Meet me in Amalfi and we make a party!

Lunch at Marina Grande, Amalfi

Linguine alla scolglio at Marina Grande, Amalfi

Marina Grande, from the sun bed!



Of course, at the first opportunity, I jumped on the crowded local bus to the Amalfi Coast to visit my favourite town – Amalfi. The trip from Sorrento on a Saturday morning took 1hr 40mins but the time passes so quickly as the views are breathtaking – literally. When the bus rounds a corner on that narrow road built into the cliff sometimes you have to remind yourself to breathe as you stare down at the 200m drop below.

I arrived mid-morning and headed straight to La Dolceria dell Antico Portico to visit some our italian friends whom we’ve (mum, dad and I) come to know over our many visits in the past. La Dolceria is a hole in the wall ‘dessert house’ and in my opinion it leaves any French patisserie for dead (I know, big call!). After a quick catch up in my broken Italian, I did a lap of the town (there is really only one main street), poked my head inside the Duomo (huge church) in the centre, bought a hat, then headed down to my favourite beach club, Marina Grande, to hire a sun bed, umbrella and towel and jump in the crystal clear water. It was another hot day and the water temperature was perfect.

After a hectic morning (yeah right!) I was ready for lunch upstairs at the restaurant at the beach club, and I was quickly recognised by the owner, Gianpaolo who proceeded to serve me and give me drinks on the house. After two glasses of white wine and the best Linguine alla Scolglio (pasta with clams, prawns, scampi and muscles) on the coast, I headed back down to the beach for an afternoon of italian study, swimming and relaxation.

Of course Gianpaolo was never too far away and brought some friends over to introduce to me. They “have a boat and like to make a party”… im sure they would. As it turns out, every second guy seems to have a boat and like to make a party over here. “Thanks but no thanks, i’m returning to Sorrento this afternoon” I say in Italian.

I arrived back in Sorrento at around 7pm Saturday night, had a quick shower then headed out to a wine and tapas bar id heard about in a small narrow street in the centre of town. Here I worked my way through 4 different wines of the region, each coupled with a plate of Italian tapas. Luigi, the owner is great and only speaks italian with me so I can practise. 

On my way home, I grabbed a gelato and wandered back down Corso Italia to my home, weaving my way through the hundreds of people – tourists and locals, strolling through the streets. Daniele, the local night club owner whom I’d met the day before in a cafe, spotted me and dragged me down to his nightclub in the square so I could meet his girlfriend Melania, have a quick drink then go home, which I did. While I was there the local police came in to see Daniele, just to say hello (he says), and they said they recognised me. When I asked why, Daniele said that they see me in the morning going running. Two observations – 1) as mentioned before: you exercise, you’re an alien and easy to spot. And 2) I feel this town is deceptively small, Italians certainly like to gossip!!! 

Ciao for now. The day has fined up after an early morning storm so im off for a long walk to Sant’ Agnello, the next along from Sorrento where I hear there is an amazingputeca,like a salumeria, but with more variety… again my afternoon revolves around food!

The most important words to learn

It’s been a huge three days, and I know most of you have an inbox on Monday morning jammed with emails, let me just tell you about my Friday. I’ll save Saturday and Sunday’s adventures for my next post.

I fear this is becoming a food blog… but then my Italian teachers assure me that the most important words to learn in Italian are how to say ‘lunch, dinner, food, pizza, pasta…’ you get the idea!

I did the most fabulous cooking course after my morning at school. Picture this: a small, modern, Italian restaurant in Piano di Sorrento (the much quieter town just next to Sorrento), 5 people sitting around a large square Carrara marble table at 3pm preparing a four course degustation set menu for the restaurant patrons who will arrive at 8pm and pay 18 euros to eat the dinner the cooking school prepares.

And so, we began by making the pasta. All hands on! Tortelloni (slightly bigger than tortellini) with spinach, smoked cheese, ricotta, parmesan and pecorino… we then peel the prawns (“di dove sono?” I ask… where are they from?, the chef replies “Argentina!”… ok…), we then flour, egg and bread crumb them, then we make the porcini mushroom sauce for the pork fillet, and then move on to the dessert – cannelloni, filled with ricotta, cream and sugar and passed through a sieve. It may seem like a relatively simple menu but this took us 5 hours to prepare before we were then seated at the table, along with the restaurant guests who had arrived by this time, and began eating the four courses. My favourite was the tortelloni. I’m not usually a big fan of this type of pasta, but having been made fresh, it was light even despite the butter sage sauce that was drizzled over it.

At 10pm, seven hours, four courses and three jugs of vino rosso della casa later, it was time to leave Mammi Camilla’s (the name of the restaurant). Before leaving, Erika and I probed the American sous-chef for a fun local wine bar where we could avoid the tourists (it’s true, I no longer consider myself to be one!), then headed out to the bar that spills out onto the steps of the church next door, and watched the Italian girls arrive in their sky high heels, tight jeans and leather jackets (sooo trendy!) and the guys in their jeans, fitted collared shirts and Ralph Lauren blazers. Two things I know for sure: I will never tire of ‘people watching’ the Italians or eating their food!

Paninis & Bikinis

Buying our Paninis

Leonelli’s Beach Club

So I did get up this morning and ran down the 300 and something stairs to the port, then back up again and out to the cap where you can look back at the town of Sorrento perched along the clifftops. Vesuvius was almost completely covered in mist this morning with just the top poking out. You couldnt see Napoli at all. It was about 6.30am when I left nonna’s house and there arent too many locals around at that time. Those that are stare at you as though you are an alien. Every night nonna asks me “tu corri domani matina?” (are you running tomorrow morning?”) and when I respond “si” she bursts into fits of laughter. It remains a mystery how the Italian women are so thin and beautiful given they apparently dont exercise!

After class this morning, Erika and I headed to our favourite deli where they offer students of Sorrento Lingue a panini and water for 3.50 euro. Our paninis are filled with the freshest prosciutto crudo, sweetest tomatoes and creamiest mozzarella ive ever tasted. There is also some sort of olive oil and basil mix that is drizzled over the tomatoes to give it extra flavour. As it is about 29 degrees today, we wandered down to the beach, paid our 3 euros to enter Leonelli’s Beach Club and sat on the black sand in our bikinis and ate our paninis. After, we jumped into the crystal clear water which was cool but refreshing. There arent many in the water at this time of the year. One local told me the Sorrentine’s wont get in the water until the end of May. And so, one Aussie keen to extend her summer and one Puerto Rican from New York who hasnt seen the beach in 6 months enjoyed having the beach to themselves for the afternoon!


Meet me in Pompeii, and watch your step

Following Day 2 of school there was an excursion to the ruins of Pompeii, a city that was covered in pumice and ash in 79 AD when Vesuvius errupted. At that time, the population of Pompeii was 10,000 however the bodies of only 2,000 were discovered, indicating that there were warning signs for days before that she was going to blow. And blow she did. Excavation began in the late 1700s and at this point two-thirds of the city has been discovered. As for the remaining third, it rests covered in grass and trees. Why? Well, our trusty guide Stefano gave us two reasons: firstly, because they want to leave ‘a little something for the future generations to discover’; and secondly (and more truthfully by Stefano’s own admission), they have run out of money.

Walking around Pompeii is an experience like no other. Possibly because the Italians allow you to literally walk all over the city, with very few areas classified as off limits. I figure public liability also doesn’t exist as of the 3 million tourists who visited the site last summer, surely 1000’s must’ve broken their ankles trying to negotiate the streets made of huge volcanic rocks!

After almost 3 hours of discovering the main shopping areas, residential streets and the red light district of Pompeii, the tour was over, but Erika (my new friend and fellow student from New York) and I decided to check out the Ampiteatro or main sporting arena before we left. It was a bit of a walk, being away from il centro Pompeii but it was certainly worth it. We were able to walk right on in to the centre of the arena and spent five minutes calling and whistling to hear the beautiful acoustics. Apparently Pink Floyd did a concert there some years ago. One can only imagine what they paid for the priviledge!

After a long day I returned home to my nonna Annamaria’s place and was presented with another three course dinner… mamma mia… pesto pasta, followed by pork sausage, grilled zucchini and cherry tomatoes tossed in olive oil with salt and pepper, then finally an orange for dessert. Molto buono. I didn’t get up this morning and run down the several hundred steps to the port and back to get some exercise, instead I ducked into a bar and had acaffe macchiato e marmelata (warm, fresh croissant with hot marmellade jam inside). I fear I may be unrecognisable when I return home after a month!

Vesuvius from Pompeii

Downtown Pompeii 

Ampiteatro Pompeii

Arrivo… finally (here’s the text)

You have to excuse my IT issues… I won’t bore you with them but here is the text to accompany the images. I’m racing to get a train to Pompei so will write more later!

Not even 35 (yes, 35) hours of travelling could diminish my excitement as I stepped off the Circumvesuviana  (local train from Napoli to Sorrento), and took in my surroundings. It’s spring and the streets of Sorrento are lined with citrus trees all bearing so much fruit that it’s surprising the branches don’t break under the weight. Despite the drizzle in Roma and Napoli, it was warm and sunny in Sorrento. And so, with my suitcase dragging down the cobbled stoned street behind me, I began the search for my host family’s apartment. This took a little longer than expected! In true Italian style, nothing apart from a menu is as simple as it appears. My destination, number 226, was in fact a block of land with 8 apartment blocks built on it, each containing approximately 30 apartments. 45 minutes later I found my host’s surname on the front of one of the apartment blocks with an intercom bell and moments later I was being welcomed into my new home by the lovely nonna Annamaria whom neither speaks nor understands one single word of English. I’ll write more about my nonna at 226 (no unit number) later.


Day 1 at school has been … big! The school is perched on a cliff overlooking theBayofNaplesand Vesuvius on one side, and acres of rose gardens, olive trees and orchards on the other. It is truly spectacular.


After a morning of class, a couple of new friends and I went for a leisurely lunch then headed back to school to meet for an arranged tour of Sorrento and a visit to a Lemoncello shop for a demonstration on how to make it. I’m now back at mia casa and the aroma of dinner is wafting into my bedroom, so it’s time for me to sign off and go and practise my Italian over a three course meal (Annamaria served me a big bowl of pasta – delicious, last night and as I was about to get up from the table and excuse myself, the second course arrived… lucky there is no shortage of hills to run up and down in this part of the world, now I just need the motivation to do it!).