I’m writing this relatively long review to give something back to the travel and trip report community because they greatly helped with my trip. This was our honeymoon and we spent 3 days in Rome, 3 days on the Amalfi coast (in Priano) and 3 days on Anacapri Island. I will include travel tips, our sightseeing itinerary as well as restaurant recommendations.
We tried to take the Leonardo Express in from Rome airport but got off at one stop too early. There is no signage and of course the announcements are in Italian and everyone else seemed to be getting off. In any event this stop was a bit closer to our hotel. Don’t change money at the Travelex locations – they rip you off mercilessly. The best way to get money abroad is through an ATM machine.
I walked outside to find a cab after schlepping our luggage down the multilevel staircase. There was an elevator but it looked to have been out of order since the time of Mussolini. I had been cautioned only to use official Roman taxis, denoted by the white car, meter, Taxi sign on top and SPQR printed somewhere (this stands for the Senate and People of Rome). Anyway the first cabbie I saw said it would be 25-30 Euros to take us to our hotel. I’m not going to go into the long story but suffice it to say he tried to rip us off by claiming (despite the meter which he reset) the fare was “29 Euros” then 25 after I asked for his ID number and name, then when I said I only had 18 in cash on me he took it. Be careful. All the cabs have GPS and when you’re going somewhere I found it best to type the street name into your phone so they can read it when you get in.
A word on languages – a couple phrases I found useful:
* When you get in a cab say “Andiamos a [insert hotel name with name of street]” Translation: “we’re going to”
* In a restaurant “verrei” means “I’d like”
* “Dove” means “where” so you can say “dove e el bagno” for “where is the bathroom?”
We stayed at Hotel 47. Very nice hotel with a boutique feel and good location. Clean room, quiet, very nice fixtures in the bathroom. Free wifi – when you check in make sure to ask for a UN and PW. Also, many rooms have weird light switches and also you need to leave your key in the slot inside the room or else the AC and lights don’t work – this is an energy efficiency measure. Ask a porter or someone to show you how to use them. Also we tried to lift the shutter on the patio by hand and almost broke it – there is a button to lift them automatically.
Internet access was great to have from our Ipad in the room. They also sell bus tickets at most hotels but we couldn’t figure it out and took cabs instead. I was not able to find a reliable bus map and the cabs weren’t overly expensive.
We also stayed one night at Hotel dei Mellini. While the staff was nice and the room was clean enough I would not recommend this hotel unless you get a good price. The reasons are as follows: its in a relatively out of the way location in a business district, the TV sucks with only a couple English channels, the fixtures in the bathroom are very budget (one of those fake marble sinks with the pre-formed depression for the soap – the airport bathroom quality faucet – one measly bar of soap – you get the idea), our view was a brick wall, the continental breakfast (included) was shoddy and the breakfast room is like a prison cafeteria with no windows. Don’t let anyone try to convince you it’s a 5 star hotel.
Rome Things to Do
We signed up for a semi-private tour with Roman Odyssey (2-6 people). They did a very nice job and Rahul the owner will email back and forth with you (firstname.lastname@example.org) which is so much easier than calling and all that BS. They offer a Forum/Coliseum/Pantheon tour (about 3-4 hours) as well as a Vatican Tour/Sistine Chapel/St. Peters (about 3-4 hours). Wear sunblock, sunglasses, water and I would recommend one of the cheap umbrellas they sell outside, you will learn pretty quickly that there isn’t much shade in Rome.
We did both tours and I’d highly recommend them. Probably one of the best sights in Rome is the San Clemente church near the Coliseum. It wasn’t in any of the guidebooks I read, is only 5 euro and there is no line. Its not part of the tour but maybe they can arrange it. It is a multilevel city under the church.
One thing that isn’t in the guidebooks either is that as a pedestrian in Rome you basically have to throw yourself into traffic at the crosswalks – they will stop begrudgingly but you need to be assertive.
While we didn’t have many things to write home about regarding Rome restaurants, one leaps out. It is "Grotte Teatro di Pompeo" (tel. 06-68803686) at #73 Via dei Biscione, which is a side street off the Camp dei Fiori. When you sit down they ask “red or white wine” and just kind of go from there. The food is excellent as is the outdoor location. We had the oxtail and seafood risotto with panna cotta dessert – all flawless. Mama is the head server and she adds up the bill from memory at the end of the meal.
Take a walk to the Camp dei Fiori afterwards – it is a cool place to hang out if you’re younger – it is very similar to Union Square in NYC.
We took the EuroStar train from Rome to Salerno to get to our hotel in Priano on Amalfi coast. If you buy your ticket online you can sometimes get a “mini” fare – you’ll see it if available – usually you can save 10%. You don’t need to validate any tickets with seat assignments and most don’t sell out so you shouldn’t have trouble buying from a machine at the station.
The Salerno station was a pain to drag bags through as there are no working elevators. Luckily we had called ahead for car service to our hotel on the coast (cost about 70 euro) because there was a SITA bus strike. We could have taken a ferry from Salerno to Amalfi and a cab from there but I didn’t have all those details. Anyhow, Claudio Lucibello was our driver from Amalfi Coast Car Service (email@example.com) and he was very reasonable and reliable. Everything you hear about the drive is true – it the roads are windy and dangerous – I would not want to drive it myself. Besides, there is no parking so driving was not an option for us.
I always thought Amalfi was a city on the coast but its not. It is a region and there are 3 or 4 main cities in that region, each one about 15-20 min apart by car (Amalfi, Priano, Positano and Ravello which is in the mountains). It is not very easy to get between these towns. Amalfi and Positano have a port so you can take a ferry between them. However, if you need to go by taxi it will cost 25 euro each way. Amalfi is the most touristy and low budget, Positano is also touristy but higher-brow, Priano has almost no tourists because there is no port. You need to get there by car. There is a bus service between cities (which we took up to Ravello from Amalfi) and it is very cheap (1.6 Euro) but also very crowded and infrequent and you may have to stand.
Amalfi (Priano) Hotel
We stayed at Casa Angelina and it was exceptional. The entire facility looks like it was just opened. It is extremely serene and peaceful. The staff is amazing. The room had excellent furniture and high quality fixtures. It is true that the hotel restaurants are expensive but you don’t need to eat there as there are some good options walking distance away. It is mostly couples and a couple families but generally very quiet – it is not a “hopping scene”. Also, its in Priano so if you want to go anywhere you can either take their free shuttle to Positano (9-5 on the hour more or less), bus or a cab. To point out the importance of learning how everthing in the room works, I had to call maintenance because our SKY TV remote wasn’t working (you had to be 2’ from the TV for it to function). Anyhow, if you hit the “I” button then “up” you can switch the language to English for certain stations. The remote never worked from more than 2’ away though even after we changed the batteries – please fix this Casa A.
A word on restaurant reservations – they take them seriously in Italy and they help. We always just called the hotel front desk to make a reservation (usually we had the restaurant picked out already). We didn’t have any trouble getting same day reservations and each time it made a difference. They know who you are when you show up and they tend to give you a good table.
La Strada is up the stairs from the hotel. It is a neighborhood place but also very classy and the upstairs patio is awesome. Highly recommended.
While in Ravello we at Villa Maria restaurant. It is all an outdoor patio and it was very good and reasonable. It is very upscale but the prices weren’t ridiculous – about 100 Euro for 2 with wine and dessert.
We had lunch at Capricci near the port in Positano and it was quite good and reasonable. Also if you are in Amalfi there is an excellent lemon ice vendor on the left on a side street past the church as you walk up through the town – they have yellow benches outside. They do a lemon ice with strawberries on top and it may have been one of the best single simple things I ate all trip.
Amalfi Things to Do
We did a day trip to Pompeii which was excellent. Claudio drove us for 175 Euro total (5 hours back and forth). He also helped us arrange a private tour for 110 Euro. On site its 105 Euro and the group tours are much cheaper (maybe 10 Euro/pp and get going as they have enough people signed up) but the guides are very weary and don’t look like they do a good job. This is another hot sunny tour so bring an umbrella, water bottles etc. They do have plenty of fountains where you can fill up bottles. Pompeii is huge (60 acres) and you cannot see it all in a day.
Also, walking around Positano was a fun day as it has lots of shops and good views of the ocean.
We had the hotel shuttle take us to Positano where we could catch the fast ferry to Capri. This is critical: have the hotel arrange for a porter to bring your luggage down to the boat. They charge 8 Euro/piece but it is worth every penny. In fact, I don’t know how you could do it yourself.
I don’t have a whole section on Anacapri things to do but the highlight was the chairlift up to Mount Solano. Unbelievable views after a 13 minute ride on a single seat up the mountain. We only needed about 30 minutes up there and went at the end of the day. The Gelato place at the base of the chairlift was one of the best we went to. A couple things we did not do but you might want to consider: group boat trip around the island, Villa San Michele. Also, try to go to the Blue Grotto each day you are there because it might be closed. We were not able to see it because we saved it for the last day when the sea was too rough. You can also walk to it or take the Capri Palace shuttle to their beach club and get a gondola to take you in from there.
Capri Palace Hotel
We arrived in Capri and just jumped in a cab. Our hotel was in Anacapri which is a 15 minute car ride from Capri town where the port is. This makes it less touristy. The tourists mostly come in by bus in the morning to Anacapri and leave in the afternoon. When we got to the hotel we had to lug our bags up a huge flight of stairs. No porter in sight. Unfortunately what we were supposed to have done was inform the hotel what ferry we were on so they could have a porter meet us. I had no way of knowing this though – they should put it on their website. Wifi was free in the rooms but slow.
After that everything about the Capri Palace hotel was spectacular. They do everything in their power to establish it as a 5 star hotel. There are about 10 staff members milling around in suits all the time. The room was very nice and large with a view of the garden. The grounds are impeccable. We did not eat in their onsite Michelin rated restaurant but I can say the prices were frightening (45 Euros for pasta?). Luckily breakfast was included and it was phenomenal so we got to see the restaurant that way.
Il Riccio – owned by Capri Palace in Anacapri. Free shuttle from hotel and only open Thurs-Sun for dinner. This was probably the best restaurant we ate at. It overlooks the sea above the Blue Grotto. Extremely upscale outdoor patio feel. I wanted to get a copy of the menu for everyone but what I can say is that it is a bit expensive but not ridiculous and not as expensive as the Michelin place in the hotel. For example, there was a linguini with lobster for 52 Euro but that was one of the most expensive items, other entrees were in the 20-30 Euro range. They have a copy of the menu at the hotel desk. Important: make sure to visit the “temptation lounge” after dinner. It is an immaculate dessert room. I believe its included in the price although I did see it on the menu for 16 Euro.
La Rodinella – another excellent restaurant in Anacapri. Marco the owner was very gracious and appreciative of tourists like us. Again it overlooks the sea and town. 100 Euro for 2 with wine and dessert.
De la Saraceno – very good outdoor place behind a 1,000 year old church off the main square in Anacapri. It was probably the most inexpensive with most dishes under 9 Euro but the food and service were without flaw.
Hope you enjoyed the trip report and it helps you plan your voyage.