Italy, a country you could go back to a thousand times and still find yourself lost in a dreamy daze of beautiful landscapes, cultural towns, ancient architecture and homemade pasta. Then add a little espresso, red wine and Tiramisu to the mix and call it heaven.
Over the past 4 years, I’ve had the privileged of exploring various parts of Italy including Rome, Florence, Siena, Milan, Cinque Terre, Sicily and Puglia.
Each place was magical for different reasons. However, the golden apple of Italy and seemingly the most popular tourist destination in the country, sits on the southern edge of Sorrento Peninsula – Amalfi Coast.
In August, there was a window of time where travel restrictions lifted in UK/Europe. Therefore, Jack and I used this opportunity to get away for a 6-day holiday.
We flew into Naples first to explore the city for a day or two, before making our way to the coast. Naples is a city that is worth checking out, but only for a short time. If nothing else, just go for a margarita pizza – you will not regret it.
We stayed in Old Town in a clean and convenient hotel called Megaride House, which was on a quiet cobblestone laneway, walking distance from a popular strip of bars, restaurants and graffiti covered streets. The owner was very helpful and arranged an Airport taxi transfer for us.
Admittedly, Naples isn’t nearly as enchanting as the other cities I’ve been to in Italy. It’s definitely more run down and grungier than most. Yet, it is still rich in culture and good for those who want a taste of local life instead of the typical tourist experience. I can highly recommend visiting Castel Sant’Elmo – which is a medieval fortress from the 10th century with gorgeous 360 views of the city. It’s only 2.50 euros to get in too – steal of a deal. We used the metro to get there.
After the fortress, you can make your way by foot to the Spanish Quarter for lunch. This is a lively part of the city with an abundance of shops and restaurants to peruse. We had a beer and perhaps the best margarita pizza of our lives at a place called Pizza & Baba – nothing fancy, but perfectly authentic.
After 2 nights in Naples, we got on the train to Pompeii – a preserved ancient roman city from 79 AD. This world heritage site is truly extraordinary and is absolutely necessary if you’re in the area. Don’t be intimidated by the entry lines either, they move quite quickly and it is well worth the wait. I would also recommend getting a guide. The history is incredibly fascinating.
After a bit of culture and grit, Jack and I were ready for some coastal R&R and boy did we get it! Next stop after Pompeii was Hotel Mediterraneo – a Seafront, cliff top hotel with balcony views looking over Sorrento Bay. This Hotel was very chic, with beautiful rooms and amazing breakfast. Seafront (in my opinion) is a non-negotiable in a spot like this. Additionally, there was a massive pool and hot tub available and a jaw dropping cocktail lounge bar at the top (be sure to make a reservation when you arrive). The only downfall is that most restaurants are a bit of a walk on a busy road (20 mins) and there is no access to the Sea unless you can book a couple loungers from the neighbouring hotel. Otherwise, we felt well taken care of and absolutely spoiled during our stay.
Back in 2017, Jack and I had a chance encounter with a Welshmen in Greece, who invited us on his Yacht to teach us how to sail. Since doing this, our standards for travelling around the Mediterranean became quite high and slightly unattainable. As it turns out, getting around this way on the Amalfi Coast is more or less reserved for the rich and famous. So instead, Jack and I took the more budget approach and joined some local Italians on an organised boat trip from Sorrento to the famous island of Capri. While I have never been a huge fan of touristy things such as this, Capri sits as one the most beautiful islands I have ever seen. I recommend doing the cable car to the top of the island. If you can handle heights, it’s fun and has a gorgeous view at the end. Admittedly, the crowds were a turn off. If you can, go outside of peak season. Next time I go, I’ll be on a Yacht!
After Capri, we took a taxi from Sorrento to Praiano, which is where the romance began. Praiano is a small village bordering Positano and is a bit more affordable to stay. It’s small but charming, with a couple cute restaurants and access to ‘The Path of the Gods’ – a famous cliff top trail that’s 6.5km long.
Jack had organised this part of the trip and there was a reason for that, as it was his intention to propose at the end of our holiday. For the most part, he nailed it with the accommodation and romantic setting. We stayed in a gorgeous boutique hotel called Hotel Villa Gianlica that looked out onto the Sea with a beautiful garden, terrace and pool. Bliss! However, the actual proposal part didn’t go the way Jack imagined, but it makes for a good story…
On day 2 in Praiano, Jack was planning to propose shortly after Sunrise at a look out on the 6.5km walk along ‘The Path of the Gods’, but God had other plans for us. Firstly, to actually get to the start of the walk, we had to climb nearly 2 km of stairs, followed by a steep incline. Being that we woke up early to beat the crowds and the heat, also meant we missed our all-inclusive breakfast at the hotel. About 100 stairs in, we were both hot, tired and hungry, but we kept going. After all, we climbed Annapurna Base Camp in Nepal together. Surely, we could handle a little ‘coastal walk’.
For those wondering if I knew about the proposal, well let’s just say I had an inkling. Jack and I designed my ring together at the beginning of the year. Given that all of our other holidays were cancelled from COVID19 and Jack’s seemingly flustered state, I was quite sure the question was coming shortly. But this day, was not the day.
In addition to feeling winded before even reaching the start of the official walk, Jack and I started smelling smoke. As we approached the look out of Positano, all we could see was a cloud of grey smog covering the entire bay. Off in the distance, were several bushfires creating the haze. It was no longer safe to continue. We ran into a couple other travellers who had turned back and advised us to do the same. Jack’s well-intentioned plan was botched. For obvious reasons, he chose not to do it then. Instead, we made our way back down to the coast and went for a much-needed swim at Fiordo di Furore followed by a hearty lunch.
Given it was our second last day of the holiday, Jack had to think fast and that he did. He went the best and most beautiful restaurant in the village called La Moressa and asked for a private table on the terrace for our last night. Well, the Manager quickly turned him down for that considering it was peak season, but alternatively offered a 30-min window before opening, where we would have the place to ourselves for short time.
Well, as it turns out, Italian promises aren’t that reliable. We showed up and there were several tables of people already seated. Jack, knowing that I wouldn’t want something public like that, once again, chose not to pop the question in that moment. Instead, we ate a delicious dinner, had amazing wine and went back to the hotel where a bottle of champagne, flowers and desert awaited us (which was arranged by reception while we were out). As we came into the room, Jack held onto my hands, expressed some of the main reasons why he wanted to marry me, got down on one knee and opened the box holding my stunning engagement ring. I cried at both the heartfelt words and the shiny combo of sapphires and diamonds staring up at me. I said YES!
Jack and I were an unlikely duo from two different sides of the world. We met when we were 24, both young, wild and free – neither of us were looking for our soul mate at the time. We tried to keep it casual in the beginning, but that didn’t last long. Somehow, together, we made sense. Even with the geographic complication, our love and respect for each other always trumped that card, and still does. We fit into each other’s life like a puzzle piece, which makes life together fun and for the most part, conflict free. Hence why saying ‘Yes!’ was the obvious choice.
While the proposal didn’t end up being this elaborate, over the top, rainbows and butterflies thing, it was sincere, deeply touching and from the heart. From my perspective, the three things that really matter for such an occasion – certainly more than the fluff and fuss.
Ultimately, Italy’s Amalfi Coast is a sensational travel destination. While my preference for experiencing the food and culture still lies in the Northern part of the country, this coastal holiday will leave you feeling rejuvenated, well fed and classy. For some grit and local experiences, Naples is a good option and for a history lesson, Pompeii should not be missed. In my view, everything would be better outside of peak season if that’s an option for you. Lastly, what can I say? It’s a pretty good spot for a proposal too ;).
Thanks for reading! Ciao