Italy and the Amalfi Coast with Exodus Travel
Sheena from Exodus Travel shares her experience of Italy and the Amalfi Coast with us, as well as some great travel tips to keep in mind for your next holiday!
Thoughts on Italy
It’s one of those crowd-pleasing destinations with the comforts of home but enough difference to be interesting and holiday worthy. The food is amazing, English is widely spoken and standards in accommodation are just like home. On the other hand – the incredible architecture of the cathedrals and medieval cities is nothing like ours, the history is far older than anything we experience in North America and the stunning coastlines and warm weather draw us in all year long. For me, Italy brings to mind ‘the beautiful life’, La Dolce Vita. Where glamorous women sip wine leisurely by the sea while a warm breeze washes over them. Where you can eat all the pizza, pasta, cheeses, olives and gelato you want and not gain a pound. Where you can pick up fresh cheeses and meats from the local butcher, greeting your neighbors along the way and picnic with prosecco in the sun before ending the day with a dip in the pool to cool down and of course, more beverages. Sound too good to be true? I’d been to Italy a few times and this year I decided to go back with that goal. Live the Italian lifestyle to the fullest – it can be done!
We focused our trip on the Amalfi coast for 8 days with the active adventure company Exodus Travels. While they have a group trip you can join, I was travelling with my husband and in-laws and we wanted to focus on enjoying time as a family so we opted for their Self-Guided hiking trip.
Travel Tip #1: Group trips are great for solo travelers and account for about 60% of the group but there are many styles of ‘tours’. Self-guided is great for those who want some planning and structure but also want to go with the flow. We chose a hiking trip with plenty of free time. This trip took us to the hotspots, cities like Amalfi, Positano and Ravello as well as historical sites like Pompeii and allowed plenty of time to sit back by the pool or explore smaller towns outside the tourist trail. Plus, the trip stayed at one location for 8 days which meant we only had to unpack once, even though my bag didn’t arrive when we did. However, I was outfitted in new European style dresses in no time thanks to travel insurance!
Travel Tip #2: ALWAYS pack essential items like your swimsuit, a change of clothes and necessities in your carry on.
Travel Tip #3 Don’t travel without insurance coverage!
Exodus had us staying in the small community of Bomerano in the Agerola area. We arrived at the hotel and it appeared to be small, cute and fairly simple. Upon check in, the owner greets us and tells us about his hotel. His nephew grabs our bags and shows us to our room and tells us about the amazing dinner in store for us. We later get to meet the owners wife, Nona and extended family who all make us feel at home and clearly pour their heart into running this place. Not bad at all for three stars.
Travel Tip #4: Star ratings give a general idea of what to expect but vary greatly by country. Check out reviews by other travelers for an idea of the experience instead.
Travel Tip #5: Staying in one location means that the team at the hotel gets to know you and your preferences. They would seat us in our favorite spot, knew little details like who preferred still or sparkling water at dinner and catered wonderfully to my husbands dietary concerns.
Travel Tip #6: Vegetarians and Coeliacs are well catered for in most of Italy. Surprisingly the land of pasta totally understands gluten free needs! Food was incredible and as someone with an allergy, he didn’t have food removed from his option, but extra care put into making alternative options available. We even got a tour of the kitchen and participated in making some wood fired pizzas and tiramisu. Apologies to my group who ate the batch I made though. Cracking eggs is especially difficult after a few prosecco’s.
I like to hike on weekends but I’d never done anything classified as a ‘hiking trip’ before. Neither had my husband or his parents who fall into the retired senior category so we were all a little nervous about what would be required of us. To prepare, we were given an exercise plan to work up to the walks prior to the trip. The main thing to know about this region of Italy is that they LOVE their steps. I could immediately tell why everyone was so fit.
Each evening, our tour guide would check in with us and see if we had any questions. Each day we followed well laid out trip notes to guide us through our hike. My favorite hike… is a toss up of the harder trek up Monte Tre Cali with its views of the Sorrento peninsula and Positano below and the Walk of the Gods, known as one of the best walks in Italy where you end right in Positano after drinking in the coastlines and forest trails.
Travel Tip #7: Remember that heat and humidity play a big factor in your hike. If it’s your first time on an active holiday, try to avoid peak season temperatures.
Travel Tip #8: Find a trip within your limits but don’t be afraid to push yourself. If you want to try something outside your comfort zone, give yourself time to train and ask reputable companies like Exodus for fitness guides to follow.
With plenty of free time, we booked a local excursion to visit both Pompeii and Herculaneum. It’s a lot to see in one day, most people chose one or the other. If you want to be impressed by the grand scale, go for Pompeii. It’s the more popular option, it’s massive and has plenty to keep you entertained all day but be warned, there is almost no shade here. If you want to see a more compact and arguably better preserved site, go for Herculaneum. It is where the wealthy lived and has more complete structures. It’s also a more compact site which can be seen in a shorter amount of time. We also spent a day relaxing at the beaches in Positano.
Travel Tip #9: In peak summer, sun beds and umbrellas are at a premium and tourists are everywhere so it’s worth walking a little further down the road and checking out your options. Our guide told us about a hotel 10 minutes walk from the central beach where we relaxed in €8 beach chairs with umbrellas. Change rooms included and the food and drinks were reasonable. It was a great way to spend the day. With time spent sipping bubbles at the beach and other free days enjoying views from the old villas in Ravello, I think I achieved my goal of feeling fancy.
After 8 days I really did feel like I had embraced and achieved 8 days of La Dolce Vita and would recommend this experience to anyone!
Travel Tip #10: You can fly in and out of different cities. We flew into Naples and home from Venice. You can also experience a tour for your whole vacation or some of it and continue exploring Europe after. We continued our Italian adventure by heading an hour north of Venice to sip more bubbles in the Prosecco hills and ended in Venice, but that’s a story for another time. Ciao!
October 2, 2017