Published January/February 2013

Part Two: Around the Mediterranean in 12 Days

The second half of our cruise offers opportunity to indulge in the delights of Sorrento, take in the rich scenery of Capri, explore the ramparts of Dubrovnik, and wander the waterways of Venice

BYJill Schildhouse
With St. Tropez’s quaint countryside, Pisa’s famous Leaning Tower, Florence’s bustling city, and Rome’s magnificent architecture already in our cruise ship’s wake, we still have several cities to explore on our voyage. My friend and I may be halfway through our whirlwind journey, but some of this region’s most talked-about gems are yet to come.
 
Sorrento, Italy
While taking the tender boats from where the Azamara Club Cruises Quest has dropped anchor off the coast of Sorrento, we look up to the buildings perched high on the wall of cliffs ahead. We are in the Gulf of Naples heading toward the northern coast of the Sorrento Peninsula (the famed Amalfi Coast is located on the southern side). Once ashore the Marina Piccola, we take the lift up to town and board our bus (the driver’s name is Luigi, of course) for today’s excursion.
 
After the congested hustle and bustle of Florence and Rome the past few days, Sorrento’s slow pace, clean streets, and magnificent scenery are a breath of fresh air. We wind up narrow streets lined with fragrant orange, lemon, and olive trees — covered with black nets to provide shade and protect from storms — before stopping at a local farm, Le Colline di Sorrento. After a short walking tour of the lush olive and lemon groves (some of the olive trees here are 400 years old) and olive oil-making room, we are treated to a cheese-making demonstration and sample of caciocavallo, a stretched-curd cheese made from cow’s milk and shaped like a teardrop. In the gift shop, we purchase the farm’s bottled extra virgin olive oil to enhance our cooking back at home and sample limoncello (a liqueur made from the zest of the area’s grapefruit-size lemons).
 
On the ride back to the Piazza Tasso, the square in the heart of Sorrento, our guide explains that the Margherita pizza was invented and named for the visit to Naples by Italy’s Queen Margherita of Savoy in 1889. It was also made to represent the Italian flag, with its red tomatoes, green basil, and white mozzarella. So we stay in town for lunch after our tour ends to try one of the 50 different types of pizza at Pizzeria Aurora — along with creamy gnocchi, a fresh Caprese salad (a nod to tomorrow’s stop in Capri), and a perfectly balanced sweet and salty melon and prosciutto appetizer.
 
Capri, Italy

That evening, we sail just a few nautical miles to the island of Capri, off the western tip of the Sorrento Peninsula in the Tyrrhenian Sea. From Marina Grande, we take the funicular ride up to Capri Town (€1.80 per person) and are instantly transported to a land of luxury shopping. Fashion boutiques of famous Italian designers known for creating red carpet couture line the streets of Via Camerelle and Via Vittorio Emanuele III. We quickly surmise the only thing we can afford here is a scoop of gelato, so we window shop with our cones and enjoy the spectacular view of the sunset over the sea from this high vantage point.
 
The next day, we take a boat ride around Capri to see the countless coves, caves, and inlets that surround the rugged coastline. The first main attraction we come to is the Blue Grotto (Grotta Azzurra), a sea cave in which sunlight passes through the seawater to create a brilliant blue hue. Though our boat is too big to enter the cave opening, we watch dozens of smaller wooden rowboats waiting for their turn to shimmy inside. The skilled oarsmen who provide these tours, and their passengers, must squeeze through the tiny hole while lying down in the boat — but once inside, the cave is more spacious. Our captain takes us in and out of a few other colorful grottos with larger openings (a jellyfish-infested green one and a white one with a stalagmite that looks like a statue of the Virgin Mary).
 
We continue on to the trio of rocks that graces nearly all postcard images of Capri: the Faraglioni. The first rock, Stella, is still attached to the main island. Mezzo is in the middle, and we sail straight through its central arch. Furthest from land is Scopolo, known for a species of blue lizards found nowhere else in the world. We have a quick seafood pasta lunch at the Luigi ai Faraglioni Beach Resort terrace restaurant, but a storm rolling in forces us to cut the beach portion of this tour short.    
Faraglioni, Capri
Faraglioni, Capri
Via Camerelle, Capri
Via Camerelle, Capri
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