travelogue // the amalfi coast

so it dawned on me the other day that i haven't shared my photos and recommendations from the amalfi coast.  our trip was nearly a year ago, but now that our days are once more drenched in sunshine, i was thinking back to our sunny days in italy, dreaming of our photographs.

stopping in italy was the last leg of our trip last summer.  we first flew into split, then drove down the coast to dubrovnik, and then headed over to italy.  we knew when we booked the tickets [in to split, out from rome] we were going to go to italy somewhere, but even when we flew to croatia we weren't yet sure where we wanted to go in italy.  we've both been multiple times before and knew we wanted to try and explore a new area of the country for us.  our first thought was the rent a car and drive [our original plan for a trip back in 2013 before we decided on thailand] and were going to stay on the eastern shore.  but while we were in croatia and i saw on instagram a favorite internet friend of mine was spending her spring holiday along the amalfi coast.  when i floated the idea to philp, he was totally on board.  so before long, he was looking into hotels and i was jotting down every restaurant recommendation liz had to offer.

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it was beautiful and warm when we woke up on our little prison-cell-like room on the ferry.  we took the jadrolinija ferry line from dubrovnik to bari.  it was an overnight ferry that took around 10 hours, leaving at about 10pm and arriving around 8am.  if this is something you do, prepare for the ferry.  we booked the nicest room they have, which was a room with two single beds and a private bathroom.  you still would not want to use the shower.  it was a bathroom on a ferry... it's about as nice as you'd think it would be.

we were able to rent a car from hertz at the bari airport.  this was about as organized and took as long as you would think it would to rent a car in italy [read: multiple hours].  it was a bit of a hassle to get a car that wasn't a manual, but we got it all to work out.  it also took us quite a few tries to leave the airport -- we kind of did a few laps thanks to confusing signs, no GPS, and the many, many roundabouts.  we finally stopped at the airport terminal out of frustration, hunger, and my pregnant need for a bathroom twice an hour.  while philip talked to someone about how the hell we could leave the apparent gravitational pull of the bari airport roads, i grabbed us some coffee and focaccia from a cafe.  i can still remember the taste of that focaccia and i swear it was one of the best things i've ever tasted in that moment.

finally, coffee in hand and focaccia in belly, we drove across the entire country of italy.

which took about three and a half hours.

italy is long and narrow, obviously.  so it wasn't exactly a problem to make our way from the east coast to the west.  not to mention the gorgeous scenery we encountered along the way, and the fantastic italian radio we got to jam to.  i monitored my liquid intake to ensure we didn't have to stop at all, and before we knew it we were in salerno.

we did encounter miserable traffic once we reached salerno and before we made it up the mountain to ravello.  the roads were winding, with views you can't even imagine.  in places the road was so narrow they would let cars travel in one direction only at a time.  we pulled over on the side of the road with other travelers making their way up to ravello and waited our turn.  but oh my gosh was the pain-in-the-ass drive worth it.  

on elizabeth's recommendation, we went to cumpa cosima for lunch.  we split the caprese appetizer and each got fettuccine bolognese.  it's my hands-down favorite italian dish and if it's on the menu i can very rarely skip over it for something else.  cumpa cosima was well worth the drive... even if the windy road and my pregnant hormones did finally catch up to me while we were there.  after lunch we wandered around ravello for a little bit in the drizzling rain.  i found it to be a lovely little village and was happy it was our first stop in italy.

after stretching our legs, we made our way back to the water after once again waiting for the road to open in our direction.  philip had found a hotel for us sort of last minute [since we hadn't even decided where we were going until we were already in croatia].  luckily we weren't really particular about where we stayed along the amalfi coast.  we only had to book for one night, and we knew we wanted to go to amalfi but since we had the car, it didn't matter where we stayed.  we were going to drive it all either way.  so we picked the loveliest little hotel -- the hotel belvedere in conca dei marini.  our room included breakfast [take on the terrace overlooking the water, of course], a parking.  if you are going to drive along the coast -- i can not stress this enough -- get a hotel that has parking!

conca dei marini is tiny, and there wasn't much by our hotel that was walking distance, and we were not getting back into the car.  after wandering down the road a ways, we found a little path with some stairs with signs for restaurants.  we ventured down.  

and oh my gosh were we happy we did.  not only did we see some of the most gorgeous scenery of our trip -- hidden little doorways, overgrowing flowers and the most amazing views of the tyrrhenian sea.  we ended up dining at a small, family owned restaurant called l'ippocampo.  and when i say 'family owned,' i mean literally the woman that was cooking and waiting on us was also sitting a ta large table in the back that was overflowing with laughing family and children.  our table was less than a hundred feet from the water, and a small garden with fresh basil and tomatoes was within reach.  i ordered the gnocchi alla sorrentina and watched the basil get plucked from the garden and placed atop my bowl.

with full bellies and happy to be out of the car, we fell asleep to the sound of crashing waves outside our balcony door.

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we woke up just in time to take advantage of the breakfast included with our room.  hot coffee, chocolate croissants, fruit salad, and fresh meats and cheeses were served outside on the terrace overlooking the water.  it didn't suck.

once we checked out, we loaded up our little car and drove along the coast ahead to positano.  there were lots of little towns where we could have stopped, but we chose positano for a few reasons.  it was on our way north to naples and rome, and it was where some of the dreamiest beach scenes in the talented mr. ripley were filmed.

if you're driving to positano... good luck finding parking.  it's nearly impossible.  we found a little parking lot where we felt trusting enough to toss our keys to a stranger and hand him an ungodly amount of euros to make sure our rental wasn't stolen.  it was quite a walk down to the beach but it was our only option... and the scenery wasn't all that bad.

after slowly making our way down to the water [and stopping nearly every cute little shop we passed], we checked out the beach scene.  we decided to pay €10 per person for a beach chair and umbrella.  it seemed a little annoying at first, but once i saw that it included a place to change, and that the black sand was so hot it was burning my feet, i decided it was well worth it.

the water was warm and clean and clear, picture perfect and everything i'd hoped it would be.  i am not the kind of person who can just go to the beach and get some sun.  no way.  i gotta get IN that water.  and once i got in and could see the view from the water, splashing around in the soft waves, the weight of pregnancy lifted off me, there was no way i was getting out until it was time to eat.

there was a wealth of restaurants near the water, and even more back in the main village of positano.  we saw some lovely shaded outdoor seating at la pergola ristorante, right near our beach chairs.  i had more bolognese -- which did not disappoint -- and we had the local specialty of grilled lemon leaves with caprese salad.  it was amazing, and this little beachy pasta shop ended up being one of my favorite meals of the trip.

after we ate, i dragged philp back to our beach chairs for a little while longer.  i wasn't going to leave that water one moment before i absolutely had to.  we didn't have too long of a drive ahead of us to sorrento, but we knew we didn't want to get in too late.  along with the afternoon sun, we packed up, used the changing stalls to peel off our wet and sandy suits and hiked back up to our car.

before too long we were in sorrento.  but once we got there, it took us just as long to find our hotel and park as it did to actually drive from positano to sorrento.  it was a mess.  and we got into a huge mishap with our rental car.  no bueno.  let's just say we returned it short a side mirror and with a couple love-dings in the door.  not so bad.  our hotel, the palazzo guardati, turned out to only be accessible by foot and had no parking, despite what the website we booked on said.  and it's not as if italy is ripe with parking lots and garages.  but other than that, the hotel wasn't bad.  it had a lovely bathroom and a decent enough breakfast [so philip said, my morning sickness didn't really care for any of it]. 

for dinner that night we stumbled on pizzeria aurora, mostly for their lack of a wait time and outdoor seating.  a friend of mine had recommended a restaurant next door to it [can't remember the name] but the menu didn't appeal much to us, so we stopped in aurora instead.  it was ok.  i had ravioli, which was a change of pace.  it wasn't the best meal i had in italy, but still better than nearly all the italian restaurants back home :)  afterwards we wandered to gelateria primavera for gelato.  the inside is plastered with pictures of the pope with the chef, which i kind of got a kick out of.  then it was back to our hotel for some rest before our long drive north the next morning.  i have to say, i wasn't a huge fan of sorrento.  we were there less than 24 hours, so it's not a fair judgment to make.  but it was bigger and more industrial than the small towns we'd been through before, and i missed them.  the quaintness, the water.  the crashing of the waves.  but that was the last we'd see of the water for a while before we went north to rome.

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we had over a three hour drive north to rome, a bit shorter than our drive across the width of italy just a few days prior.  we passed mount vesuvius and pompeii, which would have been awesome stops if we had more time.  i'd been to both before and didn't have a strong desire to stop again.  instead, we opted to stop off quickly in naples for some pizza [it was lunch time, after all], which was right on our way.

naples isn't too far from sorrento, so it was an easy stop to make.  except for the nightmare-ish traffic in the city itself, it was a great stop.  we stopped off at piazza dante, and walked down via port'alba for a bit.  there were lots of book shops, and i had to stop every couple feet for photo opportunities. 

 there were so many places to eat down via lombardi, including gino sorbillo -- supposedly the best pizza in italy, and where it was first created, so the story goes.  we took one look at the line and rolled our eyes as my pregnant belly did a backflip.  i mean, we were in naples.  how good could that one pizza place possibly be over anywhere else?  we stopped instead at pizzeria attanasio where i ate an entire pizze siciliana [with eggplant] and could have licked the plate clean.  it was fantastic.

then we hopped back into our little rental for the drive to rome.  though we didn't fly out until the next morning, we opted to return our rental car at the airport.  the reason for this was twofold: [1] we were staying at the airport hilton, and [2] you can't drive in the city of rome unless you are a taxi or a local as designated on your license plate.  the hilton, which we were able to walk to after ditching what was left of our rental car, also had a hotel shuttle leaves every 2 hours and goes right into the center of rome.  but being the impatient people we are, we decided to take a direct train from the airport for €11 per person.  easy and cheap.

eager to stretch our legs from the long car ride, we decided to take our time wandering from the termini to osteria romana di simmi.  this, again, was liz's recommendation and i could not agree more.  it was a phenomenal meal and the service was perfect.  i, of course, had more bolognese [i'm not sorry] and we split a few appetizers, a well as dessert.  our server was quite the charmer, and between courses gave us a tour of the private museum underground.  just ask jean pierro about it when you visit.  tell him i sent you! [kidding.]

rome is my favorite place in italy.  i don't know what it is, but it is the place i'd live if i could.  it's a big city, and what a history.  the people have a fire in them i feel like you don't find anywhere else. i've been three times now and i can't wait for my fourth visit.   i think i could just slip into a crowd there and be lost forever, in a good romantic sense, not in the weird, sad way that sounded.  
since it was after midnight when we finally were ready to head back to call it a night, we had to take a taxi.  the train to the airport stops running at midnight.  for the record, i do not recommend doing this.  it was obscenely expensive and it was sheer luck we got a cab that would take a credit card, but, what can i say?  it was our last night in europe and we weren't done with rome when the trains were.

the italy portion of our trip was my favorite.  it's one of those places we will keep returning to, again and again, no matter how many times we've been.  it holds a certain special magic for us, and i know it always will.  if you haven't been, please, make this your next trip.  

our favorite books for toddlers.

my little boy is a bookworm.  throughout the last two years, we've learned what kind of books julian likes.  and when he likes a book, we read it over and over and over and over again.  the library has been great for us because we have a reason to get new ones every couple weeks -- but sometimes, we just have to buy the damn book.  the biggest hits around here are books about trucks, trains, sea creatures or woodland animals.

here are twelve of our favorite most-loved books by julian that don't drive me crazy when i read them over and over again.

heads up: amazon links are affiliate.

the snail and the whale is a fantastic book.  julian got it for christmas over a year ago and it took him a while to get into it.  it's a longer book that requires a bit more patience, but with his love for sea animals it jolted to the top of our list once he was old enough to sit through it all.  it's a tongue twister with a lovely message -- that even the smallest of creatures can be adventurers, too.

wynken, blynken and nod is a book that my mother used to read to my brother and i when we were little.  in fact, my brother actually has a tattoo of the old moon.  it's originally a poem by eugene field that was also turned into a song by carly simon.  where are you going and what do you wish? is one of my favorite lines that i always want julian to remember.

goodight goodnight construction site is a pretty common book for anyone who has little ones that are truck-obsessed, like ours is.  it's really well written and has all of julian's favorite trucks, and has quickly become a regular in our bedtime book rotation.

pout pout fish was gifted to julian on a visit from my dad before he turned one, and before too long he was OBSESSED.  it was the first book he ever sat through, and we'd read it again and again and again before he got tired of it.  it was also the first book philip and i memorized.  even when we read other books before we put him down, he will usually ask us to tell us this one once he's already in bed with the lights out, even to this day.  other pout pout fish books that we read often are smile, pout pout fish, sweet dreams, pout pout fishpout pout fish and the big big dark and  hide-and-seek pout pout fish which is usually kept in the car and is always packed on airplanes because it keeps him occupied for a loooooong time.

little owl's night we bought on a whim, because julian went through an owl phase.  before long we learned that divya srinivasan was one of our favorite children's book authors and illustrators.  julian's love for her first book turned into us purchasing her other books, little owl's day and octopus alone, which was an instant hit because of his love for sea creatures.  they are all adorably illustrated and have sweet story lines.

hank has a dream was another random buy from our local bookstore and was an unexpected hit.  it's about a little bear explaining his dream to a bird friend.  at the end he recreates the dream with his friend, and it's pretty cute.  rebecca dudley does an insane job with the animation, too.

runaway bunny is the lesser-known companion book to goodnight, moon.  we love goodnight, moon also, but this one gets read a little bit more.  it's a heartwarming story of a baby bunny who says he's going to run away from home, and his mama explains that no matter where the baby bunny goes, the mama will find him.

the goodnight train was a present and julian instantly loved it.  it's a great wind-down story before bedtime about a train rolling through dreamland.  it's got a good rhythm to it and i adore the colors in the illustration.  but it always kind of makes me laugh in the beginning when they say the train is being filled with coal [eeesh, how old is this train? makes me think of the office every time].

the little boy who lost his name was a book we ordered for julian for his first christmas and he's just now able to sit through the whole thing.  we couple it with his personalized name puzzle so he gets the idea of finding one letter at a time and he just loves it.  we did it three times just the other day.  i love this book concept and can't wait to order the space one for finley's first christmas.

little blue truck leads the way was a book my mom had bought and kept in her 'grammy bag' [the bag she has with her whenever she comes to see julian, with a couple toys and snacks in it.  he'd read it with her every time they played together and was soon asking to read it even when it wasn't around.  there are other little blue truck books but this one is definitely our favorite [farm animals aren't super big around here], and julian loves the taxis and trucks and pictures of the city.  it's got a great message for littles about taking turns, too.

we are always looking for new books -- got any good recommendations for the toddler age range?

around here // 012.

i'm finally climbing out from underneath the piles of boxes in the new house and dusting off the ol keyboard.  we've been in the house two weeks now, and i'm actually pretty impressed with the progress we've made.  julian's room is completely finished -- paint is dry and pictures are hung.  of course that's the only room that is completely done, but we've made good progress in all the other rooms.  most of the other rooms.  well, some of them.  philip has been traveling a lot since we moved in, so let's just say i'm impressed because i can't lift anything and he hasn't been around too much.

moving on.

i'll start sharing little peeks of the house here and there on instagram, so follow along if you're a little voyeuristic about looking inside people's houses.  i know i am.

craving apple butter.  but settling for trader joe's pumpkin butter because apparently apple butter is a regional thing and i'm not interested in making an obscene amount of it just to spread on toast one day.

reading her.  i'm not far enough yet to make a judgment on it, but i can't wait to be done already because next on my list is big magic.  it's everywhere i turn these days and i know the universe is pointing me in it's direction.

planning a weekend away in the mountains in two weeks... and a spa day on friday, which can't come soon enough for this aching pregnant body.

missing my old neighborhood.  there's no good coffee shop in the new neighborhood, which means i'm drinking diet coke in the afternoon instead of good coffee in the morning since philip is the barista around here.  blurg.

drinking earl grey tea with milk and sugar every evening and sometimes in the afternoon.  my most consistent pregnancy craving so far.  considering other cravings i've had it's pretty distinguished if you ask me.

celebrating seven years of marriage this past weekend.  how is that even possible?  pssssst... i recently threw some of my favorite wedding photos up on the blog if you want to scope them out.

watching all the space movies.  interstellar, gravity and apollo 13 have been on tv here after bedtime.  up next is contact.  and i can't wait for our next date at the movies, which we are saving for when the martian comes out.  we are total space nerds [i even read the martian, which i can't recommend enough]

listening to first aid kit.  can't stop listening to them, actually.

playing trucks.  julian and i really like to crash them off the couch and down the stairs.  what can i say -- i'm a mom of a boy :)

not decorating everything at once, which is both the best and a challenge.  right now i have my eye on this rug for our master bathroom that's coming together slowly.

obsessing over the adorable and high-quality beanies and earbands from shit that i knit.  so impressed with their mission and craftsmanship!  they are running a kickstarter now through the next three weeks so hop on over to support local crafters and score yourself a sweet knit hat.  i've got my eye on a bliss band.

awaiting the delivery of our brand new outdoor lounge set we ordered from wayfair! go check out their sales -- we snagged our corner couch set at 53% off plus free shipping.  can't be beat!

crying at all the refugee stories i hear.  all the time.

wearing maternity jeans.  we are finally transitioning to fall around here.

cooking not as much as i should.  but i did make some homemade chicken fried rice with brown rice last week, and let's just say that didn't last long around here.