Continuing from Part 1 ……On to Sorrento … the tiny hire car was not capable of doing more than 110kph flat out and 80kph uphill, but we made our way along to the Amalfi Coast.
When we got to Sorrento . . . OMG! How embarrassing to leave the poxy hire car just outside the leafy avenue of the Bellevue Syrene hotel entrance. We were shown to the Club Lounge whilst our room was readied, and so we partook of the free Prosecco. Twice. And then discovered that food and drink was available free from 10am to 9pm every day. (I think they made a loss with us!) And the room … wow! The suite that we were finally shown was absolutely huge, with a shower I could have lain down in, a dressing area, and a balcony which opened out onto the view across the Bay of Naples to Vesuvius. I have no idea how you managed to talk me into getting a room in this hotel, but I think we have discovered what heaven might be like.
The staff were incredible. I know most people describe hotel staff as being invisible when you need something, but these were invisible until you needed something, when they had already thought of what it was you needed, and appeared with it. (Even madam’s handbag that she had left somewhere after sampling more Prosecco, with her phone, purse and bits inside – and she hadn’t even noticed she had lost it). This was probably the most unobtrusively luxurious place we have ever been in.
We did book a guide to Pompeii from the Hotel, and it was E150, but we declined the car, and went on the ‘Circumvesuvio Train’ for E2.20 each! I later found out that the Pompeii Guides get E100 so the hotel get E50 just for arranging things. We planned to see Herculaneum on our own but discovered a lonely guide who had been cancelled that morning by a group who didn’t want to get wet. Rain had been forecast for 11am so we had got cagoules in the rucksack, together with an umbrella. In the end we joined with an American couple who hadn’t had a guide for Pompeii, and regretted it, and so the four of us hired the guide for E50 between us. It started to chuck down with rain promptly at 11, so Cathy and I threw on our waterproofs leaving the Americans standing in jeans and T-shirts. As it really was torrential I dug out the umbrella and handed to the American chap, who stood underneath it without sharing it with his wife, who stood there dripping! I have always felt that guides are worth it, but in retrospect I’m not sure we got value from Salvatore at Pompeii, but Carlo at Herculaneum was pure theatre, and worth every cent of the E25 it actually cost us. So, in marks out of ten: Pompeii 7/10, Herculaneum 12/10. I loved every bit of it!!
Apart from all the very loud American tourists, and the fact that English is the lingua franca, we loved Sorrento. We went to a Dali exhibition, Mass on Sunday in the Cathedral, and Cathy fell in love with an Italian waiter! In fairness we went one evening to the Marina Grande to try to find somewhere to eat, and ended up in a beach side restaurant, with the sea on one side and passers-by on the road on the other. Strutting his stuff between them was Gennaro. He was a typical all Italian male until he came to take our order when he had impeccable English. Turns out he was born in Clapham where his father and grandfather had run a restaurant! He came back to Italy with his Italian father and Irish mother 28 years ago, but has very obviously kissed the Blarney stone. I’m sure he told us the same line each time we ordered something: he and his brother had been out fishing that afternoon and had caught – just for us- this large Tuna/Sea Bream/Sea Bass/anchovies. Having said that the fish was to die for and his Seafood Risotto was the most amazing I have ever tried. Mind you that was after an afternoon’s free Prosecco, and a litre carafe of something or other with the meal.
We don’t do relaxing holidays. We don’t do holidays where the toughest decision of the day is where to go out to eat. We don’t do holidays where the most taxing thing is whether one really shouldn’t have yet another glass of Prosecco. We don’t do holidays where we can’t think whether we want to continue sitting in the sun or whether we should go for another swim in the sea. We don’t do holidays that are so relaxing that we really, REALLY, DON’T WANT TO GO HOME! AND IT WAS ALL YOUR FAULT.