One week is too short to really explore Rome but I still found myself hopping on a 2-hr train down to Naples. Why? Not to eat Napoli pizza ala Eat-Pray-Love but to drive up the mountains to the other side. The destination? Amalfi Coast, playground of the rich and famous and romantic. I was obviously neither – more like poor, practical and pragmatic. Hahaha but I digress.
Renting a car was too expensive especially with the petrol prices plus the crazy winding coastal roads and insane-o Italian drivers would’ve killed us. So we signed up for a tour. Check it out here: toursofamalficoast.com
So our tour guide slash driver Giovanni aka Jason Statham, picked us up at the Naples Train Station. We drove past the Sorrentine Peninsula with a beautiful view of the volcano, Mt. Vesuvius against the Bay of Naples.
Me: Wow is that Mt. Vesuvius?!?
Tour Guide: Yes! And it’s expected to erupt anytime. In fact the whole city has an evacuation plan in place.
Me: (0_0) uh okay
So we drove past Sorrento to the other side of the Peninsula until we reached the crazy narrow (one-lane), winding road that Amalfi is famous for. It was the wildest ride ever because you had to speed through the twists and turns to get to the next stop. If there was an incoming car, we would have to back up all the way. My friends got carsick. Thankfully, I held on to my gullet. Jason Statham, I mean Giovanni, lived up to his name. He drove like a pro while talking and waving his hands around. There was Opera music too. Yup, it was an adventure.
We made a stop in Ravello, a town located above Amalfi that has long been a retreat for artists and writers. Lovely and very, very peaceful. Talk about artists’ retreat. We had some gelato and checked out some of the Ceramic stuff. The whole coast is famous for ceramics and lemons so there were a lot of those everywhere, in every shop corner.
Giovanni: Where do you want to eat?
Me: Somewhere local, where locals go to, somewhere very authentic.
Giovanni: Okay, then we go to Mama.
Right. I guess when you go someplace owned by an Italian Mama, it’s legit to the highest level. So we went up, way up to the scenic hills of Positano. By this time my friends were pasty white and about to hurl. Thankfully, we got to the top of Southern Italy’s version of Everest in one piece.
We stopped at the side of road in front of a quaint gate with a little orange car and a colourful sign that said “Fattoria La Tagliata”, this was Mama’s place.
We descended the stone steps that opened up to the most amazing little resto I’ve ever seen. The owner Enzo, came to greet us and ushered us to what he claimed as “the best table in the house”. Indeed it was! It doesn’t get any more authentic Italian than this.
So there we were in the best table in the house with 360º view of the scenic cliffs of Positano. The day was awesome already, and it was still noon.
Lunch was an adventure in itself. We sat down, they gave us two bottles of wine, two bottles of sparkling water and some ‘natural’ water. At first we were hesitant because it might be expensive drinking wine and all. Our tour guide announced that the whole meal was 25Euros each. Everything was included. There was no ordering. We would eat what Mama sent out the kitchen. Whew! Alrighty then.
Dozens of plates were placed on the table, including a basket of bread, some buffala mozzarella, prosciutto, eggplant parmigiana, beans and a whole lot more vegetables. One of the servers, one of Mama’s sons, described our meal to us. I can’t remember the exact names but everything was homemade and the ingredients came from their garden. According to him Mama was up since 5:00AM preparing the meal. IT WAS AMAZING.
The meal was hilarious because the server wouldn’t stop talking and scooping food onto our plates. He wanted us to eat. A lot. All of it. After we cleaned our plates under his watchful eye, he herded us to the kitchen to meet the legendary Mama.
She was everything I imagined an Italian Mama to be – loud, smiling, flour in her hair, clapping her hands at her sons. She gave me a hug and we posed for a picture.
The owner Enzo also posed with a picture. I told him that this was the best restaurant I have had the pleasure of eating during my whole stay in Italy. He was beaming with pride.
So we went back to our seats, preparing to leave, when one of the sons came back to change our plates. My friend asked “Should we leave? They’re preparing for the next group already”. We nodded and gathered our things. At this point, we were stuffed. Super full. Groaning at how the food was so rich and good. The next moments were one of the most epic bloopers of the whole trip.
The server came back and asked us “So did you enjoy the aperetivo?”. Wait. What?! Aperitivo??? Holy mama, that was still the appetizer, first course. We laughed and laughed and laughed until we started crying. Like seriously tears were running down our eyes. We couldn’t take a single bite anymore.
In fact, our conversation ran like this: “Best meal ever!, OMG Sulit!, Karon pa ko ka try ani, Since 5am pa si Mama nag luto?, Mama Forevs, Grabeha ka fresh oi, , Wait napay food?, Gi hipos na cguro ni para sa next, Oh Shit napay pasta, Pwede mu hilak?, Mu ambak kos bukid if napay food. Patya ko Lord”.
So yes, the main course arrived. Pasta. Homemade. Absolutely delicious. The most perfect meal ever. So we scarfed it down. Forcibly. With lots of wine. Is it possible to be drunk from food? I’m guessing yes.
It is important to note that the dishes above were huge. Like massive. I was a couple minutes away from passing out in a coma. My friends were threatening to jump off the balcony to escape. Then the dessert came. A sampler of different cakes and pies made from ricotta and cream and fruit in a humongous dish, with a big serving of fresh berries and cherries. Why Lord…
It was too much to take. We threw in the towel. Mama’s sons smiled and understood that we did our best. We could never be as Italian as them. They cleared the table and came back with shots of homemade chilled limoncello and waited for us to throw it back. Of course, we knew what limoncello was and had no desire to drink it as an after-meal digestivo. Oh well, what the hell, might as well ride the experience out all the way. So we toasted, Salut!
This was what drinking fire felt like. I could literally feel the burn all the way to my gut. After sitting shellshocked, the plates were cleared, hugs were passed around and we left. It took us a good half an hour before we could say a word. That lunch was just too much.
Anyway, at this point it was still about 1:30PM. Yup. We were still halfway through the day. Thankfully, everything was chill after that. We visited the small town of Positano, which had lots of pretty houses lined up the hills and lots of quiet corners and alleys. At this point, I had to take a little breather. Everything was overwhelming.
We drove down to the centre of the Amalfi Coast town where lots of tourists were lounging on the beach and walking around the streets. It was so picturesque.
After the short side trip, it was time to head back to Naples. It was no surprise there that we fell asleep on the ride back. We woke up at the station, said our goodbyes and thank-you’s to Giovanni aka Jason Statham. He sent us off with a hug and a kiss and a bottle of Enzo’s wine from the best restaurant in Italy. Ciao bella!
And just like that my Italy trip was over.