The Adventures of BJ and Tony Morris

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Sorrento, Italy
March 2010
"Lemon Boobs!"

Uncharacteristically, we selected both a date for travel and a destination well in advance this time (Characteristically, we spent no money in advance, so even tho' we had plans, we weren't committed). Surprisingly, the flight remained available as we made our plans. We would fly into Rome and then train to Sorrento, spending our time near the Amalfi coast. We planned so far in advance this time that BJ was able to order a travel guide from Amazon. She found last year's Rick Steves' Italy book on Amazon for $.25 (plus $3.50 shipping). What a bargain, and reasonably current!

On travel day, we said goodbye to Lucy and Lola our beloved new pets. It would be the first time we would both leave them, but we were confident that they would be well cared for by our neighbors.

The mid-week, mid-day trip to the airport was traffic-free, and even the airport seemed less crowded than usual. Our flight left from T-Concourse; a detail that we might have overlooked had we been able to check in at the kiosk. The kiosk technology seems to need some refinement to be able to read everyone's passports. We had to see an agent to check in and then we were off to the T-Concourse Sky Club.

Though the flight was slightly overbooked, all of the stand-by travelers got on in business class. BJ was delighted to see that even the lower priority retirees got up front since she almost of the age to start considering her options for retirement. She's been drawing up her list of pros and cons and the lowered pass priority is definitely on the "cons" side.

Champagne on the ground, followed by warm nuts, red wine, appetizers of shrimp, tomato basil soup, salad, entrees of steak for Tony and salmon for BJ left us sated and ready for sleep. We started watching "New Moon" during the meal, but both fell asleep before it was over.

When we awoke, we were getting ready to land in Rome. Tony started a fervent search for his reading glasses which had slipped from his pocket during the flight. We've reached the age where reading glasses are an essential part of life. BJ finally found them by reaching deep into the crack between the seat and the seat back. She didn't want to think of what else might be hiding in that crevice.

During the flight, it looked like we might arrive early, but by the time our wheels touched down and we taxied to the gate we were right on time, leaving us very little chance of catching the early (cheaper) train to Naples. Our research had told us that we had 3 price options for our Trenitalia train tickets. The 8:12AM train was 10,50€ per person (duration 2 hours, 24 minutes); the 9:00AM train was 44€ per person (duration 1 hour, 10 minutes) and the 9:20AM train was 20,50€ per person (duration 2 hours, 10 minutes).

To further reduce our chances of making the early train, the crew announced that one of the flight attendants (Milo) was celebrating his 30th anniversary with Delta so everyone had to stop to congratulate him on the way off of the plane.

We made our way through passport control and headed for the ticket office for the Leonardo Da Vinci express to Rome's central train station where we would connect with the train to Naples. Our due diligence had told us that we could save some €'s by purchasing a "carnet" (booklet) of 10 tickets for 85€. Tickets are normally 11€ each. We bought a carnet plus two single tickets for our round trip travel to Rome Termini. We were able to purchase a one way ticket (123€ for all six of us) from Termini to Napoli Centrale on the 9:20AM as well, with a reserved compartment.

The carnet was not a booklet of single tickets as we expected, rather it was a single card, folded in half with 10 arrows indicating where to validate. The carnet would not work for a group if everyone was not traveling together on the same train. We weren't exactly sure how it would work with six of us using the same ticket so we asked some very nice policemen. If we had studied the ticket more closely, we probably could have figured out how to do it ourselves. There were numbered arrows on the card, so we validated numbers 1-6, remembering to push the ticket into the machine and then slide it to the left.

We had a comfortable ride to Termini and then a long walk to the platform for our connection. We stopped for a welcome bathroom break at some nice clean restrooms in the train station, well worth the price of ,80€. The gates to the restroom required exact change, but there was a change machine conveniently located on the wall to the left of the entrance. Thankfully we had some leftover euros from our previous trips since the ATM at the airport had been out of order.

We found our train/car/seats with no problem and settled in for the long ride. We had a moment of confusion when a woman who spoke no English seemed to think we were in her seat, but after she babbled for about 5 minutes and looked at our ticket, she tottered off down the hall.

Naps were in order for most of the travelers during the 2+ hour ride, while others studied the travel guide.

When we arrived in Naples, we followed the sparse signs to the local Circumvesuviana train. It looked more like a subway car, with plastic seats and graffiti covering much of the windows. There was standing room only so it looked like it was going to be a long, uncomfortable 70 minute ride to Sorrento. After a few stops, the train had sufficiently cleared out enough for us to find seats though. On the up side, the ticket was cheap at 3,60€ each.

Five hours from touch down in Rome, we were finally in Sorrento.

Our hotel plans were somewhat fluid. We didn't want to confirm anything with a credit card in advance since we weren't sure we would get there flying stand-by. We were able to make reservations at the Hilton with a 4PM arrival and no credit card required, but we were hoping that we could find a cheaper, more convenient option once we got there.

We left the train station enroute to our first choice from Rick Steves' recommendations, the Ulisse Deluxe Hostel. After dragging our roll-aboards for a few blocks, we decided to stop for lunch at il Leone Rosso Ristorante Pizzaria. Someone cleverly suggested while we were eating that since BJ has unlimited international email, she should email the Hostel to see if they had rooms. This worked spectacularly, so by the time we finished lunch, we had 3 double rooms for 69€ including breakfast!

BJ didn't notice that the GPS did not contain the exact street address for the Hostel, so we got a little off course, taking the scenic route.


The hostel was just as Rick Steves had described! "More of a 4 star resort than a hostel." The lobby was very comfortably adorned with multiple sofas and tables. Wi-Fi was free in the lobby, so BJ was able to connect her phone to UMA and make a free phone call to Hilton's 800 number to cancel our other reservations.

Our rooms were very nice! Spacious rooms with comfortable beds, a desk, a refrigerator, a flat screen TV, an armoire, a safe, marble floors and a large bathroom with full sized tub, toilet & bidet.

One of our travelers was fighting a cold, so we left him to nap while we explored the town. There was lots to see on the pedestrian only shopping street.

The giant lemons captured our attention.  They looked like something from the Gilligan's Island episode where Gilligan finds the crate of radioactive vegetable seeds.


We sampled some olives from the grocery store (very salty) and stopped for a glass of wine at Pizzeria Tratoria da Gigino. While the wine was not unreasonable, the cover charge of 2€ (almost $3) per person certainly increased the cost.

We took the stairs down to the dock to see what time the ferries to Capri departed and then hiked up to the Foreigners' Club which was ideally situated for a nice view of the water. Rick Steves book said that the Foreigner's Club "offers jazzy elevator-type music... just right for old-timers feeling frisky." We were, indeed, feeling frisky, but the Foreigner's Club did not appear to be open. We walked out to the balcony and enjoyed the view though.

A text from our ailing friend revealed that he felt well enough to meet us for dinner after his nap. We found the Giardinello hidden away down an alley. The food was very reasonable with offerings of homemade pasta and fresh local fish. The owner treated us to an after dinner treat of limoncello, the sweet lemony liqueur made from the plethora of local lemons.

Walking back to the hotel, we passed the open air Sedil Dominova with frescos dating back to the '700s painted on the wall. It was really hard to tell that the depth of the walls was actually an illusion created by the frescos.


Some of the group wanted to go to the Irish Pub to catch the end of the soccer game between Napoli and Juventus but we were not the only people to think of this. It was standing room only at the pub with folks spilling out onto the street. The English Pub across the street was not as crowded so we were able to get a table to watch the game.

We passed the Bar Veneruso on the walk back to the hostel. Our travelers with a sweet tooth insisted that we stop in for dessert. Of course we had to try the local specialty, Limoni Delizie, a mound of lemon soaked cake filled and iced with lemon crθme and topped with a small candied cherry. We affectionately nicknamed it a lemon boob. We also tried the cannoli and a nutella filled cruller. Nothing could compare to the lemon boob though.

We met in the lobby for a glass of wine from a bottle we had purchased during the day, but the desk clerk advised that "It is not possible" to drink our wine in the lobby. He said we could drink it in the room, though. It was just as well, we were really too tired to finish the wine anyway.

Friday, our breakfast meeting time of 8:30AM came early! We found the breakfast buffet to be pretty typical of European breakfasts. There were two kinds of thinly sliced cheese, ham and salami as well as some cereal, rolls and sweet breads. The only unusual item on the buffet was a basket of peanuts in the shell. Coffee and juice were served from confusing machines with multiple push-buttons.

We gathered our things and walked to the dock, planning to arrive at 10AM which should give us plenty of time to buy tickets for the 10:40AM ferry. We weren't expecting the crowds in the ticket line and we were concerned that we were too late, but we made it to the ticket window with time to spare and there were plenty of seats left for us on the ferry. Due to the time of year, our ferry choices were limited so we decided to go ahead and buy our return tickets on the 6:30PM ferry that night.


It was a smooth 25 minute ride to Capri. When boat started nearing the dock in Capri, we made our way down to the door so we could be the first off of the boat.

We found the ticket kiosk for the Blue Grotto excursion at the next dock and purchased the 11€ tickets.

Our boat filled quickly and was the first away from the dock for the short trip around the island to the grotto.


Two of our crew elected to stay on the big boat and skip going into the grotto, so the other four of us transferred over the side of the big boat into the waiting row boat with our guide. We sat on the bottom of the boat rather than on the seats.

The driver rowed us over to the floating ticket office so that we could purchase the 11€ admission to the grotto.

A couple of strokes with the oars, and the driver grabbed the chain leading into the cave. We were instructed to lie down as he pulled us through the opening into the grotto.


The water inside the grotto was beautifully blue, but it was difficult to get the camera to capture it.

The guide gave a narrative in heavily accented English but we were busy trying to adjust our cameras to night mode and missed much of it. He rowed us in a circle while singing and then before we knew it, we were being pulled back through the opening into the bright sunshine. In retrospect, we wished we had known to adjust our cameras to night mode before entering the grotto, or had not bothered to take pictures at all. We were actually in the grotto for less than 5 minutes.

We waited in the big boat while others made the excursion. The weather was absolutely perfect! Though the sun was beaming down, a nice breeze kept us cool.

We noticed a line of folks on the steps leading down from atop the island waiting for their chance to get into a row boat, but the passengers of the big boats seemed to be taking precedence.

Back at the main dock, we bought a few post cards and then took the funicular up to the town of Capri.


We stopped at the first bar we saw, Tiberio, for VERY EXPENSIVE beers and a Coke. There was no cover charge this time, but at 8€ ($11) for a beer and 7€ ($9) for a coke, we wouldn't be spending much time here. We were served snacks of bright green crunchy olives and potato chips with our drinks. We really liked the crunchy olives.

We picked up a map from the tourist office on the main square beneath the big clock.

We walked through narrow stone lanes to the ridge where we could overlook the island.


We saw lots of cats and a few lizards. We were surprised to find a section filled with cacti.

We followed the path to the natural arch. The water was beautifully blue.


On the way back to town, we followed signs to the Ristorante Pizzeria da Tonino where we shared some delicious pizza.


By the time we got back to the town of Capri, we realized that we would not have time to see Anacapri so we just strolled around and did some window shopping. Most of the shops appeared to be cleaning and setting up for the coming tourist season.

We decided to take the steps down to the port rather than ride the funicular again. It was a fairly easy walk.

We waited with a reasonably priced carafe of wine at the da Ernesto Buonocore until it was time to board the ferry back to Sorrento.

The sun had made us sleepy so we had a short nap on the ferry back. Once back in Sorrento, we split up to give everyone a chance to do some souvenir shopping and agreed to meet back at the web cam so we could pick a place for dinner.

Dinner was at the Taverna dell' 800, a place we had passed up the night before because their seating was picnic benches without backs. This time, when the proprietor stopped us and asked us to eat there, we told him that we would like to, but we wanted chairs with backs (picky spoiled Americans that we are). He had one table with chairs that would be free in 5 minutes so we waited in the bar.


The homemade lasagna was served piping HOT and BJ had to be careful, but once it cooled it was delicious. Tony had pasta with mushrooms and sausage that was in a cream sauce. The Italian cream sauce is not as creamy as what we are accustomed to in our American-Italian food. Others had veal dishes that looked good.

On the way back to the hotel, a few folks had gelato at Bougainvillea but BJ had her heart set on another lemon boob from the Bar Veneruso. She got little spoons so she could share. We all agreed that the lemon boob was the best, but the limone (lemon ice) ran a close second for some.

On Saturday, we moved our breakfast time back to 9AM so we could have an extra few minutes of sleep. We dawdled over breakfast and discussed our plans for the day. We decided to take the Circumvesuviana to Pompeii. We packed up our daypacks and walked to the train station. The little ticket car out front had a special for 17€ that included round trip train tickets and admission to Pompeii.

We had downloaded Rick Steves' Audio Tour which was about 30 minutes of sound that took us 2 hours to listen to. We would listen to the directions, pause the audio while we followed the directions and then turn the audio back on to listen to the description. It gave us a good overview. Pompeii was very interesting. We could really picture what life must have been like there.




The view of Mt. Vesuvius with its missing peak was very ominous. The plaster casts that had been created by pouring plaster into the spaces formed by hardening lava and decaying bodies showed the positions of the victims. Some of the plaster molds still had bones and teeth.



Some of the more interesting sites were the large house of the Faun, the bakery and the brothel. The House of the Faun took up an entire city block.


The brothel was equipped with some really uncomfortable looking stone beds and frescos above the bedrooms showed the type of activity that took place there.


We finished our tour at the amphitheatre.  There was lots more to see, but we were more than a bit tired and overwhelmed by what we had seen.


We had beers inside the venue to rest our feet from the cobblestones and then after a quick stop at the bookstore, made our way back to the train station. We met a woman from Kentucky on the train who had been in Positano for a writer's workshop and was spending a few days in Sorrento before going home.

We had a late lunch (4PM) at Old Taverna Sorrentina. Others had pizza but we decided on antipasto this time.

We split up again after lunch for more souvenir shopping. Some of us walked up the hill to take a look at the Hilton in case we decided to stay there on a subsequent trip. It was quite a hike up the hill, but we were rewarded with a great view. It was a really nice property and would be a great place to relax by the pool in the summer.


On the way back down the hill, we found a great little wine store where you could bring your own container (or buy one of theirs for 1€) and they would fill it from one of their vats which held a variety of wines (all priced at under 2€ per liter). We got a liter and a half of Montepulciano for 3€ and it was delicious!


BJ wanted to buy some of the brightly colored pasta for an upcoming dinner party but at 5€ ($7) for a single serving, she just couldn't bring herself to do it. She bought sun dried tomatoes for 2€ instead.

Palm bows decorated the church near our hostel in preparation for Palm Sunday, the next day.

We met back at the hostel to set out for dinner. No one seemed particularly hungry, probably because of our late lunch, so we had a hard time deciding on a restaurant.

We finally settled on the Ristorante Pizzeria Lanterna Due, a Rick Steves' recommendation.

The staff was fun, though the food was not particularly memorable. We were starting to tire of pasta. BJ ordered a side of vegetables that were great though.  We ordered a lemon boob that could not compare with the ones from the Bar Veneruso. The cake was more spongy, like angel food cake, and the icing lighter and more like whipped cream.

We were too full for another lemon boob at the Bar Veneruso, but there's always room for ice cream, so we shared a couple of lemon ices on the way back to the hostel.

Sunday morning came really early due to the time change. We planned to take a 10AM ferry to Naples which was really 9AM so we met for breakfast at 8:30AM which was really 7:30AM. It was really hard to set our clocks since we weren't sure whether our cell phones would automatically change the time for us. To be safe, we all agreed to give each other a wake up call. BJ picked up a handful of peanuts from the breakfast buffet so we would have a snack for the long train ride.

The desk clerk at the hostel had told us that the ferry ride would be more pleasant than the train and that the walk from the dock to the train station was also pleasant. Neither of these bits of advice turned out to be true.

One of our travelers, prone to motion sickness did not do well at all on the ferry, but felt better as we approached the dock.

The walk to the train station was through littered streets and past a good-will yard sale with tables full of used clothing people were pawing through.

At the train station, we found a fake McDonald's where we could get a beer and wait for the 12:30PM cheap(er) train (123€ for 6). BJ brought out the peanuts and they were a big hit!

For the first hour of the 2 hour train ride to Rome, BJ read aloud from Rick Steves' guidebook. We made a loose plan for what we would see during our 1 1/2 days in Rome.

We had found our Rome hotel, the Hotel Elide, on, a great web site that lets you narrow your hotel search by area, price and number of stars. The website showed the rate as 70€ per night plus breakfast, but we emailed the hotel directly and were quoted 66€ including breakfast.

We found the hotel fairly easily around the corner from the Repubblica Metro stop and only a few minutes walk from the Termini train station. It was one of the better 2 star places we have found. The room was small but clean with a desk, a chair, a TV and a refrigerator. Our bathroom had a tiny shower in the corner and no bidet (we were okay without one), but there was a hand held shower nozzle next to the toilet. The other travelers had slightly larger bathrooms but their showers were in the middle of the room and were even smaller with a 3 sided curtain. They had bidets. One of the rooms had a wrap around balcony.


We started out to see the Coliseum, hoping to find a nice lunch stop on the way. It would be another late lunch due to the long commute from Sorrento that morning. Many of the places that we passed were closed. One restaurateur offered to open his kitchen for us if we would order from his expensive entree selection. We finally found the La Mela D'oro near the Santa Maria Maggiore.

Once we finished lunch, we realized we would be too late to get into the Coliseum so we changed direction and walked to Trevi Fountain instead. It was PACKED!

We wound our way through throngs of people over to the Spanish steps, equally as crowded.

After a brief bathroom stop at the most elaborate McDonalds in the world, five of us started out to look for dinner on Piazza Navona, while Tony headed back to the hotel. Just off the square, we stopped for a glass of watered down wine at Pizza Ciro. We wished we had kept going to the Piazza.

After circling the square, listening to the barkers and looking at all of the menus, we settled on 4 Fiumi for dinner. Our due diligence should have led us to note the 20% surcharge on the menu, but no matter, the food was good. We were ready for some MEAT! We sampled the Saltimbocca and Ossobucco, both excellent.

We wandered back to the hotel, stopping at the market across the street for some gelatos.

On Monday, BJ got up at 7:30 and took the first shower. The water started out luke-warm and soon became luke-cold. She hurried and finished up before it became ice-cold. Tony showered next and had plenty of hot water. We met the others for a breakfast of bread, butter, jam, coffee and juice. One of our travelers had to get back to work so she had already left for the airport.

We took the metro to the Cipro stop where our friends joined the group line for the Vatican Museum. We had already been to the museum so we decided to forego what looked like a 2 hour wait and instead explore the surrounding neighborhood. We walked around the walls of Vatican City and marveled at the long line.  We were approached by a number of tour guides offering to let us bypass the line if we chose their service.


As we passed through the courtyard, we remembered our trip several years ago when we saw the pope.  The courtyard was a LOT more crowded during that visit.


We got some perspective on just how large those big screen TVs that project the pope are!

We strolled around with no particular destination in mind. We stopped at a grocery store to see what the locals spend for groceries and then shared a beer and played some cards at the Santoro Daniela snack shop. A little old Italian man seemed to be trying to warn Tony of losing all of his money to BJ in the card game. He kept laughing and pointing to his wallet.

We walked back toward Vatican City and found a cute little sidewalk cafe called All Brothers. We were just about to order a beer when we got a text message from our friends saying that they were finished at the museum. The group line had gotten them admission in only 15 minutes instead of the 2 hour wait in the individual line.  We created a little confusion trying to text them directions to meet us at the cafe, but they finally made it. We had some delicious hot sandwiches, eating lunch at lunchtime for a change!

It was off to the Coliseum for those who had never seen it. Our friends learned that if you want to avoid the line, you can go in the entrance to purchase the audio tour.  Once you have purchased the audio tour for one person in your group, you can skip picking up your audio device if you want to avoid the line to turn it back in.  Its a fairly inexpensive way to avoid the line!


We had been several times so we dropped them off and decided to relax our feet and see some of the sites from the public bus. We picked up bus 40 from Termini, intending to ride it round trip.


We got great seats next to the window and had a comfortable ride to the end of the line where we were made to get off & get on a VERY CROWDED bus in the opposite direction. We were jammed in with the standing room only crowd. At every stop, more people crowded on and when the doors closed, we were further compressed against the other passengers. When we got close to our hotel, we wormed our way to the door and squeezed out.

We stopped at the grocery store and picked up a bottle of wine with no label for 1,29€. At Pizzeria Punto e Virgola next to the hotel, we picked up a couple of slices of pizza and had a nice snack of pizza and wine back in our room.

The others made it back from the Coliseum and the Pantheon and we all struck out for dinner. We found a couple of very crowded places, so we figured they must be good. Trattoria Pizzeria Gioia Mia had no seating available, but Trattoria da Olimpio (we think) indicated in Italian that they would have seats for us soon. We waited, and waited and finally got seats. The food was okay, but not as great as we expected, given the crowd. Watching the staff bustle around was very entertaining though.

We stopped at the shop across the street from the hotel for gelato again. Back at the hotel, we decided to go ahead and pay since we wanted to make an early train to the airport. The hotel expected cash, but had no change so we each got a 2€ discount on our rooms!

While it was an easy walk to the train station, we decided to take the Metro since one of our travelers had gotten a blister on his foot. We got to the train station so early that we decided we could make an earlier train than planned, but we would have to hurry. It is a long walk from the metro stop to Track 25 where the Leonardo da Vinci Express departs.

We arrived at the airport train station about 2 1/2 hours before our flight, but by the time we took a bus to Terminal 5, waited in line to check in, went through security and passport control, and took another bus to the gate area it was almost time for our flight. We tried to make a quick stop in the Alitalia lounge, but our Crown Room card did not give us the access we needed.

At the gate, we were told that the flight was weight restricted and they didn't know if they would be able to board any stand-bys, but at the last minute, they cleared all of us in business class.

It was our first time on the former NW A330 aircraft. It was very nice, with extra large in-seat video screens and slightly more recline than other business class seats we had experienced. After all of the pizza and pasta, we were happy to get steak and chicken on the plane.

The line-up of movies was great, keeping us entertained during the 10 hour flight. We saw the rest of "New Moon", "Blind Side", "Men Who Stare At Goats", "Law Abiding Citizen", "Up in the Air" and the beginning of "Four Christmases".

It was a great trip, our first one with both of us away from our new babies and we were surprised by how much we missed them. A special thanks to our neighbors who took such good care of them while we were gone.


Destination Information For This Trip In A Nutshell