The Charming Town of Ravello And Its Dreamy Gardens

Tuesday, 9 October 2018

On our second day in the Amalfi Coast, we divided our time between the bustling town of Amalfi and the sleepy town of Ravello. We spent more time in Ravello because we knew from our previous research that Amalfi is very crowded, especially because it was high season when we visited. As busy and uncomfortable as it was (because of the warm weather), we couldn't give Amalfi a miss and therefore, we spent a few hours in the morning to explore the town. 

So, we hired a taxi from Praiano to Amalfi for €40. For convenience, taxi was our choice of transport during this trip. It actually saved us from the inconvenience of waiting for the SITA bus and fighting for seats, then potentially standing in the bus for the rest of our journey. 

Highlights
Our first stop was at the Duomo di Amalfi Sant' Andrea Apostolo (Amalfi Cathedral). With a very modest entrance fee of €3, we were treated to an amazing baroque interior, beautiful cloisters inside and out, interesting religious artefacts and the relics of St Andrew the Apostle. I realised that as a first-timer, admiring the impressive facade of the church wouldn't have been enough because the very heart of the Cathedral is the crypt. Well, in my opinion anyway.

As we were already in Amalfi Town, we thought we'd explore the place a bit more, hence we walked down via Lorenzo D'Amalfi- the main shopping street in Amalfi. As expected, it was too busy for me to fully appreciate what it had to offer. After more or less than a couple of hours, we decided to take another taxi to Ravello. I must mention that our taxi driver from Amalfi was Nonno Raimondo. He was this sweet old man, probably in his late seventies or early eighties. However, he was crafty too. We paid him €190 from Amalfi to Ravello, then Ravello back to Praiano. It wasn't bad for the distance I suppose, but my story about Nonno Raimondo doesn't end here. But let me talk about Ravello first.

Without a doubt, Ravello is our favourite town in the Amalfi Coast. Set in a mountaintop, it provides breathtaking views of the sea and the coast below. The main square (Piazza Duomo) emanated peace and tranquility despite the presence of tourists and locals alike. Walking along the narrow cobblestone streets in the summer heat was refreshing. In Ravello, you must take your time to enjoy the relaxing atmosphere, the scenic beauty of the villas that line up the winding streets, the vines on rustic walls and simply the genuine positive vibes that this charming little town exudes. 

The walk uphill to our first destination was quite challenging, but we enjoyed it nevertheless. There were a lot of pleasant surprises along the way, like Villa Eva which wasn't on our itinerary but since the gate was opened when we passed by, we went inside without realising that it is actually a private hotel. We managed to have a little walk in their simple yet romantic garden, until someone spotted us and ordered for the gate to be closed. By this time, we were on our way out anyway. Lucky escape indeed.
Villa Eva
Via Santissima Trinita
84010 Ravello, Italy

A few minutes walk from Villa Eva is Villa Cimbrone, one of the two villas on our list to see in Ravello. Villa Cimbrone offers beautiful sculpture garden and expansive sea views. The Terrace of Infinity which sits atop the cliff, overlooks the stunning Mediterranean sea. This enchanting garden is worthy of the challenging walk and the €7 entrance fee.
Villa Cimbrone
Via Santa Chiara, 26
84010 Ravello, Italy

Just a few steps from Piazza Duomo, and about 15 minutes walk from Villa Cimbrone is the Villa Rufolo. This dreamy garden is perfect for photoshoots ala sweet escape. The explosion of colours makes a very pretty backdrop. Not to mention the magnificent views of the coastline. This picturesque garden is a must see in Ravello. Entrance fee is only €7, which is cheap compared to what Villa Rufolo can offer. I read somewhere that the best time to visit the villa is between May and October. We went in August and the flowers were in full bloom. In fact, I found the bougainvilleas that I was looking for in this villa.   
Villa Rufolo
Piazza Duomo
84010 Ravello, Italy

Where we ate:

1. Cuoppo d'Amalfi- via Supportico dei Ferrari 12, 84011 Ravello
- To be honest, I think this was the main reason why we wanted to visit Amalfi town in the first place. I mean, deep-fried seafood! Who would say no to that? A legit Italian street food place, Couppo d'Amalfi is a must-try in the Amalfi Coast. It is tucked away in a little corner in an alley just off the Amalfi Cathedral. We had the D'Amalfi for €12 and the Calamaro for €9. Everything was perfectly deep fried to crunchiness especially the shrimp, I actually ate the whole thing (yes- including the head, shell and tail). It was indeed pure deep fried seafood goodness!

2. Il Flauto di Pan- Villa Cimbrone, via Santa Chiara 26, Ravello
- We decided to have lunch at Villa Cimbrone's Il Flauto di Pan restaurant, however their main restaurant was closed at the time. We were given the bar menu and was offered a table in the garden instead. It was lunch with a view indeed and the food, although simple, was very tasty. We ordered the prosciutto and melon and the artichoke salad.

TIN x

PRAIANO: Amalfi Coast's Best Kept Secret

Wednesday, 19 September 2018

Positano and Amalfi are perhaps the most famous towns in the Amalfi Coast. A lot of people would probably prefer to stay in either places because I must admit, Positano, with its pastel-coloured houses perched on a cliff, is a sight to behold. It is indeed dramatic and elegant. This only means that Positano is very touristy and if you are looking for a peaceful place to stay whilst on holiday, maybe it is better to choose the least heard-of towns nearby. Amalfi town, on the other hand, is a major transportation hub and therefore very busy, too.

There is however, an equally picturesque town half-way through Positano and Amalfi town that is apparently often overlooked. The tranquility of the town provides that perfect place for much-needed rest and relaxation after a tiring whole day of exploring neighbouring towns. Despite not knowing much about this place, we chose to book our Air BnB accommodation here anyway. It was one of the best decisions we have ever made during this trip, as Praiano is definitely Amalfi Coast's best kept secret.

Highlights:
We spent our first full day in the Amalfi Coast exploring Praiano, which was a good idea as it was too hot during that day. First on our list was the quaint church Parrochia Di San Gennaro, famous for its beautifully decorated ceramic floor tiles. They also have the annual Luminaria di San Domenico Festival from the 31st of July to the 1st August wherein Piazza San Gennaro is illuminated by candles and the Chiesa by colourful lights.

Praiano is famous for its sunset because the town is facing west. Saying that, we were not able to watch the sunset properly because our accommodation was out of the way. Either that or we were exploring other places nearby. Apparently, the best place to watch the sunset in Praiano is at the La Gavitella beach. Be prepared to go up and down the challenging 400 steps, but I can guarantee you that it's all gonna be worth it as you will be rewarded with beautiful sceneries all the way- from narrow maze-like streets, to fish figurines, to a view of the colourful Positano from a distance. If you are not up for a swim just like us, there is always the Cala Gavitella Beach Club where you can sit, relax and enjoy some Cafe Shakerato.

Another place in Praiano that is worth visiting is the Marina di Praia beach where Torre a Mare is also located.  Torre a Mare is a medieval tower that houses the sculptures and artwork of the local artist Paolo Sandulli. Unfortunately, we were unable to visit the tower as we didn't have enough time. The Fiordo di Furore is also a place that you must see when in Praiano.

On our last day in Praiano, I made an effort to wake up early in the morning to catch the sunrise up the hill. Watching sunrise has become one of my travel routines since I found myself wandering around Venice one cold winter morning a few years ago.  There is something about the stillness of the morning that somehow inspires me. It is not necessarily because my mind is clear and fresh ideas come in, but it has more to do with exploring an unfamiliar place in a peaceful morning by myself. This brings me comfort and confidence, knowing that I am able to do something on my own whilst the world is still asleep.

So, as I opened our apartment door, the cool morning breeze touched my skin. There was the unfamiliar floral scent from the neighbour's garden. I continued to walk up the steep steps of the narrow street, examining each house that I passed by. Everywhere was quiet at half past six in the morning. Then I started counting the steps. As I ascended to the top of the hill, a lovely cat greeted me. The cat purred and I said "hi" as I continued to walk. The cat followed me, and we both walked up to Parrocchia San Luca Evangelista, a church dating back to 1588. When I finally reached Piazza San Luca, I heard laughter echoing from a distance. The world was starting to wake up, but the piazza remained empty. I stood by the fence and watched small boats floating in the sea. It was a delightful sight indeed. I was totally absorbed by the beauty that surrounded me that I literally jumped when the church bell rang. That's when I realised that I have been out for almost an hour. I walked back to the apartment with my heart full and my mind refreshed, ready for the day ahead.

Where we stayed:
Casa Aurelia (Aurora), Via Umberto I, 48, I-84010, Praiano
- We had a very pleasant stay at Casa Aurora. Not only that it is spacious, but also very clean and close to amenities. There is a gym at the bottom of the hill. The bus stop is a few yards away. Two of the best restaurants in Praiano are just around the corner. There is also a grocery store at the bottom of the street. On top of all that, the view is magnificent. But most importantly, our host Anna was amazing. She was very kind and helpful. Check out her collection of ceramic plates which her husband apparently makes in his shop in Positano.

Where we ate:
1. Kasai- via Umberto I, 84, Praiano
- Kasai easily became our favourite restaurant in Praiano. The food was delightful and very affordable. The servings came very big, even the mussels for a starter. We also didn't make any reservations both times but we were seated quite quickly. I cannot really fault the service as everyone was very friendly and accommodating. Between the three of us in two days, we had a selection of some of the most delicious meals I've had in my travels: Trofie el Pesto, Tartufo Pasta, mixed grilled seafood, Cozze con Pomodoro and Polpette.

 2. La Moressa, Piazza Moressa,1, Praiano
- This restaurant was recommended to us by our host. It was the first restaurant we ate at in Praiano and we were not disappointed. It is quite a walk up the hill, but definitely a good one. I ordered Spaghetti "the ancient way" because I haven't had pasta with anchovies before, so I was very pleased that it was delicious. It was perfectly salty and the pasta was al dente. I would say, you must put La Moressa on your list of restaurants to try in Praiano. 
Photo by Farrah

3. Ristorante M'ama- Via Umberto I, 72, Praiano
- A fine dining rooftop restaurant boosting one of the most stunning views I have seen in Praiano. Their mouth-watering tuna steak that J had was unforgettable, it was cooked to perfection. My seafood risotto was very well seasoned and Farrah's fresh Tagliatelle with Squid Ink was delectable. Their dessert was impressive especially the four shades of chocolate. Besides the great food, customer service was efficient. We were also treated with some fireworks from the top of the hill. It was indeed an amazing food experience at Ristorante M'ama.

4. La Brace, Via Gennaro Capriglione, 146, Praiano
- La Brace is one of those restaurants that do not reflect their low rating on tripadvisor. With 3.5 stars, I didn't expect the food to be that good. First of all, their catch of the day which was grilled orata fish tasted so fresh. The grilled squid was such a treat I ate it all by myself. I would definitely recommend this restaurant for the good food, friendly atmosphere and the view.

TIN x

Our Amalfi Coast + Puglia Itinerary

Thursday, 13 September 2018

I never realised how stimulating it is to write an itinerary until we started travelling in New Zealand a couple of years ago. Prior to that, I merely tagged along. So when we decided to travel to Italy this year, I volunteered to plan our itinerary, with the help of Farrah, who provided me with a spreadsheet of places to see and restaurants to try. Although it took me longer than I expected because I had to do some research on the most realistic travel times, best routes, etc, I found pleasure in writing our itinerary because I learned so much in planning our journey to Southern Italy. 

OUR ITINERARY

As our main destination was the Amalfi coast, we decided to stay 4 days there. Then we spent 2(and a half)days in Puglia which was a very good decision because Puglia is a truly magnificent place and shouldn't be missed. 

Day 1 - Praiano
It was a good thing that we chose to stay in the fishing village of Praiano for the duration of our trip to the Amalfi coast. You probably will hear more about Positano, but I prefer the less colourful and popular Praiano because of its laid-back atmosphere and the fact that it is less crowded. Its narrow maze-like streets and steep steps provide a beautiful sight of traditional Italian houses and their colourful gardens, if not the stunning coast. Praiano is located in the centre of the Amalfi coast, hence very accessible to the neighbouring towns.

Places to see while in Praiano include Parrochia di San Gennaro, La Gavitella Blu Bay and Marina di Praia where the Torre a Mare is located.

Day 2 - Amalfi Town and Ravello
Amalfi town seemed to me like the main public transport hub of the Amalfi coast. I could sense the busyness of the place even before we reached the main centre of town. We also knew straight away that Amalfi was not the town that we wanted to spend a lot of time exploring. Not this time, anyway.  A visit to the Duomo di Amalfi Sant' Andrea Apostolo (Amalfi Cathedral), a quick stop at a famous street food place and a quick walk along via Lorenzo D'Amalfi was enough for us to appreciate the place.

Ravello on the other hand, is definitely one of those unexpectedly beautiful towns that you should visit at least once in your lifetime. The enchanting villas and their expansive views of the breathtaking coast was the highlight of our visit to this blissful place. I wish we could have stayed the whole day there.

Day 3 - Tour around the island of Capri
Not only a once in a lifetime experience but also the most expensive day trip I have ever done to date- only because we decided to hire a private boat. A 40 ft boat at that for just the three of us. 

I didn't think getting off the boat was worth it as from memory of 9 years ago, Capri town can be very busy and ridiculously pricey. Honestly, I had better appreciation of the island from the water. 

Day 4- Pompeii
If there is one other Italian place (on my list) that is worth visiting over and over again, it would be Pompeii. I first visited this UNESCO World Heritage site in 2009 but only spent two hours exploring the area I think. Well, I realised during this trip that two hours is really not enough. We spent more or less than five hours this time, but still didn't get to see everything.

Day 5- Alberobello
I don't know why I haven't heard of the truly amazing Trulli di Alberobello before, but it was the most unique experience during this trip. Trulli are traditional cone-shaped houses found in the region of Apulia, most commonly in Alberobello. It was very touristy when we went, but it's a place that you shouldn't miss. We drove 4 hours from Salerno, but Bari is the main city closest to Alberobello.

Day 6- Matera and Altamura
Altamura was the only town originally on our list to visit before heading to Bari. However, whilst doing my research, I found out that the ancient city of Matera is also nearby so I decided to include it in our itinerary. In fact, I wrote it down as priority over Altamura after seeing breathtaking photos of the city. This is also where Passion of the Christ was filmed. Man, this city is something else. I have never seen anything quite like it. The whole place is enthralling. A must see definitely.

Day 7- Minervino Murge
We only visited the stone town of Minervino Murge as a stop-over for lunch on our way back to Naples airport, but it was worth the detour. The place was intriguingly peaceful and there was no single tourist in sight (except us). A sleepy town indeed with its own unique character. We only spent 3 hours there but I believe we had an authentic Italian experience nevertheless. 

OUR FLIGHT

The closest international airport to Amalfi Coast is Naples. I booked our flight via British Airways quite late actually. We flew on the 11th of August and only booked our flight on the 30th of June. But still, I believe that the price was reasonable at £208 per person, plus £60 for one check-in luggage return. Of course, I was looking for the cheapest possible flight and therefore booked the outbound flight from Gatwick at 1445 and inbound flight from Naples at 1915. If you don't mind travelling late and you are looking for a cheap flight, then this is ideal.

OUR ACCOMMODATION

The most challenging part of planning our itinerary was perhaps finding the best place to stay. We wanted our base to be in a quieter area, yet accessible to all the places that we wanted to visit. I both used airBnB and booking.com to find our accommodation. I will write more about them separately and will link them here.

Amalfi Coast
Casa Aurora (airBnB)
Via Umberto I, 48, 
I-84010, Praiano

Puglia
Palazzo Scotto (booking.com)
C.so Trieste e Trento30
Alberobello 70011

Both accommodation provided us with everything that we needed -clean and spacious apartments, amazing views, wonderful hosts, accessibility and convenience, and delicious food (from Palazzo Scotto at least). 

TRANSPORTATION

At first J wanted to experience driving around the Amalfi Coast,  but changed his mind after reading some reviews. I'm glad we decided not to drive because it seemed like parking was impossible in the centre of towns, the roads are scarily narrow and winding, and traffic can be quite bad especially in Positano and Amalfi. Not to mention Italian drivers. So in the end,  we decided to take public transportation in the Amalfi Coast and drive in Puglia instead.

Car rental (Salerno to Puglia) via AVIS in Salerno was €462.00 for 3 days. It took us 4 hours to get to Alberobello, then approximately 3 1/2 to 4 hours from Alberobello to Naples Airport.

Local Bus(€1.30)

We used the Local Bus to get around Praiano and to travel to Positano. From what I noticed, they do not have a specific route as such. You tell the driver where you want to go and they will take you there. It is helpful to know the number of your bus stop to avoid going round and round. Tickets can be bought from the driver.

SITA Bus (€2.40)
SITA Bus is the bus that links Sorrento, Positano and Amalfi. We took this bus to Sorrento when we visited Pompeii. It can get very busy so be prepared to stand up throughout (or at least half way through) your journey. In our case, we managed to find seats in Positano as majority of the people in the bus got off there.It is air-conditioned though, so it's really not too bad. Tickets must be purchased at a nearby Tabaccheria (Tobacco Shop) beforehand, otherwise you will not be able to get on the bus.

Taxi (€35 to €120)

We used taxi a few times during our trip to the Amalfi Coast. From Naples airport to Praiano, we used Amalfi Car Service for €120. I wouldn't really recommend taking a taxi as it is quite expensive (will write more about our experience soon), but if your priority is convenience and you have the extra cash, then why not? It is of course cheaper if you have someone to share the cost with. 

RESTAURANTS

I have been to Italy a few times already, but I must admit that I had the best Italian food experience during this trip. It's always an advantage to have a foodie in the group, but it's the best if all of you actually love food because then it is easier to find places to eat at. We actually had quite a long list of restaurants that we wanted to try- from street food to Michelin-starred to a cave restaurant in the Adriatic sea. In short, I am very happy that we were able to go to most of the restaurants on our list. On top of that, we also got to try some restaurants recommended by a local. One thing though, some of the restaurants don't have a website or even if they do, they don't have a menu so we chose the restaurants based on reviews and recommendations from tripadvisor and travel writers.

La Moressa -Piazza Moressa, 1 Praiano
Would recommend: Spaghetti the Ancient Way

La Brace - Via Genarro Capriglione, 146 Praiano
Would recommend: Grilled Orata Fish (Catch of the Day), Grilled Squid

Ristorante M'ama - Via Umberto I, 72 Praiano
Would recommend: Seared Tuna, Seafood Risotto, Tagliatelle with Squid Ink

Kasai- Via Umberto I, 84 Praiano
Would recommend: Trofie el pesto, Tartufo Pasta, Mixed grilled seafood, Cozze con Pomodoro, Polpette

Couppo D'Amalfi- Via Supportico dei Ferrari, 12 Amalfi
Would recommend: D'Amalfi, Calamaro

Ristorante La Sponda- Via Cristoforo Colombo, 30 Positano
Would recommend: Fish dishes, Chicken (that came in two servings)

Hortus Porta Marina- Piazza Porta Marina Superiore, 1 Pompeii
Would recommend: Napoletana

Il Poeta Contandino- Via Indipendenza, 21 Alberobello
Would recommend: Fava bean pure with Cavatelli pasta and seafood, bread selection, Orecchiette with turnip, dried tomatoes and walnuts

Ristorante Borgo Antico- Str. Palazzo di Citta, 46 Bari
Would recommend: Grigliata mare con scampi, gamberoni e polpo arrosto

Ristorante Hotel Grotta Palazzese- Via Narciso, 59 Polignano a Mare
Would recommend: The Gran Carte Menu (yellow fin red tuna tartare, kobe beef, beef fillet)

Osteria Cantina Brandi- 7, Calata Brandi, Minervino Murge
Would recommend: Whatever they offer on the day, definitely antipasti

TOURS

Whilst other people who visit the Amalfi Coast do tour of all sorts such as the popular Lemon Tour, Food Tour, Cooking Tour and Wine Tour, we only did one tour- The Boat Trip Around Capri Island. It was basically an all day tour from Praiano with a couple of stops for a swim. We booked our private boat with Positano Boats. To me, this is the best way to see the Amalfi Coast and to explore Capri island. It saves you from having to go to Sorrento then taking the boat from there, which can be very stressful especially during peak season. 

This trip was undeniably the most expensive trip I have ever done so far, but I can also confidently say that it was one of the best trips of my life and therefore was worth every penny that we spent. 

TIN x

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...