Back to Reality

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.


My favourite place in Sorrento.  The bizarrely-named, tiny Marina Grande.

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)


My daughter’s purpose in posing for this photo was to show me why I should not wear this hat, no matter how hard it rained.

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.


The laneway to the B&B is not easy to find and definitely not for any kind of vehicle.

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.


Hidden behind those dark clouds is Vesuvius. No spectacular sunsets this trip.

I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry when I woke up the next morning.


Blue skies. And a rainbow!

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.


The ancient harbour as it’s meant to be seen. Our B&B, Casa a Mare, is the low, gray building just to the left of the colourful palazzi.

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)


Castello Aragonese, May 2012

This time I had booked a room in the castle.


The graphics are compliments of my daughter. I have no idea how she added them.  (I probably didn’t need to point that out.)


In keeping with its origins as a monastery, the room, while not ascetic, was very simple.  But with views like this it could have been  austere and we would have loved it.

We gorged on photos and then finally dragged ourselves off to have lunch.


It was my daughter’s idea to open the windows just wide enough to catch the reflections.


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.)


Some of the best views of the castle are from the wharf at the end of the causeway. When I’m not bending over backwards, it appears I spend a fair bit of time on my knees.

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.


Forza Napoli‘ (left side of taxi) shows which soccer team this cab driver cheers for.

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.


The mozzarella for this Insalata caprese had been brought over from Naples that morning.


Fritto misto. We thought the one we’d shared in Sorrento would be hard to beat. Now we weren’t sure.

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.


They say the sunsets over Forio on the west coast of the island are the best…


…but I doubt the storm clouds over Forio were putting on a more dramatic show than these ones.

Next – On the Postman’s Island




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