> SlowTrav > Stories > Pauline's Pages > 2001, Italy

My General Impressions of the Sorrento Area

Ravello, Amalfi area. Mosaics in the church, 09/01

Steve and I have been to Italy several times, but this was our first time south of Rome. We booked an apartment in Sorrento for two weeks, but arrived on the Monday instead of the Saturday, because we could not get first class upgrades on the flight over any earlier, and left on the Thursday, 2 nights early because we didn't feel like staying any longer.

On the whole, we had a lovely time in Sorrento, but I was disappointed in the area and did not like it as much as I had anticipated. We have always wondered how we would feel about this area and had intended to do a brief trip in the fall of 2000 to try it out. We had planned 3 nights in a hotel in Positano in early November - very off season. But our fall 2000 trip got cut short and we did not get to the Amalfi area.

So why did we then go and book two weeks there on our next Italy trip? Because I thought in early September we could have an outdoorsy vacation there - go swimming, go hiking and do some general exploring. Usually on a long trip where part of it is in July, August or September, we spend a few weeks in Switzerland and a few in Italy. The Switzerland part of the trip gives us a few weeks of hiking every day - good, solid outdoors time. That is what we thought we should do for this trip, but we convinced ourselves the hiking would be good in the Amalfi area and we would have the added bonus of swimming.

Were we correct in these assumptions? No. We did not swim once and we only did one good hike. Much of this is our fault, not the fault of the area. Work wise, we had both had an exhausting year and I think we needed a good, easy outdoors vacation (which we did get after Sorrento when we spent three weeks in a house near Pienza). You have to work at doing outdoors things in the Amalfi area (swimming, hiking) and we didn't have the energy to devote to it. Also, we had never been to this area before and we wanted to do all the tourist things: Pompeii, Herculaneum, Naples, Capri, Amalfi drive. And our apartment was okay but not great and while I felt pretty comfortable there, the living room was not good for hanging out so we were not as happy with our accommodations as we could have been.

The final reason that this area did not work well for us would affect only me and Steve and almost everyone would disagree - the food in the restaurants is not the kind of food we do well with, so we could not eat out that often. I am a vegetarian and eat some dairy, but not much. Steve eats fish, very occasional meat, but not dairy products. There is a long and involved history of why we eat this way - but this is just how we eat. One of the things we love about traveling in Italy is that we can eat in the restaurants. But in the Sorrento area, everything was just a bit too rich for us. Instead of plain vegetable antipasto or a simple bruschetta, the vegetarian alternative was frequently a large hunk of mozzarella cheese with tomato. While it was delicious, it got to be too much cheese for me. Steve did better than me because he had fish for his various courses. There were not as many vegetarian options on these menus as I find on menus in Tuscany. I usually had a pasta dish and they always seemed to be too rich - the kind of dish where you eat about a third and then you cannot take another bite.

Even the pizza, which I had been longing for, was cheesier than the pizza in Rome (in our limited experience). We did find one simple pizza place we liked and had a couple of dinners there.

In summary, I felt overwhelmed by the food. But, I repeat, most people love the food in this region. For us, the food in Tuscany and in Rome suits us best.

Conclusions

Many will disagree with me about everything I said above, and we do not travel the way everyone else does, so take all I say with a grain of salt. I have heard countless people say "Positano is the most beautiful place in the world." It is pretty, but in my mind not any prettier than many towns in Tuscany and Umbria. I think, perhaps, that many people do a "tour" of Italy - 4 days in Venice, 4 days in Florence, 4 days in Rome - then they get to Positano and are exhausted from all the big city activity and they get to a place where they can just sit on a balcony and enjoy the view - hence, they love Positano.

A Note about September 11

We arrived in Sorrento on Monday, September 10. The next day the attacks on the US occurred. This changed our whole trip for us, especially the two weeks in Sorrento. We were in shock from the event and did not know what to do. We continued on with our trip and did the things tourists usually do in the Sorrento area, but what was happening at home was always on our mind. This may have colored my impression of the Sorrento/Amalfi area. (And is what prevented me from finishing this trip report. I finishing the last part now, in March 2005!!)

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