Italian Flava! Holiday Snaps of Napoli and the Amalfi Coast

ITALIA!  What a place!  Pizza, scenery, pasta, wonderful people, gelato (for Jane), stunning scenery, espresso, incredible history….so much, a country filled with endless passion for life and bellies filled with wonderful culinary creations.  Here we have just a few of our holiday snaps from June’s trip to Southern Italy.

Jane's first gelato (she was a little pleased) - Napoli

Jane’s first gelato (Pistachio flavour) – Downtown Napoli

We started off in Napoli, hiring a car and camping for most of the time.  We rarely spent two nights in one place as the allure of the open road and the fascinating sights just kept us rolling deeper and deeper into Campania.  Napoli reminds me alot of Latin America, a real vibrancy and chaos, it can be scruffy and awe inspiring  in the same alleyway, it is a hive of creativity, is crammed full of ancient historical sights and offers all the opportunity to feast like a greedy baron.

Pizza is the mainstay of things and the Marinara (just tomato sauce, a little garlic and a drizzle of olive oil, so called because the fishermen used to eat it) took dough discs to a whole new level in my eyes.  The wine was local, with a vast array of indigenous grape varieties and generally, delicious.  Apart from eating and sipping coffee with jumpers tied around our necks, we walked the cities old town, took in as many museums, cathedrals, underground grotto’s, gelaterias (Jane) and Greek sculptures as our mortal legs could manage.  Napoli is my new favourite city at a canter.

On the road lunch - Graveyard, somewhere in the Cilento National Park, Campania

On the road lunch, Italy=best produce ever! – In an old graveyard, somewhere in the Cilento National Park, Campania

The spectacular Duomo Cathedral - Napoli

The spectacular Duomo Cathedral – Napoli

After Napoli, and the utterly mental driving conditions (most of the cars bear the scars of the outrageously tight roads and kamikaze scooters), we drove south past Mount Versuvius (the once mighty eruptor) and headed to the Amalfi coast, a place constantly banged on about as being rather pleasant.  Well it was in a  fashion, if you are of the manicured tourist variety.  We are not.  So camped in forests when we could and only ventured into the pretty towns for dinner, which was almost always, fresh, local, seasonal, made my mama and utterly delicious. We generally found things quite cheap, making our breakfast and lunch on roadsides and picnic benches along the way with some of the best fruit and veg I have ever encountered.  Believe the hype!  Italian lemons, plums, tomatoes, olives……the list goes on, are touched with something intangible and utterly magnificent.  Food here is a way of life, a cornerstone of culture…..I have heard this all before, but to witness it first hand and even better, to taste the fruits of this fascination and tradition, made me feel like the luckiest muncher on the Med.

Temple of Poseidon - The Ancient City of Paestum (600BC!), Campania

Temple of Poseidon – The Ancient City of Paestum (600BC!), Campania

Camping by churches seemed to work well - Cilento National Park, Campania

Camping by abandoned churches works well –  Near Morigerati, Cilento National Park, Campania

We found some beautiful camp spots and used disused churchyards regularly.  Almost painfully romantic and with the added bonus of clean water springs to do the washing up and for the occasional bathe.  The weather was sweltering, so we rose early with the sun and generally bedded down under clear night skies, sparkling with stars and fireflies.

Another roadside lunch -  Outside the very touritsy Ravello, Amalfi Coast

Another roadside lunch – Outside the very touritsy Ravello, Amalfi Coast

The awesome Hercules - National Museum, Napoli

The ancient and mighty Faranese Hercules 3AD (roughly 12 metres tall!) – National Museum, Napoli

Packing up one of our favourite campspots  - Overlooking Positano, Amalfi Coast

Packing up one of our favourite campspots – Overlooking Positano, Amalfi Coast

Stunning villages abound! - Morigerati, Cilento National Park

Stunning villages abound! – Morigerati, Cilento National Park

The national park, Cilento was a real highlight.  The second largest in all of Italy, with little villages on crags, waterfalls, endless forests and some stunning mountainous peaks, far too much to explore in the little time we had.  There seemed to be no one there and the towns were always sleepy and friendly, generally the opposite of the Amalfi coast towns which were packed full of tourists and establishments fixed to empty their pockets of silver.   We discovered a few gems on what is a dramatically beautiful, steep slope, but generally the Amalfi is a little overrated.  Its a big world, many coastlines, why should we all gather in one place?  I have to admire the marketing job done by the tourism folk, Sorrento for example is heaving with Americans who have flown all this way to the Med to see a sanitised version of what is surely, one of the worlds most stunning areas.  And, it was 45 euros for a dorm bed!  45 euros for a wonky bunk!!!!!!

Making salads on bins - A little medieval village, somewhere in the Cilento National Park

Making salads on bins – A little medieval village, somewhere in the Cilento National Park

 

Stunning nature - Cilento National Park

Stunning nature – Cilento National Park

Jane just before another amazing dinner - Campania

Jane just before another amazing dinner – Castellabate, Campania

We spent a week in Cilento National Park, driving the crumbling roads and marvelling at the sheer natural beauty of the place.  It seemed impossible to escape the ancient past as we randomly came across site after site filled with magnificent ruins of towns and temples, the most impressive of which were (of course) Pompei and Paestum.  Some of the details that have survived are stunning, it feels like you’re looking directly into the lives of the people who lived more than 2000 years ago.  We know their names, how much they earned and where they worked, the Gods they worshiped, what they did for giggles and even their favourite snack bars!  These incredibly preserved relics give colour and texture to the ancient world and open fascinating windows into how our forefathers and mothers would have passed their lives.  It wasn’t all good, being a gladiator fighting lions seemed like a raw deal but I have to say, in the most part, they seemed to live well and in a highly advanced, organised and cosmopolitan way.

Another lunch stop, abandon churches again (always with handy fresh water springs for washing up!) - Cilento National Park, Campania

Another lunch stop, abandon churches again (always with handy fresh water springs for washing up!) – Cilento National Park, Campania

Italian beaches are strange and normally filled with sun loungers, costing an exorbitant amount of euros to perch on.  It is the only place in the world I have visited where beaches are private and fenced off!  You need to buy a Cappucino to take a dip in the ocean!  What a strange approach.  Due to this, we only spent 20 minutes on the beach, it all seemed a little hectic and the opposite of relaxing.

Temple of Isis, Pompeii

Temple of Isis, Pompeii

The best pizza in town (gypsy guitarists just out of picture) - Di Mateos, Napoli

The best pizza in town (gypsy guitarists just out of picture) – Di Mateos, Napoli

There are a few famous and touristy pizza restaurants in Napoli, but we were assured by locals that Di Mateos was the best.  Located on Via Tribuani, one of the main streets in the old town, it is always packed full and has a real buzz about it.   It was, without any peer, the best pizza I ever met.  Add to that the band of gypsy’s (not the Jimi Hendrix lot) playing as we went in and you have the full package.  You cannot beat the sound of a well strummed mandolin and some toothless yelping.  It stirs the appetite and soul.

Our favourite dinner spot, in a cave! - Nochelle, Amalfi

Our favourite dinner spot, in a cave! – Nochelle, Amalfi

After all that driving, we landed in Pompeii, not a bad little town considering the daily influx of tourist coaches.  We camped there in a little family ran site and walked the 20 metres to the main gates.  Italy really impressed me in the fact that corporations don’t seem to have taken hold.  Family ran joints, hotels, cafes, restaurants etc seem to be very much the done thing and it adds so much variety and authenticity to towns.  You get to meet the real locals, eat their food, hear their gossip and understand a little about what is actually going on.  Places ran by people who genuinely care about what they’re doing which makes all the difference.  I hear this does not extend to Italian politics, but that’s a whole different blog……

Last but certainly not least, antipasti and pasta! - Mama made it, Morigerati, Campania

Last but certainly not least, antipasti and pasta! – Mama made it, Morigerati, Campania

So Italy is nice, very highly reccomended by the B.H.K.  There seems so much to rave about but its the warmth and intensity of the locals which will stay with me.  Prego!!!!  I think Jane and I would go back now, if we weren’t tending to tomatoes and reveling in the unpredictable beauty of a Welsh summer in full swing.

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7 thoughts on “Italian Flava! Holiday Snaps of Napoli and the Amalfi Coast

  1. Really lovely post. I dream of going to Italy one day with my own family–heck, I am urging my parents to take their trip soon just so I can live vicariously through them–but this post came close to satisfying all my armchair travel needs for now. Lovely photos, great writing, and I am just shocked that you are able to camp in abandoned sites–it does seem romantic, but is it not dangerous? I am laughing now and thinking about the feigned bandits from the Count of Monte Cristo—at least you weren’t captured by any Luigi Vampa while bathing behind those churches. Oh, another question–very important for vegans–do many of the pastas in Italy have eggs? I guess that they do, since they are freshly made, but just wondering.

    • How lovely!!!! The pasta all seemed to be egg free?! Every packet I picked up and whenever I asked in restaurants, they always said that it was sans egg. Travelling the world as a vegan is tough and you just have to trust the waiters/ cooks of the world (sometimes even when logic doesn’t support what they say). Unless there’s a boiled egg floating in my soup or I can taste egg, I’ll happily munch on. The pasta was amazing and in south Italy, they use scant ingredients to make things delicious. It is a stunning part of the world and you will not be disappointed when you get around to bedding down in a graveyard (a la Cristo). Take it easy, lee

      • Thanks for the reply! Yes, I’m the same way — we are happy to trust the cooks/waiters. I’m very excited to know about the pasta, thanks!

  2. What an awe inspiring post :). I love the fact that Italian veggies really ARE the bomb. That means that the old “use horse manure” tip that every old Italian market gardener whispered behind his ancient dirt encrusted hand to me over the fence was true! LOVE the look of the food, the atmosphere, the “place” and love those lily white legs…Jane seems to have stolen all of the communal colour ;) Glad you are enjoying an extended summer and getting the most out of your tomatoes. Spring is threatening to invade our mid winter and all of the fruit trees are budding up. Hopefully there is a bit more rain in it as we have a 10 000 litre rainwater tank to fill that should see our garden through to the next rains. LOVE this blog :)

    • 10,000 litres! Nice one!! Glad to hear that the winter grip is loosening the buds are marching in…..we have tomatoes on the hill!!!! Grown in a little plastic green house thing but still, very happy with the little guys. I have decided that next year, we’re building a tomato hut. Italy is a wicked place, filled with smiles and sun. Glad you enjoyed the pasty legs, its very much a British tradition. Peace and Pumpkins, l+j=x

      • Tomato hut eh? Is that like a little greenhouse type thingo? I have a glasshouse on the property and am planning on building a hoop house as well as our seasons are quite short compared to the rest of Australia. I recognised those pasty whites, Stevie-boy has a pair of his own. It’s a U.K. thing ;)

  3. What a wonderful adventure you two look to be having, and humm that food is making my tummy rumble… Lovely to have caught you in my catch up Lee.. and much love and Light to you and Jane.. xxx

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