We started our Italian adventure in Naples. Our flight landed around 1PM and then we picked up the rental car. The GS really wanted to drive through Italy. He also really wanted the rental car to be a manual which meant I couldn’t help with the driving even if I wanted to. (I didn’t.)
Successfully picked up the car and we were both starving. I had been desperately waiting for pizza and had a location saved- 50Kalo. It was the one recommended by Padma Lakshmi so obviously we had to go.
Only 20 minutes from the airport! No big deal.
Yes big deal because driving in Italy is INSANE and terrifying and I would recommend it to no one. It is lawless. Everyone thinks they have the right of way, and there are motorbikes flying by in all directions. So suddenly this quick pizza detour was taking about 40 minutes and we were both cranky and stressed. But we made it! It’s a Michelin guide pizza place and was packed at 2:30 in the afternoon, but they sat us quickly. We got a pizza and a beer each.
This was “The 50Kalo.” The menu was in Italian so we had no idea what was on any of the pizzas but figured this must be their specialty. When it arrived and I saw it covered in olives I almost started crying. Escarole is also a weird pizza topping, for the record. But the crust was to die for and I picked off the olives. The other one had prosciutto and buffalo mozzarella on it and was also delish.
Then we set off for Sorrento. I used almost all of my Hilton points from work to book us one night at the Hilton Sorrento Palace. The hotel was gorgeous and the pool was incredible, but the rooms were pretty regular. Amazing view from our balcony, though.
Our friend Ian’s dad happened to be in Sorrento at the same time, so we ended up joining their group for a food and wine tour that was SO much fun.
Don’t let the potato chips and beer in this photo deceive you, the food and the wines at almost every stop were very authentic.
We ended up staying out after the tour with Mr. B and one of the other girls in the group, and then ended the night with an aperol spritz at the hotel.
The next morning we soaked up all the pool time we could before they kicked us out of the hotel, and set off for our AirBnb in Atrani.
Here’s what I’ll say: the Amalfi coast is absolutely spectacular. It’s like no other place in the world. However, all of the little towns (Sorrento, Positano, Amalfi) are pretty much the same and the driving is horrific so I would recommend just picking one and staying there, and also hiring a driver to get you there.
After the stress of driving along the side of a cliff, not finding anywhere to park, and not being able to find our AirBnb, we were ready for another pizza. We went to Le Arcate, which is literally right on the beach.
Our AirBnb was nothing special but we were steps from this gorgeous beach…
Atrani is super super tiny and significantly less touristy than the other places mentioned above. There’s this little square that has four restaurants in it and that’s about it. Having dinner there that night (seafood risotto for two and a liter of red wine) was one of the most memorable parts of our trip.
We had also picked this AirBnb because they advertised laundry and, as we were backpacking, we had only packed enough clothes for about 4 days and then planned laundry periodically throughout the trip. We quickly learned that most places just have a washing machine and that all of our clothes needed to air dry. Felt like a real old Italian lady with those clothes pins.
The next morning we floated in the water for a while before getting back on the road. Didn’t quite think through packing wet bathing suits..
We decided to hit Pompeii because it was sort of on our way. I’m glad we did it, but not sure I would recommend it to someone else unless you’re a major history/archaeology buff. It wasn’t one of our favorite things we did.
We did get good gelato there, though.
Scoop of coffee and scoop of coconut each.
We were winging it a little bit in Italy. We had the night in Sorrento and the night in Atrani booked ahead of time, but had no idea where we were going to stay for our remaining two nights in Italy. After bouncing around a bit we decided we wanted to just pick a place and stay there two nights in a row. So we found La Bagnaia in Siena, which is about an hour south of Florence. We were able to book it with points, and it was by far one of the nicest places we stayed.
By the time we got there we really didn’t want to get back in the car, so we decided to have dinner at the hotel restaurant. Being a snob, I almost never do this. But the food was SO GOOD. Such a pleasant surprise. This beef carpaccio with shaved truffles was one of our favorite dishes of the whole trip.
The GS played golf the next morning and I hung at this pool.
Then we headed into Siena to explore. It’s such a cute town and we had a great dinner at Taverna di San Giuseppe which was fantastic but I didn’t take any food pictures because it was kind of dark in there. And we also ended up sitting with this couple from Philadelphia and talked to them the entire time.
The next morning we got up and headed into Florence. We walked around there for hours just popping into different stores. The GS bought a leather wallet and I bought a ravioli cutter. Everyone is happy.
We got lunch at Cibreo Caffe (a Phil spot!) and it was very simple but very nice. I had this salad and the GS got a panini.
Then back on the road to Genoa, where we were returning the rental car and hopping on a train to Nice. Luckily we had enough Armchair Expert episodes to get us through all this Italian driving. We came pretty close to missing our train because one of the major bridges in Genoa collapsed so that affected the traffic (who knew?) BUT we made it and had an easy train ride into France.
Major takeaways from Italy:
- The most beautiful place I’ve ever been. Amalfi Coast and Tuscany are both stunning in their own way.
- Do not rent a car there.
- Drink all the wine there.
- The bread in the bread basket at EVERY restaurant was really bad?? They nail pizza and pasta but are really missing the mark on regular bread. Skip it and save it for FRANCE!