Europe, Italy
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A Southern Italy itinerary : Part 2 – Nocelle and Naples

Continued from A Southern Italy itinerary : Part 1 -Atrani, Ravello and Amalfi

Day 4 – Nocelle

Morning

A typical Italian breakfast of breads, spreads, canned orange juice and coffee was served in the cozy dining room at Casa Cuccuro. On a sunny day, you can eat on the terrace with stunning views of the coast. Dina and Peppe  also serve some extras which are charged for, such as boiled eggs, fresh orange juice etc. The personal attention which they give to each guest is immense.

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The homey dining area at Casa Cuccuro

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With Dina and Peppe on the terrace

One of the things you must try and do in Amalfi is the “Path of Gods” trek, which offers amazing views of the coast and is set in scenic natural beauty. The trek runs from Nocelle to Boomerano, and you can start it at multiple points, depending on where you are stationed. Luckily for us, it started right at our doorstep! Consider three hours one way at least (a bit more if you stop in between), most people do it one way and catch the bus back. If you have a reasonable level of fitness you should be able to do it – but know that it’s not a flat terrain. We started the trek around 11am from Nocelle and we landed in Priano at about 2:45 pm.

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The trek begins!

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It wasn’t a clear day but the views were spectacular anyway!

We took a bit of extra time because –

  • I was clicking pictures
  •  We got lost at one point
  • Now for the adventurous part – On a narrow hilly path, our way was blocked by a giant mountain dog. As we neared him, the dog started growling which scared the shit out of us. Suddenly, the owner of the dog called out to him and the dog ran away. Relieved, just as we started walking further, this man called out to us, we thought he was just saying hello but he was waving frantically and calling us to his hut. We didn’t understand what that was about, and just out of curiosity, decided to go to him. He was an old guy, eyes totally bloodshot and drunk as hell. Seemed friendly, and his wife came out with a bottle of alcohol and offered us a drink. They were quite upset that we didn’t want to join them, at least they seemed to be but we couldn’t really communicate as they spoke no English. They were probably trustworthy, but there was no way I was going to climb up and down the mountains after having god knows what alcohol. So we scooted away!
Afternoon

We landed in Priano and by this time my legs were killing me. A quick bite later, we were at the closest bus stop and decided to go to Positano to have a lazy lunch and explore the town. If you have seen my last post, you will already know that I didn’t like Positano at all. It was so packed that it was difficult to breathe, so we cut our visit short and were probably in and out in less than 3 hours. A bus took us back to Nocelle, full with locals who seemed to be heading back after a day of work in Positano, amongst much pushing and jostling we were able to get inside.

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Quick lunch at this pizzeria in Positano – look at the tree growing within the walls of the building on the left 🙂

Evening

All we cared for was a hot bath and a cozy bed and a couple of hours later, we were back at Santa Croce for dinner. Below are the pictures from our last meal. By this time the staff recognized us very well, and knew what was left of the menu to try :-D.

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The very comforting farmer’s soup

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Seafood Rissoto

Day 5

We checked out from Nocelle and were on our way back to Naples, first a local bus to Positano, then SITA from Positano to Sorrento, followed by a  train from Sorrento to Naples. It was almost afternoon by the time we checked into our hotel, Culture Hotel Centro Storico. I should admit here that Naples was quite a jolt to my system after Amalfi. I mean, I expected a big city vibe and I had read enough about Naples, but even then the contrast is so stark that it takes some time getting used to. Our hotel was in a narrow street (which I thought was dingy but most streets on the center look like that), with houses which had loads of laundry hanging outside, untidy wires criss crossing the street. The hotel was decent on the inside though, cheap, clean and a great location. We decided to head out and explore the center, this is the area we restricted ourselves to since we had a little over a day, and most of our time was spent exploring the old town and over eating. The historic center is a UNESCO world heritage site, brimming with tourists, locals, pizzerias, café’s, street shops and of course, scooters. You can find an abundance of hand rolled pastas, Limoncello, dried herbs etc. which we loaded up on. You can also visit an underground tour Napoli Sotterranea, which is a paid guided tour.

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Kid in a candy store, that’s me! Don’t know what the woman is looking at 😀

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Street view at historic center, Naples

Let me say that Naples isn’t for everybody – it’s not the most beautiful city, it’s rough and chaotic and I guess it takes getting some used to. But once you do, there is no turning back. Naples has a personality, and a strong one at that. It took me just a day, but by the end of it I had warmed up to the speeding bikes, the loud talking, the crowds, some intense arguments on the street. It felt a lot like home.

Coming to the food, you will be spoilt for choice but below are my top picks of stuff that you SHOULD NOT miss –

Eat Ice cream at Casa Infante. I shared a picture of the ice cream on Instagram and mentioned that it was the best ice cream I have ever had. I wasn’t kidding. We returned for seconds.

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The drool worthy ice-cream selection

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Dark chocolate and coffee

Share a beer (or two) with fried seafood – fish, prawns, squids, octopus and more fried to a crisp perfection.

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Fried sea food and beer on the street

In Naples, there is always a raging debate on the best pizzeria in town and one of the many contenders is Gino Sorbillo. We reached here to find a long, long queue outside this very tiny shop and decided that this is it, we needed to get a pizza from this obviously famous place. A couple of minutes in the line, and we saw hungry hoarders coming from inside with what looked like a bhatura, an Indian bread made of flour and deep fried. Turns out, Gino is also famous for another Naples specialty, the fried pizza – a pizza base, filled with ham or prosciutto, dollops of cheese and a smear of tomato sauce, sealed and then deep fried. We got one, and honestly, this is not the best tasting dish on the planet but it is quite an experience, and for the novelty of it, I would say got for it.

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Yep, that is the line outside this tiny shop

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And that is the line inside

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This guy was a machine at rolling dough and frying it in minutes

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The final product – more hype than taste if you ask me

The old town is packed with pizzerias and while there are some long standing popular spots such as Da Michele (of Eat, Pray, Love fame) and Di Matteo, you probably won’t go wrong at any other place with less hype. We tried two pizzerias, the names of which I unfortunately didn’t note, and they were both fantastic! So just experiment with the one that looks nice enough ;-), you won’t be disappointed.

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Juicy tomatoes, basil and chunky garlic pizza

Know before you go

  1. Every restaurant in Italy will charge you “Coperto” i.e. a cover charge per person
  2. Don’t bank on SITA bus schedules. But do try the bus at least once
  3. Weather was unpredictable in March so be prepared if this is the time of your visit. You will need an umbrella and enough warm clothes. I wasn’t well prepared and that was a total dampener.
  4. Amalfi is an expensive destination so plan in advance and if you are there during off-peak times, check with your hotel if in-house restaurants and other facilities are operational
  5. Bear in mind that though Amalfi coast is a 50 mile stretch, getting from one point to the other is fairly time consuming hence buffer for additional time, always!

That is it! I hope my 2 posts on Amalfi and Naples are helpful to you on your next trip. If you do need any further information, please feel free to ask in the comments section or drop me an email.

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