The Amalfi Coast, Italy
Our next stop was to visit the small towns along the Amalfi Coast in Italy. There are several options on how to explore the various towns – train, bus, or rent your own car/moped. When researching which option we should do, we were considering renting a car, but after reading several warnings from people online and on tripadvisor not to rent a car (serious warnings in all capital “DON’T DO IT”), we opted for the bus. You can buy an all day pass for the bus, which stops along all the towns along the coast.
We hopped on an early morning bus from Salerno to Amalfi. It provided some great views, but after being in the bus for about an hour, the windy roads were starting to get to me and I wasn’t feeling so great.
Thankfully, we had arrived to Amalfi and I was feeling much better after seeing the beautiful beaches and Amalfi Cathedral!
While in Amalfi, Minh bought some Calamari cone and we tried a lemon gelato that was good, but really tart.
We hopped back on the bus to visit the next coastal town – Sorrento. The bus ride this time was about 2 hours long, and much windier and narrow than the first leg. After riding the bus and experiencing it firsthand, I can wholeheartedly agree with all the other warnings I read online. If you are considering renting a car/moped to explore the coastline yourself (and imagining cruising along the coast without a care in the world): DON’T DO IT! The roads are very narrow, and these buses have the right of way due to their size, so cars and mopeds must veer off to the side and/or reverse to make room for the bus to pass through. On top of that, these bus drivers basically know each turn like the back of their hand (or at least drive like they do), so they take each turn super quick, sharp, and close! There are plenty of narrow hairpin turns along the coast, so the buses need the space on the opposite side of the road to complete their turns, which makes for some really close calls.
Minh and I sat up at the front and I could see the horror and regret of the faces of people in rented cars and mopeds facing the opposite direction as a giant bus came careening towards them. Riding in the bus was not too much of an enjoyable experience either. There was an older man sitting across from us who was gripping the hand rail in front of him with both hands as if he was on the Indiana Jones ride at Disneyland. At each sharp turn, he would say comments like, “Amazing! Wow. That was incredible” in shock at all the close calls. About 30 minutes after sitting on the bus (aka Motion-Sickness express), I forced myself to take a nap so I wouldn’t get full on sick and seeing all the close calls was giving me a lot of anxiety!
My sister, Keanna, had an experience of her own sitting in the seat behind us, as the lady sitting next to her actually screamed out loud and grabbed her out of fear. At one point, an Italian guy in the back yelled out “Mamma Mia!” (yes, they really say that phrase in Italy!). After we arrived in Sorrento, my sister immediately said she was not hopping back on that bus and would pay for all our train tickets home instead. As she put it, “When your own people are yelling out “Mamma Mia!”, you know it’s a bad sign.” Lol.
Amalfi transportation: Don't bother renting a car or scooter to explore the coastal towns. It's much too dangerous! Take the buses at your own risk especially if you get motion sickness easily . The trains - although the more expensive and less scenic route - is the safest and easiest route!Two Peas Travel Tip
It seemed like lemons are a big thing in the Amalfi coastal towns and every store was selling limoncello, a lemon liquor. We visited a lemon farm where we were able to sample some limoncello – it’s 30% alcohol and was really strong and sugary!
While in Sorrento we finally found a store that had “real” gelato. I had read plenty of articles online that about 85% of gelato in Italy is “fake” gelato. Fake gelato means it’s made from a powder mix full of artificial ingredients. I was on a mission to find real gelato and it was becoming pretty difficult to find!
We saw Raki which claimed to be 100% natural with gluten-free options.
We asked for a sample, and Keanna was the first to try it. Her eyes immediately lit up and exclaimed “MMMM!!!” We finally found real gelato!
The things to look for to identify if gelato is real or fake is:
–Color: Natural ingredients should not be neon in color. That super green Pistachio or Mint Gelato? Fake. The bright yellow Lemon or Banana flavor? Fake. Natural gelato should be muted colors as the ones you would find in the natural state. Pistachio should be muted green/muddy looking (as in the picture above). Lemon and banana should be a soft yellow or white color.
–Shape: If the gelato is stacked up very high beyond the metal tins with lots of decorations on it, it’s most likely fake. The reason it can be stacked so high is because there’s lot of air folded in, and made possible by chemical stabilizers. Real gelato is much heavier and dense and won’t be stacked too high up.
Supposedly if the gelato is stored in individual metal tins with a cover is a good sign too. You won’t be able to see the color or how high it’s stacked, so just ask for a sample. We sampled from another place that had the individual tins and it definitely was not real gelato!
Not to say that fake gelato isn’t tasty, but once you’ve had the real stuff, you won’t want to go back! If you don’t want to bother analyzing whether a shop has real or fake gelato, some big chains you can find throughout Italy that have real gelato include Venchi and Grom.
We wandered around the town some more where we saw a couple getting married at one of the courtyards.
Sorrento had stunning views and some cathedrals to visit.
Before heading back home, we found a Kebab place that was highly rated. It was so good we ended up ordering a second order to share.
It was also where we discovered the Lianorg.com red badges. It’s basically a Chinese yelp/tripadvisor. We’ve eaten at some highly rated tripadvisor spots that were very disappointing, so we’ve become a little wary of trusting the tripadvisor badge. Most restaurants that we ate at that were really good/good value had these red badges on their window. So if you’re in Europe and not sure of where to eat and see one of these badges – the restaurant will probably be good!
We originally had planned to stop by Positano for dinner on our way back on the bus, but since we nixed taking the bus back, we had to forgo visiting Positano. We stayed in Salerno as a home base, and only got to visit the Amalfi coast for a day. If you have the time, it would be worth staying in one of the towns (Amalfi, Sorrento, Positano are the larger ones), so that you’ll be able to explore more of the smaller towns and enjoy the beaches. The coastal towns of the Amalfi coast are very picturesque. Although some parts of it can be really touristy, the towns are very charming and worth a visit!