Friday, 30 October 2015

Sipping Limoncello in Sorrento

Italy 2

We had planned to stop in some lovely part of Naples for breakfast, but it was not to be.
By the time we'd crawled through the melee of me-first mopeds and cars that constitute the morning rush hour, Napoli, that 'beautiful woman in a dirty dress' had lost her allure and we just wanted to hit the road south.
When Vesuvius eventually loomed up reassuringly on our left hand side, we breathed a sigh of relief and sent Angelica back to bed.

It was only the second day of our trip, but I have to say that, as a travelling companion, Angelica was proving to be quite trying.
For one thing, she had real issues with authority and despite stiff words from the In-Charge and pleas from me, she simply refused to do what she was told. She would not go on the motorway. Any motorway.
I can only think that the drive out of Rome had been too much for her nerves.
With which I sympathise. I still have no idea which road it was that she opted for out of Rome, but it was a crap decision.

The In-Charge had settled for the middle lane on that epic route (normally a wise move), but each of the three lanes travelled as fast as each other, the speed limit appeared to be a suggestion only, and we spent most of the journey being cut up from both sides simultaneously.
All at 138kph.

At one point, a hearse screamed past us and disappeared from sight.
I think that was the point when Angelica buried herself under the bedclothes.

Poor Angelica. It was all too much

But eventually we did get down to Castellammare di Stabia, and finally began to feel excited.
It was built up and busy and urban and, well - messy - but once we'd negotiated the mopeds, the cars, the trucks and the little put-puts - not to mention the endless pedestrians in the road - at least there were tantalising views of the sea, and boats and cafes, and all in glorious sun-baked technicolour.

Marina near the Fincantieri boat yard

We stopped for a coffee near the Fincantieri boatyard, because boats make us thing of #1 Son , but when we asked for food they looked rather taken aback. Lunch, they intimated, would not be ready for quite some time.
We didn't want lunch. We were still waiting for breakfast.

Things were looking up

In France, if there isn't a Boulangerie, you're probably lost, but Panificios didn't seem quite so thick on the ground, but perhaps it was just our untrained eyes. Eventually, on the outskirts of San Agnello we spotted a cake shop, screamed to a stop and ran in.
It was glorious.

People were standing at the counter with tiny cups of very thick, very black coffee in one hand, and hot, light, crispy, sugar-dusted doughnuts in the other.
They were utterly delicious. So were the petit fours and strawberry tarts and filled cornetti.
We didn't try everything, but they all looked delicious. The cakes in the fridge were like abstract works of art - I couldn't possibly have eaten them.

The cakes in the fridge were like abstract works of art

Wild strawberry tarts

And no prizes for guessing the nation's favourite breakfast!

The In-Charge spotted gigantic pots of Nutella stacked high

And so to the joys of Sorrento.
Small wonder so many people go there. It is just one picture postcard after another.

Cliff top hotels and houses in Sorrento

One picture postcard after another

We spent hours walking round the lanes of the old town, window shopping, Prosecco-stopping (although the In-Charge prefers beer), sipping Limoncello in cafes where they have been making it for generations (I couldn't believe how delicious the melon version was) and just relaxing. I bought postcards and a present or two. We saw a bride on the way to her wedding, and in the town centre another wedding party, and wondered idly if either were locals. The second lot turned out to be Brits - you'd know a Cockney accent anywhere.

A bride on the way to her wedding

Brits getting hitched in Sorrento

We passed a funeral too.
Funerals are a real barometer of any country. You can tell a lot about a people by the way they deal with death. This funeral was fairly explicit.

Making a statement

Definitely not going out quietly

By late afternoon we thought Angelica would have recovered her poise, after a relaxing day in the glove box.
We headed into the mountains behind Sorrento, and asked her to guide us to our B&B. It was a simple enough request, but she did that spiteful game she plays, of only displaying a handful of alphabet letters, none of which are the ones you want, so I knew she was still sulking.
She took us to a lane off the vertiginous mountain road, past several houses, through a lemon grove and into someone's front garden. There was a fence roping off the vegetable garden, no one at home, and not enough room to turn the car. Needless to say, nothing was on level ground, seeing as we were on a mountain-side and all.
Nice one, Angelica.
I closed my eyes with visions of having to reverse for several perilous miles and let the In-Charge get us out. He likes a challenge and heights don't really phase him, despite what he says.

Up against the wire

After that Angelica said she had no idea where our wretched B&B was and refused to take us anywhere else, so we stopped various people and asked the way.
As our original 3 words of Italian had now increased to 5 (we had learned 'doughnut' and 'stamp' in the course of the day) this should have been easier than it proved, but neither word seemed relevant in the conversation, and the hinterland of Sorrento, not surprisingly, isn't big into English.

We paused in the next village for a medicinal Prosecco/beer, but the place was deserted apart from a gorgeous woman re-opening the village shop for the evening, so we ate ice creams sitting on the church steps instead. It was 37 degrees.
We did eventually find our lodging, although our hostess wasn't at home. After much searching for a key, her sister let us into the apartment. The lime green toilet paper gave me a bit of a funny turn, but we dumped our stuff and headed back down the mountain for dinner.

Definitely not a design award winner

Sorrento was just as beautiful by night as it had been all day.
Incredibly we saw the newly wedded bride and her sposo as we arrived in town.

The newly-weds

To our amazement, we found a place to park near the centre of town, bought a ticket from the machine and then set off.
Everyone was on the strut, or shopping, but we were hungry.
Down one tiny side street in the old town, a sweet old chap was closing up his private garage for the night, but not before I'd spotted a favourite Italian icon.
And in the original colour!

I'd quite like to have taken it home, by Ryanair charge a fortune of excess baggage

The launch of the Cinquecento

We had a long, leisurely meal outside under the stars, watching the world go by and debating where we'd go the next day. Eventually, after another wander around the town, a bit of shopping and more Prosecco, we headed back to the car, only to find that ours was the only vehicle in the now pedestrianised street, and that we had a parking ticket.
Oh joy.

All was probably explained on the ticket machine, but - had we even looked - 'doughnut' and 'stamp'  wouldn't have been a lot of help.
I thought I heard Angelica sniggering in the glove box, but maybe it was just the In-Charge swearing as he turned the engine on.

The reward was worth it though.
Going in to the police station the next morning to settle up before leaving town, we found an incredibly fat policeman and a photograph that covered one entire wall.
Only in Italy.

The one and only Sofia Loren

You might also like Part 1 of our travels in Italy: See Naples and Die
Part 3: Amalfi: The Road More Travelled
Part 4: Tango-ing to Messina
And the last part: Sicily: Hot on the Heels of Montalbano

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