Written by Joy Thrun.
I have owned Classic Travel for more than 30 years, so choosing a milestone birthday location was both exciting and stressful. For this birthday, it needed to be perfect.
I wanted premium class air, a classic hotel, great food, sightseeing, and ambiance. Naples, Capri, and the Amalfi Coast sounded ideal.
Even seasoned travel professionals discourage an extended stay in Naples. Yet at one time Naples was considered one of the great cities in Europe, number two after Paris. (1) The Grand Tour culminated here.
Business class reservations made, nonstop on Delta to Rome. Car and driver waiting, a reservation at the city’s famous waterfront hotel, the Excelsior, and we were on our way.
The Camorra (a crime organization in Naples) is invisible but everywhere. The shops and hotels are paying for protection. (2) They control the political economy. So I had the dicey edge I like when I travel. As we made our way from Rome to Naples, even our driver questioned “Why Naples?”. Had I made the right decision?
As we glided to a stop in front of our hotel on Via Partenope, a lively foot traffic only boulevard, we were still unsure. Does anyone use the wastebaskets in this town?
We checked into the Excelsior like Clarke Gable and Sofia Loren had in Naples’ glory days. We loved our room with a balcony that overlooked the bay of Naples and Mt. Vesuvius.
As we left the hotel we were faced with a stunning view one of the world’s most dangerous volcanoes, suddenly the Mafia was not my biggest concern.
One of my travel mantras is “face fear” and I did this by climbing to the top of Mt. Vesuvius. Awesome views of Naples and Pompeii. As we headed down, a group of French tourists started screaming and pointing. We looked back and Lady V started smoking. Maybe this wasn’t such a good idea.
We had visited Pompeii a couple of years prior but did not have time to visit the Archeological Museum. It houses most of the original artifacts from Pompeii and Herculaneum and is considered one of the most important museums in Europe. This is a must do.
From the Museum, it was an easy walk to the city’s best known pizzeria, Da Michele. Naples is the home of pizza and this eatery was made famous in the movie Eat Pray Love. Take a number, hope it is one you will recognize when called out in Italian and stand with the crowd on the street waiting for your turn. You will be directed to a table, perhaps with other people. Don’t even think about questioning where you are told to sit. There are only two choices of pizza, margherita and marinara. No special requests accepted. You can have wine, beer, or pop out of the bottle. Not fancy, a bit intimidating, but wonderful. For us, once was not enough.
We spent a day on the hop-on hop-off bus taking in the views and learning about the culture in southern Italy. We dined al fresco on linguini a la vongole at our favorite spot, La Scialuppa, and did what the Neapolitans do: stroll the promenade and drink limoncello all night.
The next day was my actual birthday which I wanted to spend on the “yes, it’s really that beautiful” Isle of Capri. Naples is the perfect place to tour the islands and Amalfi Coast.
The ferry system is easy, frequent, and avoids all the traffic. Tom quickly negotiated the pier and purchased our ferry ticket. I worried about sea sickness with a flashback to a horrible ferry ride from Malta to Sicily, but all of our water trips were smooth and gorgeous.
The Isle of Capri is as beautiful as I imagined. The linen cab tour was the perfect way to experience the stunning topography of this island.
I had to have a pair of handmade sandals. Da Costanzo is one of the oldest and most famous sandal makers in Italy. If it was good enough for Jackie O, Grace Kelly, and Bridget Bardot, it was good enough for me, thanks Antonio. Capri is also the place to buy linen. I indulged, it was my birthday.
We had two restaurants on our list and Terrazza Brunella got the nod. The cliff-side table overlooking the Marina Piccola, cozze, lobster fettuccini, and Tom made it a magical birthday.
I had to have a farewell cocktail at the Hotel Quisisana, two drinks $60.00. No wonder they call this the playground of the rich and famous.
We finished the week off by day-tripping to Sorrento, Positano, Amalfi, and Ravello. They are all wonderful and unique. If you find yourself in Sorrento you must take a meal at Emilia, a casual waterfront restaurant. You can thank me later.
It was a great trip and celebration. My worries were for nothing. Naples, Capri and the Amalfi Coast were the perfect choice for my milestone birthday. Tom and I will cherish these memories forever.
La Dolce Vita!
If you are planning a trip to this region, please call. Our advice and travel planning will help make the most of your trip.
1. Benjamin Taylor, “Naples Declared: A Walk Around the Bay”, (Penguin Books, 2012)
2. Taylor, “Naples Declared: A Walk Around the Bay”