Through the first two years of the pandemic, my husband and I saved our pennies and dreamed of a trip to the Amalfi Coast of Italy. I can’t even guess the number of travel videos and articles we viewed, planning our “someday” trip.
In May 2022 we landed in Naples to begin our 3-week adventure of several cities in the beautiful Amalfi Coast, Italy. It was a dream come true! Below are a few things we noticed that may also interest you.
Everywhere we looked along the coast of Italy we found inspiring, breath-taking beauty.
We stayed only along the coast, purposely choosing spots with a view of the sparkling blue water. As we walked through cities, we noted nothing was new and shiny, but old structures and homes were etched with centuries of weathering or covered with moss and vines. The Bougainvillea Flowers were abundant, adding pops of color everywhere we looked.
People are friendly but not obnoxious or invasive. Most would greet us with a friendly “Buongiorno” or “Ciao.” If we said it first, they would respond with friendliness that lit up their faces.
One time, an older gentleman passed us, saying something we couldn’t hear. It may have been “salvo,” a common Italian greeting. Our Minnesota brain did not figure this out in time to greet him back, until he was past us.
He stopped and said in English, “Are you just going to pass without saying hello?” We explained that we didn’t understand what he said and were so sorry. He then was quite friendly staying to chat a few minutes about our stay in his city.
Grocery stores or supermercatos, stock very different items than in the US. Due to their size, I would liken them to a corner market in a small US town, not a supermarket. We walked through every short isle several times wondering what we could possibly fix other than pasta.
Local fruits and vegetables were in abundance with fresh fish caught that day. One time, we bought what we thought were two large clear bottles of water. The label had an Italian word written on it, which wasn’t unusual. Parched and needing a drink after a long walk, I realized that we had bought something else, when it stung the whole way down my throat! That was embarrassing.
I confess that most of our meals were not made in our Airbnb stays! We indulged in good Italian food that left a delicious impression on me. I’ve been inspired to make authentic Italian food ever since we returned.
We were surprised to find that not all Airbnbs in Italy have ovens. Most of the meal preparation is done on a stove top. This threw me off for a bit. The stove tops had all the directions written in Italian, of course. I could not get the hang of it and called our host twice to figure it out.
Even then, I never got it working. Apparently, I had to hold one knob for 6 seconds, while turning another for 10 seconds, or was it the other way around? I gave up on fixing morning coffee to sip on our balcony and gladly went to the nearest café for excellent Italian Cappuccino!
We also found out that there is a sitting fee at the café, unless we chose to sip our coffee standing at the coffee bar. I watched from my chair as Italians would stand at the coffee bar, order their perfect small cup of espresso, use a small delicate spoon to stir, then down it like it was an alcoholic shot.
Many older Italian women don’t let their hair go gray. I wondered if the reason I got some attention was due to being an older woman with gray hair. I mean, what else could it be?
The beaches are full of women in two-piece swim wear. I was overdressed in my tankini and swim shorts. Women, young, old, large, small, pregnant, or not, wear thong swim bottoms. Italian men generally wear Speedos. In a way, I respect that! No hang ups or body shaming.
On another note, the water is so clear and refreshing, you can see your feet, as well as rocks on the bottom even in very deep water. The beach was rocky not sandy so using water shoes helped tremendously.
Transportation is available in many forms: train, bus, water ferry, or a private driver. (We opted not to rent a car ourselves).
Which travel option is best? We used them all. Travel is time-consuming and frustrating. The frustrating part? The buses were sometimes full and didn’t let us get on though we’d waited for quite some time. Reading the Italian key for times/places was confusing.
We figured this out eventually, but it left us with many questions, such as,
At the time of our visit, masks were required in all forms of public transportation, but not in restaurants or shops. If we forgot to bring a mask, the driver would not allow us to board. There were no extra masks free for uninformed travelers like us.
One time, after a day at the beach, we waited a long time in the sun and heat for the city bus to arrive. We had forgotten to bring masks to the beach so when the bus finally arrived, the driver would not allow us to board. We had to walk back up insane amounts of steep steps and windy paths to our destination!
Women drive scooters or motorcycles as much as men do. They get their permit for a motorcycle at age 14.
Sometimes we watched horrified as motorcycles took chances on those small cliffside roads, passing the busses who were stalled when larger cars clogged the street. If we met a normal sized car (for US standards) the bus could not proceed.
In such a scenario, the cars were forced to back up around corners on narrow cliff-side passages, until there was space just wide enough to allow the bus to squeeze through. While waiting in this jam, motorcycles would speed ahead weaving in and out of stalled traffic. It was a crazy experience to behold.
In some cities, there are no traffic lights or lines on the road. People would drive every which way. Surprisingly, we did not witness road rage or accidents, just horn honking!
Even if you don’t speak Italian, chances are someone speaks English just around the corner and could help to interpret for you. We tried to learn key phrases before our trip. However, when spoken to in rapid Italian, everything we learned was useless.
The kindness and patience of Italian people helped us through our whole vacation to have a wonderful, unforgettable experience. Yes, you guessed it, we have started to plan our next Italian trip.
Did you notice any of the things I mentioned when you spent time in Italy? When was the first time you visited Italy? What is your advice to others? Join in a conversation and share what you are planning or what you noticed while in Italy.