Italy: Things Get Hot on the Amalfi Coast
- Danielle Tuck
- Danielle Tuck
Our overnight ferry from Sicily arrived in Naples at 6:30 in the morning. With our goal of Mount Vesuvius literally in sight and our backpacks securely fastened, we walked the heavily trafficked one-mile to the local Circumvesuviana train station. We only stopped for a minute to down an espresso and a Nutella filled pastry with the train workers, policia, and locals who were starting their day at this unnatural hour. We were headed to Pompeii and the volcano that was responsible for its downfall, Mount Vesuvius.
Pompeii and Its Captor
Even after touching the Coliseum and walking the streets of the Forum, Pompeii, and the look into history that it provided, was an experience we were very excited about. It was a thrilling encounter with the past to walk through the main gate of the city the way a citizen of Pompeii would have nearly 2,000 years ago. The main piazza was a little less impressive to see because, where the important Temple of Apollo once stood, now just remained a few columns amid a sea of tourists. However, as we moved away from the central areas and deeper into the streets, homes, and businesses of the ancient city, our amazement grew. While admiring the intricate tile mosaics, acoustically designed amphitheater, and the ingenious bathhouse structure was awesome, we really were the most fascinated with their toilets, fast food stalls, and the illustrations in the brothel. It was fascinating to learn that the graphic frescos in the house of ill repute actually worked as a point-and-pay menu for their customers of many different languages.
No matter what part of daily life we were admiring, the crater shape of Mount Vesuvius was always looming in the background as a reminder of why this city is so perfectly preserved. The unearthed frescos and paintings of the city also showed Vesuvius in all the backgrounds –but back then it was a mountain with a pointed peak. The people who lived under it did not know it was a mighty volcano until it erupted in 79 AD. The power Mother Nature displayed on this advanced city then, and still holds over all life, had never seemed clearer to me.
After spending the better part of the day in Pompeii, taking the trip to the top of the only active volcano on the European mainland felt even more meaningful. The barren, steaming crater was interesting to circle, though afternoon clouds mostly obscured the stunning views of the Amalfi Coast. We cut our time at the top short to make sure we caught the bus back to Pompeii and would make the last train. Weary from the weight of history and a long day on our feet, we happily sunk into our seats on the local train to Sorrento.
Peaceful and Luxurious
After a day of travel and climbing over ruins, we were relieved to get to our elegant room at the Magi House Relais in Sorrento that evening. Grimy and barely conscious, we climbed a single flight of stairs with the last of our energy, dropped our bags, and flopped down on the bed to rest in blissful silence. Once our catnap was over and we were able to move again, we took in the serene luxury of our modern suite. A hot shower in the vivid bathroom of small orchid-colored tiles helped us feel human again and we began looking forward to finding food and exploring this town.
The Magi House B&B was the most modern and luxurious place we stayed during our time in Italy. During this trip, Sorrento was a brief one-night stop bookended by very full days, and I’d be surprised if we even spent more than 2 hours awake in this wonderful room. As we left for the evening, we asked our very fashionable host and hostess if they could recommend a non-touristy spot for dinner. Mariano and Valarie, who were both as friendly as they were stylish, recommend La Lanterna Due, a place down a nearby alley at which they often ate. Despite our usual hesitancy to take such a quick recommendation (because it often felt like a financial or nepotism biased suggestion), we let Mariano make a reservation for us. Their suggestion did not disappoint.
A Charming Dinner
Upon finding La Lanterna Due down an alley not ten feet wide, we were instantly thrilled by the charm of the stone wall supporting the awning over the outdoor tables. Being a somewhat drizzly night, it was not crowded and we received a lot of attention from the family who owned and ran the place. Italio was the older but energetic and friendly owner who greeted and took us to our seats. His wife and sons also worked there, his son Emiliano was our hospitable and humorous waiter.
The meal started with a complementary glass of sparkling wine, moved on to a wonderfully full-bodied bottle of Aglianico red wine, and ended with a complementary glass of lemoncello. Mixed in with all of the intoxicating beverages were bruschetta, a selection of grilled fresh seafood, and creamy seafood pasta. Over the course of our laid-back two-hour meal, we enjoyed the wandering three-piece band that serenaded us, the beautiful iridescent shimmer of slug slime on the stone wall, and getting to know the family who was serving us.
Romance in Sorrento
On a trip to Italy, I of course had some expectations. I expected to eat great food, see seminal works of art and history, and I expected a bit of romance in the evenings –and romance we had. Late one night, Josh and I strolled hand in hand down the cozy cobblestone streets of Siena, our way lit only by windows from the tratorias and the dim lights above the rustic street corners. In Florence, a street violinist played while we window-shopped the gold jewelers of the Ponte Vecchio with couples of all ages and nationalities. In Rome, we shared gelato while we admired the majesty of the Trevi Fountain and the amour of the young couples surrounding us.
One thing I did not expect on a trip to Italy with my husband was to be wooed by a local Casanova (again). But vows taken in a town in Indiana were no match for the passion of an Italian man mesmerized by the charms of this unwitting seductress. However, Sorrento is the legendary home of the mermaid sirens of Greek mythology, so maybe this is not such an odd thing here.
Towards the end of our meal at La Lanterna Due, I headed into the restaurant to powder my nose and Emiliano invited me into the kitchen to meet the three men who were preparing all the wonderful food. After talking with them, telling them I was part Italian, and disrupting business for long enough, I hit the restroom in the basement. As I came out of the ladies room into a currently unused dining area, Emiliano was there to greet me. It took me by surprise, but wasn’t awkward until he spoke. “You are Italian, what is he?” he asked gesturing with his head towards the upstairs and my awaiting husband. Taken off guard I smiled and told him, “Josh is half German and half English.” He replied, “Too cold, too cold. You should be with a warm Italian man.”
I awkwardly laughed and said, “Josh is not cold.” I showed him my wedding ring, offered my apologies for not being able to leave my husband to be with him, and moved towards the stairs. I don’t think I ran back to the table, but it was all a bit of a blur. I highlighted my adventure into the restaurant for Josh but waited until we had finished our lemoncello and left the restaurant to give him the full story. Emiliano sent a few more enticing looks my way as our time at La Lanterna Due ended. He said goodbye to us and wished Josh good luck (for what we decided was having his hands full with me).
With Josh laughing but holding my hand a little firmer than usual, we strolled through the crisp night air along the small curvy streets of Sorrento. Only a heaping mound of gelato from Il Davide could sooth our enflamed passions to an acceptable level. As we gazed over the wind frothed sea from our cliff-top vantage point in a luscious garden, only the sweet damp breeze, the cool dessert, and my devoted words of affection kept Josh from plummeting to his star-crossed demise into the arms of a mythical siren along the rocky coastline below. Ah Amalfi, such wonders along your breathtaking cliffs.