Our Week in Italy: A Look at the Food, People, and Beauty of the Amalfi Coast

We just got back from our AMAZING anniversary trip to the Amalfi Coast in Italy. For both of us, this was our first time to visit Italy and we absolutely fell in love with it. The people, the food, the scenery, the history, we adored it all. We will definitely be going back. Here’s a look at the things we saw, people we met, and food we ate during our time in the Campania region.

Going from Scotland to Italy was almost shocking for us when we first arrived. Scotland is dark, the buildings are thick and grey, the people are subdued, and the scenery is of rolling green hills speckled with purple heather. Italy, on the other hand, is vibrant, loud, and the people have colorful personalities that seem to seep out of their bodies and onto the bright walls of their houses. The landscapes and gardens are untamed in the best sort of way. Perfectly cared for, but allowed the freedom to grow and develop naturally with pruning only when truly necessary. This is, again, a stark contrast to the perfectly manicured palace style gardens of the Scottish cities. The food in Italy, though simple, is full of color and bold flavor while in Scotland the traditional food leaves us craving both flavor and seasoning (sorry Scotland!). We love Scotland, but a week in Italy was just what the doctor ordered. Refreshing, relaxing, and a nice change of pace.

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I always put a ton of time and energy into planning our trips. Our anniversary trip was no exception. I was able to find a beautiful villa (that was actually larger than the flat we live in) to rent for the week in the gorgeous cliff side town of Positano. Here is my husband sitting on our porch. This was the view we woke up to every morning.

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The villa was owned by the sweetest couple we have ever had the pleasure of meeting. They had a large garden that we walked through each day as we came and went. Lemons (a Campania regional specialty) grew on a pergola over the walkway and the garden looked out over the cliffs to the ocean. To say it was picturesque is an understatement.

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This is our wonderful host, Davide sitting in his garden. One morning when we were planning on just roaming around town, he invited us to come sit with him and chat. He is a 5th generation resident of Positano and loved telling us about the town, its residents and its history. We also had a long discussion about Italian food and the heavenly gift that is gelato. He’s a man after my own heart. To make an already great morning perfect, Davide’s wife brought us each an Italian espresso to enjoy while staring at the beautiful Positano view.

We absolutely loved our hosts.

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As you can see from the pictures, Positano is a town built into the cliff side over looking the ocean. Its breath-taking, but that view comes at a price and that price is stairs. Stairs are everywhere. I nicknamed Positano the “town of neverending stairs”. Just when you think there can’t possibly be any more stairs, you realize you’re only halfway there.

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On our first day we made the mistake of taking the stairs down to the beach. Almost 2000 stairs later we finally made it. I’m pretty sure I rolled down the last few flights. While taking the stairs made me feel slightly better about all of the gelato and pasta I was going to eat, my legs were angry with me for days. Luckily, there is a bus that runs the loop around town so most days we took that option instead.

This is a picture of the last few flights of stairs going up to our villa. Our villa was exactly 72 stairs up from this point. While I am somewhat inclined to complain about how I wanted to get on all fours and crawl up the steps after a long day of walking around Positano, I feel obligated to share this fact first; the man that lived in the villa below ours was 92 years old. I should probably quit complaining about the stairs at this point.

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Oh Positano, how I love thee, stairs and all.

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This is my handsome husband walking down to the beach (on the road, not the stairs) one day. No matter where I had taken the picture along the way, it would have been just as beautiful. Every corner of this town is gorgeous.

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As much as I loved gelato, Blythe (my husband) loved cannolis. Here he is eating a cannoli from his favorite shop in Positano. The cannolis were nothing like we had ever tasted before. So much creamier than we expected. The filling almost tasted like ice cream it was so smooth and sweet. I’m a little ashamed to say how many cannolis we bought…I’ll leave you to your own conjectures.

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We loved how many dogs there were in Positano. Most of the shops and businesses are family run and most of the families have dogs. Because of this, most shops and stands have a dog that lay by them all day, every day. These dogs take their jobs in their shops very seriously. As you can tell from this dog who works at the boat rental shop, they have very busy lives.

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We spent pretty much every afternoon in this spot on the beach. Pictures just don’t do it justice.

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The beaches in Italy aren’t sandy, but man, they are beautiful.

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We enjoyed before dinner drinks nearly every afternoon at one of the famous restaurants on the beach. The food and drinks were amazing, but the view was spectacular.

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On our actual anniversary we did a day trip to the famous island of Capri. It’s well known both for giving the world the dish caprese and for being an escape for the most VIP of VIP’s dating back to Cesar Augustus and more recently U.S. presidents and numerous Hollywood big shots. It was lovely and easy to see why it’s been a vacation hot spot for centuries.

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We took a boat tour around the island to the numerous grottoes (sea caves). It was awesome!

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This is our super cool guide. He is a scuba dive instructor, 4th generation resident of the island, and he speaks five languages (not totally uncommon in these tourist areas). I definitely felt inadequate in only speaking English and rudimentary German.

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Capri is beautiful. If you ever get the chance, definitely take a day or two to see it.

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Odds are, you’ve seen these rocks in a picture at least one doctor’s office or hotel. They are huge and completely stunning in person. Our guide had us make a wish and kiss as we went through the opening. It may be a little cheesy, but it was our anniversary so we were all about the gushy, cheesy, moments.

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Even if you hate beautiful scenery and sunny beaches, you should go to Capri for the gelato. I liked to fancy myself somewhat of a gelato connoisseur during this trip. I tried it everywhere we went. The gelato from one little unassuming shop in Capri is by far the best I had. It’s like heaven in your mouth. Probably the best thing I’ve ever eaten. I ordered one and shared it with Blythe…then had him order a second one just for me. I have no shame! Well, maybe I had a little shame. I did make him go order the second one after all… but it was amazing! You must eat gelato in Capri. Your life will not be complete until you do. Add it to your bucket list.

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Anywhere you go in the Italian region of Campania you’ll see massive lemons. The region is known for lemons and any product lemon related (limoncello comes from here). You can buy anything lemon your heart desires including 2.5 lb lemons. Really. These things are as big as your head.

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Here we are during our fancy anniversary dinner in Positano. We’ve decided that we’ll always seek out a chef’s tasting menu for this special night each year. These extended, thought provoking meals are the most special way for us to celebrate our anniversary with each other. We love good food and wine.

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One of the days we took a trip to Pompeii and Vesuvius. Vesuvius is huge, but there is a bus company that will drive you from Pompeii to almost the top of Vesuvius leaving you with only a 20ish minute walk to the crater. The buses are intense. They’re basically monster buses. Once  you get going it’s easy to see why the buses look like this. The roads to the top are pretty rough.

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The day we were there was pretty windy. My floppy hat didn’t last very long once we started hiking to the crater.

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The hike up isn’t very difficult, but in case you do get winded (pun intended), not to worry. In true Italian style there is a full wine bar and coffee shop in a tent as soon as you reach the top. The views are pretty sweeping so I suppose if you are afraid of heights, the wine bar might also make your walk around the crater a little more pleasant.

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Here’s Blythe on the path around the crater looking out over Naples.

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Like I said, it was really windy. I’m probably sabotaging myself by posting this picture. It will most likely show up in a 50th wedding anniversary slideshow or something, but I thought you guys would appreciate it.

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Visiting Pompeii has been on my bucket list since I was a small child. I was that kid. I still can’t quite believe that I got to see it in person. This is a picture of the main forum area of Pompeii with a very ominous Vesuvius looming in the distance.

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Everywhere you go in Italy, including Pompeii, there are these roman style water fountains where you can get a cool drink. I was a little wary of them, but we never had any problems.

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If you’ve read any of my other posts where I talk about my husband, you know he’s a funny guy. One of his quirks is that he is forever looking for ancient toilets at historic sites. As soon as he locates said toilet, he immediately poses for a toilet pic. I have an entire folder on my computer full of pictures like this of Blythe on old toilets. This is the man I married. Try to contain your jealousy.

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Pompeii is a huge site, one you can’t possible see all of in a day. It’s an entire city so you have to pick and choose which areas you want to see most. You can hire a guide to show you around or you can download an app that creates a path for you and tells you about the buildings and structures you pass. We went with the app and I feel like we had a great experience. You do need to plan on using one of these options though because there are no signs anywhere that tell you what anything is or even how to navigate the city.

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Most of the Pompeii artifacts have been moved to the museum in Naples, but they keep a select few in the forum area. Here is one of the plaster casts of a man who died while covering his mouth against the pyroclastic flows that wiped out the inhabitants.

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On a lighter note, while the destructive power of Vesuvius killed thousands, it also created extremely fertile ground that produces some of the most unique wine we have ever tasted. We got the opportunity to do an Italian style wine “tasting” (full three course meal paired with wines) at a family run winery on the slopes of Vesuvius. It ended up being one of our favorite things from the whole trip.

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Our main course was spaghetti with fresh basil. We loved it!

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Like I said, the wine was incredibly unique. You could really taste the affect of the volcanic soil on the grapes. The wine had a strong smokey flavor. I think my husband described it best when he said that the taste reminded him of the way a bonfire smells. It was really one of a kind.

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Everything we ate and drank in Italy was amazing, but the pizza in Naples was definitely a stand out. Pizza was born in Naples and the neopolitan style pizza is very different than the type of pizza we grew up eating in the U.S.

For starters, the original variety of pizza is called a marinara and it only has sauce, oregano, and sliced garlic. Eventually, a second variety (Margherita) was added. It is the most popular variety and is made with sauce, mozzarella, and basil. Many restaurants only serve these two varieties.

The second difference is the crust. A neopolitan style pizza has a very thin, soft crust that is meant to be eaten folded up. The idea is that each person orders their own pizza, cuts or rips it into big pieces and folds each piece up four or five times before eating. It is so yummy!

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We had such an amazing time in Italy. If you told me a year ago that we would be celebrating our first anniversary in Italy, I wouldn’t have believed you. It has been my dream all my life to live abroad and travel and I am still in disbelief that it’s really happening. We are definitely living the dream.

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Until next time, Ciao!

 

 

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