Bravo to Anyone Who Has Driven the Amalfi Coast and Other Useful Tips For Italy

Seriously, bravo to anyone who has driven the Amalfi Coast.  That place is no easy drive and from the reviews I’ve read online, so many people have expressed the same sentiment.  I felt really horrible since I wasn’t the best driver in the world and I had a difficult time driving Amalfi Coast, only to realise that even people like an ex military pilot expressed their trouble when driving that route.

This post will allow me to share my tips and strategies that I’ve learned after my recent trip to Naples, Amalfi Coast and Milan.

Driving in Amalfi Coast

Continue reading Bravo to Anyone Who Has Driven the Amalfi Coast and Other Useful Tips For Italy

We’re Here Milan, Fashionably

Milan, the fashion capital of Italy, rightfully deserves its name.  With multiple shopping streets such as Via Montenapoleone and Corso Venezia rivalling that of Paris’ Champs Elysses, it’s no wonder everyone dresses so elegantly and differently in Milan, despite being in a country notable for being impeccably fashionable.

But fashion isn’t the only thing that makes the city stylish; it’s the entirety of its environment.  The architectural design, its presentation of food, and even Milanese mannerisms are all very classy.  Yes, Milan is a stark contrast from Naples, a city that is just one hour away by plane.

I love Milan.  This trip, I definitely put Milan and Capri Island as two of my favorite cities, no doubt.  Despite how people tell me how dismayed they are about how “old” Milan is, I don’t really agree.  Sure, it’s not Barcelona, but Milan has its own charm and beauty.  It sort of reminds me of New York, but without the hectic, hustle and bustle, and much cleaner.

Continue reading We’re Here Milan, Fashionably

Pompeii, the City Buried Under by Volcanic Ashes

On our return trip from Amalfi Coast to Naples, we were ahead of our itinerary and decided to stop by Pompeii since it was sort of along the path from Sorrento.  Pompeii is about a 30 minute drive away from Naples.

Pompeii is famous as it is a city that was decimated and buried due to a volcanic eruption of Mount Vesuvius in AD 79.  Many of the inhabitants living there were not able to escape this disastrous event.  Because of this history, it has been one of the most popular tourist attractions in Italy to this day.

For your information, we went to park our car at Porta Marina in Pompeii since while researching, it said that it was a parking lot more likely to have spaces.  Once we stepped outside the parking lot, there was a local telling us to step inside their office to purchase admission tickets for €17 each and you get to skip the line.  Unfortunately, the line they meant wasn’t for the entrance; it was for queuing the line to BUY the ticket, which wasn’t even that long!  Again, we felt scammed in Italy.  Fortunately, the original admission ticket is €15 each, so we didn’t feel too ripped off. Continue reading Pompeii, the City Buried Under by Volcanic Ashes

Gloomy, Rainy, Ravello, and Minori, Maiori, Erchie, Cetara

It was a Sunday.

As mentioned on Saturday on the Amalfi Coast Series: OG Amalfi, there were already no tobacco shops nearby us in Praiano to buy bus tickets from.  On Sunday, not only are there no tobacco shops open, there literally were no shops opened, and buses were so infrequent that we may as well not go out.

But that didn’t stop us since we had a car to drive around, but boy was it difficult to drive there.  Driving in Amalfi Coast is in itself an experience that I will dedicate a blog post on driving there along with other tips and strategies when traveling in Italy.

Anyway, so we’ve been to Sorrento, Positano, Capri Island, Amalfi, and now we still had some spare time to visit the smaller, less frequently traveled towns.  Thankfully we left the smaller, less interesting towns, for this particular Sunday, as it was rainy and foggy like no other.

Perhaps it was the weather and that all the shops were closed, but if you’re on a tight schedule, these small towns are definitely optional to visit. Continue reading Gloomy, Rainy, Ravello, and Minori, Maiori, Erchie, Cetara

Amalfi Coast Series: OG Amalfi

Ah Amalfi!  How we’ve finally reached the legendary town where the coast that surrounds it even borrows your name.  What beauty!  What excitement!  What extraordinary!

Amalfi begins even before you reach it.  Its “historicalness” can be felt when going along the roads from Positano all the way to Amalfi… the roads get super narrow, windy, and difficult, suggesting that Amalfi wasn’t a town to be traveled by cars to begin with.

When you arrive to Amalfi, you aren’t really overwhelmed by its beauty.  It’s something that gradually enchants you, and you slowly begin to realise what a marvel it is to be standing here.

From your arrival, the light calm colors of the houses already provide a calming, pleasant sort of mood.  The smell of salt from the sea and the sun overlooking the coast makes you feel as if you’re one with nature.

As you venture deeper into Amalfi, you discover a town, sort of old, but in a way that makes it more appealing due to its historical significance, as if you know it’s been here for a long time and that you’re sort of living how the Italians did centuries ago.

As if it’s saying, “Finally, you’ve reached Amalfi.  Benvenuto.” Continue reading Amalfi Coast Series: OG Amalfi

Amalfi Coast Series: Pretty Positano and Plain Praiano

Pretty Positano and Plain Praiano, welcome to Amalfi Coast.  We stayed in Praiano, thinking that it’d be easy to drive to places like Positano and Amalfi.  Situated centrally between the two areas, it turns out that even during an off season, going to either of these places can take 30-40 minutes despite a 13km drive due to the beginning of difficult roads to drive on, which will have its own special post as well.

That said, we did stay at Praiano, and perhaps it was the weather or the insufficient amount of time, so it’s pretty unfair for me to say how good Praiano was.  But given the number of things to do and my surroundings, I would say that Praiano is great to live residentially and away from all the touristy buzz in Amalfi and Positano, and it’s cheaper.  That said, it has its cons as well which I will discuss below.  We will first discuss Praiano and then Positano.

Continue reading Amalfi Coast Series: Pretty Positano and Plain Praiano

Amalfi Coast Series: Idyllic Capri Island

If one had to find an example for the word idyllic, Capri Island would be the perfect example.  It exudes every aspect of the definition of idyllic – extremely happy, peaceful, and picturesque.

Prior to arriving on this island, I had no expectations whatsoever on how Capri Island would look like.  Fast forward, and now I’m eager to return to Capri Island.

Unlike most other places on this trip, such as Naples, Positano, and Amalfi, Capri Island deserves a minimum of two days to fully appreciate the whole of the island leisurely.  For us, we were there early in the morning all the way till the afternoon of the next day.  For those that are making it just a day trip – don’t!  The time spent here is worth so much more, and here I will tell you what exactly to do to enjoy both the touristy and non touristy aspects of this gorgeous heaven.

First of, we were fortunate enough to have our accommodation host Fabio, who mentioned that he was some sort of President of Capri Island’s council or something like that.  He gave us a map and meticulously presented to us the best things to do on the island, and therefore we were able to venture into some sightseeing that often most tourists would ignore.

I must also say that we were very blessed as the weather on the first day we were in Capri Island was perfect, as you will see below in my many many photos.

By the way, a helpful tip is that most tourists actually arrive at the island around 11am in October.  We were awake and doing things by 9am, and we found that to be incredibly more time efficient as you will see later. Continue reading Amalfi Coast Series: Idyllic Capri Island

Amalfi Coast Series: When Sorrento Gives You Lemons

When life gives you lemons, make lemonade, and there’s no better place to find both lemons and happiness in Sorrento!  Famous for its lemons, the size of these Sorrento lemons are practically as big as baseballs.

Of all the places near or considered part of Amalfi Cost (Sorrento/Positano/Praiano/Amalfi), Sorrento remains to be the newest and most modern area of them all.  The roads are easier to drive, the architecture and surroundings feel newer, and everything seems cleaner.  That said, you can pretty much explore the major areas of Sorrento within a day, and most of the stores are quite similar – island wear clothing, tourist shops selling anything lemon related like limoncello (Italian lemon liquer) or porcelain designed with lemons on them, and random art pieces.

By the way, Sorrento is not part of Amalfi Coast.  But due to its good transport links and its proximity to the rest of Amalfi Coast, it makes a good base to explore the rest of the area.  I am grouping this post as part of the Amalfi Coast Series due to similar location and environment with the other areas. Continue reading Amalfi Coast Series: When Sorrento Gives You Lemons

Want to be Street Tough? Go to Naples

If you want to learn how to be street tough, you have to go to Naples.  Naples has a bad reputation for having high crime rate (albeit they tend to be the small crimes such as theft), high poverty, and just tough people that surround you.  Quite possibly, it’s one of the worst cities I travelled to.  Quite a contrast from having just been to Amsterdam, where I felt that I could be completely wasted and still be fine.

NaplesNear the Napoli Centrale Railway Station

We must first begin with a story.  While taking my flight from Amsterdam to Rome, I began reading a book called Travellers’ Tales ITALY, and the very first story was called The Fiume Runs Through It by Thom Elkjer.  In this short but true story, the author, an American, recalls his experiences of being utterly confused by how Italy works.  He wanted to go fishing, and was first told that there were no special laws for this, and proceeded to go get a fishing license.  He was told to call the Department of Hunting and Fishing, who then directed him to go to the post office (I know right?), where a fishing license for three days costed more than a year’s license in California.  When he tried fishing, there were signs posting everywhere saying no fishing.  He went back home and asked his Italian friend/host to help out (he laughed when he heard the author got the fishing license from the post office), who introduced him to another friend to get him another license and drove him to go fishing.  The author wanted to go up higher in the valley to fish, which the Italian friend said it requires special authorization.

The point of the story is, Italy in general is sloppy and confusing (Milan being perhaps the only exception).  It’s the family and brothers, not the law, that governs how society works.  The philosophy is as long as it’s done, it doesn’t matter how it’s done.  Professionalism, in the sense of preciseness, is lacking.  Maybe it’s the way of life or the culture, but as a person from a city where every minute is valuable, it feels frustrating sometimes. Continue reading Want to be Street Tough? Go to Naples