Sorrento and the Bay of Naples

Italy by Bus

Day 4

Sunday, June 3, 2001 - Drive to Sorrento, Lunch in a farmer's lemon grove, Amalfi drive, free time in Sorrento


Rome -- Sorrento This morning we head south past the Abbey of Monte Casino to the Bay of Naples. Next we enjoy a guided tour of Pompeii, the town frozen in time when it was engulfed by the eruption of Vesuvius in AD 79. Then a spectacular drive along the magnificent coastline brings us to cliff top Sorrento. (BB D)

Optional Excursions

Mozzarella Party & Lunch & Amalfi Drive This is in place of the optional excursion described below. We did not visit Positano, but we did see mozzarella being made, and had a great lunch before heading out on the Amalfi Drive. And this optional excursion was about $8.00-$9.00 dollars less.

Positano and the Amalfi Drive First we drive along the famous Amalfi Coast with its clear blue waters and picturesque resorts. We stop to transfer to minibuses in order to visit the exclusive artists paradise of Positano, magnificently positioned on the Mediterranean coast.

To Sorrento

Today's wakeup call was at 07:00AM, bags outside the door at 07:30AM then to breakfast. We were on the bus at 08:30AM and on the road south toward Sorrento.

Schedule Change

Today we had another schedule change. The itinerary called for us to stop at Pompeii on the way to Sorrento. But if we did that, we would be touring Pompeii during the hottest part of the day. So Marco rescheduled this so that we will stop at Pompeii on the morning we leave Sorrento to go to Assisi. This was OK with me as long as we do stop and tour Pompeii. It was one of the main things I wanted to see.

Seat Rotation

When we got on the bus, we just sat wherever we wanted; the last people on the bus had to take whatever seats were left. As we left Rome, Marco explained the seat rotation that we were going to use. This would only be used when we were travelling from city to city, and we would keep the same seats through the day. When we were on the bus for short trips within a city or on an optional excursion, we would sit wherever we wanted.
The rotation would work like this: each time we got on the bus for a new trip to another city, we would sit two seats back from the ones we were in on the last trip. The people in the last two rows would move up to the front on the same side of the bus. This is a little different that what I have read about the way it usually works, but it worked out fine.
I have read messages in the Trafalgar forum where people complained about some people who would not follow the rotation. We had no problems like this — everyone followed the rotation schedule without fail.


During this ride Marco passed out maps to all of us. During most of the longer rides, many people slept. I have never been able to sleep while riding, so I was one of the few people who listened to Marco's commentary during the rides. I also kept watch on the signs and followed our progress on this map.

The Optional Excursions

Also during the ride Marco described the optional excursions and passed out this list, below. The bottom portion of this form had an area where you could put in your payment information. The prices listed in U.S. dollars reflected a 5% discount, according to Marco, but if you wanted to pay in U.S. dollars, it had to be in cash. If you wanted to pay with a credit card, it had to be in Euro. As we did not know this before we left home, we did not have the cash with us to pay in dollars, so we used a credit card and paid in Euro. I knew it would not be much difference after the conversion, but it turned out that paying in Euro by credit card was less expensive by about $70.00. When you go back to the home page, click on the link about "The Money" to see an explanation.

The list of optional excursions, with prices The optional excursions offered on our tour.

Smiley Rooms

Marco explained that he did not like to use the term toilette, so he has come up with another name for them. He realized that when people go in, they are usually frowning, but when they come out, they are usually smiling. So he referred to them as Smiley Rooms. It didn't take long for all of us to pick up on this, and we used the phrase from then on.

Another thing about smiley rooms. Sometimes you had to pay to use them, sometimes you were expected to pay, sometimes they would have liked it if you paid, and sometimes there was no one there to pay.
A few places, you had to pay to get in, usually 1000 or 2000 lire (.50 to 1.00). A lot of places had someone outside the smiley rooms, with a plate or dish on a table with coins and bills in it. The Autogrills (see below) were like this. You didn't have to put anything in the plate, just walk on past. But most people did put a coin in the plate, even if it was a 100 lire coin (less than .05). Marco had suggested 200-300 lire.
The smiley rooms in the restaurants usually didn't have anything like this. There was no one there to pay.


After a couple of hours, we stopped for a break at what we would call a "service area" in the U.S. We never traveled more than two hours at a time without a break. All of the stops we made on the highway were at service areas with facilities called "Autogrill". There were service areas with other facilities, but we always stopped at Autogrills. We would become familiar with Autogrills by the end of the trip. Some people didn't like them, and some did. On this particular stop, we just used the smiley rooms, maybe got a drink or a snack, and those that wanted to smoke did so.

On to Sorrento

After the Autogrill, we went on to Sorrento. Here is a map showing the approximate route from Rome to Sorrento. This was about 266 km (about 165 miles) from Rome to Sorrento.

As we got near, we found ourselves on a narrow road, just about wide enough for two cars, high above the Bay of Naples (Golfo di Napoli). Although there really wasn't room enough, Tonino pulled the bus over to the side and stopped so we could get off and take some photos. This didn't stop cars from passing in both directions, blowing their horns as they passed.

From the road overlooking the bay of Naples, looking toward Sorrento From the road overlooking the bay of Naples, looking toward Sorrento.

From the road overlooking the bay of Naples From the road overlooking the bay of Naples.

From the road overlooking the bay of Naples Sorrento is in the distance, opposite the cruise ship that you can see off the coast.

Hotel Cesare Augusto

It took about another half-hour or so before we got to the Hotel Cesare Augusto at about 12:36PM. We got our room numbers from Marco, got our keys from the front desk and went up to our rooms. After a short wait, the bags showed up, and we could freshen up or whatever we needed.

The Hotel Cesare Augusto The Hotel Cesare Augusto.

The view from our room in the Hotel Cesare Augusto The view from our room in the Hotel Cesare Augusto.

The patio area behind the Hotel Cesare Augusto in Sorrento The patio area behind the Hotel Cesare Augusto in Sorrento.

Lunch at the farmer's Lemon Grove -- "La Sorgente" and Amalfi Drive

At 1:30PM we were back on the bus for the optional excursion. Because this was not a trip to another city, and the whole group was not with us because it was an optional, we did not have to abide by the rotation rules, and could sit anywhere.
We drove on some narrow roads up into the hills and stopped in the middle of nowhere. We got out of the bus and walked up a very narrow road, with high walls close on either side, to La Sorgente. Randy's photo below shows the entrance.

The farmer's Lemon Grove -- La Sorgente The farmer's Lemon Grove -- La Sorgente.

During the drive, Marco pointed out the nets that are rolled up and hanging from the olive trees, explaining that these are used during the harvesting of the olives.

Randy has these comments: In the Sorrento Area I didn't get any photos of the nets that were gathered and hung between the olive trees (fairly unusual way to harvest, apparently because of the hillside nature of the groves. This seemed to be unique to this part of Italy, didn't see the technique anymore after we got north of Pompeii).

Maria showed us how she makes mozzarella cheese Maria showed us how she makes mozzarella cheese.

In the photo above, Maria showed us how she makes mozzarella cheese, then we moved over to an open-air dining area where we had lunch.

Lunch at La Sorgente Lunch at La Sorgente.

Randy's photo above shows lunch, which was a plate of mozzarella cheese, tomatoes, hot peppers, bacon and salami covered with olive oil with oregano in it, and they had bread and some potatoes. Of course, there was plenty of wine that they made. Desert was homemade cheese cake with Limoncello on it.

In the photo below, we are behind the pole, behind Chris and Lisa.

Chris and Lisa and most of the rest of the group at lunch at La Sorgente Chris and Lisa, and Karen and I, and most of the rest of the group at lunch at La Sorgente.

Limoncello and olive oil Limoncello and olive oil.

After lunch, we tasted their Limoncello, both the regular, and the creme version. We bought some of their olive oil and the creme Limoncello. This was very much better than the Limoncello we tried the night before. In Randy's photo above, his wife Lynda, in the black top, is holding up a bottle of olive oil. We are standing to the left, her right, looking over the selection.

Here are some comments from Randy and Lynda about the Limoncello: We also found that the Limoncello 'creme' was unique to the Southern part of our trip and didn't see it elsewhere. We've been to a few Italian restaurants since getting home and although a few had heard of the clear limoncella, no one had any. We met some friends at an Italian restaurant here at home to share our trip, we happened to have taken a bottle with us to show them and it turned out to be the hit of the restaurant that night.

Limoncello and olive oil Limoncello and olive oil.

Then they showed us the wine cellar, and showed us how they used to make olive oil.

Olive press Randy's photo of the olive press.

Wine cellar Randy's photo of the wine cellar.
The narrow road leading from La Sorgente The narrow road leading from La Sorgente.

Then it was time to continue on to the Amalfi Drive, so we walked back down the narrow road to the bus.

Amalfi Drive

This consisted of a drive along the famous Amalfi Coast, heading toward Positano.

The Bay of Naples (Golfo di Napoli) The Bay of Naples (Golfo di Napoli).

As we headed for the Amalfi Coast, we came to a point where we could see both sides of the peninsula.
In the photo above, we can see the Bay of Naples (Golfo di Napoli) and Vesuvius in the distance.
In the photo below, we can see the Bay of Salerno (Golfo di Salerno).

The Bay of Salerno (Golfo di Salerno) The Bay of Salerno (Golfo di Salerno).

This road was another very narrow road, with frequent switch-backs and hairpin turns. This didn't stop cars from passing us, even on the turns.

Overlooking Positano

On the road to Positano On the Amalfi Drive overlooking the town of Positano.

Then the bus stopped at an area overlooking Positano. Here we got off, and the bus went somewhere and turned around. There were a few stands here selling some souvenirs and produce, a hotel and a couple of places overlooking the town of Positano. The photo above is from Randy. That is Chris and Lisa, with Randy's wife Lynda. A couple other members of our group can be seen to the right. And there is our bus driver, Schumacher, er, I mean Antonio, leaning against a car at the left side of the photo.

Karen and me above Positano Karen and me above Positano.

My favorite photo of Positano My favorite photo of Positano.

Positano Another view of Positano.

After a short stop, it was time to get back on the bus and retrace our drive back to the hotel.

Free Time

When we got back to the hotel, we had some free time before dinner. Karen went up to the room to lay down because she was tired. I went off to find an ATM and something to drink for both of us.
I went out the front entrance of the hotel, took a right, and walked about a block and found an ATM. After getting some money, I continued walking in the same direction, because as we left on the optional excursion, I saw an area where there were some stands selling stuff, including soda. I got a couple of sodas, brought one back to Karen, and then went out to a table behind the hotel and read for a while as Karen took a nap.

Included Dinner

Tonight's dinner was the first dinner we had that was included in the tour. One difference was that the meals on the optional excursions had drinks included, so there were bottles of wine waiting for us on the tables when we arrived. Tonight this was not the case. We had wine, but we had to pay for it, so we didn't usually drink as much as on the optional excursions. The dinner was good, and included rolls, carrot soup, I had veal, Karen had pork with pumpkin. This was followed by tiramisu and coffee.

More Free Time

After dinner, we had free time and walked down to the main part of Sorrento. Going out the back door of the hotel, going to the left and down some steps to the street, taking a right and walking a block or so, we came to an area with many shops and restaurants. This was Via S. Cesareo and even though this was Sunday night, the shops were all open late, until 10:30PM or so. And then it was back to the hotel and to bed. We got back to the hotel around 11:00PM.


Marilyn and Beth

Commentary from Marilyn and her daughter Beth about their Best of Italy tour, September 7-20, 2001, reproduced here with their permission.

Day 4, Monday, 10 September, 2001 - Rome to Sorrento

For those of us that booked the Roman Highlights (see day 3) optional, this morning was part 2 (the others got to sleep in and joined us later). We left the hotel at 7:00 am to go for our visit to the Sistine Chapel & Vatican Museum.
Also this was the first day of the bus rotation, since we be leaving Roma (boo-hoo) right from the Vatican.
After our tour we headed out of the city, drove for a while, and then stopped for an hour lunch at our first Autogrill (like an American truck stop but better). You have your choice of hot foods (like pasta), and cold foods (salad, ham or salami sandwiches). It was so strange to see the locals having lunch with their small bottles of wine. Lunch for 2 cost about 25,000 lira ($12). There is also shopping for you die hard shoppers. You have to pay to use the Smileys (bathrooms) here, 500 lira pp.
Then on to Pompeii. We were there for a few hours and had a guided tour.
We drove a little further up and around the cliffs until we reached our hotel (around 5 pm) for the next 2 nights, Johanna Park. This hotel was in a very pleasant area outside the city and had a nice view of the sea in the front, olive trees and hills in the back, and mountains on the side. It also had a rooster that crowed and woke everyone up every morning!!!!!
This was our first included dinner, (served in the hotel) around 7:00, bread, pasta, a main course, dessert and coffee & tea. We had a different pasta every night during the whole trip.

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Contents © Copyright 2001 Author: Lee Briggs except where noted. All rights reserved.