Last Updated on June 22, 2020 by Amanda Stancati
I had that feeling early on. I can’t describe it, but it was the sensation I hoped to feel in Italy, the one I expected, anticipated. When I checked into the Ascot Hotel in Sorrento on Day 2 of Contiki Holidays’ Simply Italy tour, I climbed the stairs to my room, dropped my luggage, and ran straight to the balcony. All I could do was smile. Though I was only on the second floor of the 3-star hotel, I could see the mountains with their iconic coloured homes, I could spot modern styles in boutique windows across the street, and I could feel the warm sun shining on me. It was all I needed.
We drove the Amalfi Drive to get to the hotel, the narrow road on the high cliffs connecting Sorrento and Amalfi. Little did I know that the final destination was going to be my favourite spot. We stopped on the side of the road to enjoy a lemon granita and admire the view overlooking the Bay of Naples. It was breathtaking.
This Campania town in southern Italy fulfilled my expectations of what the country was all about. It was simple, welcoming, comfortable. I wasn’t overwhelmed by tourists but instead overwhelmed with its charisma and liveliness, its wandering dogs, its children’s choir singing on the street, its friendly locals, and its youth playing soccer at night.
We found a home at Bar Veneruso, the café down the street. We frequented it for Nutella cappuccinos, gelato, free Wi-Fi, and to practice our Italian with the kind man working at the check-out.
I was introduced to the “Aperitivo,” the pre-dinner drink of Italy, an indulgence later enjoyed in Verona, Venice, and Milan. It is usually supplemented with a snack, sometimes peanuts and potato chips. Bellini was my drink of choice, made with Prosecco and peach juice.
We had a pizza making demonstration and savoured square slices while singing along to Italian classics by a local duo. We tasted prosciutto and melone along the coast with a fashion show in the background. We gaped over an entire fish that was brought to our table, and we conversed with the friendly older couple beside us on another tour.
Twelve days passed and I saw the love locks of Verona, I discovered the history of Rome, and I witnessed the Leaning Tower of Pisa, each special in their own way. But what stuck in my memory was the charm of Sorrento, the constant fear of getting run over by Vespas, the curiosity of wandering through narrow streets and finding local gems, and the tradition of finishing off a meal with a tangy shot of limoncello.
I think I’ll open up my souvenir bottle tonight.