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

The Day I Almost Didn't Make It To Paris

Monday, 27 August 2018

We were supposed to leave St Pancras International at 0752 on the 21st of July. As someone who hates being late, I made sure that I was at the train station as early as 0630. I was not in any rush because based on my previous travel to Paris, an hour is more than enough for check in. It will also leave you an ample time to buy coffee, which I exactly did while waiting for my cousins. 

So, I comfortably sat outside a cafe (people watching) when suddenly, the queue built up right in front of me. I realised it was Saturday. I started to panic. It was quarter to seven. I texted one of my cousins to find out where they were. They were still at their friend's house, 30 minutes away from St Pancras. Calculating their travel time on the tube plus finding their way to the departure area, I was convinced we won't make it on time. Then my phone rang. It was my cousin panicking on the other line. He instructed me to go to Gate 5. I had no clue where Gate 5 was, so I ran to the check-in area instead. There I saw him, waving his e-ticket, asking me to just go in. But he had my train ticket.

When I finally saw a side entrance where my cousin was, I rushed to get in, only to be blocked by an angry man. He led my cousin back to the queue and ordered him angrily not to go out anymore. Luckily, I already had my ticket by then. Already flustered, I no longer had the energy to deal with the angry man so I chose the calmer man at the kiosk instead. He perused my ticket, then finally allowed me to join my cousins in the queue.

Everyone seemed to be angry that morning because the lady at the security area was also shouting, " Please give way to the passengers for 0752". Then she said in a really loud voice, "raise your hand if you are on the 0752 train". To my surprise, there were still at least 30 people at the back of the queue. Phew. That was a relief.

We eventually left London 30 minutes later. I must admit, I have travelled to many places before and some were quite eventful journeys, but nothing was ever as stressful as this trip to Paris.

I only had six hours to spend in Paris so I wanted to make the most out of it, mainly because I was there to show my cousins around. It helped that my cousins were not really fussy and they all had laid-back personalities, so there was no pressure at all. We all had a good laugh all the way through. 

As we arrived in Paris later than we expected, we didn't have enough time for breakfast, so we grabbed some croissant and other pastries from a local bakery- the La Maison d'Isabelle. We found the bakery by chance, without realising that they were awarded "The Best Croissant 2018". If I had known beforehand I should have ordered the award-winning butter croissant instead. But still, their almond croissant is the best- golden, flaky and crispy, light and soft- that kind of melt-in-your-mouth thing.
47 Boulevard Saint Germain 75005, Paris

I munched my almond croissant happily all the way to Notre-Dame de Paris, which is about 7 minutes walk from the bakery. It was almost midday on a Saturday, so the queue to go inside the church was very long. The best idea was to take photos outside and then for my cousins to go back another day as they were spending three days in Paris anyway.

As they were all in for a (leisurely) walk, we made our way to the Louvre, more or less than 20 minutes walk from Notre-Dame. 

The last time I was in Paris in 2017, the fountains were switched off so I was happy to see them working again this time. Also, there was a golden sculpture inside the pyramid that wasn't there before. Apparently, it is a monumental sculpture as part of "Japonismes 2018: Souls in Resonance" to commemorate France's 160 years of diplomatic relations with Japan. The intricate sculpture is called "Throne" by Kohei Nawa, and will be in the pyramid for six months from July. 

After a good hour in Palais du Louvre, we took the metro to Trocadero. This is the place I normally bring family and friends to because for me, it has the best view of the Eiffel Tower. I have been to the other side before but because it is looking up at the tower, I didn't appreciate the view as much. 

Moving on from the Eiffel Tower, where my cousins witnessed a group of young men's modus operandi in stealing mobile phones, we made our way to Sacre Coeur. As we haven't had lunch and it was almost 330pm, we decided to take Uber for €17. 

This time, I was able to go inside Sacre Coeur again.

As my normal route from the church, we walked through the very touristy Artist's Square in Place du Tertre. 

We didn't have any place in mind for lunch so we chose a random restaurant in the square. Au Cadet de Gascogne probably wasn't the ideal French restaurant to eat at because of poor reviews, but we had a good dining experience there. I had the Linguine aux deux saumons (€19) and it was very tasty. I actually enjoyed it. One of my cousins had the Pave de saumon roti (€19.50) and it was good too. The staff was very friendly and the service was quick. I would still recommend to do a research on restaurants before you go to Paris, but this restaurant is a go-to if you are in the area and have no other restaurants in mind.
4 Place du Tertre 75018, Paris

After lunch, we still had enough time to explore a bit more of Paris so we walked down to Moulin Rouge. I love this walk as it is only about 10 mins on some quiet-er streets of Paris.  

Moulin Rouge was our last destination for the day before I headed back to London. 

Considering I only had 6 hours to take my cousins around Paris, we managed to see all the major sights without rushing.

Ah, no trip to Paris is ever the same. First of all, it was the first time I actually saw Manang Mener and Ading Michelle in more than 10 years. It is quite a long time but nothing has really changed. We essentially just picked up where we left off. They were as I have always remembered them- kind, simple and fun to be with. I just wish I was able to spend more time with them as there was so much to catch up on. Hopefully next time.

So, despite the early morning stress, it was a  good day in Paris once more. I almost didn't make it but I guess it was really meant to be. 

TIN x

For Keith's 18th Birthday In Heaven

Friday, 24 August 2018

On the 17th of August, Keith would have been 18 and amazing. Unfortunately, he was not here to celebrate with us, nor for me to witness how he would have grown up to be a very fine young man. Whilst I used to cry on days like this, I now remember my wonderful child with a smile in my heart because I truly believe (finally) that he is in a much better place now. It took a life-changing situation for me to realise this. I never stopped questioning God why He took my child too soon, but as years went by, the reasons became more and more apparent to me. Keith was so pure and didn't deserve to witness any of the heartaches that we had to go through. I guess it is safe to say that I am more at peace with his passing now than I ever was because of this.

Although I was on holiday on Keith's birthday, I made sure not to break my birthday routine for him. So I went to a nearby church and lit up a candle. I played his favourite song "Lighters" on my way to the church. Needless to say, I was wearing his favourite colour blue. Unfortunately, I had to leave Meowmeow in London in fear of losing him.

When I went back to the hotel, I received a photo that truly pierced my heart. I think the photo is the most poignant photo that I have seen of my mother in a long time. Saying that, it felt good to finally see her doing her own thing, especially for Keith.

One of my biggest fears when Keith left has been the fact that people might eventually forget about him. Perhaps most people have by now, but the most important thing is that the people closest to him never forget.

As part of my routine, I also donated blood in memory of Keith. I do this twice a year now- on Keith's death anniversary and his birthday. 

Looking at Keith's friends' photos and videos on social media somehow gives me a glimpse of how he would have been as an 18 year-old young man. Perhaps, he would have remained shy and quiet but never embarrassed to show his mighty talents. But one thing is for sure, he would have remained that kind-hearted, polite and gentle young boy.

Ah, I miss this boy so much. But no matter how hard it is sometimes, I take comfort in knowing that he was indeed a wonderful child. This boy has done so many inspiring things at such a young age and therefore, will remain in our hearts forever.  He will be loved and remembered for the rest of our lives.

I will always love you, my dear Keith.


TIN x

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...