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Report 546: Praiano, Florence, Rome and Plan B

By P Connolly from Billings, Montana, Fall 2004

Trip Description: Italy- September and October 2004

Destinations: Countries - Italy; Regions/Cities - Amalfi Coast, Florence, Rome

Categories: Hotels/B&Bs; Vacation Rentals; Beach; Sightseeing; Independent Travel; 3-4 people

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Page 1 of 4: Praiano, Italy

Being a former teacher I believe in the old adage of KISS- keep it short and sweet. Therefore, I will highlight our trip and be glad to go into depth for anyone with questions. I took my I-book along and built a webpage of photos that can be viewed using the link to the right. The photos are all labeled and follow the trips order.

In January, Mitch and I began planning a trip to Italy. We have been there twice before and wanted to visit some new places as well as return to Rome. We called our great travel agent and in March she came through with a smoking deal. It really does pay to plan early and use a travel agent for plane tickets, in my opinion.

We chose Amsterdam as an entry point as we found $450 tickets from Denver to Amsterdam on Delta. Being a big fan of Mr Van Gogh, we jumped at the chance. We spent a wet, but wonderful week there before catching a Basiq Air flight to Naples at $110 each. Total air costs: $560.

We were met at the Naples airport by Giovanni, a driver for Renato Cuomo. I found his name and website on Slow Travel and hiring him to drive us to Praiano was the very best thing we did on this trip! Honest! Taking the luggage, which had expanded a bit after a week of gift collecting, to a comfortable, air conditioned car, letting an experienced driver, who kept saying "mama mia" naviagate the 100's of twists and turns, tour buses, scooters and weekend drivers on the narrow coastal road was wonderful beyond words. Even tho we had great directions to our apartment, a cell phone and the owners number, I'm positive tempers would have flared and nerves been frayed had we taken a bus from the airport to the train station, the train from Naples to Sorrento, a bus from Sorrento to Praiano and another little bus up the hill to Piazza San Luca to find our apartment as we had originally planned. The cost was 80eur and it was so worth it!!!

We rented a great one bedroom apartment from Summer in Italy and were very impressed with Casa Rafaella and the excellent service from Summer in Italy. Mr. Luca, the owner, met us in the square and led us 67 steps down to the apt which had a beautifuly tiled entry alcove with lots of potted flowers. There was a large living, dining room, kitchen combination which opened onto the terrace, a nice bathroom with shower and a big bedroom with the usual twin beds pushed together to form one bed.

This room also had french doors that led onto the terrace. There were screens on the doors, so we could leave them open and enjoy the cooling breezes. At this time of year there were no bugs or "no see-ums". There were plug in vaporizers if we had needed them to combat any bugs.

The full length, terra cotta tiled terrace with a drop dead view of the Amalfi coast was the top feature. The coastal road wound it's way above the water two roads below us and we could gaze down on a rainbow colored maze of tiled hotel roof and homes with their overflowing flowerpots and the days laundry waving in the breezes.

The kitchen was very well equipped and there was a laundry room with a washer and clothesline on the terrace. The home had been a part of a convent and was then owned by Mr Luca's grandmother. It had a beautiful wood buffet and matching table that were easily 80 years old and in perfect condition along with colorful tile floors thru out and a unique glass chandelier. In the square there was a small grocery store with everything you could need to cook, a hardware store and a butcher/ice cream shop.

The Amalfi coast tourist board will probably come and get me for the next comments, but I think one needs to be honest when reporting on locations and not sugar coat everything. The Amalfi coast is as beautiful as the poets, authors and musicans have written and sung about for centuries, but it is not for the faint of heart or physically challenged. The roads are very narrow, the traffic is intense and you need your head examined if you plan to drive there! Parking is at a premium, so if you do rent a car, be very sure the hotel or rental comes with a guaranteed space nearby, or you could be doing alot of searching and walking. The towns are built on every available piece of flat ground or into the sides of the cliffs, so the roads are always climbing up or carreening down and there are stairs, stairs and more stairs. One picture we took was of a road sign saying 15% grade and I think that was an understatement. If you cannot climb steps or walk up steep inclines be sure to thoroughly investigate where you are staying and how to get to it on foot and what you want to see so you can get to it without wearing yourself out.

This is an unbelievable area with many places to stay that are easy to access with a little planning and worth every beautiful moment. There are good bus routes to transport you to and from Sorrento, Positano, Amalfi and Ravello, and a great little orange bus that runs from Positano to and thru Praiano. With planning, a bus and ferry schedule and some walking and a healthy dose of patience, you will be able to see the coast and enjoy its incredible beauty.

We spent our week relaxing, enjoying the view, soaking up the sun, and exploring. We cooked most days and loved all the fresh vegetables, pastas and cheeses the little store sold. They even had a good local wine selection and were good at helping us remember to get the extras. There is a larger grocery store on the main street by the bus stop that you can frequent when you're on the main road. Most shops are closed in the afternoons for a few hours and on Sunday, so plan ahead if you arrive on Saturday. There are quite a few restaurants in this area and the shops or hotels can help you find a good one.

Tuesday we took the bus and train to Pompeii and spent five hours totally blown away by the ruins. What must it have been like when Vesuvius exploded on 24 August 79 A.D.? We opted not to take a tour, but bought a book and followed one of the three walks it suggested. There are fairly good identification signs on the important buildings and a cafeteria in the center for a rest stop and water. We did a little eavesdropping of guidede tours and learned a lot. It took us 2.5 hours to get from Praiano to Pompeii via bus to Sorrento, and train to Pompeii, so you do need to plan your schedule to eliminate any frustrations.

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