Almalfi Coast, Here We Come

Written By: Kim - Aug• 10•11

Due to our flight departure time from Rome and the three hours it takes to get there from the Almalfi Coast, we thought renting a car was the best option. Parking at our villa was free and we were not relying on public transportation. Strikes are common in Italy. But, we left Rome with no GPS (they were sold out) nor a country map. We had a map of Rome which showed Autostrada to Naples and the directions were simple: Get on the Rome beltway, take the exit for Naples and once you pass Naples, take the Almalfi Coastal Highway exit. Things always look so easy on paper, don’t they?

The town of Almalfi. ©Mike Howard

We load up the car and pile in. My husband hands me two maps, both of Rome and its surrounding highways and says “Navigate please.” What? Doesn’t he already know, after 21 years together, that I have terrible navigations skills even with a GPS? Doesn’t he notice that all the road signs are in Italian? I already know this will end badly.

The signs on the Autostrada do not prep the driver as we do in the US. There’s no warning about upcoming exits. Despite this, we manage quite well to get to Naples. It’s after Naples that the drama started when we missed, what we now know would be the only exit immediately south of Naples, to the Almalfi Coast.

We saw the correct sign but missed the exit because there were no warning signs. It simply showed up. Thinking that there would be more chances, we kept driving. An hour in to the mountains, we pulled over at an Autogrill (where you can eat and fill up your gas tank) and purchased a map for 7 €. I asked where we were: Campagna. As you can see from the map, this is no where near the water. The upside was that we got to see some Italian countryside.

After three attempts to get on to the coastal highway, we finally were on our way to Praiano….from the Almalfi end of the coast.

The coastal highway was jammed with Saturday transition traffic which makes for curvy and hairpin driving not on only stressful but long. But the scenery was just breathtaking; at every turn. We left Rome around 10:30 am and arrived at our rental apartment at 4 pm. This trip was only supposed to take three hours max. My advice: take the train to Naples and get in a taxi. It is not worth the expense nor hassle of renting a car. Just make sure you watch for pick pockets because this 1/3 of this city’s residents are unemployed.

The apartment was simply lovely. Given all the steep steps in the Almalfi Coast, we had quick access to the front door from the road. The local grocery store was a one minute walk from our apartment. They had a good variety of food options but the local produce…and I mean local, was simply beautiful. Any chef would love to cook here.

We enjoyed the balcony tremendously and watch the hills of Priano and the rest of Almalfi come alive as it got dark. We also experienced our first trip down to the water. A million steps and 500 turns later, we were there.

The never ending StairMaster - Almalfi Coast steps. ©Mike Howard

The water was relatively calm and chilly, but the kids enjoyed a quick swim. The walk back, all uphill, almost killed Mike and I. It was the Stairmaster that never turned off.

We slept well and awoke to 8:30 am church bells on Sunday.

Alone in the Borghese Gallery

Written By: Kim - Aug• 07•11

On our last full day in Rome, I spent two hours in the morning at the Borghese Gallery. Alone.

The side view of the Borghese Gallery. ©Mike Howard

What a glorious way to start your day.

The museum houses several sculptures by Bernini. His sculptures are so realistic, you can see every fold, muscle tone, or toga fold. One of the sculptures, Apollo and Daphne, has such intricate details on the leaves between the two bodies, that I simply could not believe what a master talent this man had. Restorers say that when you touch the leaves, they ring like crystal.

The museum, which was once a villa owned by Cardinal Borghese, also houses other artist’s sculptures and paintings. Get the audio tour and go at your own pace. I learned two paintings I was looking at were actually made of miniature mosiacs. Once I moved closer, I could see the details. I would simply have thought they were two oil paintings and would have moved on to the next room.

The gift shop had your typical items, but I did purchase a set of cufflinks with bees on them, which were in the crest of the Borghese family. I also picked up a lovely silk scarf that I can’t wait to wear when the weather cools.

Italian divas Abby and Mom at the Borghese Gardens. ©Mike Howard

The museumn is located in what is Rome’s answer to New York City’s Central Park, but on a smaller scale. We rented bikes, dipped our feet in to the large swimming pool-like fountain and watched the kids spend an hour pedaling go carts. There are plenty of shaded areas for picnics as well.

We spent our last night in Rome at a resturaunt we discovered two blocks from our hotel consuming yet another plate of prosciutto and melon. We also said goodbye to our Italian gelato friends we made at their shop since we frequented them everyday.

We highly recommend the hazelnut and lemon creme gelatos. Excellent.