Early on we had decided to rent a villa for two weeks: Sept 23 - Oct 7, 2006, in Praiano ... far from the madding crowd.
We = Heidi, Lori, Jay and myself.
After spending weeks surfing the Net, we decided upon
Villa san Tomasso.
We contacted Giuseppe at italy-rental-villa.net, paid about 40% toward the rental price by credit card, in February, 2006 and the balance in August.
Giuseppe e-mailed several phone numbers for Domenico Taxi (if we wanted it) and Luigi (at hotel Fioriere in Praiano, to get the keys to the villa).
Knowing that our travel time from Toronto to Naples via London would be long (about 17 hours !!) and we'd be exhausted,
we decided to reserve a taxi from the Naples airport to our villa and contacted Domenico by signing up at
http://www.ipipi.com and leaving text messages on his mobile phone.
Domenico met us at Naples airport holding a sign that said: Villa san Tomasso.
Then he drove for two hours along the beautiful Amalfi coast, pointing out places of interest.
He asked: "Speak Italiano?"
'Si," I said, "Pizza, pasta, pepperoni and Gina Lollobrigida".
"And Sophia Loren!" he responded, laughing heartily.
When we arrived at Hotel Fioriere, Domenico searched for Luigi while the four of us sat with a cold birra and watched with amusement as the
tour buses, cars and motor scooters tried to negotiate the much-too-narrow road in front of the hotel.
When Luigi lead us to the villa, I expected to be disappointed.
The pictures on the Internet were beautiful
... but surely it would be run down, appliances wouldn't work, etc. etc.
In fact, as we descended to the bougainvillia-and jasmine-covered patio and walked through the villa, I realized that it was much better than advertised:
A kitchen with all necessary culinary paraphernalia, dining room with a table suitable for six, living room with TV, two bedrooms with windows facing the
sea and two bathroooms each with shower, toilet and sink. The stove was propane (there were spare tanks in a shed, outside) and a washing maching was in a
small shed on the patio.
The two-foot walls kept the inside cool even when the outside temperatues was hot, HOT!
We stocked up on cheeses
(parmegiano reggiano, provolone piccante, peccorino and mozzarella*), salami, bread and buns (baked daily!), lettuce and the wonderful Italian tomatoes and packaged/frozen
seafood (mussels, clams, etc.) and olive oil, garlic, wine, bottled water ... and toilet paper.
There was a grocery store which we could reach after a ten minute walk, up 92 steps then down a narrow road covered in fallen olives and intended only
for pedestrians and motor scooters.
The store, called Il Tutto per Tutti, had everything one would need except fresh meat and fish.
(They were sold separately in meat and fish stores, in central Praiano.)
the Tutti Fruiti store
* The mozzarella balls come fresh, in small, brine-filled bags. It keeps for 12-24 hours only.
Served sliced over tomatoes with basil and a drizzle of olive oil ... fantastico! Don't even think of our local brick mozzarella!
Map of Praiano
Heidi brought my watercolours, so (of course!) I had to paint something
When we got home, Lori asked for a watercolour painting. It's here.
The church in Amalfi
painted from a photo
Each morning we awoke to a sunrise over the coast, South of us.
Each morning we made our (strong!) coffee and enjoyed our breakfast, sometimes in the dining room, sometimes on the patio.
View of Praiano from our Balcony
Each morning several cats came to visit and Lori fed them a saucer of milk.
On days we didn't take a bus to neighbouring towns, we just relaxed in our jasmine-scented patio.
Each evening Heidi would generate a fantastic dinner.
From the Tutti Fruiti store we can catch an orange bus to Positano or to central Praiano or just to the main road, via Roma.
Our daily visitor
Relaxing on the Patio
Heidi adding wine to the mussels
It costs one euro and you pay the driver directly.
When we visited Amalfi or Ravello or Sorrento or Capri, we'd take the large blue/green SITA bus.
It costs 1.8 euros and you need a ticket (available at Tutti Fruiti).
You enter a SITA bus by the front door and get your ticket stamped by a small machine behind the driver.
Our tickets were good for unlimited bus travel ... for 60 minutes.
Because of the problems involved in travelling on a much-too-narrow road with a jillion tour buses, the SITA buses were almost always late.
(They ran every 30 minutes or maybe every 60 minutes or maybe ...)
They are also very crowded, with standing room only. Indeed, people by the side of the road, waving at a more-than-full bus, would see it roar right by.
(The driver would wave, an Italian gesture which probably meant: "Wait for the next bus".)
When the bus was really crowded, people would enter by the back door and not be able to make it to the front to get their ticket stamped.
Then the ticket could be used another day.
However, a British lady told me that she saw an inspector enter a bus and fine a passenger without a valid ticket ... 30 pounds! (she said)
We climbed our 92 steps and took the SITA bus on a harrowing/exciting ride along the side of a mountain
... to Amalfi, Ravello, Positano, Sorrento, Pompei and a ferry to Capri (from Positano).
On most of these day trips, Heidi would make sandwiches of mayo and mortadella, provolone and lettuce within a freshly-baked bun.
Although these neighbouring towns were exciting to visit, they held a jillion shoulder-to-shoulder tourists and it was a treat to return in the evening to our quiet villa.
Steps to the Road
Lunch in Capri
Dinner on the Patio
Being physiologically more capable, Lori & Jay walked the 300+ steps down to the beaches in Praiano (and took the bus to beaches in Positano and Amalfi).
In Positano, Lori was delighted that she could float, motionless, in the salt water. Jay was perhaps more interested in the fact that the beach was topless.
Our villa was surrounded by trees: lemon, orange, pomegranate, fig, olive and walnut.
There seemed to be no one attending the trees so we picked fruit (the Amalfi lemons are fantastico and we often made lemonade).
In an unattended garden, there were those
delicious tomatoes (Heidi made pasta al pomodoro) and spinach (Heidi made pasta with a creamed spinach sauce)
and eggplant (which Heidi sliced and batter-fried).
On day three we bought the much-vaunted Amalfi limoncello, a lemonized liqueur.
We didn't like it!
Later we visited the little town of Ravello and found a shop that specialized in limoncello, offering free samples.
Our samples were ice cold ... and quite nice at that temperature!
Thereafter, we kept our limoncello in the freezer and Heidi, Jay and I would have a shot each night while playing cards.
(Lori never liked the stuff!!)
View from our bus.
Is there enough room to pass?
Just a little help from a pedestrian.
Dinner in Praiano
at Ristorante Gennaro
Beer and pizza in the piazza, Amalfi
A local viagra (?)
Sunset over Praiano, from our villa
The Last Supper
- The Tutti Fruiti store (like many others) was closed during siesta time: 1:30 pm to 4:30 pm. (It was then open until late in the evening.)
- Italians are fit, unlike their obese North Americans cousins.
- We met our neighbour. He spoke English and wore red pants, white shirt and green jacket - the colours of Italy!
He said the water from our tap came from springs higher up the mountain and was good to drink.
We tasted it, tentatively, and it was delicious - so we drank it, chilled in the fridge.
- The most common tourists that we met were British, American and German.
- There are ATM machines everywhere. With a credit or debit card, you can withdraw euros (pronounced ay-oo-rows by Italians).
- Groceries are expensive ... except for wine! Heidi said she could buy stuff, imported from Italy, cheaper in Canada.
- Italians seem to buy fresh daily - so we did, too.
While Heidi, Lori & Jay walked to the Tutti Fruiti store, I was given the important task of sitting on the patio, puffing my pipe and gazing at the sea.
- Italy is big on ceramica. Everything in our villa was tiled: floors, showers, patio, balcony ...
- The Italians we met were very friendly and most understood some English. (The Tutti Fruiti people seemed almost sad when we left.)
- We let Heidi do most of the talking. With a half dozen words and a flourish of hands everyone seemed to understand her.
- In time you get to accept the fact that everywhere there are steps.
When we met other tourists, we'd exchange information on the number of steps to the villas. I was always proud to note that ours was a 92-stepper.
- Although we had some very hot days (and oh-so-cool-and-delightful nights), there was usually a breeze from the sea.
- The Gelati is awesome. Most gellaterias had a dozen or more flavours.
- Athough Italians aren't big on desserts, my favourite was connoli, filled with ricotta cheese.
See also Pictures from Praiano.