Touring the Amalfi Coast

In 24 Pictures: Private Tours Often Provide The Best Value, Touring Positano & The Amalfi Coast, Plus A Spectacular Lunch

Crystal Serenity © Ralph Grizzle
Mount Vesuvius and Crystal Serenity in our wake as we tender ashore in Sorrento, Italy, for an all-day private tour of the Amalfi Coast. © 2012 Ralph Grizzle

On the first of our two days in Sorrento, Alex and I tendered from Crystal Serenity to do Pompeii on our own, saving a lot of shekels over the ship’s shore excursion, but of course, not having all of the comfort — or the guide — that the ship shorex offered.

On the second day, we were invited by Sorrento 1st Choice for an all-day private car tour along the Amalfi coast. I was skeptical at first for a few reasons: 1) I thought my 15-year-old son would get bored with the all-day excursion; 2) I knew the Amalfi coast highway was curvy — would we get carsick? and 3) would our guide speak intelligible English?

The last of those worries was put to rest when Raffaele, an extremely affable and accommodating guide and driver met us at the tender landing in Sorrento. After introductions and a brief explanation of our plan for the day, Raffaele put me, Alex and another journalist who we had invited along into a clean, roomy and air-conditioned Mercedes van.

Raffaele told us a few facts about Sorrento as we made our way from the tender landing up through a canyon of volcanic stone to the city center of Sorrento and into the hills overlooking the city. We were on our way.

Crystal Serenity © Ralph Grizzle
 Leave the driving to someone else. Being chauffered along the curvy coastline of the Amalfi Coast. © 2012 Ralph Grizzle

My first worry — would my son be bored? — was put to rest when we got our first glimpse of the Amalfi coast. It was jaw-droppingly, awe-inspiring stunning.

Later during our drive, Raffaele told us that he had driven clients who had been moved to tears by the region’s beauty. My photos from the day can’t capture the emotion of what we saw and experienced, but I came to understand and appreciate that for those who have long aspired to see the Amalfi coast, being here could evoke tearful emotions.

Raffaele put my third concern to rest quickly. His English and his knowledge were admirable. I appreciated the fact that he was so accommodating, stopping for us to take photographs and allowing us time to explore Amalfi and Ravello. He also gave us time to breathe, with no running commentary but rather speaking when he had something to tell us. As a guide, Raffaele gets an A+.

The pictures pretty much tell the rest of the story. Here are some of the facts.

  • We left at 8:30 a.m. and returned to the ship at 4 p.m.
  • Cost of the tour for all three of us was €300, plus we tipped Raffaele another €70, a bit over the normal 15 percent to 20 percent. 
  • We could have had more in the van for the cost of the tour. It would comfortably seat five — or more.
  • If you have a group, it’s best that you check prices and reserve space by visiting the website of Sorrento 1st Choice.
  • The company receives high praise from other travelers on TripAdvisor.
  • Our tour included an overview of Sorrento, Positano, Amalfi, Ravello and Scala.
  • We had lunch, not included in the cost of the tour, at a beautiful family operated restaurant perched high above Positano, Trattoria la Tagliata. The view was stunning, the food fresh as well as delicious, and the price shocking, in a good way, only  €25 for family style starters that could have made for an entire meal, followed by a pasta main course and homemade desserts, plus bottled water – and get this, a bottle of the house wine. A small glass of limoncello made for the perfect ending to this lovely lunch.
Crystal Serenity © Ralph Grizzle
The highway along the Amalfi Coast offers some spectacular views. © 2012 Ralph Grizzle
Crystal Serenity © Ralph Grizzle
The rugged Amalfi coastline. © 2012 Ralph Grizzle
Crystal Serenity © Ralph Grizzle
Place of every traveler’s dreams? Positano. © 2012 Ralph Grizzle
Crystal Serenity © Ralph Grizzle
The palette that is Positano. © 2012 Ralph Grizzle
Crystal Serenity © Ralph Grizzle
The village of Positano spills into the sea. © 2012 Ralph Grizzle
Crystal Serenity © Ralph Grizzle
Picturesque Positano. © Ralph Grizzle
Crystal Serenity © Ralph Grizzle
Probably the three most popular destinations for daytrips from Sorrento for cruise passengers: the Amalfi Coast; Pompeii and Capri. © 2012 Ralph Grizzle
Crystal Serenity © Ralph Grizzle
Peering in to Positano. © 2012 Ralph Grizzle
Crystal Serenity © Ralph Grizzle
Positively Positano. © 2012 Ralph Grizzle
Crystal Serenity © Ralph Grizzle
Our extremely affable, knowledgeable and accommodating guide, Raffaele Vespole. Not to worry, all Italians talk with their hands while driving (seriously, we were actually stopped at this point). © 2012 Ralph Grizzle
Crystal Serenity © Ralph Grizzle
A stop along the way for some refreshing orange juice and lemonade. © 2012 Ralph Grizzle
Crystal Serenity © Ralph Grizzle
Yep, that is all that is supporting the highway. © 2012 Ralph Grizzle
Crystal Serenity © Ralph Grizzle
Our next stop was Ravello, the picturesque hilltop village high above the town of Amalfi. © 2012 Ralph Grizzle
Crystal Serenity © Ralph Grizzle
A Chernobyl lemon that my son Alex is holding? No. Know what this fruit is? Please tell us. © 2012 Ralph Grizzle
Crystal Serenity © Ralph Grizzle
After Ravello, back to the town of Amalfi and the beautiful Cattedrale Chiostro di Amalfi del Paradiso. © 2012 Ralph Grizzle
Crystal Serenity © Ralph Grizzle
View from the cathedral in Amalfi. © 2012 Ralph Grizzle
Crystal Serenity © Ralph Grizzle
We had lunch at Trattoria la Tagliata high above Positano. © 2012 Ralph Grizzle
Crystal Serenity © Ralph Grizzle
Chef Vincenzo Barba with our driver Raffaele. © 2012 Ralph Grizzle
Crystal Serenity © Ralph Grizzle
Beautiful bruschetta, with tomatoes fresh from the garden. © 2012 Ralph Grizzle
Crystal Serenity © Ralph Grizzle
This was only the starter, with fresh fava beans, eggplant, prosciutto and buffalo mozarella – and more.  © 2012 Ralph Grizzle
Touring the Amalfi Coast Crystal Serenity © Ralph Grizzle
The restaurant takes fresh herbs, vegetables and fruit right from its own garden. © 2012 Ralph Grizzle
Crystal Serenity © Ralph Grizzle
A family owned operation (there are 10 family members altogether who run the restaurant). Pictured here are brother and sister, Peppino & Antonietta. © 2012 Ralph Grizzle. Learn more about Trattoria La Tagliata.

 

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