The unpleasantness of being in Naples wore off as soon as we were settled on the boat that would take us to Sorrento. Maybe it was the deep blue of the sea, or the cool breeze that refreshed our sweaty bodies. Or Vesuvius, looming in the distance, reminding us of all those history lessons delivered so long ago and so far from here. Pompeii…Herculaneum…
But it could also have been the tall, thin as a willow whip blonde that walked up the gangplank with the assistance of the crew right ahead of us who bore an uncanny resemblance to Diana. The Diana. Her hair was short, and she was dressed in a leather mini skirt and strapless bodice. Her four-inch heels drew everyone’s attention, and we waited to see if she could balance herself on the boat as well as she could on cobblestones. Most of the crew exchanged knowing looks, but one took it upon himself to sit next to her as we made our way across the Bay of Naples.
At first, she had chosen to settle in on the first deck in the cushy seats, but after we’d all dragged our luggage up the tiny stairs and flopped into seats where we’d get a good view in the open air, she emerged upstairs. And as much as there were only a few passengers, and therefore, many open seats everywhere, she decided to sit in the row directly in front of us.
We must have appeared to have been harmless, or uninterested in young women wearing black leather.
I soon figured out I was on the wrong side of the boat to snap my next 500 photos and moved, with the MoH following. We kept an eye on the boys and the woman as she sort of avoided, but not with any true energy, making conversation with the forward crew member. He eventually gave up on her and disappeared downstairs.
At some point in a strong British accent, she turned to the boys, and with a cigarette posed between two fingers, asked if either of them had a light. You just don’t know how hilarious that is considering that not only does neither smoke, but that they wouldn’t expect anyone to think they did. Well, that anyone like her would ask anyone like them anything. Ever. Their raised eyebrows and quick glance at one another after she turned around told it all.
When we stepped onto the dock in Sorrento, she was already getting into what we thought was her mother’s car, because we realized at some point, that she wasn’t quite 20. Goodness. Nothing like a bit of intrigue to take one’s mind off travel weary doldrums.
Officially, we were rested and ready to enjoy a small town where streets close to traffic in the evening so everyone can walk and shop, sit in cafes and watch passersby, or eat well into the evening. We did all of that, and crowded into groups clustered around televisions in bars here and there to watch Roger Federer lose to Rafael Nadal at Wimbledon. It was like a huge street party.
In a walled garden setting lined with lemon trees and dotted with impatiens, we enjoyed pasta, seafood, lovely wine, and dessert at ‘o Parrucchiano “La Favorita,” a restaurant housed in an old building and credited with inventing cannoli. Who knew? The wait staff was ridiculously tolerant of our horrible attempts at Italian, and the setting a perfect place to relax after an extremely long day. Even the cat that wandered through the tables and brushed against our legs added to the perfect evening. And yes, I fed the cat. Incorrigible.
I now know that Sorrento was my favorite place on our vacation. We never took the bus to Positano or Amalfi, nor did we take one of the ferries we constanly saw headed to the island of Capri. But I have no regrets because we wouldn’t have been able to enjoy what was right in front of us: balmy weather, delicious food, hospitable people, the Hotel del Mare, and a clear, warm sea to swim in.
Although everyone seems crazed to spend time in Venice or Tuscany when they travel to Italy, Sorrento is a place to be considered. I know I’d go back so I could stroll through the quiet streets without an agenda of any kind and let time take its course, but maybe in the Fall, when others are back to work, and the idea of other places to go and things to see don’t exist.
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