One of the things I love most about travelling is experiencing elements of daily life that exemplifies the culture and lifestyle of the region I am visiting. I am a big fan of Gadventures not only because they are Canadian, but they are a global company with strong values of responsible travel.
When I discovered their tours entitled Local Living, I immediately was intrigued by the opportunity to live with and experience a region by locals, especially those with a lineage and industry woven into the history and culture.
As soon as I heard Lemon Farm, I pulled out my credit card! I had heard rave reviews from friends of friends who had gone on this specific tour and I was sold immediately! So my next vacation opportunity, I booked myself in and waited patiently for my chance to experience Italy with the locals!
I started out in Naples, a very interesting, not so pretty city, but home of the worlds most loved food...Pizza! As soon as I arrived, I headed to the famous pizzeria L’Antica Pizzeria da Michele visited by every show I had watched including of course the late Anthony Bourdain. To my disappointment the line was out the door as it constantly is found right from opening, so I settled on homemade pasta with bright fresh tomatoes, basil and a beautiful ball of buffalo mozzarella! Happy and satiated, I headed back to my hotel to strap on the running shoes and get my quickie tour of the city in before my first meal and night of rest before the adventure!
My first rainy day in Naples included my very first Neapolitan pizza, the one and original Margherita! I walked cute touristy little Naples “Spacconapoli” with sightings of popular churches and squares. I made a recommended Subterranean Naples tour where I ventured 40m underneath Naples to witness the generations of activity below this ancient city from Greek excavation of building materials, water reservoirs used for centuries since the Greek occupation, 80m of narrow tunnels used by the wellmen, catacombs during the plague epidemic, Emperor Nero’s amphitheatre and World War II shelter.
My second day in Naples included a very interesting tour about Naples; bits of really interesting history but also a bit on modern Naples and it’s growth with migrants from various countries and cultures. Moving onwards to the archaeological site of Pompeii, we drove an hour outside the city to witness the enormity of this ancient but impressive Roman civilization dating back to AD 79. This site is known to be one of the best preserved sites due to it’s burial in thick volcanic ash. The impressive tour took us through the ruins of storefronts, palaces, various houses, bars, public toilets, a bakery, temple of Apollo, public ceremonial space, a brothel and an amphitheatre. The artwork, ceramic work, building and design found within the city were impressive and stories and explanations from our guide really brought the whole place to life!
Hopping back into our vans, we drove the glistening coast to our beautiful citrus home up above the city of Sorrento. This breathtaking place is called Agriturismo Il Giardino di Vigliano.
As part of this foodie tour, every night we had a proper Italian 4 course dinner served to us, cooked in-house with fresh ingredients mostly grown or produced at the farm by the wonderful, welcoming family. Antipasto, pasta, meat and dessert courses were followed by Limoncello also produced and distributed from their farm; their main use for the lemons they grow.
Onwards to the Walk of the Gods! Starting with a beautiful drive across the peninsula to the trail head that took us across the stunning Amalfi Coast to picturesque Positano! The 8km hike was spectacularly scenic with lots of ups and downs, a little rocky but totally manageable for a somewhat active person...until the 2,000 stairs leading down to the coastal road to get to Positano! What a great way to take your time, enjoy the coast and really appreciate a slow introduction to a beautiful village.
Took a fun super-speed ferry back to Sorrento to our 4 course meal awaiting us!
Our next day was very relaxed, kind of our food day where we toured the lemon garden, had a Limoncello and cheese-making demonstration, sampled the cheeses, cured meats and jams made on the farm and following our visit to the city of Sorrento, made our very own pizzas, baked in their wood-burning oven!
Hitting the glowing blue waters, the next day we hopped on our very own private boat 15min across to Capri Island. We casually toured around the island discovering little caves and grottos, arches and famous rock formations, then hopped off to tour the posh but quaint Anacapri and ritzy Capri towns.
Another 4-course meal!
On our ‘free’ day of the tour, luckily dodging a day of rain, I took the public bus across to the Amalfi Coast. Curving and winding around the rocky peninsula, exposing the blue sea and cute little coastal towns guarded by ancient watch towers at every turn, I got the best scenic tour of this famous coastline. I took a quick morning stroll across this cute little stacked European village and then headed to the port for my kayaking tour.
The 4 hour kayak tour took us in tandem kayaks across the coast just past Conca dei Marini Village to Runghetiello Grotto, a little cave just big enough for our kayaks to turn around and head back. We stopped off at a beach near a fake castle built to become a hotel but closed down due to rock erosion. We had a snack and cold swim for those willing, and then headed back. Seeing the blue waters and rocky formations of the Amalfi coast by kayak was such a peaceful and invigorating way to experience the region at a perfect pace.
The coastal bus ride back however took at least 2hrs after waiting in-line for 30min to catch a bus. During a busy time of day in such a large vehicle, the bus ride was a little painful as we waited for cars to pass one by one at every turn. I would otherwise recommend a speed-ferry to get back to your destination during that time of day.
Miraculously made it back for our very last 4-course meal at the Lemon Garden.
And back to Naples where on my very last day I got the full-on Southern Italian traffic experience! Toronto traffic is bad. Southern Italian city traffic is ten times worse!
Having a bit more time to spend in Naples, the remainder of the day I made my way over to the Spanish Quarter which I highly recommend. The narrow roads between tall european buildings outfitted with balconies and clothes-lines above, and markets, everyday shops and restaurants below is the life of Naples. I was lucky to catch a street festival where every corner of the labyrinth was illuminated with music, free pasta and parading! Perfect way to end a wonderful, eventful first trip to Italy!
Last few signature Neapolitan foods with a pair of lovely gentleman I was lucky to meet on my tour!
Notes: If I had an extra day, I would have spent more time on the Amalfi Coast, town-hopping which you can easily do via bus, ferry or car rental. There are also tons of hiking trails I would have liked to explore more of. Hiking maps can be found all over the region.
Local Living Italy: Sorrento Tour
Napoli Sotterranea (underground tour)
Guided tour of Pompeii
Walk of the Gods to Positano
Boat Tour of Capri
Coastal drive of Amalfi Coast (via early morning bus or car rental)
Amalfi Kayak Tour
Tour or cooking class on a farm