As I sit watching the rain fall outside, it surely seems the perfect opportunity to reminisce about my sunny holiday in Sorrento and make you all jealous! We actually had Chef Ryland to thank for this prize, with his purple swamp pasta video, which won the Garofalo pasta kids recipe competition.
Panache PR and WeHoliday did a great job of organising the trip for us – the prize was a week’s half board holiday for a family of 4, so working to their budget we were able to take Nana along too. This gave hubby and I valuable brandy drinking time in the bar and even a couple of nights in town – unfortunately one of those was spent watching the Italians lose the Euro2012 Final!
Sorrento is on the beautiful Amalfi coast, about an hour’s drive from Naples airport past the domineering Vesuvius. The Grand Hotel Aminta was nestled amongst lots of greenery and had a fabulous view – we even paid a little extra to ensure a sea view balcony from which to enjoy the famous sunset!
The weather was seriously scorching at about 34 degrees all week, so plans to climb Vesuvius and visit Pompeii were put on hold for the future when Ryland is a little older! With a 2.5 year old and a 75 year old in tow we had to plan our days carefully, but although getting around can be tricky (lots of steps to tackle with a pushchair – and too hot for carrying Ry in a backpack) there were lots of ways to keep everyone happy.
Our main concern was that Ryland would prove to be a gigantic pain at mealtimes – the hotel catered for all sorts of guests: honeymooners, older couples, parents with teenagers… but only one other toddler! The set menu offered a good variety of food and three VERY generous courses – remarkably, Ryland managed to sit for almost 2 hours in his high chair every night, awaiting the arrival of the cake trolley!
We invented a great artistic project – drawing in the olive oil/balsamic vinegar mix with breadsticks…
…and also had the iPad on hand for colouring, alphabet games and watching Pingu videos when he got twitchy. Luckily we’re not too precious about the iPad; several times a blob of cream or cheese landed on the screen and was swiftly wiped away! The staff at the Aminta were charming, and the shuttle bus driver Roland soon became Ry’s best mate.
Sorrento doesn’t have the kind of beaches we’re used to – the ‘sand’ is actually tiny stones (wear your Havaianas as the gravel is murder on bare soles) but nonetheless Ryland was happy to play all day. We paid 12 Euros each for hire of a lounger and parasol on ‘Peter’s Beach’ for the day and were the only non-Italians there! The local kids were happy to entertain Ryland, the water was the perfect temperature, there was plenty of shade and the café served delicious spaghetti!
Although I would consider Sorrento a couples destination, there are several things to keep the youngsters occupied – including the cute tourist train (although we never seemed to be around at the right time to catch it!).
Go to Bouganvillea for a plethora of ice-cream flavours (I went for eggnog and Ry had a Nutella/Smarties double bill).
We spent an afternoon drinking in the grounds of Artis Domus Relais apartments, which had swings, a play house and a trampoline to keep Ry busy! It also had plenty of shade from the midday sun!
There are quite a few kids playgrounds scattered about town but the nicest is in the grounds of Villa Fiorentino, shaded by orange and lemon trees.
Until 30 September there’s also a fabulous free exhibition inside the Villa itself, featuring sculpture by Paladino and black & white photos by Biasiucci.
Sorrento’s city walls have recently opened to the public, and underneath is a fascinating venue called Botteghiano where you can see a chap creating delicate wood inlay patterns.
Herculaneum – about an hour’s coach ride from Sorrento – is the little brother of Pompei – the AD79 eruption of Vesuvius covered Herculaneum in hot mud, carbonising the wood and bodies it covered. As a result, the houses there contain preserved wooden beds and skeletons from 2000 years ago. It was incredible! Ryland nodded off within 5 minutes of arriving, which is probably a good thing as much of the site isn’t buggy or toddler friendly! We left his pushchair in the shade with Nana while we learnt about the homes, baths, wine, spa and of course, the toilets (see me testing one out below).
43 years ago my parents went on their first holiday together to Italy and they insisted we should visit Capri, so we duly paid a whopping €36 return fare each for the 20 minutes journey to this famous island. WHAT a tourist trap! We took a 90 minute boat trip round the island which was great, although as the sea got choppier, the pushchair kept falling over and my husband got greener… The view of Capri’s famous trio of rocks was also spoilt by a lady at the front of our boat who insisted on standing, legs wide apart, to take photos. I wouldn’t mind, but she was a larger lady sporting a snug fitting pair of white capri pants (how very appropriate!) made in a very flimsy fabric. It wasn’t a nice sight. On returning to the port, we squeezed ourselves onto the Funicular Railway to the town centre, which was heaving, and stopped for lunch at Capri’s Restaurant. The pizza was decent, but the staff were rude, service slow and they stuck on a €2.50 cover charge each, plus a 15% tip (which to their annoyance I refused to pay!). If I visit again, I’m taking a picnic for the boat!
I absolutely loved Sorrento and the Amalfi coast, and the best thing is that we missed lots of things – climbing Vesuvius, visiting Pompeii, sailing to Positano… so we have a great excuse to return when Ryland is older!
GRAZIE to Garofalo for such a great competition prize (and thanks to hubby Rob, who took most of these holiday snaps!)