There is nothing more relaxing than a wicked cocktail and a massive sun umbrella plonked in the sand, the most pristine beaches on the planet staring back at you all the while as you sit back and nibble on a juicy green olive that didn’t come out of a jar for a change. After days of running in and out of museums, churches and art galleries on a loop, some beach-time is definitely due. And if you happen to be holidaying in Italy, it would be rather daft to miss the surreal southern coast.
Before heading to the coast, we made an honorary stop at Naples to visit Pizzeria da Michele, courtesy Eat Pray Love. The menu is pretty straight-forward, you get marinara or margherita. (You would be a colossal idiot if you were there and you didn’t try both.) With the very first bite you begin to understand why Julia Roberts admits to being in a relationship with her pizza, it is cheesy paradise on a plate. Post our pizza rendezvous, we got aboard the Circumvesuvian train which is known to have the most notorious Italians on board. I’ve lost count of the number of times people told us to watch out for our luggage and wallets but lets just say Naples is shady like that.
We were stationed in a wonderful little cottage in Santa Maria del Castello, a laid-back little town, half an hour away from the nearest train stop, Vico Equense. Vico is a wonderful place – the perfect mix of sun, hills and sea. While people prefer to stay in Positano or Capri for over-priced, over-crowded stays, Vico offers you heaven at a reasonable price. Making day trips to the Amalfi towns (Positano, Ravello, Amalfi etc.) and Capri is easy and you can always take the train to cover other circumvesuvian attractions like the ruins at Pompeii, Mt. Vesuvius, Sorrento, Salerno and so on.
Vico also gives you a chance to explore the coast through some of the most beautiful hikes in Italy. A very popular route is The Path Of Gods but since we were short on time, we chose a different hiking trail to Positano, directly from Santa Maria del Castello. Whatever the route, you get to see spectacular aerial views like no other. The vast expanse of azure sea merging with cobalt skies while you’re hanging at the edge of a not-so-safe mountain is a sight quite literally worth dying for.
So we walked all the way to Positano, which is probably the most popular out of all the Amalfi towns. The feeling when you get the first glimpse of sun umbrellas and the beach after a grueling 3 hour trek is beyond expression. And that first dip in the sea after hours of scorching sun – pure bliss.
I bought myself this lovely pink beach dress while I was there. (I refused to roam around in my trekking attire).
We popped a bottle of chardonnay and slurped oysters for the rest of the day. I also got a little funky surprise in my sea food soup – an octopus tentacle which wasn’t as bad as it looked.
Positano was by far my favorite Italian destination. If you’re looking for some chill time by the beach, it’s the perfect place. For the quintessential shopper, they have the most amazing blue willow pottery and china. Clothes-wise, you can buy wonderful linen outfits and if pastels are your thing then may God have mercy on your wallet. Other than that, there’s the usual jewelry, trinkets and souvenirs.
Day three – Capri! Quite frankly, I didn’t quite like Capri because there’s not much you can do while you’re in the centre except gawk at the obnoxious array of designer stores that the tiny island has to offer – name a brand you can’t afford and they have it. Some funny things that I noticed which, in my opinion, are peculiar to Capri – 1)The place smells like lemons thanks to the multitude of lemon-soap shops which in hindsight was not a bad thing; 2)Women don’t like carrying their handbags in Capri and seeing a man carry a red birkin for his wife/girlfriend/sister/whatever is normal 3)’No man is happy’ and ‘all women are thrilled’ to be in Capri.
What I loved the most was how we got to Capri from where we were at – a walk, a bus, the train followed by a ferry. While you can always take a taxi to the ferry port, we wanted to save on cash for a private tour of the Blue Grotto in Capri. Grotto, meaning cave, is quite naturally a cave and a very blue one at that. As light passes through the water into the cave, red reflections are filtered and only blue light enters, hence the peculiar color of the water. Objects placed in the water of the grotto appear silver. A visit to the Grotto is a must when in Capri. Inside the Grotto, rowers sing you the loveliest Italian songs and these songs echo back to form new songs, all this paired with the florescent blue water and your little self in a tiny boat – it is something very magical! Worth the money, I’d say.
I guess it would be safe to say that this was the best beach vacation I could have hoped for. I’ve saved up all my passes, bus tickets and ferry tickets and I keep looking at them on and off to make myself believe that I was actually there (Also because I’ve been a ticket/bill hoarder since time immemorial.). They are my kind of souvenirs, things that’ll remind me of these splendid days when I’m old and miserable and petty about life but I’m going to pray it doesn’t come to that. It never will.