We left the Four Seasons palace in Florence and returned to the reality of Mom’s budget. We took the train – seconda classe – to Sorrento where it was pouring. There are a lot of Italian phrases to describe how I felt about this, but I discovered when I was teaching that unlike the finer points of grammar and articulated prepositions, all I had to do was utter una parolaccia (pah-roh-latch-chuh) once and it was seared in my students’ minds forever – so let’s just say I was irritata.
To get an idea of the Sorrento I had hoped to show my daughter, have a look at ‘Buon Giorno! First day back in Italy’ (Oct. 19, 2014)
The B&B I had booked in Sorrento overlooked Marina Grande, the ancient fishing harbour and my favourite part of the city. It’s an easy and fascinating, 15-minute walk downhill through the historic centre. But not when it’s raining a catinelle. Buckets. The only cab driver in sight said it would be 20€, an exorbitant sum, as we both knew. And, he warned me, he could not take us the whole way. The charge was esagerato, but I knew he was not putting me on about how far he could go. I’d already stayed at this B&B and knew the last part was too narrow for even the smallest vehicle. But you’ll go as far as you can, I pleaded. He did.
We had a fabulous fritto misto at a table set back from the harbour and then went for a stroll but our hearts were not in it. Some places are meant to be experienced under sunny skies.
I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry when I woke up the next morning.
We had a quick breakfast and hurried down to the large, commercial harbour which confusingly, is called Marina Piccola (Small Harbour), to catch the 9:40 am ferry – the one and only daily ferry – to Ischia.
It was bittersweet to leave on such a beautiful day, but I was anxious to see our next lodgings. On my previous visit to Ischia I had visited the Castello Aragonese off the north-east tip of the island. (‘Una Passeggiata ad Ischia’, Feb. 9, 2014)
This time I had booked a room in the castle.
We gorged on photos and then finally dragged ourselves off to have lunch.
On our first foray into town I discovered there was one downside to my daughter’s enthusiasm for our castle hotel. She was enchanted with the cobblestone tunnel that was the only way up to the castle before elevators were invented. (For the record, the castle is 113 meters a.s.l.)
As we walked along the main street I overheard scraps of conversation and was, as always, surprised to hear something that sounded a lot like napoletano, the dialect of Naples. The same thing happens in Capri. No matter how many ferries I’ve taken between the islands and the mainland – full of locals going to work or to doctors’ appointments or to do some shopping – I still have a hard time digesting how closely Capri and Ischia are tied to Naples. To my visitor’s eye, they seem worlds apart from that sprawling, gritty city.
We walked all the way to the harbour we’d arrived at a few hours earlier and I was thrilled to see the restaurant I’d eaten at years before was open. Luckily the water level wasn’t quite as high as the last time.
One evening we went for a walk along the shore. I was hoping there would be a good sunset to make up for the one we had missed in Sorrento.
We saw a bar up ahead that looked open. A good place to have an aperitivo and watch the sunset. As we got closer I became a little uneasy. It was even more rustic than I’m used to and there didn’t seem to be anybody around. When I finally tracked down someone to take our order, the young man initially struck me as dodgy. I began to feel uncomfortable again about ten minutes later when he still hadn’t returned with our order, which was pretty straightforward – an Aperol for my daughter and un bicchiere di bianco for me. I hadn’t counted on him preparing a special tray for his foreign lady guests. In retrospect he was probably just shy.
Next – On the Postman’s Island