When Life Gives You Lemons

When we last left our intrepid travellers, they were speeding their way across the Bay of Naples towards the Amalfi Coast. Their trusty skipper, Antonio deftly avoiding any big waves and offering plenty of information about the looming Mount Vesuvius, Sorrento and the Amalfi Coast with its many defensive towers. At this point, our heroes were starving and like a finely tuned Swiss clock, Antonio turned towards the shore to a small seaside restaurant in the tiny Marina del Cantone. Within minutes of dropping anchor, a restaurant staffer in a small power boat pulled up alongside and picked us all up. With recommendations to try the Nerano pasta, we were spirited away to the dock at Lo Scoglio.

Set on a pier over the water, the restaurant was a sort of a dream. Everyone dressed in bathing suit cover ups and flip flops having come up from the beach or off a boat, were now dining on fresh lobster and scampi from the tank and glasses of sparkling Franciacorta (delicious Italian champagne). We would have felt underdressed for such a place if everyone else wasn’t exactly the same. Salty hair, don’t care. First stop of course after being on the boat was la toilette, on the way there we passed two sleeping pups in the shade and remembered we were definitely in Italy where the WHOLE family works in the restaurant.

Not wanting to let Antonio down, I had the Nerano pasta. Kind of a cacio e pepe with zucchini. Pretty delicious. Monsieur took one for the team and ordered some Mediterranean shrimps.

Before long we were itching to get back on the boat. Back down to the dockside, where we were spirited back to Antonio and our boat (1+1=3 was its name, I forgot to mention that earlier). How the restaurant staff knew where to drop us was beyond me as there were loads of boats waiting in the harbour, but he did and we were back on board.

Antonio carried along the Coast heading eastbound towards the town of Amalfi which is at about the half way point. We saw Positano from the sea and it was lovely. We found a charming little cove to jump in for a swim. I bravely jumped from the back of the boat, shocked by the cold water must’ve opened my mouth and took a gulp of the Mediterranean. Euw, it was pretty gross. Sputtering, I quickly got used to the temperature and was grateful for the chance to cool off. Monsieur even swam to the beach (not a short distance) just to try and read a sign for GG. Unfortunately, time and weather made the sign illegible. No matter, he was glad for the chance to get in a bit of a proper swim.

Four salty noodle lovers in the sea

Eventually we made it to the cove which is home to the Santa Caterina Hotel. Antonio turned immediately serious as the boat traffic and late afternoon winds had turned the sea pretty choppy and he needed to back the beast of a boat up to the dock. After lots of yelling and a few attempts, he finally got close enough for us to walk the plank and jump. Fortunately if we timed it right, we’d land on the dock and not in the drink. After successfully unloading all of us, Antonio and the hotel staff decided it wasn’t safe to offload our luggage. So off he sailed with all of our suitcases. Luckily, he was just sailing to the protected Marina in Amalfi where a hotel bellman would meet him and pick up our bags which arrived in our rooms under an hour later. See… trust!

The G walks the plank and makes the jump onto the Amalfi Coast

We arrived on the dock with a great commotion and plenty of noise, all to a waiting throng of relaxing suntanners on sunbeds trying to catch a late afternoon nap in the breeze. What a way to make an entrance! We would later realize that nearly everyone either arrives or departs the Santa Caterina this way, so we weren’t such a disruption after all.

The Santa Caterina is an amazing feat of engineering. A vertiginous structure clinging to the cliffside. Arriving at the dock, our first glimpse was the pool deck and sunbeds at the seaside. No beach, just a jump into the sea. After passing their casual restaurant Al Mare (with its trademark lemon pasta that is one of the yummiest things I ate while in Italy) we took the elevator up to the main building of the hotel. Pretty spectacular.

The view from the main building of our hotel in Amalfi with the boat dock below

Our travel agents love Amalfi. Its their favourite place, so they took the liberty of making us dinner reservations for each of the three nights we were there. I for one was super grateful that I didn’t have to research our options and hope for the best. The most memorable was our evening in the town of Ravello. Set high above Amalfi, Ravello is a very sweet and charming Italian hilltown. We arrived in the town about 90 minutes before our reservation so we could explore a bit. This quickly spiraled into a bit of a mess as the omnious sky started to crack with thunder and lightning and eventually pour with rain. Like the rest of the masses visiting Ravello, we were all running for cover. After everyone lost their cool in the pouring rain, we decided to just head to the restaurant to see if they could take us early and luckily they did. Trattoria Da Cumpa Cosimo is a small, unassuming little place. You would walk straight past it if you didn’t know. Its also one of those ”if you know, you know” places. The owner, Netta runs the place with her son as Maitre ’D. He seated us and explained that we could look at the menu but Netta would tell us what to have. When Netta arrived I was genuinely terrified. The menus on Amalfi are seafood heavy and my family is NOT a fan. She first asked about the wine. What do you recommend I said? She replied ”The house wine.” Like how could I possibly order anything else without completely insulting her. She chose the house wine so it must be good, right? ”Sure, lets have the house wine.” A few minutes later an overflowing litre carafe of wine hit the table. With nerves frayed, hair wet and thunder claps still ringing in the air we tucked in. And it was good! Now to order food. Netta said “I’ll give you some pasta, different kinds. You can share. There will be enough.”

Monsieur spoke up ”Could we also have a salad?”

Netta replied ”No, thats too much.”

Here Monsieur insisted, ”Thats ok, could we please have the salad?”

”Fine,” she answered ”but it will be too much.” And with that she shrugged her shoulders and walked away.

Not sure what to expect or what to do next, we kept drinking Netta’s wine. Eventually a large platter of pasta hit the table and the six of us barely polished it off. I can’t even remember all the different flavors, there was bolognese and meatballs and a pomodoro and well I don’t know. By the end of the meal, the Big Kid was struggling and not feeling the pasta. Netta came back, saw her full plate and insisted that she make her something else. ”Some chicken,” she said ”I’m gonna make you some chicken.” And off she went. Not long after this the salad arrived. And guess what, we were too full to eat it. ”See, I told you. Too much!”

As we finished off the wine and the Big Kid their chicken, Netta’s son dropped off a bag of fresh cherries from their garden and we were in love with Netta. We gave her hugs and kisses and promised to return one day soon. I actually got choked up, like she was a long lost relative. I don’t know. But if you’re ever in Ravello, go see Netta at her Trattoria and like so many other things in Italy, just trust.

Once we got back to the hotel after dinner, we deposited the kids in the room so they could be reunited with their iPads and Monsieur and I joined GG and Pops in the hotel bar for a lovely cup of fresh mint tea with lemon (an Amalfi favorite). While we were sitting and gabbing all of a sudden a massive fireworks display was launched from a small barge down in the cove of the hotel. Obviously for a wedding or some event taking place in Al Mare, we were grateful to have a front row seat to the show. One of those right place at the right time traveling moments.

Right place at the right time fireworks

We didn’t have a rental car in Amalfi. Mostly because we had heard all about the road(s) and didn’t want to brave them without an experienced driver. Luckily there are taxis and buses (who have the funniest sounding little horns that they blast coming around corners to let oncoming traffic know) and its pretty easy to get around.

The next stop on our trip was Puglia, on the opposite coast of Italy. To travel there from Amalfi, the easiest option was to drive. Chiro picked us up early in the morning and drove us eastward into the heart of Italy, not before showing us some of the cutest and coolest towns on the Amalfi Coast along the way. The towns of Minori and Maiori definitely warrant further exploration. All the terraced farms, gardens and lemon groves along the roadside were so pretty. Nearing the end of the coast just before the city of Salerno, we stopped for a quick break in Vietri Sul Mare (the road is windy and we were green). Known for ceramics, it was great to see the ceramic fish decorating the walls along with a very cute mermaid.

Sometimes when you feel car sick, mermaids can help. In Vietri Sul Mare

And finally, we said ”Arrivederci” to the beautiful Amalfi Coast onto another Italian adventure waiting us on the opposite side of ”the boot”.

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