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Featured Traveler: Marty S. talks about her trip to the Amalfi Coast with VBT

Nothing makes us happier than hearing how much joy one of our vacations can bring to our travelers. Recently, we received a wonderful note from Marty S. about her walking vacation to the Amalfi Coast with VBT in April. Marty and her husband Stephen visited the Sorrentine peninsula for the first time back in the early 1960’s, when the two were working in Portici. The couple still travel to Italy quite frequently but what we loved hearing most was how bringing some friends and family on their first Italian tour with VBT, made this particular trip much more special. The following are some excerpts taken from Marty’s kind letter….

Swaims in AW 1 crop

I am writing to thank you for the marvelous VBT trip to the Amalfi coast from which we just returned. For us, even though we have been in the Naples/Sorrento/ Amalfi area on two other recent occasions for Italian language study, it was truly the trip of a lifetime. First, let me provide you with some context.  In 1960/61, my husband and I were working in Portici and visited Sorrento once on a two-day holiday at Easter. I remember how we could walk out of our hotel door and up the hill above Sorrento through fields of poppies and other flowers to an overlook, from which we could see the Gulf of Salerno and the Bay of Naples. It was breathtakingly beautiful and we have carried the picture in our minds ever since. We signed up for this VBT trip because it promised walks to such viewpoints and we loved the idea that we could explore the area once again, this time with the aide of VBT’s local Trip Leaders.

We travel to Italy about once a year and we often hear our friends say that they would like to go with us, so we chose this trip because we felt that our group of friends would like it and that VBT would be the right company for all of us. We had taken one of VBT’s biking trips in Vermont years ago and we liked the van service, excellent food, and the flexibility of their daily routes. For this tour to Amalfi we also invited our children to join us and three of them were able to do so. It was a perfect fit because they are all serious walkers, great cooks, and they love food. They also wanted to see Portici, the town where we worked in 1960-61, an experience they have heard about since they were kids. VBT’s 2-day pre-trip option allowed for us to visit as a family some 50 years after my husband and I lived there.

Let me say that this trip delighted us all on all of these expectations. The first day’s hike to the Malacoccolo—Swaims in AW 2 cropoverlooking the Gulf of Salerno and the islands off Positano—brought tears to my eyes; it was so beautiful and fit that 50 year old lovely picture in my mind. Every day brought another spectacular scene. Some of my favorites were the views of the Sorrentine coast from the Villa Jovis on Capri, the piazzetta at Capri, the sunset over the Bay of Salerno from the terrace of the hotel in Ravello, the sea view from the Roman basilica just before the restaurant in Pontone, and the view near Positano as we walked up the hill past Santa Maria Del Castello. Naples, the Bay, and the Sorrentine Peninsula are all some of the most beautiful locations anywhere in the world, and this trip provided so many ways to experience that beauty.

Our group all found that the pacing and organization of the trip easily provided for our range of skills and desires. Our Trip Leaders outlined our walking choices the night before, and again in the morning, and every day we had a different range of walking routes and difficulty levels to choose from. The last day, the hike from Santa Maria Del Castello is a good example: we gradually ascended about 1-2 miles through a forest full of wild narcissus, then through a chestnut cutting forest to a park that runs along a fenced overlook of the Gulf of Salerno, and on to our picnic site. We all had a delicious picnic as a group and then it was time to walk back down the hill to Positano. While I chose not to do the downhill portion to Positano— I rode back to the hotel in VBT’s van along with some others—the rest of my family enjoyed their walk down. It was perfect.

The best thing about our pre-trip in Naples was that it provided us with the chance to show our children where we worked in 1960-61. My nephew Francesco has a university friend, Mimmo, whose significant other, Pietro, was born and raised in Portici! As Neapolitans say, “Naples is a small place”. With Pietro, we visited the Royal Botanical Gardens in Portici, the palace of Federico II, and then the waterfront palazzo/orphanage called Casa Materna—which is where we worked many years ago. The pre-trip for us was a special connection to our early work in Italy, and the many things that we learned from that experience.

Before I end these comments, I wanted to say a special thank you to our guides, Vincenzo and Ulisse. In addition to the fact that their planning and leadership provided us the fulfillment of a dream of many years—by introducing our friends and children to the Sorrentine and Amalfi coasts—they both did all of this in ways that we particularly appreciated. They are both patient, resourceful, funny, safety conscious and well-informed about the food and culture of the region.  When I asked my husband how he would describe what he valued most about our two guides, he said their  “enthusiasm, clear, engaging enthusiasm for what we were to do each day” made the trip a pleasure.

To learn about VBT’s walking tour to the Amalfi Coast, please click here.

Top Moments of Discovery on VBT’s Most Popular Tours

One of the things we pride ourselves on here at VBT is incorporating cultural moments of discovery into our tours. The price of a VBT vacation includes airfare, use of VBT bikes, many meals, all accommodations and 2 local Trip Leaders to guide the way; but it also includes fun, authentic  and enriching interactions with locals via home-hosted meals, guided tours, history lessons, and wine and olive oil tastings. To get an idea of some of these unique activities, we’ve compiled a list of top cultural highlights on some of VBT’s most popular European tours.

A guided tour of Český Krumlov, a UNESCO World Heritage Site
Offered on our Czech Republic, Germany & Austria ​biking vacation
Cresky Krumlov Tour
During our 2 night stay in this medieval town on the banks of the Vltava River we’ll get to delve a little deeper than most visitors when we take a guided walking tour of the city’s historic center and learn about local life from our own private guide, Standa.

Learn the secrets of braiding fresh mozzarella during a hands-on demonstration in Sorrento
Offered on our The Amalfi Coast & Capri walking vacation
Mozzarella braiding
After a picturesque walk on the Alta via dei Monti Lattari trail—a path that winds upwards into a beautiful chestnut forest before opening up to a gorgeous view of the Gulf of Salerno—we’ll visit a  a family-owned organic farm in Torca where we’ll also learn how to braid mozzarella during a hands-on demonstration.

Ferry Ride and Guided Tour of Giglio Island
Offered on our Tuscany By the Sea biking vacation
Giglio Fortress
On the morning of Day 6 we’ll board a ferry to scenic Giglio Island, part of the Tuscan Archipelago. We’ll arrive in the village of Giglio Porto, meet our local guide, and take a shuttle to the walled hilltop town of Giglio Castello—which is dominated by a fortress called the Rocca Pisana—to explore the site with her. This town is the oldest inhabited center on the island and still retains much of its medieval atmosphere.

Chocolate Factory Tour and Tasting
Offered on our Sicily: Biking the Southern Coastal Villages​ vacation
Chocolate factory
After a lovely morning cycle to the town of Modica we’ll enjoy one of the more interesting visits of the week,  the chocolate factory of the Bonajuto family. The Antica Dolceria Bonajuto is the oldest chocolate factory in Sicily—they’ve been operating since 1880!—which processes cocoa seeds according to 400-year-old Aztecan techniques. Naturally, a mouth-watering tasting is a must after our tour.

Cycle through the home of the Ladin people
Offered on our Italy: Cycling the Dolomite Valleys vacation
Dolomite valley
En route to our hotel in Cortina, we’ll cycle through the Ampezzan Valley, one of the four historic Ladin valleys. The Ladins—who evolved from Celtic tribes and Roman soldiers—are the inhabitants of these secluded valleys whose rare language, Ladin, is closely related to the Swiss Romansh, Surselvan and Friulian. During some free time in Cortina you may choose to visit the Ethnography museum that houses a collection of antique tools and cultural artifacts.

Private walking tour of scenes that inspired van Gogh
Offered on both our Provence: The Alpilles cycling tour and France: Slow Road through Provence walking vacation
Van Gogh Tour

In the quaint commune of St-Rémy-de-Provence we’ll meet up with local art historian, Mathilde Duvillier, to visit many of the places that inspired some of van Gogh’s most well-known paintings—including the famed Starry Night. The main village is closed to car traffic and features ancient restored houses, Renaissance facades and impressive hotels that have been converted to museums and galleries. After our tour we’ll get to stroll along the narrow cobblestone streets, browse the craft shops, and dine in the town that was once the painter’s muse.

Olive oil tasting and tour at a family-owned mill
Offered on our Tuscan Coast biking vacation
Tuscany Olive Oil tasting
During our visit of the family-owned and operated Fonte di Foiano olive oil mill, we’ll meet the Di Gaetano family for a private tour of the press and workshop. During our tasting, Michael Di Gaetano will explain the differences among regions and how varied the flavors can be. Afterward, enjoy an included lunch—prepared by Michael himself, using organic and fragrant vegetables—on the farm grounds.

Learn about the unique construction of a trulli house
Offered on our Puglia: Italy’s Undiscovered Coast biking vacation
During a stop in Alberobello we’ll visit with a local expert to learn about trulli houses and why they have been recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. A trullo is a unique type of building, characteristic of this region, consisting of a whitewashed, round house topped by a large cone of local stones—all assembled without mortar. Many trulli are still used and inhabited today, and some of their roofs show mysterious chalk marks, either to protect from evil or to bless the house.

Learn the ancient art of Stonecutting
Offered on our Croatia: The Dalmatian Islands ​biking vacation
Stonecutters School in Croatia
During our stay in the port town of Pučišća we’ll visit the stonecutters’ school here. Brac’s world-renowned stone has been used in the construction of some the world’s most famous buildings, including Diocletian’s Palace in Split and the White House in Washington, D.C. This is a unique opportunity to see students’ work and learn about a near-forgotten craft at one of the world’s few remaining stonecutting schools.

Explore Andalusia’s Christian and Arabic history
Offered on Spain: Under the Andalusian Sky​ biking vacation
We’ll embrace the region’s diverse heritage through visits to Christian cathedrals that once stood as Moorish mosques. Explore the Mezquita of Cordoba and enjoy its magnificent gardens and stunning architecture on a guided tour. In Granada, we’ll meet our local guide who will take us to the Alhambra Palace for an included visit of the Palace and Generalife Gardens, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

To request a full catalog with all of our vacations please click here. If you would like to reserve a vacation or speak with one of our Tour Consultants, please call 800-245-3868, available Monday-Friday from 8:30am to 6:30pm EST or on Saturdays from 10:00am to 3:00pm EST.

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