I spent the last two weeks traveling to Italy, and when I got back there was a fervor amongst my friends and co-workers to know more about my trip, see pictures, and even start a travel blog! I’ve decided to do a series of posts to satisfy every one’s curiosity
Over three years ago I had dream to travel to Italy, stroll through the warm Tuscan countryside, visit the grandiose monuments in Rome, eat copious amounts of pasta and Italian pastries, and learn about the culture. Alas, my dream was put on hold for coding, and not until the beginning of this year did I revisit it. In March I started playing with the idea of living in Italy for a week. I wasn’t sure where I wanted to stay, but I knew that I wanted it to be close to the water. After listening to Beyonce & Jay-Z’s song “Upgrade U” and watching Diane Lane’s movie “Under the Tuscan Sun” I had a stroke of inspiration, and decided that I wanted to rent a villa on the Amalfi Coast in the town of Positano.
I sent out a mass emails to my closest friends, attaching breathtaking views of the coast line, and listing all the fun things to do there such as sailing, swimming in caves and taking Italian cooking classes. I was hoping that someone would want to join me, but with the recession looming, housing prices sinking, and the Euro gaining in value against the dollar my friends were worried about taking a vacation. Having no real financial obligations, and having a you only-live-once and its-easier-to travel-when-you’re-young philosophy, I scoffed at the recession, and even convinced my boyfriend, Jason, who hates long international coach-class flights, to come with me.
The first phase of planning was to find a place to stay. Booking a hotel was going to be too expensive, and we wanted to have a more authentic experience. I figured a villa would meet our needs, and starting looking for a reliable rental company. I figured we would be spending most of our time exploring the area or on the beach, so I tried to look for medium priced places that were comfortable, but also located close to restaurants and within walking distance of the beach. There were good reviews on the Summer in Italy site, but I couldn’t find any that I liked, I switched to using Ville in Italia. The place we ended up booking was a small loft apartment that was underneath a larger house, and located right across the street from an Italian market called Casa Miulo. Unfortunately, we didn’t bother to notice that there was no air conditioning, and unlike most Septembers in Positano this year’s was pretty hot. But we figured worse case we’d cool off in the Tyrrhenian Sea!
As I was making my plans and talking to people about my travels, everyone was surprised that I was only going for one week, and only to the beach. I started toying with the idea of spending another week in Rome and Florence. One friend even went as far as saying that I would be missing out on the entire Italian experience if I did not see Florence! I was still concerned about costs, hotels in Europe aren’t cheap, plus train fare to get to each of these cities. Jason had stayed with a family in Florence 5 years ago, and after a couple quick Facebook messages, they were more than happy to host us for a few days, we’d only need a hotel in Rome.
The next step was figuring out what to do in each location, and how to get around. First, I searched on TripAdvisor for how to get from Rome Fiumicino to Positano. Some people suggested taking the train from Rome to Naples, and then renting a car, but others were opposed to it because of the narrow windy roads. I figured we’d be sleep deprived, and wouldn’t do well on narrow windy roads. I had also read that Positano was pretty walkable, so there was no point in renting a car for our entire trip. Others suggested getting a car company to drive you from Naples to Positano; I looked up the rates and it was equivalent to my flight to Rome, nix that! The only other options were to take another train to Sorrento, the Circumvenusia, and then the SITA bus to Positano or a hydrofoil from Naples to Positano but they were unreliable. I picked the train and bus option; it would be more stops, but at least we could afford it. However, Jason discovered that we could book a car with our villa rental agency for a reasonable amount, we ultimately went with that option thinking it would be more relaxing after an already long flight and train ride.
Jason took care of booking our flights and the villa. Booking the villa took a little back and forth, but went pretty smoothly. There were no good deals on flights to Rome that didn’t take forever to get there, so Jason cashed in some miles and booked us two coach tickets on US Airways, not the greatest carrier, but it would do.
I didn’t have a lot of time to plan activities day by day, and I knew Jason would want to be more spontaneous, so I picked up copy of Frommer’s Amalfi Coast guidebook, and read a few chapters in it to figure out the best places to eat, how to various islands, and what the main attractions on the coast were. Wanting to make sure I didn’t get ripped off anywhere and to put together a budget ahead of time, I checked prices for boat rentals and sailing tours. And being a foodie femgineer, I made a list of all the restaurants I wanted to try in the area, with price ranges, and the days what day of the week they would be open.
I also wanted an Italian’s honest opinion so I contacted a friend of mine, who lives in Italy, and she gave me some great advice on things to do in Rome and Florence, and what to prepare for when traveling to Italy. For example, she recommended taking comfortable sandals to Positano, because the town is built into the cliff and there stairs to climb everywhere. And that Rome can be overwhelming, picking a few spots is the best option, and Romans enjoy summers al fresco.
Jason signed up for the iPhone international calling plan to keep up with his family, but I decided to wing it. Texting was only 50 cents; a quick and cheap way to communicate with friends back home. I knew my parents would be happy with a one minute call, and a page long email about my travels.
I was adamant about us only taking carry-ons because I hate losing luggage, and schlepping large suitcases on trains. I figured we could find a laundromat or hand wash our clothes. We packed lightly, only the essentials such as my new Kindle 2, which would undoubtedly come in handy on our various train rides. I had already read Eat, Pray, Love, and couldn’t find another Italian travel book so I settled for Julia Child’s My Life in France (research for my next trip) and Clean Code by Robert C. Martin (just in case I starting to miss coding ).
Off to Roma, Firenze e Positano!
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