October 26, 2014

On Blogging and Italy

It's been almost a year since I've written anything on this blog, and to be honest, I'm a little nervous. My blogging frequency severely dwindled in 2013 and came to a complete stop in 2014.  With my work and personal life only seeming to get busier by the minute, I couldn't bring myself to write down really any thoughts that I felt should be put out here. My view of blogging has also changed as the shift to marketing your personal life has grown, and between the societal pressures to have the wittiest tweets and the prettiest instagrams, adding my voice to the blogging world just seemed exhausting and futile.

This is another rant for another day, but all I'm here to say is that Chin and I recently took a holiday to Italy, just the two of us. We really didn't have much of a summer-- between Chin studying for the boards, taking the boards and then quickly starting 12 weeks of grueling surgical rotations and electives ("What did we get ourselves into?!" is a common phrase in our household), and then me, planning and executing a 30,000 person wine and beer festival in August and having an event every weekend in September, we did not have a summer. Last spring we knew that our summer wasn't going to be fun (to be frank), so we decided to plan a trip for the fall to get away and spend time together other than when we were sleeping (we had a few of those on some of our 80-hour work weeks).

Don't get me wrong, more than a year later, I still really love my job and Chin loves med school. But we needed some time and to us, time together and traveling with each other are our top priorities right now.

Okay three paragraphs later I'm finally telling you why I'm blogging. While we were there I wrote detailed notes in my travel journal, and after getting my phone stolen and losing all my pictures and essentially everything since 2012, I decided I wanted to wipe off the spiderwebs on my blog and record my writing from our trip via the Internet. It's really a selfish preservation thing.

So, without further adieu, below are the journal entries I wrote for each day of our trip. Some are short, some are long, and some of them might not make sense because they're unedited and probably a little choppy. Blame posterity that these are on the Internet.

Friday, October 3, 2014: Getting There

We are lucky in the fact that getting from Rochester to Toronto, we were the least stressed we've ever been. It took us under three hours to get to the hotel to park our car, with a five minute wait at the border. Five minutes! Compared to our five hour debacle on the way to Paris where I couldn't stop hyperventilating last summer, we were calm, cool and on time.

After checking in with Mussolini's daughter who could not have been more unhelpful, Alitalia finally gave us the exit row for free. With Chin being a million feet tall, we always try to finagle an exit row on a transcontinental overnight flight.

Upon taking our sleeping pills, we both slept for eight hours, waking up at 6 a.m. for breakfast. That sensation of going to sleep in one country and waking up in another is still amazing to me. Being in Italy hasn't quite hit me yet, because we still have such a long travel day ahead of us and will have to be "on" for a majority of our trip to Nocelle. I'm hoping the thrill of our trip will come when we wake up tomorrow on the Amalfi Coast.

Saturday, October 4, 2014: Trains, Planes and Automobiles

Let me just say that after all the planning and fretting, we could not have gotten luckier in our travels so far. Nothing's been stolen (fingers crossed!) and we made it off the plane in time to catch the Leonardo Express train which then got us to Rome Termini in time to catch the 3:45 train to Napoli.

With only one small panic attack, we had a hard time finding the platform to Napoli. When we found it we rushed on the train and sat in two random seats. Little did we know the seats we randomly picked happened to be our assigned seats! Fate is a very real thing. Hoping the last legs of our journey are as smooth as the first.

Saturday, October 4, 2014: Nocelle and Long Trains

We seem to have jinxed ourselves. With what was the smoothest ride imaginable to Naples came a wave of frustration for the last leg of our trip. Upon arriving in Naples early, we went downstairs to buy tickets to Sorrento. We crammed ourselves onto a platform filled with locals and tourists alike and boarded the wrong train. It took us three stops to figure it out but it was three stops too late. We got off in a random town near Naples and had to backtrack, then take the 30-stop train to Sorrento. We lost our time we had earned and then some, but Pasquale, our amazing driver from our last trip to the coast in 2012, was waiting for us in bustling Sorrento.

We then made the winding, tedious, dark drive through the mountains to Nocelle, where we are staying for the next 3 days. I forgot how beautiful the Amalfi Coast is even in the dark. The roads wind around and around and every turn gives you a splash of the dramatic cliffs and lights of Positano and Praiano below.

Nocelle is in a league of its own. You drive to the village and suddenly the road just stops. No cars are allowed in the 115 person town. We got out of Pasquale's car and walked through twinkle-lit paths to our B&B, Casa Cuccaro. Someone was playing the accordion in a house below with the moon above. I thought it was a dream. The town is filled with B&B's, a few restaurants and a small square with a church overlooking the coast. Our B&B is wonderful, and has small but amazing amenities like U.S. plugs (!), a hairdryer and a private terrace with a killer view. We are lucky.





For dinner we went to Trattoria Santa Croce and were ridiculously spoiled with bread, prosciutto with melon, pasta bolognese, pasta with tomatoes and shellfish and grilled steak with parmesan, arugula and cherry tomatoes. The tomatoes were just... Stunning and delightful are the only two words I know to describe them. Everything was truly divine. We took a walk around the village after dinner and can I just say what a sport Chin is? He genuinely seemed to enjoy today and didn't complain at all about being tired or spending too much money. This vacation has been wonderful to us already.


Sunday, October 5, 2014: Mountain Goat Symphony

Is it possible to be in a more beautiful location than this? We woke up this morning and headed to the terrace for a breakfast of sweet rolls, yogurt, and plums overlooking the coast. I've consumed enough carbs in the past two days to last a lifetime. We then headed out of our B&B and up a few stairs and there we were on the Path of the Gods. We hiked to Bomerano, a small mountain town above Amalfi. Around every corner was stunning scenery: sheer cliffs, forested grottoes, abandoned brick homes, vineyards and unbelievable views of the coastline, from Praiano to Capri. As we hiked we encountered a herd of darling black mountain goats, their bells ringing above us in a joyous symphony as they pranced on the mountainside. We also ran into several mules and geckos. 


We got to Bomerano with the intention of taking a bus to Amalfi, grabbing lunch and then taking a boat to Positano. We soon found out the bus was 2.5 hours away because it's Sunday. So... We decided to hike to Praiano and see if we could take a boat from there. Back on the path we went until we found out we couldn't take a boat and our only viable option was to hike back to Nocelle. At that point we'd been hiking for four hours and I wasn't mentally prepared for two more hours of hiking and had a meltdown. BUT, we made it down the path, after much coaxing from Chin, and back to our B&B, dusty shoes and all.

We then got our bathing suits on and made our way to Positano, thinking we could quickly walk there as well. What is wrong with us? It's an hour walk. We finally got too tired at Montepertuso and took the bus down the mountain. In Positano our main priority was no longer lunch but just gelato. Pistachio and nutella for me, kinder and chocolate for Chin. It tasted like gold as we made our way to Spiagga Grande to take a dip in the sea and rest on the rocky shore.

For dinner, we got ready and were picked up at the Nocelle bus stop and taken to La Tagliata for an unforgettable meal. High up in the mountains, our table was perched overlooking Positano as it shined under the full moon. At La Tagliata (tie-ya-ta), you dine on what Mama and Papi are cooking that night. So, we gorged ourselves on bruschetta, ricotta, mozzarella, bread, marinated pumpkin, spinach with a chicken croquette and broccoli, peas with chickpeas, frittata and beans and eggplant parmesan with pork meatballs. That was the appetizer.


For primi we dined on pumpkin ravioli, "mama's" pasta, another pasta I can't remember the name of but was so good, and gnocchi. All freshly made. Mama wakes up every morning at 5 a.m. and they close the restaurant at 2 a.m., every day! For the meat portion we had: lamb, chicken, pork, rabbit, steak, beef, beef kebab and sausage. By then I thought I might die but we still ended up having dessert, chocolate cake and a fruit pudding cake with fresh fruit salad.

Walking back to our B&B I just couldn't believe how beautiful our world is and that we get to experience things like we did today. 

Monday, October 6, 2014: Sea Day

We ended up sleeping in this morning, which to be honest had me feeling anxious, but our day turned out to be lovely. We woke up for a quick breakfast and made the bus trek down the mountain to Marina Grande. We rented a small 8 horsepower boat and after some adjustment, made our way down the coast towards Praiano. We eventually found a small cove that looked as though it was a private beach-- with not a soul in sight. There was a ladder in the water leading up to several blue beach loungers, but nobody was there, so we made our way up to the carved out rock. We laid in the sun, ate lunch on the boat and cliff jumped (after much coaxing from Chin). The weather was perfect with beautiful sunshine all day. 

In the late afternoon we decided to make our way back to Positano until we realized our anchor was stuck on a rock. But, after some momentary panic and help from a nearby boat, we got the anchor out and headed back to the Marina. I laid on the front of the boat in awe of the jutting coastline and the sparkling sea. We got back to Positano and after a snack, spent another evening laying on the rocky sand resting in the sun. For dinner we went to Risto Degli Dei, a pizza shop in a cave in Nocelle, once again overlooking lit-up Positano . We had carrot soup and caprese salad and delicious pizza with the restaurant's cat and accordion player. Is this real life? 

Up next: Capri, Pompei, and arriving in Roma

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