; a photographer’s paradise, and the sunsets are incredible!

From Positano, one’s options for exploring continue either upward, outward, or onward.

The lovely Emerald Grotto is available by boat tours, and while spendy for its short duration, is a popular attraction for its intense beauty and color. We did not find time for such an excursion, and the Grottoes get very mixed reviews due to the very short duration of the actual time inside each Grotto combined with lines of people waiting for the opportunity, and the expense involved. But the colors are intense if the pictures available online are any indication, so photographers might find them particularly attractive destinations. Boat tours of the coastline are also an excellent opportunity to see the beauty of each of the colorful hillside towns from a distance – photo ops worth writing home about!

We took a boat excursion in the Cinque Terre area and enjoyed it very much, though the towns are small and the boats did not go in nearly as close to some of the towns as we had hoped. But the scenery was beautiful and the colorful towns are incredibly picturesque! When in Italy, do not deprive yourself of at least one boat excursion. It will be worth your money just to see it from the perspective of the sea!

Village Clinging to the Hill

Amalfi  & Ravello

Amalfi is east of Positano at the foot of the hill from Ravello.  These quaint hillside towns with their colorful buildings perched on top of one another are also home to lovely old churches with Renaissance art and architecture. Amalfi’s beautiful cathedral was built in the 9th century. Ravello was founded in the 5th century and also boasts a beautiful duomo.  These and other picturesque towns in the area are another reason not to rush your visit to the area.

The Path of the Gods

High above Positano is the town of Santa Maria del Castello, through which runs the Path of the Gods, a five-mile hiking path which begins in Agerola  and ends in Nocelle. The views from this hike are said to be absolutely stunning, and I wish we would have had time to hike it.  The raves and reviews to be found are inspiration to return to the Amalfi Coast another time. Though they say it is not recommended for folks with knee trouble, it might be worth the pain.  Take walking sticks and go in the above direction, rather than the other way around so it is mainly downhill.

North from Sant Agnello: Pompeii and Other Ancient Ruins

Pompeii, Herculaneum, and three other villages in the area now designated as Pompeii Archeological Park, were buried under the ash and other volcanic debris when Mount Vesuvius erupted in 79 AD. They have been and are still being excavated and are open for the world to see.  If you want to see more than one of these villages, plan for two full days. You should either purchase your tickets online ahead of time, or inside the Park, NOT from vendors outside the area, which are not affiliated with the Park. You should also know ahead of time that backpacks and other large bags are not allowed.

Pompeii

We spent one very hot day at Pompeii in July (2017) when the area was having a heat wave, and were incredibly thankful for the various fountains situated at intervals throughout the ancient city.  It was nearly 100 degree Fahrenheit in the shade, with the heat radiating off the stones of the ruins, baking us as we explored.  It was simply too hot to spend the entire day or allow us to continue on to Herculaneum, which we had originally intended. I believe the tickets for entrance into one of the ruins includes entry into the other four, or perhaps in grouped settings, but two days are needed to explore them thoroughly, and the heat of summer is not conducive to enjoying the visit.  Take water bottles and take advantage of the fountains, refilling your bottles often if visiting in the summer. Stay hydrated, but enjoy!

Pompeii Artifacts

If you are into history as our family is, you will enjoy visiting the ancient ruins and seeing how people lived back then.  Besides the ruins of the city you can view thousands of artifacts which were found in these towns, including pottery, statues, mosaics, and even casts of the bodies of folks who died during the eruption. Pompeii hosts a public bathing area consisting of several buildings surrounding a large courtyard.  Much of it, including portions of its roof and frescoed ceilings are still intact. Though the painted frescoes are faded, you can still see that it was a beautiful building in its day. Very few of the homes and buildings still had roofs, so this particular one was a special treat.

Frescoed ceiling at Pompeii

Pompeii was one of our favorite visits in the Sant Agnello area, in spite of the heat. And Sant Agnello was one of our favorite visits in all of Italy.

If you visit Sant Agnello, be sure to eat at Mi Ami Trattoria Pizzeria!  Their pizza was the best we tasted in all of Italy and their prices were really low.  When you are done, go across the little side street, through the little park, to the covered outdoor eatery, enter the Gelateria on the corner, and choose a Gelato.  It was the best we had anywhere in Italy.  I personally recommend the Lemon Gelato, but the mango is incredible as well, and more than likely all the flavors are delicious.  They are also less expensive than almost anywhere else in any of the tourist-filled areas you are likely to visit while in Italy.

Cacti of Southern Italy

Cactus in Sant Agnello

One last note about Sant Agnello and the surrounding area of southern Italy: the cactus plants grow really big there and the variety is interesting.  If you are from the Northern Hemisphere as I am, then you will know what I mean when I say that the cacti there are amazing. We here in Washington, in the northern United States are not used to seeing Aloe plants that are bigger than we are, or fruit-bearing cacti, or tall spindly cacti in bloom.  Generally the cactus plants we see are tiny and indoors because our climate does not accommodate much growth. These plants were huge and healthy and bigger than any I had ever seen in my life. I couldn’t resist taking pictures of some of these specimens.  Enjoy!

Cactus in Bloom in Porto Venere, Italy

 

Interesting cacti seen from the bus window. Sorry for the poor picture.

What is your favorite region of Italy? Have you visited Pompeii or any of the other ruins of Mount Vesuvius? Which was your favorite? I would love to get your comments. To receive posts from Begin With a Single Step travel blog in your inbox, subscribe here.

Ciao bella!