The acquamarine Blue Grotto - hobnobbing in Capri

The brilliant sheen of the sparkling emerald tinged waves rhythmically lapping against the sides of denizens of pristine boats languishing along the pebbled shore of Marina Grande were some of the first sights and sounds which greeted me as I giddily placed my pink sneakered foot on the famous isle of Capri. Situated in the Bay of Naples, a few kilometres from picturesque Sorrento, this majestic playground of the rich and famous is an Amalfi Coast gem – a treasure worth exploring, whether as a budget conscious day-tripper or as a bling-blinged jetsetter leisurely squandering away time and money in the pursuit of excess indulgence.
 


 
A mere 6 km long and 2.7 km wide, the isle of Capri has long seduced and enticed, its weatherworn limestone crags jutting out of brilliant aquamarine sea – home to Homer’s mythical Sirens, whose hypnotizing melodies so mesmerized and captivated Odysseus and his sea farer crew, that they narrowly escaped being lured to an untimely shipwrecked demise.



The allure and mystique of this Mediterranean oasis continues to this day, bewitching and enchanting current generations, from celebrities to just ordinary everyday folk.  Once regarded as a chi -chi exclusive retreat for “the out of this stratosphere ultra elite” (i.e. – think of Jackie Onassis and Princess Grace of Monaco), Capri is now quite accessible, but not necessarily affordable, to the multitudes of gawking curious tourists anxious to mingle amongst the swank upper crust, hoping that a smidgen of privileged fairy dust might also magically flutter their way.
 

A not to be missed “must-see” highlight of this spellbinding isle is the “Grotta Azzurra” - a teal coloured shimmering limestone sea cave - discovered in the early 19th century by a German writer, whose vivid depictions of the cavern’s aquamarine blue waters instantaneously catapulted Capri into one of the world’s most sought out travel destinations.  Once believed to be inhabited by witches and monsters, the once shunned “Blue Grotto” is now shamelessly overrun by boatloads of adventure seekers, eager to capture a National Geographic digital photo worth a thousand words, or better yet, a thousand Euros.
 


So it was with fear and trepidation that I hesitantly placed my pink-sneakered foot into Lorenzo’s tour boat, apprehensive about how this small craft would succeed in navigating the cavern’s low ceilinged opening. Having read in my tour books that one has to lie down in the bottom of the boat in order for the vessel to access the grotto, as its incredulously narrow entrance could barely accommodate even a crouching oarsman, I now questioned whether it had been either a wise or a foolish choice to venture to the ancient cavern.  Yikes!!

Did I really desire to see this enchanting geographical wonder and glimpse the streams of light magically shimmer off the water and limestone walls of the luminous aqua blue grotto? Perhaps a glossy illustrated picture book would suffice, and grant me that “up close and personal” view that my extreme claustrophobia would not permit me to experience in person.


 
As luck would have it, Poseidon and his crew must have taken kindly to me, as the seas grew a bit choppy, playfully rocking our vessel back and forth, thus forcing our sea captain to venture back to shore - therefore granting me the luxury of languishing in an open-air trattoria, hobnobbing with the day-trippers, in the hopes of perhaps catching a glimpse of the swank privileged elite.
 


Pink Sneakers on the Go Helpful Tidbits of Info:

  • Cars are not permitted in Capri Town, so don't set your sights on cruising around town in your brand new gold Ferrari.

  • If you love walking, Capri is the ideal place for you, as it is a "walker's paradise", your only other options being to either bicycle or roller-blade.

  • Your sneakers will be worn out climbling up and down narrow staircases, especially if you opt to ditch the funicular ride and hike up the steep 300+ steps to Capri Town.

  • Roman Emperor Tiberius resided in Capri centuries ago - Legend has it that he frequently hurled his subjects (those who fell out of favour with him), off of the steep precipice overlooking his home at Villa Jova.

  • Since Capri is an island, it is only accessible by water.  Regular folk and budget conscious tourists usually opt either for the ferry ride or hydrofoil for a cost of less than 12 Euros.  Or, you can elect  to “go big or go home” and splurge all of your Euros and retirement fund on hiring a helicopter to transport you back to the mainland. I read somewhere that the 15 to 20 minute chopper ride from Naples to Capri will set you back close to several thousand Euros. Yikes!!

  • Pink Sneakers on the Go recommends one to purchase your return ferry or hydrofoil ticket as soon as you arrive in Capri so as not to chance missing the last connection due to it being fully booked. You wouldn’t want to have to be stranded overnight in Capri, with no way of getting back to the mainland now, would you? On second thought...
 
 
Come hobnob with backpackers and celebrities, discover the shimmering turquoise waters of the “Blue Grotto” and traipse along the cobblestoned paths in Capri with me…
 
 
Next week – what new adventures await? Stay tuned!!

Languishing in Positano – an Amalfi Coast gem


The winding, curving treacherous roads of the Amalfi Coast were beyond perilous and dangerous, seductively beckoning one to venture a little closer and experience an “up close and personal” view of the spectacular 1,000 foot cliff drop seaside panorama below.




 Having come within a hair’s width of being broad sided by a tour bus crammed full of camera toting picture happy tourists - whilst foolishly pink-sneaker traipsing along the cliff-lined coastal highway - I was beyond thrilled to be back on stable territory, meandering along the cobblestoned pathways of “cute as a picturesque postcard” Positano.

 Nestled amongst the jagged vertical cliffs overlooking sparkling aquamarine water, this seaside village is truly one of the most spectacularly mesmerizing places on earth, a visual kaleidoscope of vibrant rainbow colours, an artist’s canvas magically come to life.  Dotted with brightly hued splatters of cheer, from colourfully splashed orange stucco rooftops to vibrant fuchsia bougainvillea artfully weaving its cascading blossoms along lattice framed trellises, Positano is a picture perfect vision of what paradise might be.


Situated in the Campania region of southern Italy, “the pearl of the Amalfi Coast” sits precariously on the edge of vertical jagged cliffs overlooking the sparkling turquoise water of the Tyrrhenian Sea below. Dominated by the Lattari mountain range, the geographical topography of this Mediterranean coastal town has forced its inhabitants to ingeniously invent alternative housing, incorporating the seemingly impenetrable rock facades into hospitable and liveable structures. White-washed stucco roofed houses appear to cling precariously to the cliffs, stacked as if on a Led Zeppelin “Stairway to Heaven” ascent to celestial paradise.


 Positano was quite prosperous in the 17th and 18th centuries, accumulating prestige, power and wealth as a successful maritime trader.  By the early 20th century, this seaside town had fallen on hard times, its fortunes reversed, subsiding primarily as a fishing village - only gaining international fame in the mid 1950’s after American writer John Steinbeck’s 1953 “Harper’s Bazaar” article exalted the mesmerizing beauty of this picturesque coastal enclave.   Attracting writers, artists and globetrotting tourists - from the bling-bling moneyed jet setters to backpacking students on a sleeping bag budget – Positano has a relaxed holiday resort ambiance catering to both penny pinchers as well as those with caviar and champagne tastes. Did you know that The Rolling Stones wrote the song “Midnight Rambler”, whilst languishing in the trattorias of this seaside charm?  Featured in the film “Under the Tuscan Sun”, Positano is a shining star in its own right, possessing an allure and timeless beauty that has captivated Hollywood, rock stars and just regular everyday folk.

 Lemons, the size of grapefruits, dot the landscape and are fittingly incorporated as a staple ingredient in anything and everything from soaps to pasta dishes to alcoholic beverages.  Limoncello, a lemon liqueur drink which is unique to this southern tip of the Italian peninsula, is a popular beverage with both locals and tourists alike.  Who knew that this vibrant sun drenched fruit could be so versatile, enabling the inhabitants of the Amalfi region to etch out a living by discovering inventive ways in which to harvest and utilize the abundant and plentiful limone?

Open-air caf├ęs, mouth watering seafood, quaint and kitschy designer boutiques showcasing “one of a kind” locally made linens, handmade leather-crafted shoes and sandals - just a fraction of the temptations this seaside charm has to offer.  Whether your vision of an idyllic holiday is to shop till you drop, or people watch whilst leisurely languishing in a century old trattoria or playfully splashing in the teal blue sea, there is something for everyone in this delightful Italian gem of a town.

Pink Sneakers on the Go recommends one to travel either in May or September, when the temperature is reasonably moderate, or, if you choose to instead discover this seaside resort during the lazy, hazy days of summer, bring a hat, sunscreen and light layered clothing, as you will swelter and be “hot, hot, hot” as the mercury often soars into the triple digit zone.

Ambling along the cobblestoned paths, placing one pink sneaker ahead of the other, I couldn’t help but marvel at the ingeniousness and creativity of nature, artistically and whimsically arranging jagged cliffs, sparkling turquoise water and rainbow hued bouquets along this Mediterranean coast, gifting mankind a glimpse of what can only be described as a little bit of heaven on earth.



Come sip on Limoncello, indulge in freshly caught calamari and languish in the trattorias with me…come discover Positano, one of the sparkling gems of the Amalfi Coast….

Next week – what new adventures await?

When the sidewalk disappeared....walking along the Almafi Coast...a treacherous adventure


Yes, you read that correctly, clearly and accurately, about walking along the Amalfi Coast highway. This is what transpires when two middle aged women concoct a ludicrous plan to take exercise to the next level and promenade from Piano di Sorrento to Positano – normally a half-hour bus ride.  My friend and I are walkers. We walk everywhere. Why take the bus when you can walk there?  No hill is too steep, no place is too far, nothing will stop us from walking to anywhere and everywhere, not even rain, snow or sleet. Walking to Positano would be a breeze, a piece of cake, no problem whatsoever. So what if the sign said 9 km to Positano? We could do it. It will be a nice and relaxing day hike, and once we arrive at our destination we would reward ourselves with pasta, pizza and tiramisu, whilst languishing in a quaint outdoor trattoria, brimming with pride over our medal worthy athletic accomplishments.


Water bottles in hand, skin sun screened so it glistened, Ana and I embarked upon our trek. Marching along the sidewalk, we did not yet seem an unusual sight on the road, sharing the pavement with cyclers, motorcycles and cute Italian gents honking their horns at us. Ahh...Italia....men on their Vespas, nonas coddling their grandkids, pasta boiling on the stove, this was our vision of the “dolce vita”. The trail still had a sidewalk so that was an excellent sign, meaning that if there was a sidewalk then there were pedestrians.  Trees dripping with olives, lemons as huge as grapefruits, vegetation and brushery of all kinds awaited and greeted us.  Yes, we had made the right decision when we nixed taking the bus. Snapping digital imprints left and right, we were in our National Geographic photo gallery glory!  Spying a picture worthy authentic rustic fruit stand on the side of the road hawking lemons, tomatoes and vegetables of all types, we filled our knapsacks with the bright coloured veggies, unintentionally weighing ourselves down with the equivalent of five pound weights.  Yikes!!  Not the best idea in the world – especially while embarking on a 9km hike!



Perhaps we were too enamoured of the blue skies, the sound of the breeze rustling the leaves, savouring the feel of the sun embedding it’s golden rays onto our parched Canadian skin, that we barely noticed that the road had suddenly turned into a highway and that the pedestrian-friendly sidewalk had been replaced by concrete railings, cautioning travellers to beware of the precarious 1,000 foot cliff-drop below.



Whiz...whiz....whiz....cars, vespas, trucks and gigantic tour buses flew by at a frightening pace.  Can that huge bus, crammed to the gills with carefree camera toting tourists, really navigate that upcoming treacherous hair-pin curve?  Yikes...those tour buses are absolutely gigantic up close!!....the startled disbelieving stares of the tour bus drivers upon viewing two women clinging to the concrete railings trying to shield themselves from the oncoming traffic.  What have we gotten ourselves into? Perhaps we should have listened to the wise old man who had stopped to offer us a ride at the very start of our journey. Speaking very little English, he shook his head and mumbled that we were very “atletica” when we had adamantly declined his offer to give us a lift to Positano, saying that we preferred to walk instead. I can just imagine what sort of impression we left upon him...questioning our sanity as to why we were walking, when the bus or a car ride was readily available.

We were in serious trouble.  We had to get off the highway pronto!  It was getting progressively quite perilous and dangerous to be out there, as we had now inadvertently become targets for fast-moving vehicles and over-sized tour buses.  We cringed in terror as every car, bus, truck and vespa tore on by, mercilessly spitting gravel on us. What had innocently commenced as an “up close and personal” view of the spectacular panorama of the jagged vertical treacherous cliffs and of the aquamarine blue water of the sea below, had quickly turned into a nightmare of our own making.

Sensing that it was futile to try and continue our gallivant to Positano, we entertained the thought of hitching a ride with anyone who would stop and offer us one. Wise old man, where are you now?  You were right to shake your head in disbelief upon hearing our ridiculously absurd plan to soldier onward towards town, a feat so incomprehensible that it was one that only dim-witted tourists would venture to undertake.


Screech!!  All of a sudden, a sleek and shiny convertible rolled to a stop and a concerned Italian gentleman commanded us to get in the car and off the highway. We didn’t have to think twice as we clamoured into the vehicle, grateful to make the acquaintance of Tony, who was on his way to Positano to meet up with family friends.  Exceptional circumstances make for difficult and life-altering decisions and there was no way under normal circumstances that Ana and I would ever place a pink-sneakered step into a stranger’s automobile, but, faced with either being side-swiped by a tour bus or hitching a ride with a questionable character, we chose the latter and hoped for the best.  Fortunately for us, our knight in shining armour was a true old-fashioned Italian gentleman, concerned with rescuing two adventure seeking English speaking damsels in distress who were foolhardily out for a stroll along the panoramic seaside highway.



True to his word, SignoreTony deposited us safely in Positano and graciously offered to drive us back to Piano di Sorrento at the end of the day.  We thanked him profusely for his generosity, but declined his invitation, concluding that we could not pass up the opportunity to hitch a ride with the mega tour bus.  After all, we were anxious to witness first-hand the skill and fortitude of the bus driver as he navigated the twists and turns of the narrow winding laneways, all the while keeping an eagle eye out for adventure loving tourists clue-lessly meandering along the highway.






After indulging in a resplendent seafood dinner, having consumed several carafes of well-deserved vino, we gleefully boarded the bus, reclined blissfully in our seats, and prayed that we would awaken at the designated bus stop!

Come stroll along the Amalfi Coast with me....come dodge oncoming tour buses, vespas and automobiles....come traipse along the coastal seaside and discover Italia…

Next week – what adventures await? Stay tuned!!

Piano di Sorrento – Stepping into a postcard


Lemons the size of grapefruits, olive trees dripping black and dark emerald fruit,  sky as blue as sapphire, Piano di Sorrento was akin to diving into a kaleidoscope of colour, stepping feet first into a picturesque post card.  Located about 25 kilometres southeast of Naples, off of the Amalfi and Gulf of Naples coasts, this lesser known town of 13,000 inhabitants is a stone’s throw away from tourist infused Sorrento. Unable to find a reasonably priced hotel in Sorrento (as I had procrastinated and foolishly waited until the last minute to book accommodation), I consequently ended up in neighbouring Piano di Sorrento instead, and was pleasantly surprised with the change in venue.  Having more of a compact feel than its more worldly and well-heeled neighbour, this gem of a coastal retreat invoked a small town ambiance and amiability, instantly welcoming you into its realm.  Staying at homey “Relais Francesca”, I was greeted each morning by a warm “buon giorno” (good morning), and fed a resplendent spread of melt in your mouth freshly baked bread, cold cuts, yogurt, fresh fruit and assortment of cheeses, local hospitality at its finest.  My innkeepers were beyond accommodating, bending over backwards to extend their warm-heartedness and show me the finest that Italian culture and cuisine had to offer.


Relais Francesca

 

Surrounded by groves of citrus trees sprouting bright yellow lemons, the gardens which enveloped this treasure of a bed and breakfast were awash in brightly hued colours, deep fuchsia pinks, purples and orange, giving one the impression that an artisan’s paintbrush had playfully splattered rainbow droplets of joy onto the lush vegetation.


Ambling about the blooming hyacinths, jasmines and geraniums, daily greeted by the cheerful singing and chirping of songbirds, I pondered whether five days in this utopia would suffice. Perhaps I should learn a bit of Italian lingo, apply for any job at the Relais and devote the rest of my days luxuriating in a happy and bright hued postcard existence.  A thought that seriously crossed my mind and one which I would have been more than happy to accommodate had I not had bills to pay and commitments to attend to back in my neck of the woods across the pond.





Situated less than 10 minutes away from the local railway station, the picturesque inn is nestled in a quiet residential area, a tranquil oasis of paradise. It therefore perplexes me as to why it took well over 2 hours (and I kid you not!!) to finally set my pink-sneakered foot into the B & B at 129 Via Bagnulo.  Perhaps it was because I had neglected to take a map of where I was going or perhaps it was because I foolishly followed the handsome male specimen who had also exited the train, meandering along the main road as opposed to veering onto the lesser travelled winding pathway, unaware that the Relais was located just around the corner. Yikes!!  Carting my overstuffed bright orange suitcase up and down the cobblestoned pathways, I eventually lost sight of the mysterious stranger, ending up lost and stranded a block or two away from my hotel digs.


Circling round and round, encountering the same landmarks over and over again, I was at a loss as what to do and how to find the elusive B & B.  Arms feeling like bricks, hauling a suitcase that weighed at least several tons, crammed full of blank paper, travel journals, books and clothing, I seriously considered kicking my luggage to the curb, rationalizing that I really didn’t need or want it anyways, as I could always replenish my goods with brand new Italian ones.  Really should have been wise enough to dig the map out of my suitcase prior to leaving the airport, but that required a bit of effort, such as stopping, unzipping my luggage and dumping its entire contents on the floor in order to retrieve the map which was strategically placed at the bottom.  Works well for packing, not quite as well when attempting to search for it.

I must have been quite the sight indeed, a frazzled, sweating, dejected middle aged pink sneaker attired woman clutching a piece of paper in one hand while rolling her bright neon orange suitcase up and down the trodden laneways of Piano di Sorrento. Luckily for me, my aimless wandering caught the attention of a local family, who, after initially viewing me with pitiful and curious glances, graciously escorted me to Relais Francesca - a mere two minute walk around the corner.

 
Why had I failed to spot the hotel, as I had surely traversed past it at least a hundred times whilst traipsing all over the block in my desperate attempt to locate it?  Perhaps it was the high enclosed gate shielding the grounds that prevented me from putting two and two together or perhaps it was just a dyslexic oversight on my part, tripping me up and preventing me from reading the street numbers accurately.  Who knows?  All I do know is that my Italian journey in Piano di Sorrento commenced with a genuinely warm introduction to the kind and generous spirit of its inhabitants, as they welcomed me into their fold and helped out a stranger in distress.

Come journey with me as I traverse the cobblestoned pathways of Piano di Sorrento and enjoy the hospitality of picturesque bed and breakfast “Relais Francesca” in Italia….

 
Next week – what new adventures await? Stay tuned!!