A Day on the Coast

(Note: The following post describes details from a previous trip, NOT a current trip.)

2013-09-22 04.12.59Tuesday, September 24.

Today’s a long day, but a good one.

Our first stop: the town of Sorrento – which also happens to be our trip leader Franco’s hometown.

I didn’t know this before we arrived, but Sorrento’s known for its intricate wood inlay designs, which can be found on everything from tables to music boxes. So – of course – the first place we visit in town is a wood inlay factory.

There’s a presentation by the man who runs the factory, followed by a “stop” in the adjoining gift shop to admire and – naturally – an attempt to entice us into buying something. (Nice try, wood-inlay man.)

Leaving the shop, we walk into town for a mini-tour of the shopping district. We pass numerous shops selling leather purses (this catches my eye), sample sweet almond candies, and even are treated to some gelato, courtesy of Franco (see photo of my selection, below).

2013-09-22 04.27.53But herein lies a test. For you see, my dear, sweet mother – who chose Italy as our travel destination – is lactose-intolerant (and gets a bit of heartburn when she eats tomato sauce). Yet here we are, lined up inside a shop that’s said to serve the best gelato in Sorrento. Fifty-six flavours’ worth.

We’ve already had a disappointing food experience the evening we arrived in Rome, and my mom hasn’t been completely impressed with her food options thus far. So I’m nervous.

But it turns out I don’t have to be. With Franco’s help, she finds a milk-free melon flavoured treat … and she likes it.

(Yay! A small success!)

We also make small talk with some of our fellow travellers, including a couple named Dallas and Randy, who hail from Winnipeg. As we find out, Randy is (1) quite funny and (2) an avid eater of gelato. He and my mom seem to get along almost immediately.

Around 11:45, we’re let loose. Some people set off on an excursion to a mozzarella farm outside Sorrento. Because of my mom’s lactose issues, we opt instead to browse a few of the shops in town, then take a local bus tour which lasts 35 minutes (cost: 6 Euros), following that up with lunch.

We find a little sit-down place where I chow down on pizza, while Mom has to improvise with some boiled potatoes seasoned with olive oil and onion (which she claims she likes).

After lunch, we elect to rest a spell on a bench somewhere. The only one I can find is under some trees that line one of the main medians in the town centre. Of course, it happens to be across from some not-so-young Italian men loafing about, smoking and such.

In the span of about 10 minutes, the gaggle of Italian dude-bros grows to almost a dozen, standing almost in the road, sitting next to us, just loitering. Mind you, they don’t bother us, but I grow tired of the impromptu sausage party pretty quickly.

We return to our group’s meeting spot by the wood inlay factory, where we board mini-buses for the afternoon drive down the Amalfi Coast, where we will stop in the village of Positano.

2013-09-22 09.18.29The journey down the coast is narrow, and a bit steep. Having done a similar stretch on my trip to Morocco several years ago, I’m not unnerved. For my mom – between the narrow roadway down, various cars and scooters zipping in and out, and huge trucks expertly navigating the terrain – it’s a bit daunting.

But the view leading into Positano is simply spectacular. In some ways, it sort of reminds me of Croatia.

The stop in Positano is lovely. But truthfully, there’s not a lot to do for the short time we’re here. Our local guide, Stefano, is nice, but he doesn’t say a whole lot about the town.

2013-09-22 10.03.28He leads us on foot, from our drop-off point at the top of the village down to the beach. It’s lovely, but the sun is high, so it’s quite hot … and there’s not a whole lot to do.

Our sightseeing done, we leave town and arrive back in the town of Castellmare di Stabia (where we’re staying) sometime after 6 p.m.

Dinner is spent with two nice American couples, Judy and Charles from Florida (they’re just lovely!) and a woman named Rosemary and her husband (whose name eludes me). We dine on spaghetti carbonara, followed by chicken and vegetables, with a flan for dessert. Mom gets spaghetti minus the tomato sauce, along with a special omelette with vegetables. (Other than the portion size – which she says is huge – I think she does okay.)

The hotel offers post-dinner tea upstairs, but tonight it seems a lot of people are too pooped to go. Mom and I do end up sitting and chatting with three Australians – a couple, Kerry and Keith (I forget where they’re from), and a lady named Susan, who’s from Darwin. She’s an outreach ENT nurse working to get care and treatment to those in far-flung Aborigine communities. (Listening to her talk about the language, cultural and geographic challenges, as well as her program being under constant threat of dwindling government funding, is unreal.)

The night winds down, and Mom and I head back to our room.

Tomorrow, we’re off to our next stop: the town of Assisi.

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