We did a terrible job planning this trip. It was last minute. We were busy with a million and 1 things going on. Interviews, California, Bathroom Renovations, Shoots, Photobooths, side projects, etc. Our intentions were to visit my parents in Italy and Alek’s Cousin in Scotland.. well..
Scotland is gorgeous…. but cold as balls in January. It wouldn’t be so bad except for the fact that it’s constantly drizzling. And the wind– it cuts through every loose stitch between the seams of your pants and it’s capable of slicing through every possible space between the tightly woven threads of your clothes. Bone Chilling cold that is unrelenting and unforgiving.
With that said– I’ve learned a few things from this trip thus far.
1– Windproof/water resistant pants are LEGIT.
2– Getting To Amalfi Coast from Rome SHOULD NOT take 8 hours.
Despite the typical trustworthy information other bloggers have written as well as the Lonely Planet– European on a shoestring edition 2012… It is NOT easier take a train to Naples then hop the Circumvasuviana train to Sorrento… then take a bus from Sorrento to Amalfi. They can go F-themselves. The circumvasuviana (pronounced CHEERcoomVasuviana) is a local train… that makes 30+ stops and takes 2-3 hours.
In fact– there are other ways that take less time and are much cheaper options that won’t make you want to throw your body off a cliff.
1– TAKE the Speed train from Rome to Salerno… fairs are cheap and quick… between $28-$60 bucks for a 2 hour ride. Then take a SITA bus from Salerno to Amalfi. 3 hours.. $30ish.
2– TAKE the train to Naples. Take a Taxi, bus, or shuttle to Ravello via the backroads. 1 HOUR.
After a long grueling day of travel and having to spend money on unforeseen circumstances– I will say– it was still a good day. Mainly because we encountered SOOOO many people that were so thoughtful and genuine towards us. All buses stopped running when we got to Sorrento. Apparently during the winter– the city is a ghost town and most things close or stop running earlier than usual…. and/or are closed altogether until April.
We were approached by a taxi driver asked if we needed help and we said– we needed the bus… so… he directed us toward the timetable and explained what everything meant. Basically we were out of luck unless we wanted to pay for another hotel room in Sorrento and forego our reservations in Ravello until the next day. OR We could take the taxi then and there. Taxi it was. We asked if we could stop to grab a bite before driving an hour 1/2 to Hotel Parsifal in Ravello. We stopped at this tiny little local fast food eatery. It was basically a glass window and a monochromatic palette of golden fried objects. Francesco– our driver– basically explained every single thing behind the counter and helped us order. Then he got a few extra things we didn’t order and recommended we try them. And we were SO pleasantly surprised. Typically anything pre-fried and sitting under a heat lamp is going to be stale and tastes like shit. Not so much. They were DELICIOUS! We had a little calzone looking thing… but the bread was perfectly soft and the outside had a perfect high-frequency crunch.
WTF is a high-frequency crunch? It’s really difficult to explain… but I have this theory that not all crunches are made equal and often it’s not always the taste of something that we like, but I’m convinced it’s the texture/sound/frequency of the crunch. I believe most people are drawn to higher pitched crunches. For instance– some crackers– you bite into them and they have a crisp…. a higher pitch/frequency crunch! I.e potato chips, Thin Mints, the crust of fresh french bread. I’m not sure if it’s because something is not as dense but there is a distinct sound/feel that sounds higher pitch…. Vs. Low Frequency Crunch foods… like bagel chips, stale saltines, old toast.
I make this crap up– but it makes sense to me.
—- WHAAAAT. I was really distracted.
Long story short– Italians have a kind demeanor and helpful attitude and the food is so much better than any words can describe. We spend some time in the town of Ravello which is a quaint town perched along cobblestone roads overlooking dramatic cliffs that plummet into crystal blue waters. During the winter months–Ravello is a ghost town with remnants of what once was bustling which make it easy to explore the ivy lined cobble streets that branch out to countless stairways and ally ways. Around every corner is a jaw dropping view that never seems to disappoint.
Before I made my way to Italy– I always heard of how stunningly beautiful it was. I was skeptical. Surely– it can’t be THAT great. These people must not travel much. Well– I was wrong. Italy IS that beautiful. The food IS that great. The culture IS that warm and welcoming.
But– if you decide to plan a trip– remember to book everything– tours and accommodation, ahead of time. Italy is a well-oiled machine riddled with tourists through out the year. Its not like Asia where they will jam that one extra person on the bus or they will just create an additional tour if the demand is high.
Although winter is the low-season, that doesn’t mean it’s easier to book accommodations or transportation for that matter. That just means options are limited as locals go on vacation during this time of year. Do your research.
Pack in layers for cold, cloudy, and rainy days. Clear days are a gift. Comfortable shoes are a priority. Form and function. Cobblestone roads are ankles’ worst enemy. Heels, wedges, or other “cute” options add insult to injury. Don’t be vain. You will hate yourself if you don’t pack smart.
I packed a black mid-thigh length puffy jacket/shell combo. I got Patagonia’s Tres Jacket as a Christmas gift a while back. It’s functional and flattering and goes with everything. Plus– if it’s raining and warm– use the shell. If it’s cool but dry– puffy– no shell. If it’s cold AND rainy– well poo for you. Layer both jackets. I prefer the mid length because I’m a wuss and I hate being cold. I’m also not a fan sideways wind and rain that results in a soggy butt.
I packed ankle boots by Off the Beaten Track with 3 pairs of Smart Wool Socks. OTBT boots are really comfortable and have a rubber tread with decent grip. They absorb shock well and the soles aren’t slick– which would be a nightmare on wet cobblestone. Smart wool socks dry quickly and wool naturally fights stink. I am typically grossed out by wearing socks without washing… but you can get away with doing that with these socks. Synthetic socks for some reason harbor bacteria, sweat, and stink after 1 use. Wool– not so much. It’s magical.
Resist the urge to pack too much. You will find that you’ll wear the same things over and over again, plus that leaves extra room if you’re a shopper. Italians are known for being effortlessly stylish. You will not be disappointed.
That’s it for now… good luck and happy trails!