Friday, July 8, 2016

Cultural Sites of Campania: Pompeii and the Amalfi Coast

(May 2016) During our two-day visit to Campania, we stayed in the town of Benevento.  This town is in the heart of wine region, and is very Italian with few tourists. I think we may have been the only Americans in town. At most of the restaurants, they only spoke Italian. However, everyone was very friendly, the prices were inexpensive, and the old quarter of town was charming.

Wine and Home Cooked Food at Mama Nunzio's

Nice Hotel and Excellent Home-Cooked Italian Food in Benevento

We stayed at the Grand Hotel Italiano. The staff here was very welcoming and helpful. The rooms were fine, and I was given a corner room with a big bathtub.  The room key was huge, so I made sure to drop it off at the front desk each time I left. Breakfast service included a large pot of real coffee, and some cheeses and meats to go along with the pastries.

They hotel staff gave us good recommendations for dinner and we ended up at Restaurant Nunzio – a great place in the old town, only ten minutes walk from the hotel. Mama Nunzio recited the menu of the day to us in Italian, while son, Antonio, translated. All of the food was fresh, homemade and plentiful. We also ordered 4 bottles of wine and had a local lemon liquor (not lemoncello) for dessert.  This restaurant was one of the best dining experiences of our trip.

A Hug from Mama Nunzio

The next night we ate at another great Italian restaurant called Trattoria dei Sapori di UcciAssunta, recommended by our guide, Lorenzo.  This place was charming with excellent home cooked food and very inexpensive prices.  For example, we had a glance of local Aglianico wine for only one euro, and a ¼ liter of Fallaghina for two euros! The only problem is they spoke absolutely no English, so we had to use our phones to translate the menu – which again was only verbal.  We had to ask the server to write out the words, so we could look them up and see what to eat.

Special Lemon and Herb Liquor from Benevento

Visit to Pompeii

We drove to Pompeii from Benevento in a little over an hour. There we had a guided walking tour of the ruins. I was amazed at how large the ancient city was – spanning over 80 square miles, we were told.  We walked amongst the huge cobble-stoned roads, viewed the crumbling columns, saw the ancient brothel, and felt sad at the volcanic remains of the dog, child, and old man.

At the Ruins of Pompeii

The Amalfi Coast and Positano

After a quick pizza lunch at one of the many cafes outside Pompeii and some shopping, we boarded the bus to drive along the complete Amalfi Coast.  It was breathtaking, but a little frightening at times, with the very narrow twisting roads.  The cliffs plunged steeply to the blue ocean below, and tiny villages nestled along even tinier beaches. The steep hills above us were crowded with lemon trees to make the famed lemoncello of the region, which actually has its own DOCG – Lemoncello di Amalfi.

Driving Along the Steep Amalfi Coast

We stopped at the Positano overlook to take photos and enjoy a refreshing iced lemon drink, and then again at one of the many pottery stores along the way. Eventually we reached the town of Amalfi, which is larger than the others and has a big beach. Half of our group immediately donned bathing suits to go swimming, while others waded, and then went shopping.  It is an adorable town with many shops, restaurants, colorful flowers, and lemoncello everywhere.  Of course, we had to stop in a beachside cafĂ© and have a chilled lemoncello. 

Shops in Amalfi - Featuring Lemons

Our day of cultural sites in Campania was one that many people on our trip enjoyed very much, and it allowed us to appreciate the wines of the region even more.

No comments: