Destination – Italy: The Amalfi Coast and Cinque Terre

Rare is the destination that lives up to our idealized version of it. But in coastal Italy, you’ll find laundry draped lazily below the open shutters of windows flanking narrow, winding cobblestone streets; snuggling couples speeding by on sporty Vespas; the scents of fresh-baked focaccia and espresso wafting from open doors, all beckoning us to pause to enjoy la dolce vita. The Cinque Terre and the Amalfi Coast of Italy somehow, unimaginably, live up to the fairy- tale versions of themselves. Here, on the western coast of Italy, the sweet life is alive and well and ready to offer you a taste of it.

Piano de Sorrento. Photo by Charish Badzinski.

Go slightly off-season—say, in October—and you’ll be rewarded with smaller crowds, cooler temperatures and lower prices. We flew into Naples and out via Genoa, taking trains and buses or hoofing it to the destinations in between.

The Amalfi Coast

Famous for its charming lemon groves and cliffside towns with vertigo-inducing views, the Amalfi Coast is the kind of place you want to share with the love of your life, a place where you could gaze romantically into one another’s eyes and no one would pay you any mind. The wine is great and the food is better, but the real star of a trip here is the landscape.

Just one of the breathtaking views in Sorrento, Italy. Photo by Charish Badzinski.

Sorrento and Piano de Sorrento

From Naples we took the train to Piano de Sorrento and the Secret Garden, our home for a few nights. We were met with winding cobblestone streets that were sporadically marked, if at all. Luckily, locals are helpful, and knowing a few words of courtesy in Italian goes a long way. Getting lost is often a part of the Italian travel experience, and in Piano de Sorrento, espresso bars and the scent of lemon groves will spur you onward. Life seems slow and poetic here—until you head down the street to busy Sorrento.

Pedestrians walk to the left of the white line, as traffic speeds by in Sorrento, Italy.
Photo by Charish Badzinski.

The walk to Sorrento can jar your nerves, offering only a narrow path for pedestrians while Vespas and cars speed noisily by you. But you’ll be repaid a hundred times over with views of the bay and ample shopping and noshing opportunities, as well as the bustle and amenities of a popular tourist destination. With nearby Naples being the birthplace of pizza, you almost can’t go wrong in your selection of eateries. Look for wood- fired pizza for the real deal, and at meal’s end don’t be surprised when the owner brings over a tray of tiny glasses of limoncello, a lemon liqueur for which the region is known.

Coastal Day Trip

Hop a bus and pop something to stave off motion sickness for the ride to the quiet seaside village of Positano. The chic little town boasts jaw-dropping views and lovely pastel houses that are movie-set perfect. A glass of wine ordered at one of the numerous cafés along the water will often come with tiny bowls of snacks: olives, little biscuits and seasoned crackers. Here you’ll find boutiques that carry stylish and unique clothing and footwear. With the exchange rate, your purchase may be a splurge, but you’ll have bragging rights for the life of the garment.

Positano, Italy. Photo by Charish Badzinski.

If the switchbacks haven’t scared you off by now, get back on the bus to experience Ravello and Amalfi, both reportedly beautiful and well worth the trip. Unfortunately, we ran out of daylight and our stomachs were unwilling to continue the winding path, so back to Piano de Sorrento we went for dinner.

Sipping wine by the water in Positano Italy. Photo by Charish Badzinski.
Lovely complementary crunchies were served with our wine. Photo by Charish Badzinski.

Pompeii

Not to be missed, Pompeii offers a somewhat haunting picture of life in a Roman colony frozen in time. The site of one of the most famous natural disasters in history, Pompeii was buried in the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in A.D. 79. Getting there is easy thanks to the Circumvesuviana railroad, which has a stop right outside of the ruins. Go early to avoid the throngs.

The Ruins of Pompeii. Photo by Charish Badzinski.

Plan to spend a minimum of two hours at the site, as it takes 25 minutes to walk from the amphitheater to the Villa dei Misteri alone, one of Pompeii’s best-preserved buildings. The most popular and unsettling features of the site are the casts of bodies captured where they were found, physically illustrating the horror and fear experienced by the 35,000 inhabitants of the city.

A woman stands, toward the center of the photo, frozen forever in time at Pompeii.
Photo by Charish Badzinski.

Cinque Terre

Getting from the Amalfi Coast to the Cinque Terre requires a much longer train trip via Rome, yet train rides afford you a view of the countryside and a day of resting weary feet. The Cinque Terre is a remote area of the Italian Riviera featuring five unspoiled Italian villages, each with its own personality: Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza and Monterosso al Mare. We opted to stay in Monterosso, which has a wide variety of restaurant and lodging options as well as lively nightlife.

Riomaggiore in the Cinque Terre, Italy where the houses seem to want to collapse upon one another.
Photo by Charish Badzinski.

A key feature of the region is the Cinque Terre National Marine Park, which allows visitors to hike from village to village for a fee of five Euros per day.

Narrow, cliffside pathways in Cinque Terre National Marine Park offer a big payback: views like this.
Photo by Charish Badzinski.

To read the rest of this article, including details of the Cinque Terre and recipes for limoncello and pizza with arugula and pancetta, download this issue of Coulee Region Women magazine. This article was originally published in Coulee Region Women, and is republished here, in part, with permission. 

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Charish Badzinski is an explorer, foodie and award-winning travel and food writer. When she isn’t working to build her blog: Rollerbag Goddess Rolls the World, she applies her worldview to her small business, providing strategic communications, media relations and writing support to individuals and organizations. 

Find Charish on Twitter: @charishb
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Creative Commons License
Rollerbag Goddess Rolls the World by Charish Badzinski is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at rollerbaggoddess.blogspot.com.
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