By Karlie Marrazzo
Our time in Sorrento was considerably different than our time in Naples. Naples is a bustling, vibrant Italian city and Sorrento is a small seaside town that is a major tourist hot spot. Our travels may not have ever brought us to Sorrento on our own. Dave’s parents, Randy and Lorise, are close friends with another couple, Pino and Rita, who live a few provinces over and who also happen to be Italian. They’ve always talked about traveling to Italy together, and Dave and I have always half-joked about tagging along. They were finally able to make the trip in 2013, so Dave and I worked our itinerary so that we would be able to meet up with them for at least a couple of days. To make things even better, Dave’s aunt Linda and uncle Larry would be joining them on the trip as well.
We hopped on the Circumvesuviana out of Naples again and had an easy journey. The train was amazingly uncrowded and we sat the whole way, even with our suitcases. As soon as we stepped out of the train station, my chest instantly tightened up at the sight of all of the tourists, tour groups and tour buses, and at the sound of so much English.
We arrived in town first, dropped off our bags and took a quick shower. The other group was coming from Rome and we had a pretty good idea of which train they would be on. We headed to the station and waited. The train arrived and passengers streamed off. Maybe they’re getting off last, we thought. They didn’t get off. Dave tried to text them but didn’t receive a response. The next train came half an hour later and they were the very last passengers off, looking more than slightly frazzled. Unfortunately they did not have a very smooth ride. Their train was much busier than ours, so much so that they couldn’t even force themselves on to the first one. The six of them with all of their luggage thankfully, but barely, made it on to the second one.
Since we weren’t able to find a B&B that could accommodate all of us, we split up into two B&Bs very close to each other. Once everyone settled in, we wandered down to the waterfront and grabbed drinks at the first beach bar we saw. The adults wanted a beer after a hectic travel day and I was looking forward to getting some sun. I had thrown on a bikini and shorts, but by the time we got down there the sky was overcast and there was a light rain. After some overpriced snacks and beverages, we sauntered back and got ready for dinner. Alfonso, the owner of our B&B, suggested a fantastic pizzeria called Da Franco down the main street in the opposite direction of the touristy area of town. It’s amazing how you can go literally one block over and shake all that shit. We dined at a long wooden table. Our waitress was engaging and fun and the atmosphere was relaxed. The pizzas were crisp, saucy and delicious. Dare I say it may have been the best pizza I’ve ever had in Italy?!
La passegiata, the casual evening stroll, is a major tradition in Italian life. After dinner, everyone hits the pavement and strolls up and down the main street in town. Young and old, couples and friends, link arms and enjoy the evening. We decided to work off some of the calories and join in. The weather was perfect – the air was warm and the sky was clear. There are two things stand out in my mind from that evenings walk, both of them a little bizarre. I didn’t know about it ahead of time, but there was an open air exhibit of Dalí’s sculptures going on, and the wonderful works of art were scattered throughout town. The other was the bizarre street performers we encountered. Mainly, the terrifying grown man who dolled himself up to look like (but not really) a baby in a bassinet, with his real head sticking out and a tiny baby doll body and weird little arms waving around, making goo goo ga ga sounds and staring as people walked by. Rita and I were pretty creeped out by him, but Randy, being the jokester that he is, loved it and went right up to him, egging him on. Afterwards we climbed the stairs to our fantastic rooftop patio and enjoyed some wine and unexpected fireworks nearby.
The adults wanted to visit the sunny isle of Capri, so the next morning after a welcome breakfast of tiny toast triangles, not very crispy bacon and eggs, we went to the marina to get tickets for the boat over. It was a madhouse, with many different lineups and a slightly confusing assortment of scheduled boats to choose from, and many people disregarding said lines. We made it onto the 9:50 fast boat. As we boarded, the crew were repeatedly announcing that the ride would be rough and advising people where to sit if they had a tendency to sea sickness. It was a hilarious experience, me with my husband and mother-in-law on either side of me and aunt and uncle across, all of us gripping onto our seats and some of us trying not to hurl, with Randy and Pino laughing at us and Rita, full of energy, walking up and down the aisles and taking pictures. I felt worse after I got off the boat, trying to walk on spaghetti legs.
The island of Capri is an incredibly popular resort getaway, and with good reason. It is incredibly gorgeous and has stunning views. Of course, as soon as we got off the boat we were met by hordes and hordes of people. We waited in line for tickets for the funicular, waited in line for the funicular, and eventually squeezed in like anchovies in a tin and got out in the upper part of the town also called Capri. None of us really had a plan for the island, which may have been a mistake. We started off by walking down the main street through town – very, very slowly. Partly because of the various ages in our party, and partly because the road was covered with pedestrians, cabs and smelly diesel buses constantly going by. We stopped at a few lookout points and took typical tourist pictures. The town was very charming, but it was hard for me to picture what it would be like without all of the visitors. I have a feeling even the people who live there can’t imagine what it looks like without so many visitors. Pino and Rita found a little deli style shop selling meat, cheese, bread, the best olives I’ve ever had, drinks and prepared food liked stuffed eggplant. We all grabbed a few things and had a potluck style lunch with the pigeons on one of the few benches nearby. After more aimless wandering, we ended up sitting on a log on the beach near the pier, myself enjoying a coconut gelato, Lorise writing on postcards, and Pino and Rita having a romantic moment by the water. We headed back to Sorrento after just a few hours on the island.
We spent the rest of the afternoon and evening on the rooftop patio. Pino and Rita kindly went to the grocery store for us and picked up some bread, prosciutto, parmesan, provolone and potato chips. We snacked, sipped on wine, caught up on writing and relaxed. As the afternoon turned to evening, Rita worked her magic in the kitchen and created a spectacular dinner for all of us. Fresh pasta with a bounty of fresh seafood and homemade tomato sauce alongside a fresh salad with prawns with a simple oil and vinegar dressing. What a wonderful talent to have, to be able to walk into a store, grab a bunch of items, and create something delicious on the spot. Cooking is not my forte so I really appreciate this in people. We spent over six hours on the roof that evening and went through about eight bottles of wine. After all of that, we still managed to drag ourselves down the 83 stairs and join la passengiata again, not without a few scoops of gelato on the way.