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Report 1008: 'I Vincitori' Learn to Get Lost in the Hills and Valleys of Italy

By Marian from New Jersey, Spring 2006

Trip Description: 5-20 May A two-week trip to two very different places. First, a week spent just outside the village of Perdifumo, a tiny town in the Cilento, south of Salerno. Next a week in an apartment within the walled town of San Quirico d'Orcia. We stay in two gorgeous residences, drive on some incredible roads, see amazing scenery, drink a lot of wine, have delightful dining experiences, and most of all lots of fun, fun, fun.

Destinations: Countries - Italy; Regions/Cities - Campania, Tuscany

Categories: Vacation Rentals; Attended GTG; Beach; Sightseeing; Wine Trip; Independent Travel; 3-4 people

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Page 1 of 15: The Adventure Begins. Montclair to Naples to Perdifumo (4-6 May)

photo by MarcS

View from terrace of Villa Trotta

First, some background to this long awaited trip: In July 2004, I became the "grand prize" winner in the Slow Trav contest. This fortunate event was a result partly of merit (my delightful Trip Report describing my stay in Florence), but mostly of luck (Steve [of Pauline and Steve] picks my name out of the hat first).

So I get to spend a week of my choice in the beautiful Villa Trotta, located just outside the tiny village of Perdifumo, Salerno Province, Campania region. Perdifumo is right above the beautiful Cilento coast, which runs from south of Salerno down into northern Basilicata. The villa is described as sleeping 10, with four bedrooms and two bathrooms. Plus gorgeous kitchen, living room, dining room and terraces galore. (It turns out to be even better than described!)

I go back and forth about how to organize this trip, and the final group consists of Ellen (ellens of Slow Trav) my brother Marc (now MarcS of Slow Trav) and my sister-in-law Cheryl. Following this week in the south, Marc, Cheryl and I will spend a second week in San Quirico d’Orcia (SI); Ellen will return home via Rome.

After frantic last-minute preparations (are there any other kind?) I leave Montclair on Thursday and arrive in Italy on Friday. Marc and Cheryl cannot leave until the following day. So I meet Ellen at our Naples hotel; she has come a day earlier to do some research on her great grandparents. We have a lovely pizza lunch at Da Ettore on the Via Santa Lucia (recommended, natch, by someone on Slow Trav). Then it's all I can do to stay awake long enough to fall into bed. The next day, our real trip is to begin.

Saturday morning, after a lovely breakfast on the roof of our hotel, we head for the Europcar rental office, which we've already scouted out. When we get there, Marc and Cheryl are arriving from the airport as well. I get my nifty little Mercedes A180, Marc & Cheryl get their car, and we head out of Naples. Ellen has done this before, so she is my navigator. Not too much traffic, not too much trouble, and soon we are on the A3 heading south, exiting at Battipaglia to SS 18 and Agropoli, the closest big town to Perdifumo. (Did I mention that this is my first time driving in Italy? I am so proud.)

Ellen and I discuss stopping for lunch, and decide we will aim for Il Ceppo, a restaurant in Agropoli recommended in Osterie d’Italia as well as by Carla Capalbo. We call ahead to Marc and Cheryl, who have stopped for a snack but will meet us. And then Ellen and I have our first experience getting lost. We are not exactly sure where the restaurant is, and end up driving all the way around Agropoli (including my first experience at misreading Italian road signs). Somehow, we are back on the highway.

So we head back into Agropoli and ecco! There is the sign for the restaurant. How did we miss it the first time? By the time we walk into the restaurant, it is nearly 2:30, but they say no problem, we can come in for lunch.

The restaurant is so pretty, although right on the road in Agropoli. I ask for a bottle of aglianico, the local southern Italian red, and this seems to please the waiter. He brings us a bottle of De Conciliis Donnaluna, and we are very happy; this is the famous winery that we plan to visit. We are a bit slow about ordering, as it’s our first meal together in Italy. The waiter hurries us in a friendly way, and once we have ordered, he is very happy.

And so are we; the food is absolutely wonderful. We have salads; Ellen, Cheryl and I have pasta (fusilli with ciambotta di carciofi e asperigi for Ellen and for me, penne con zucca for Cheryl), Marc has a veal chop. The wine is great; total bill is € 52. After lunch, I call Gioconda Trotta on her cell phone and tell her we are on the way.

Now comes the real challenge; driving up the incredibly and increasingly steep and curvy roads to the Villa Trotta! Several times we say “surely, this can’t be the road!” but, in fact it always is. Finally, after a wrong turn into Mercato, a frazione of Perdifumo, we manage to reverse and head toward Perdifumo centro città. I take a turn into what is actually a paved pedestrian terrace (!) and call Gioconda again. Her husband Franco comes to rescue us (as we were expecting her, we at first thought he was simply a good soul trying to help the clearly clueless) and leads us through the town and straight to the villa.

Wow! This place is so, so gorgeous! We chat with the Trottas for a while; they are clearly so proud of their lovely home. The house is built into a steep hill (big surprise!) so the entrance and bedrooms are upstairs; the other rooms down a flight. We discuss restaurants; when we mention one that we are planning to visit, Franco says he has walked out because they served an already opened bottle of water. But Gioconda says it’s fine for us to go.

They tell us about the shops in town, particularly a nice alimentari. We take pictures, the Trottas leave, and we are on our own. But not before I have a delightful interchange with Franco, in which I am about to give him the security deposit for the villa. He says "money, no, you are vincitori". So this word for prize-winner, which makes me feel like Julius Caesar after a successful campaign, becomes the buzzword for our feelings about the Trottas and their beautiful villa.

They have left us a bottle of their own wonderful olive oil, a well stocked kitchen (all the staples are there, we find) and some freshly cut flowers. And of course the house is surrounded by lovely flowers. We have promised to water them when they need it. We pick rooms, and I choose the beautiful bedroom with the terrace (it was my prize, after all). Then, as it is late, we head immediately for the little alimentari in town. We buy the makings of our light dinner: Cheese, bread, green beans, incredible tomatoes,… Ah! The pleasure of eating in Italy in the spring!

We sit outside on the main terrace off the living room, and look at the beautiful hills, all the way to the sea, which we can see just barely as it’s a bit cloudy. The weather turns chilly, we all head inside and gradually drift upstairs to sleep. Our first day in the Villa Trotta is ended.

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