Backpack Benji

The charm of Southern Italy.

From Edinburgh I flew via Amsterdam to Rome where I spent the night before taking a train  to meet six Polish women I had met a couple months earlier, to enjoy a seven-day adventure in Southern Italy. We met in Napoli where we spent a couple days touring the local area, eating pizza and drinking vino.  One day we decided to brave a hike up Mount Vesuvius – the mountain that blew its top in 79 A.D. and covered Pompeii in thirty feet of ash. Mount Vesuvius is located in the city of Ercolano which was founded in the seventh century BC.  Once there, we climbed into the clouds to peer into the only active volcano in all of continental Europe.

The next day, we took the train to tour Pompeii, once a thriving empire destroyed by the volcano of Mt. Vesuvius. Pompeii is one of the worlds most amazing archeological wonders and one of the most famous excavation sites on the planet. The city is surrounded by temples and porticoes; raised pavements, and stepping stones. We saw the artifcats, archtitecture, and frescoes all preserved in time inside the walls of the ancient Roman city. At the end of the day, we lingered in the old city, enjoying the warm light of the setting sun on the early fall afternoon day; and after darkness fell, we found a local trattoria where we dined on fresh seafood and pasta.

Leaving Napoli, we began our journey along the coast, exploring the small villages and wandering the narrow streets of the towns that adorn the Italian coastline including Positano, Amalfi, Ravello, Prariano, Minori, and Saint’Agata. Each unique town was full of quaint village homes and small beaches dotted with brightly colored fishing boats. The entire Amalfi coast is filled with charming atmosphere, great climate, and wonderful cuisine.

We then made our way to Sorrento where the lemons are huge and the sun is warm.

We had booked a house on the Amalfi coast. After tossing our luggage in, we shopped for provisions, including fresh sliced prosciutto, hand made Buffalo cheese, and local wines.  We spent our days sightseeing while our mornings and evenings were spent cooking, laughing, and relaxing at the simple home overlooking incredible views of the sun and sea.

One day we discovered the Gardens of Villa Cimbrone in Ravello where we enjoyed a walk through nature and history. The six-acre park is an enormous estate of luxurious vegetation.  The ancient gardens filled with courtyards, leaves, and Greek statues, evoked a medieval atmosphere and at the end of our day we were all very hungry.  Most restaurants in Italy do not open until 7 or later.  We were able to coax the proprietor of a small rustic trattoria in Ravello to allow us entry.  She told us to forget the menu as she would instead prepare a unique meal.  Tomato, basil, mozzarella, crunchy country bread, wine from wooden casks, fresh Italian veggies, hand-made raviolis and manicotti filled with sausage and cheeses, and even a made-in-house dessert.  It was the best meal of my entire trip!

My visit to the Amalfi Coast was filled with antique villas, monasteries, magnificent hills planted with olive trees and vineyards, breathtaking views under old cypress trees, and simple villages where the air is clean and time has stopped. Come see the beauty of Southern Italy!!