Cultureguru's Weblog

Of food, technology, movies, music, and travel—or whatever else strikes my fancy


Southern Italy

Been quiet for me on the blogging front, as we’ve been out of country. We were on a hiking tour of the Amalfi Coast of Italy, followed by a couple days in Rome. The itinerary was as follows (each number representing a day):

  1. Fly to Naples via Rome, on Alitalia.
  2. Arrive and get shuttled to Bomerano. Meet the rest of the tour group and have dinner.
  3. Hike from Bomerano to Amalfi, that has a downhill bias, involving many steps.
  4. Ascend Monte Tre Caili, a small mountain. (On foot, of course.)
  5. Visit the lost city of Pompeii, then climb Mount Vesuvius—the cause of its demise.
  6. Walk through the gorgeous Valle delle Ferrie National Park (11k).
  7. “Free day”, in which we took in a visit to Herculeum (another city lost to the Vesuvian eruption) and the lovely Ravello.
  8. “Walk of the Gods” from Bomerano to Positano, then a boat ride back.
  9. End of tour and train ride to Rome.
  10. Visit Rome (museums on this day).
  11. Continue Rome visit.
  12. Direct flight back home.

The Amalfi Coast area is here:

Amalfi Coast map

You’ll note that the area we were staying in, Bomerano (actually part of Agerola), is not even on the map. It is up away from the sea, in the mountainous area, and not easy to get to. If not for being on a tour that brought us there, I’m sure we’d never have visited on our own.

Bomerano satellite shot

Where Bomerano is—the red A

Your transportation options are either not-terribly-frequent buses from Amalfi, spending a fortune on a taxi, or attempting to drive yourself—which would practically be a death wish on these very narrow, twisty, and busy roads. (Of course, with the tour, we either had help with the bus system or an experienced driver.)

Furthermore, there ain’t a heck of a lot to do in Bomerano. It’s quite small, not many shops, no bank, no museums (that I know of), and just a few restaurants. (Oh, and all the TV channels are in Italian.)

But as a place to collapse after a day of hiking or touring or both, it was just fine. Especially since it did have Internet, which really provided enough entertainment for the amount of time we spent there not sleeping or eating the multi-course meals. (More on that later).

The weather

The tour group the previous week had the great bad luck of experiencing a full week of cold, fog, and heavy rain. On a hiking tour.

We were in the much more fortunate position of experiencing the upswing in the weather. On the first day (of activity), the fog was heavy, so instead of climbing the mountain as would normally have been the itinerary, we did the walk down to Amalfi, eventually getting below the fog. Unfortunately, of course, we had few views on the way.

View below the fog

The view below the fog

The day of the mountain climb, though, we did have a sunny morning, and therefore nice views all the way up the mountain. However, then the fog decided to come back for our descent. And at the very bottom, we got our only rain of the trip–pretty heavy at the very end. But we all enjoyed the refuge at the Crazy Burger Cafe!

The fog rolling in

The fog rolling in at the top of the mountain

At Pompeii, the weather was fantastic. On Mount Vesuvius, the fog decided to reappear, though more in a hide and seek kind of way that did allow for some views. (A bigger issue was the strikers who prevented us from walking all the way around and partly down into the volcano, but the alternate route we did instead was a lot of fun.)

Peekaboo fog at Vesuvius

The peekaboo fog at Vesuvius

The next three days were nothing but sunny, and the final day got really warm, such that we were all discarding as many clothes as was decent, and getting a great round of sunburns.

Walk of the Gods

Perfect weather on the final hike, The Walk of the Gods

Managing the physical challenges

Though we both do some exercise, it turns out we weren’t really in shape for walking down 2700 steps one day, then climbing up a small mountain the next. By the third day, we could barely negotiate the tiny stairs in the hotel, so sore were the muscles. In my case, it was both calves (from the up) and quads (from the down).

I was actually worried about managing the rest of the trip, but by day four things were much improved, and by the end, despite continued hiking on hilly terrain, the muscles were actually pretty good.

My big toes on the other hand, got extremely whiny about the constant butting up against the end of the hiking boot, and by the end were unbelievably sensitive. That made walking in Rome the first two days something of a challenge, but that too improved in the end. Well, except that my big toe nails are now kind of black.

The group

The tour group we were with, Exodus, are British, so everyone on the tour but us were from the UK or Scotland. (We got a lot of comments about how far it was for us to come. Of course, true. They had only a 2.5 hour flight!) They ranged in age from, I’m guessing, early 30s to late 60s. And most of them in their 60s were in much better shape than us, which wasn’t embarrassing at all. 🙂

The merry band of hikers

The merry band of hikers

It was a good group. Interesting people who tended to have done a lot of traveling, and who worked in all different areas. Jean was particularly great with one of the older ladies, who had hurt her knee on the first day (!), and thereafter struggled with some of the more challenging terrain. He made sure she negotiated all the paths safely. He’s sweet, my husband.

Food and wine

We had all our breakfasts and most of dinners at Hotel Due Torri, where we staying, which is fortunately somewhat renowned for its food. It was, of course, Italian cuisine all week long, but a different menu each night, typically starting with a pasta, then following with seafood or meat, then dessert.

We also got to go into the kitchen a couple times to watch the meals being put together, which was a lot of fun. That’s a lot of olive oil in that seafood linguine! And if you have a wood-burning oven at 200 degrees, your pizza cooks in about 2 minutes.

Freshly made tiramisu

Freshly made tiramisu

The wines served were regional ones, not exported to Canada (or anywhere). They were good, quite food-friendly, but not the sort you’d make a big fuss over.

We had one night out to another Bomerano restaurant, the whole group together, and they did a fantastic job there, too. Jean and I still argue over which of us had the better meal there. And in Revello, we had a splurge lunch on a gorgeous patio. In Rome, we mostly stuck with Italian food, still. It was all good, but I think most notable was the ricotta and pear ravioli in truffle sauce. Jean liked it so much when I had it at lunch that we went back to the same place for dinner, and he ordered it.

Lunch in Revello

Lunch in Revello, “the most picturesque place on earth”, as one in our group called it


I should wind up before I’m writing all night (of course I’ll be adding more to the website, later), but not before saying something about our visit to Rome.

The first day in Rome it was 28 degrees and sunny, which you may think sounds great, but Rome is humid, I had to keep somewhat covered up due to sunburn, I had the sore feet, and so it was just uncomfortable. And then there was crowds.

We had been thinking April was still low season there, but not so much–especially late April. That first day, we walked to the Trevi Fountain, and the Spanish Steps, and the Coliseum area… And everywhere was just crawling with an unbelievable number of people.

Crowded Spanish steps

We had to share the Spanish Steps with just a few other people.

So truthfully, I wasn’t really liking Rome so much on day 1 there. (And did I mention our hotel had no air conditioning?)

Fortunately, Rome improved. It started by clouding over (but no rain) and lowering the temperature (but not getting too cold), which was much better. And, we largely avoided the big sites and saw some of the less well-known yet quite interesting areas we had missed last time:

  • National Museum of Rome, with fantastic ancient sculptures
  • Museum of Modern Art, with fantastic modern sculptures and a really neat area on optical illusion art
  • The Capuchin crypt, with its artful arrangement of 4000 monk bones (web photo below)
  • A synagogue tour, where I learned just how long Roman Jews have been persecuted
  • An interesting archeological site behind the synogague, unearthing another Colosseum
  • The lively Travestere neighborhood

Capuchin Crypt

We weren’t allowed to take photos here, so this one is a find

Archeological dig behind the synagogue

The not-so-well known colosseum behind the Rome synagogue

Roman Forum

And the more famous Forum (because this is a cool shot)

So Rome ended up fine as well. Thank goodness it was a second visit.

More Amalfi coast photos:

More Rome photos:

More details (with photos): Amalfi and Rome Trip Diary