Tag Archives: italia

Life is a Banquet~Sorrento

Sorrento, the land of Limoncello

From Naples, we took the Circumvesuviana to Sorrento, squeezing onto the standing-room-only train, suitcases at our feet.  The ride from Naples to Sorrento took an hour. I was glad we were there before the hot summer season approached!

 

The Circumvesuviana, Naples.

When my friend and I were planning this trip, we reserved four days in Sorrento. Both of us had been to Italy before, but never in the South. There is so much to see and do in this area! Of course, four days is not nearly enough. Our wishlists included: hiring a cute driver to take us sightseeing along the Amalfi coast, taking a boat to Capri, going to  Pompeii and Herculaneum, perhaps hiking Mt Vesuvius, seeing the ruins at Paestum, and, oh yes, I hoped to meet in person an online friend and sea glass collector, Rebecca Di Donna, who lives in Torre Del Greco.

When I was a kid, my grandmother often used the cautionary expression  “your eyes are bigger than your stomach.”  This adage relates not only to food but to everything, really-especially time.  While I have always slanted toward  Auntie’s Mame’s “Life is a banquet” outlook, sometimes less really is more. My advice to those planning a trip; don’t overfill your dance card. Slow down and savor the details, leave room for the unexpected.

Sorrento

 

Torna a Surriento

When the train reached Sorrento, a young boy with an accordion came aboard and started playing Italian folk songs. There was a plastic cup for tips attached to his battered accordion. I made sure to leave some euros in it as we departed. I would discover on subsequent train rides that Sorrento was a regular haunt of accordion playing buskers, (but more on that later.)

Home Sweet Home

As arranged, In the town square we met Max, who was sent by our air b&b host to guide us through the maze of streets to our destination. After Naples, this resort town felt a bit like Disneyland, filled with tourist shops and higher priced restaurants.  As we followed Max, I eyed the goods displayed in front of stores-leather purses, ceramics, lemon-based gifts, resort fashions, jewelry and more. We turned at a gelato stand and went back from the street to our air B&B. Casa Torino was located above a florist shop in the heart of old Sorrento. It was airy and comfortably equipped, with a full-size kitchen, fold out couch on the lower level and an upper sleeping loft. We had a view down to the street below and could watch the interplay of tourists until a heavy rain started to pour, bringing an abrupt end to the activity below us.

The view from our apartment, rain emptied streets.

Max offered the services of a private driver for an Amalfi coast tour, and to put us on the passenger list for a small boat to Capri if we were interested. We decided to make reservations for both at the end of the week when hopefully the weather would be better. We settled into our new place and then decided to go out and explore in the rain.

We ventured out with those umbrellas bought in Vasto. The late afternoon streets were empty,  many outside displays were covered with tarps. Hungry, we shopped for cibo e vino at the local deli and fruit stands, and yes, my eyes were bigger than my stomach!

Life really is a banquet!

 

We returned to our cozy apartment with wine, fresh baked pane, salami and cheese. Tomorrow we would spend the day exploring the ancient ruins of Pompeii-rain or shine.

Next Post: Pompeii

 

A Traveler in Italy: Vasto

The dictionary (vocabulary.com) says “when you savor something, you enjoy it to the fullest.”  More than any other single word I can think of, Savor describes the way I feel about my recent trip to Italy. I’m savoring the memories, the sights, the food, the great people, and already thinking about my return. Until then, I will share some of the highlights in a series of posts, beginning with this one, about Vasto, the town of my paternal grandfather’s family. Even if I had no ancestral connection to this place, I would have fallen in love with this “ancient Roman  town in the heart of Italy” and perhaps you will too!

Fishing trabucco, Vasto

As I shared in my previous post, it was through the sea glass world that I met Ornella Di Filippo, who lives in Vasto and operates a very comfortable Air B&B, where we stayed. She and her husband, Marco, were wonderful hosts-even loaning my friend Dennis and me clothing to wear (did I mention our luggage was lost in Rome?) until our bags were sent to us by the airline a few days later. I had packed for the sunny warm days that were predicted, but found myself buying an umbrella and rain slicker, because of the heavy rain the greeted us! That, of course, did not keep us from hitting the beach in search of sea glass on our first morning there.

Thunder, lightning, rain and wind-note the inside-out umbrella of Dennis!

When you live in Washington State, it takes more than a little rain to keep you off the beach!

Salsedine

We walked down a path to the beach, serenaded by birds, passing giant fig trees and eucalyptus, which made me feel like I was back in Southern California. The air was perfumed by the sweet blooms of flowering acacia trees mixed with the smell of the sea, which Italians call Salsedine.  We were the only people on the beach that morning, save for a couple of fishermen who brought their skiff in later. There were many shells scattered amongst the rocks and lots of sea glass too!

I found a beautiful marble in the shingle!

Even with all the rain, the air temperature was warm, (at least to me) and we spent the entire morning going to a few individual beaches, known to Ornella and Marco for their sea glass.

Ornella Di Filippo, now flying the flag of Tokeland in Italy!

Catch of the Day

Before our three days in Vasto were up, the sun did come out, and Ornella and Marco made sure we went back to the beach to see it’s “true colors” of vivid green and blue water. Again, we were the only people out there, except for the two fishermen.

This fisherman showed me a live seahorse that was part of the catch. After I took this photo, he returned it to the sea.

Vasto is known for its fresh seafood, and we enjoyed clams, mussels, prawns, octopus, scallops in one form or another, every day. Served with local wine, Montepulciano DÁbruzzo, these were meals to savor.

La Bagnante

Vasto is in the Abruzzo region of Italy, located in the south, with beautiful views of the Adriatic. It has recieved the Blue Banner mark for its clean water and eco friendly practices. Overlooking  a long sandy beach,  La Bagnante, a modernistic sculpture perched on a rock, beckons all visitors. Her name translates to “the bathing beauty.”

Ancient Roman Roots

I was surprised to learn that Vasto has a population of about 40,000. It really didn’t seem that large to me. There was none of the heavy traffic or crowds, but plenty of shops, restaurants and other businesses. We could walk into the heart of town from Ornella’s place, following the road that paralleled the sea.

Using the photos in my grandad’s old album as a guide, Ornella and Marco took me to the places in Vasto where my family had lived, and where they are buried.

My grandfather’s handwritten caption says “The place where I was born.”

The Palazzo Palmieri-what a thrill it was for me to see the place of my grandfather’s birth!

There are some lovely churches and the relics of ancient Roman baths, so many charming sights that I feel they deserve a seperate blog post of their own. So I will stick here to my personal sightseeing, and hope to revisit this topic in a future post.

 

Famiglia Mia

Ornella arranged for me to see the inside of the house where my family lived until the 1980’s. It is now used as a kindergarten, which seems appropriate to me as my grandfather loved children.

Villa Altruda

My grandfather with his siblings, circa 1905, Vasto. What a lovely place to grow up!

 

Me and Melania, who operates the Mary Poppins childcare center. at the front door of our former family home.

Full Circle

On my last day, we visited the cemetary. This too, deserves a post of its, own, but I will say briefly, that the cimetario is it’s own little villiage, filled with family mausoleums and graves, well tended and at the same time, overgrown in places. Individualistic touches and personal remembrances are everywhere.

 

Remembering my grandfather with fresh flowers.

Salute!

I’m going to end this post here, as I savor the connection to family. It was a great privilege to recognize and honor my grandfather, Giuseppe Altruda in the town of his birth. I must say a thousand thanks, Grazie Mille, to Ornella and Marco, and family, for their kindness in helping me to locate these special places, for the wonderful meals and the sea glassing.  Ci vediamo lánno prossimo-see you next year!

 

My grandfather and me in 1981, when I visited him in Bologna.

Dottore Giuseppe Altruda, 1980, Bologna