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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

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Page 3 of 15: Ellen and Marian's Excellent Adventure (Monday, 8 May)

photo by Marian

Palinuro coastline

Ellen and I both rise early, but Marc and Cheryl are still asleep. So we walk into town to get some bread in the local bakery, and some dolci for breakfast. It’s really too late to head off to Paestum, I think, and Marc and Cheryl decide to aim for the Amalfi coast; Ellen and I want to stay more "local." So we head out in the general direction of the coast further south, with Sapri as a goal (it’s a large sea town near the border with Basilicata). But of course this involves going up and down a few “hills”, which I think we can safely call mountains here, without fear of ridicule. Okay, we are not talking Alps or Rockies, but we are talking narrow roads at elevations of several thousand feet. (This is not the Watchung “mountains” of our beloved New Jersey.)

Ellen is driving and, my goodness, the roads! We pass through Ogliastro di Cilento, Omignani, and, among others, a little town called Acquavella di Casal Velino which has an impressive new war memorial. The inscription on the “pillar” is very moving, being dedicated to those fighters from different countries who were united in brotherhood by their deaths in the war. I hadn’t realized, being a naďve American, that there was so much fighting in the hill towns this far south; I had pictured the allies landing on the beaches in Sicily and Salerno and moving up along the coast. Once you see the topography, you understand better. (Anyone ever hear that travel is broadening?)

Sapri is clearly too far away, we soon realize. So we head for Pisciotta and, finally, Palinuro. We have an adventure on a road that, while it’s not exactly closed, is not exactly open either. A new word is added to my vocabulary during this particular adventure: frana, which means “rock fall.”

Finding an open restaurant in this area a is not so easy, as it is well before the season. But we find a very pleasant restaurant, “La Taverna del Porto” right on the water in Capo di Palinuro, a spectacular setting. We eat on the outdoor terrace, with a busload of German tourists on the other side of the restaurant and a family from Belfast right next to us. They have two adorable children (of course!) and are staying in Santa Maria di Castellabate.

Ellen and I have a very pleasant lunch for about €25 total (salads, and a pasta), and I realize that our very charming and amusing waiter has forgotten to charge for my draft beer. When I tell him about this, he thanks us and, in a little ceremony, brings us some nice thick licorice liquor and two little glasses. Sweet, but delicious. And what fun!

Again, we rethink our plans for the day and decide that even Marina di Camerota is too far, and we head back in the general direction of Perdifumo. This time, we find a new road (Karinka has written about this) that goes through the large town of Vallo di Lucania. The road seems to start and stop at will, but where it exists, it makes for relatively easy driving.

We arrive “home” in time for wine and another relaxing evening of grazing. The weather has turned much colder, particularly as high up as we are, but we turn on the electric heaters and get cozy after dinner. Tomorrow we will head for Paestum, and I have made an appointment for us to visit the De Conciliis winery on Wednesday. More wine, more TV, then bed.

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