We were hoping for better weather during our last full day in Italy after the rain-soaked (although still enjoyable) experiences of the previous day. Since we had not signed up for the optional tour to the Isle of Capri, this was going to be a day of relaxation, and of doing things at our own pace around Sorrento. And we were fortunate that we did indeed get good weather well suited for spending time outdoors.
The resort town of Sorrento sits on a cliff on the other side of a big bay from the city of Naples. We had arrived in town at the end of the tourist season, but they were already in the process of setting up decorations (including a huge Christmas tree) for the Christmas season. The town itself is quiet and unassuming, including the usual artifacts of a small town in Italy – the narrow streets, small homes, gardens, historical buildings and churches, and a central plaza called the Piazza Tazzo surrounded by areas for casual shopping for which the town is known. The shops are mainly small mom-and-pop operations. (In one store the old lady today us that she had been working in that place since her youth.) The stores invite tourists to spend time browsing things like clothing (scarfs are a specialty), food items, tourist knick-knacks, and craft items from local artists. There are many restaurants and hotels.
In any case, the two of us were interested in investigating more than just the town of Sorrento itself. Ideally we would have liked to get to one the pretty little towns like Amalfi that nestle in the cliffs along the Amalfi coast. Good views were promised if one were to take a boat ride along the coast. But time was limited, and we had to be selective in what we did. We thought we would try to walk to a neighboring town over a historic trail that we had read about.
After breakfast we went to the front desk to inquire about the trail we had read about that went to Massa Lubrense. This trail was part of a system of trails that went through the entire Amalfi area. (The really spectacular sections of the trail hugging the cliffs that ran along the Amalfi coast were a little too far for us to try to get to.) The young girl at the counter told us that what we wanted to do was not possible! She lived in the town that we were interested in walking to, and she had to take a bus from there to get to work. She gave us details about the walking paths just around town and also gave us directions to catch a bus to the place we really wanted to go to. We were confused because we had seen information about the trails we were interested in on the Internet. How could that be? It was only when we were about to leave the front desk that it finally dawned on her that we were asking about an walking experience that others typically do not inquire about. She walked to an area behind the front desk and returned with another map that showed the walking trails in the whole region. That was what we needed!
We were not sure how long it would take to walk to Massa Lubrense. What made sense for us to do was walk as far as we could along the trail and then turn back based on the time available. We were hoping to meet up with the others in our group for lunch.
Now, the significant issue for us when it came to walking the trails in Italy was that we did not know or understand how the trails were marked. The good thing (as we found out later) was that the trails in these parts were actually parts of old pathways, more often paved, between towns instead of the kinds of dirt paths that ran through woods and the open outdoors that we were used to. So, it was possible to try to figure your way around using street markings, even if these street markings were only at intersections of the path with other streets. Perhaps we could manage even if there were no specific markings on the trail itself.
We left the hotel just as the others in the group were coming down to breakfast. I managed to get a picture of Mt. Vesuvius in the early morning light from the roof garden of our hotel, before we left.After walking the main strip through town, the Corso Italia, from our hotel to the Piazza Tasso, we stepped onto the Via San Cesareo for what I considered the first stage of our hike.The city was in the process of awakening for the business of the day. The narrow street, lined with small shops, looked quite quaint. Most shops were still closed. There were a few people walking the street and the occasional two-wheelers that would make their way past these morning walkers.(As we found out later in the walk, the fact that we were walking narrow paths did not necessarily mean that there was no motorized traffic that one had to watch out for. People drive their cars and their two and three-wheelers everywhere!)
When we got to the end of the Via San Cesareo we had to use the map to guide us to another path leading to the cliffs in front of us.The trail took us through empty side-streets,and even the back of somebody’s house,as we climbed to a busy main road. At this point we were somewhat stumped as to which direction to take. Luckily, we ran into an older lady who happened to be a experienced walker along the trails in these parts. She told us a little more about the trail, and then gave us a destination closer than Massa Lubrense to shoot for, the Green Lagoon (Bagni della Regina) on the Punta del Capo. Here she is in a picture I took later with her in the picture. This was when we encountered a little three-wheeler on a path that we took off a main road. The three-wheeler in the previous picture did manage to get by us!Since our trail went though populated areas, as hoped for, we able to figure out our way using the map and markings at street corners. We even saw one of the original markings for the trail left over from previous times.As the trail left the town, we began to see some farms around us. Citrus and olive trees and farms were the norm in these parts.We could see the contraptions set up to actually shake the trees and have the fruits fall into containers to collect them.The trail/path was quite steep in some sections.We also encountered a flowing stream with a significant amount of water. This was probably because of the rain that fell the previous day.Other parts of the trail were along narrow paths between homes, paths along which you might even encounter a small car when you were least expecting it.After a significant amount of climbing, we got to a section of our hike where we started to head back downhill to sea level and the coastline.We were able to navigate the pathways back to a main road that we had to crossto get to the last part of our walk to the cape and the lagoon. We finally arrived at our destination after passing a church and a few farms. The open bay lay in front of us. The Bagni della Regina, with its unique shade of green, caught your attention below.There was opening from the lagoon to the sea under an arch. (So you could basically walk around the lagoon on the cliff above it.)There was also a way down to the lagoon.I have seen pictures of people in the water in the lagoon, perhaps in warmer times. There were fishermen down below us by the waters of the bay.We could get a good view of Sorrento in the the distance from where we were.We were hoping to also see the Isle of Capri, but only later realized that we could only look across the bay in the direction of the mainland. The picture below makes this quite clear.We explored the remains of an old roman villa at the cape.People used to come here in the olden days for relaxation. This picture was taken from on top of the remains of the villa.Mt. Vesuvius is always a presence in the background in these pictures.A strange surprise was the discovery of what looked like a broken down walkway over the rocks by the water and around a cliff not too far away.It took some research for me to find out that this walkway led to a restaurant on the other side of the cliff, a restaurant called the Lido La Solara American Bar that was actually open earlier in the year. The walkway appears to be the only way to get to the restaurant! My guess is that the restaurant only opens during the tourist season, and that they remove the planking on the walkway in the off-season to prevent people from using it. That is only a guess!
The walk back from the cape to Sorrento was uneventful. We did a get a good workout during the initial section with the climb we had to make.As we got closer to town, we got a good view of the city coming in.Soon we were back on the Via San Cesareo and in the shopping area of Sorrento.We made our way back to the Piazza Tasso to meet up with our friends for lunch. Lunch at Fauno Bar was enjoyable beyond our expectations. We even had dessert.
The plan after lunch was to walk around town with our friends to take in the sights. Here are some pictures.The next two pictures were taken in St. Francis’ Cloisters.We could see Mt. Vesuvius from the cliffs of Sorrento.The harbor area lay below the cliffs.The town is surrounded on three sides by hills.Darkness was beginning to fall as we made our way back to the hotel along the Via San Cesareo while doing some shopping.I even bought some limoncello from a store I had visited earlier in the day. At that time, as is the norm in some of these places, the proprietor of the store had given me a free sample (even though it was still quite early in the morning!) and his business card. We had promised him that we would come back later.Back at the hotel, we gathered for dinner with the rest of the tour group that had gone to the Isle of Capri.They indicated that they had a good time in spite of the fact that the weather had not been that great earlier in the day.
After dinner we wished the rest of the tour group our goodbyes for the last time. They were going to go an bus tour of the Amalfi coast the next day while we were headed out for Naples early in the morning to catch a flight back home. We shook hands and gave hugs and wished each other the best. We took some pictures.Our bags were packed and ready to be picked up outside our hotel rooms early the next morning. I spent some time on the roof garden taking pictures as the day broke.After breakfast we picked up the rest of our stuff from the room and went downstairs. Alessandro was there to wish us bon voyage. I felt like I was taking leave of somebody who had become my friend (and incidentally has the same birthday as me!). And then we were on our way in the small van that had been booked to take us to the airport.There was a distinctly different feeling in the van that morning from the other days of our trip. I could say that it was somewhat melancholy, but I am not sure that would capture the mood exactly. We all knew that this wonderful once-in-a-lifetime experience, an experience that had brought us closer as a group, was slowly coming to an end. We would all soon be returning to our regular existences. This experience would one day fade into memory. One of the members of our group played the following song on her mobile device which I think captured how she was feeling.
Our trip back home was uneventful when compared to our experience flying into Italy. Everything went as clockwork. (The only thing that happened of significance was one unexpected event of turbulence that dropped the plane so abruptly that some folks were in momentary fear for their lives!) I distracted myself during the the flight into Washington, DC, by watching a bunch of movies. The sound quality was terrible on the headphones, but one could make out enough of what was happening to keep oneself distracted. The sun was setting as our flight headed west. I took these pictures out of the window of the plane.And as surely as the winglet that I was taking pictures of gradually disappeared from my view, our wonderful Italian vacation finally came to an end. All that was left was our arrival in Washington, DC, and the drive back home.
If anybody is interested in a more pictures of our Sorrento hike, you can view them here.