Almalfi, Money and Armpits

Written By: Kim - Aug• 21•11

At my urging, we headed to the town of Almalfi. Since we cannot seem to get out of the villa before 11 am, we boarded an already crowded SITA bus. There does not seem to be any other kind of bus here.

Connor, Josef & Abby at the Almalfi Beach. This local came to our rescue. ©Mike Howard

When we finally made it to Almalif town center and we got off the bus, my daughter asked, “Did you see that girl’s pits?” Abby had just been introduced to the European method of female hair removal: It is optional. I chuckled and explained that it is common in some cultures. My American kid was not amused.

There were several public beach front options here, so we picked one right in front of an eatery. Since we did not intend to stay all day nor rent a beach chair, Mike and I sat by one of the deck tables. It was not crowded and we were not taking up space for a paying customer.

A few minutes later, the owner figured out that the kids were hitting the beach, he came over with a waitress and asked if we wanted to order. He did not ask us to leave or rent a beach chair, so we stayed. Since we had already eaten, we ordered a water. It never arrived.

The table next to us clearly had three regular patrons who were quite animated with their conversation. They consumed a traditional Almalfi meal: fried sardines, bread, white wine and mozzarella. I wish we had understood the language because they were a fun bunch. The kids enjoyed the water in Almalfi because it was warmer than previous locations and the rock beach consisted of smaller rocks so the wading in was much easier. We stayed about two hours. The kids changed in to dry clothes and we proceeded to leave. But not without the drama.

The owner asked us about paying for the mineral water. We said it never arrived. He said, “no, you had the water.” An argument quickly ensued. He then threatened to call someone if we did not pay.

Joseph, the regular sitting next to us spoke up and confirmed our story. As he did, the owner also confirmed with the waitress that we never received the bottled water. We also never received an apology. All of this for over a €2 bottle of water.

After we toured the marina and marveled over some extremely big yachts, we headed for a

Abby climbs the steps of the cathederal in Almalfi Town Center. ©Mike Howard

canoli and a cappuccino at the town center. There was a lovely cathedral that had amazing front of mosaics decorating the front facade. Connor and I hit the shops for some goodies to take home for everyone at the office and something for Abby. The salesgirl who helped us was “hot” as my 13 year-old son said. But, she was wearing a sleeveless dress and as Connor said, “I’m not in to ‘optional’ hair removal.”

Back on the SITA bus we went, standing room only. Again. The tight spaces in which drivers must maneuver in Italy continued to amaze us. We had a new respect the bus drivers, but the other drivers are simply rude. A “me first” attitude continued to prevail. Why don’t people in any country learn that the biggest rig on the road has the right away?

We had dinner at a restraunt we had been eying from our balcony. We were one of three patrons since we arrived around 7 pm. The first server was attentive. The last two were awful. Here, most of the servers could care less.

I really miss American customer service.

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.