Find a private tour guide to customize your vacation and tour of the Amalfi coast.
This is the first in a series of reviews about traveling to Italy. We were traveling on a Mediterranean cruise this summer and had a day to spend on the Amalfi coast of Italy. We prefer hiring our own tour guides rather than going through the ship. Why? Reliability, customization, cost, personalization and spontaneity are just some of the reasons. Over the years we have learned to trust the reviews on sites such as Cruise Critic Message Boards and Trip Advisor. For our day trip on the Amalfi coast, we decided to use Private Day Tours based on a referral by our tour guide we chose for the Nice portion of our cruise – Ingrid from Kultours. She recommended we contact Gianluca Savarese, and he responded to us within hours of us sending him an email query. He was always willing to answer questions and help us craft the itinerary we wanted based on our interests and having our 9-year-old daughter with us.
We ended up deciding on a combination of touring the Amalfi Coast and visiting Pompeii. He offered to provide a separate guide for Pompeii if we wanted, as in Italy, your private tour driver/guide is not allowed to come with you and be your guide while you walk around anywhere. Valentina was the guide assigned to us and she met us as soon as we got off the ship in Salerno. Literally we got off the gangway and there she was holding a sign with our name. Valentina was warm, welcoming and having a 9-year-old daughter of her own, connected with us quickly. Flexibility and trusting your guide is key to a great experience.
Valentina drove us along the beautiful coast and was willing to stop wherever we wanted to enjoy the views and even gave us suggestions as to where the best pictures could be taken. Along the way, we were talking about local produce and goods and mentioned we wanted to pick up some local olive oil. She suggested we modify the itinerary to stop at a place near her home where today, the fourth generation of the original producers manage the family enterprise, Frantoio Gargiulo. It was an impromptu (flexibility!!) stop and well worth it. We got to try an array of wonderful award-winning olive oil. We all fell in love with a mushroom olive oil and an orange olive oil. They also had bottles that were adorable and perfect for gifts. We ended up buying so many that they shipped it all home for us. (When we got the package, I was delighted to see they added a large bag of pasta for free) An added surprise was a chance to get to meet her 9-year-old daughter Sara. Unbeknown to us, she was with her grandfather for the day around the corner from the farm. After we changed plans to go there, Valentina had called and asked him to bring Sara to the farm so she could meet our daughter – a nice gesture. We felt welcomed to the family.
From there, she took us to Sorrento and given we wanted to see some local crafts and sights, dropped us off and gave us some advice as to where to walk and look around. Sorrento has quaint, narrow streets filled with shops and restaurants. We went into a print shop and met the most wonderful older gentleman. He has owned the shop for over 20 years and was happy to chat about the history and people of Sorrento. Don’t miss the Basilica di Sant’Antonio and be sure to pop next door to see the magnificent courtyard.
Valentina had originally planned for us to lunch there, but because we wanted to eat where she would eat, she quickly adjusted the itinerary on the fly and made a call to a restaurant in Positano where she would take her family and made a reservation for us. From Sorrento, Valentina took us to Positano – a beautiful little town sitting above the sea. Our daughter suddenly was feeling a little hungry, and Valentina gave her a cornetto that she had bought for herself as a snack while we explored Positano – another nice gesture. Be sure to walk down the long, winding and flower covered pathway that leads down to the beach. This is a long walk with a lot of stairs as you near the beach. Along the way you will find little shops and restaurants. It is quite crowded and a little congested but worth the effort to reach the beach. We were short on time, due to our olive oil detour, so I wasn’t able to enjoy the shops as much as I would have liked.
Finally it was time for lunch. Valentina drove us to a restaurant called Trattoria La Taguaja. It lies above Positano with a spectacular view of the bay. It is a “local” restaurant but starting to be known by tourists. The owner sat us at a table and told us he would be providing a light, quick lunch for us which, of course, had to include wine. Our “light” lunch was huge! The antipasti, first course, consisted of over ten dishes ranging from vegetables to meats to cheese and beans. We were in heaven. All freshly made from local ingredients. Next was the pasta course, photograph below. Four homemade pastas including gnocchi, pasta with zucchini, ravioli and manicotti. Sublime! To keep the lunch “light”, we were skipping the meat course. After the pasta we thought we were done when two large plates of dessert were brought to the table. One plate was filled with delectable cakes and the other with fresh, sweet fruit. An espresso topped off our meal.
Flexibility can have its drawbacks and given we had stopped at the olive oil farm and then for lunch, we were a little behind schedule for the final part of our trip – a tour of Pompeii. Touring through Pompeii could take days, so I will cover that in another post. When traveling do your research. Know what you want to see, but be realistic about the time frame. You cannot do it all. Leave time in your schedule to be spontaneous. Hire a local guide and be friendly with them. Let them know up front what type of experience you want. Do you want to feel like a friend is taking you around? Do you want them to be more formal? Do you want to see the local action or just stay with tourist sites? Do you want a little of both? Don’t be afraid to tell them what you want. They will tailor the tour for you.
This little glimpse into the Amalfi coast has made us hungry for more. I will continue to dream about the day we can go back and spend at least a week there. We will definitely request Valentina as our tour guide again. I could imagine us being good friends, if we lived there and look forward to meeting again.
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Happy Healthy Traveling,
Food Done Light is on a mission to keep passion for food but find ways to fit it into a healthy life and hopefully, along the way, change eating habits for good. Healthy living one bite at a time is our motto. You will find heart healthy recipes with Weight Watcher points, and most of all the recipes are delicious. Just ask the Food Done Light family which includes my husband, 9-year-old daughter, Lucy, our 7 yr old Golden Retriever, and Stella, our 12-year-old cat. Find Food Done Light on Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram and Twitter.