Pompeii is not far from Napoli, nor is it far from Sorrento going the other direction, so we did not have a long ride before we pulled into Piazza Tasso, the main square of this adorable little city.
Sorrento is an anomaly. It is busy: buses and taxis, cars and mopeds, pedestrians, restaurants, alleys lined with little shops, wares spilling onto the streets and hanging from doorways.
Yet, the energy of Sorrento is not at all frenetic. In fact, it exudes a safe, friendly, and relaxing vibe, one that makes you pause and catch your breath, slow your pace, and smile. Everyone felt this immediately.
We left Andrea, promising to meet him at a certain spot down the way, “but this time on Italian time,” he said. Before we broke off into smaller groups, we huddled at the corner and agreed to meet there at five o’clock. Then we took off.
Allie, Nichole, and I started as a group, intent on doing some shopping. But Allie’s eyes were twirling around, having already spotted several shiny objects, and we left her early on, deep in the depths of some sparkly little shop.
Nichole and I forged ahead by ourselves, ducking in and out of stores. We sniffed wonderful dried Italian oregano, fingered colorful tablecloths with bright lemon, flower, and grape designs, and admired intricately painted ceramic bowls and other items gleaming from hooks on walls.
A gelato shop appeared. Nichole and I sat at one of the little tables set up across the alley for patrons to rest their shopping-weary feet, and enjoyed our tasty treats.
Back on the street, we ran into Gino and Kris, who had been exploring more Limoncello factories where they, of course, had to do some sampling. They had also happened upon an Irish pub and enjoyed a beer while watching part of a soccer game.
The Sorrento Men’s Club was in full swing, as it always is. Seated at tables gathered under an open-air 16th century dome, small groups of men pass the time playing cards and enjoying each other’s company, no women allowed. But we can observe from the street.
Passing a church, I lifted my camera to catch a just-married couple emerging, surrounded by smiling celebrants. Weddings abound on the Amalfi Coast.
Gino and I spent the rest of our time admiring the artistry of the little wooden boxes ubiquitous in Sorrento. This town is known for its excellent marquetry and various shops display an array of marquetry artwork: jewelry boxes, music boxes, wall plaques. One of the craftsmen we found was the same one from whom we had purchased a music box back in 2000.
It was time to meet the rest of the group at the appointed corner of Piazza Tasso. Everyone showed up on time, and together we walked the block to where Andrea said he would bring the van. Since there was no need for German time here, we patiently waited for Andrea’s Italian time to catch up with us.
While we waited, we gazed down into a spectacular greenery-filled gorge, speculating about the peculiar crumbling stone structure sitting in the middle of it.
This gorge was called the Valley of the Mills, and the crumbling building was the remains of a thousand-year-old mill. At one time there had been a wheat grinding mill here as well as a saw mill that provided cherry, walnut, and olive wood to local artisans.
Andrea arrived, and soon we were rumbling down the coastal road back to Praiano where, in front of Hotel Margherita, he dropped us off.
Waving a fond goodbye to our new friend, we straggled up to the villa.