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Southern Italy Coast-to-Coast: Puglia to Sorrento

Posted on April 7, 2008 by Holly Hayes
Part of: The Great European Road Trip

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Sorrento

This morning we left Puglia and drove about three hours west across Italy to the opposite coast. We had some difficulty getting started, due to ambiguous directions from our sat-nav, but then we were cruising west on the Autostrada. The middle of the country was quite pretty, with green rolling hills. But then we started to approach Naples.

Things got poor, ugly and dirty quite quickly. We avoided Naples itself, but unfortunately our sat-nav-guided route took us off the Autostrada and through a small town so we could experience the metropolitan area of Naples up close. The main road was filled with teeth-clattering potholes. The Naples area is never nice, but it has been even worse over the past year because they have a garbage crisis. For various reasons, the garbage is no longer picked up. So it is just everywhere.

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It really makes you appreciate the infrastructure we tend to take for granted!

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The name of this town seemed especially appropriate.

But things improved once we got on the Sorrento Peninsula and we are now in a nice area. Sorrento is filled with hotels and is very touristy, but having been off the beaten track in Puglia for over a week, we absolutely love it. The staff at our hotel speak English! And nearly everyone else around town is from Britain or Germany, mostly the former! Magnificent.

We are staying at the Best Western Hotel La Solara. The hotel room is clean and adequate but not that impressive; kind of 80s motel-ish. But the location and the views are to die for! We could hardly believe it when we opened the door to our balcony and saw this:

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And our balcony is huge, with a little table and chairs and room to lay out in the sun if we wanted. Wow. I reserved a room without a sea view to save money, but the hotel isn't full so they put us in one anyway for the same price. God bless the low season.

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And then there's the heated pool and sun chairs! Those day trips are starting to sound like too much work... :)

We were starving when we arrived at the hotel around 3:30pm, and were disappointed to read that the hotel restaurant is only open for lunch from 12 to 3. So we asked the man at the front desk for advice on lunch and he said, "I'll make something for you! Come with me." And he led us out to a table by the pool, brought us menus, and opened the poolside snack bar just for us. So nice. We split a pizza and David got some excellent bruschetta. Very overpriced, naturally, but also delicious and convenient.

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After lunch we walked down to the nearest beach, which was a very steep 15 minutes through olive and lemon groves. The beach isn't the sort you'd lay out on, but it's a nice little harbor with a few pizzerias and great views.

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That's Mt. Vesuvius in the background. Still active, so we hope it behaves itself while we're here. If it doesn't, we plan to run down the hill and "borrow" a rowboat.

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On the slow hike back up the hill we met this friendly kitty, who mewed at us and came down from his perch to be petted.

Then it seemed a little early to settle into the hotel for the evening, so we hopped on the hourly shuttle minibus into the city centre (a very useful service). Sorrento was more enjoyable than we expected, with outdoor cafes and boulevards that reminded us of Paris and narrow lanes lined with interesting shops.

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16th-century church

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One big surprise was looking down from one of the main roads and seeing this! Don't know anything about it except that those are the old city walls on the left, but it was like a lost world down there.

We spent just an hour in Sorrento, but will likely return for dinner on another night. On the way back we chatted with a young couple from near Bath, England, which was really nice. And when we walked out on our balcony upon our return, a 60s-ish British man from the balcony up above said, "Good evening." (The balconies are staggered so he can see us when we walk out to the end.) He told us he was watching for a big cruise ship, which normally goes by around this time. Later, we spotted it, and it was beautiful. We were afraid our neighbor had missed it, but soon he emerged along with his wife and another couple. One of the women sighed, "Ah, isn't it lovely..."

It's good to be back on the beaten track for a little while.