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.

Our Favorite Italian Trattorias, Enotecas and Ristorantes


It’s no secret that Italy is home to some of the world’s most exciting and delicious cuisine. One of the perks of a vacation in Italy with VBT is that we incorporate all facets of Italian food into our tours. VBT guests might find themselves taking a cooking class with a local chef, enjoying a wine or olive oil tasting, foraging for ingredients before preparing a fresh meal with their group, or even checking out local restaurants at their leisure. VBT’s Director of marketing, Paul Williams, has compiled a list—and some fun stories to boot—of some of his favorite trattorias, enotecas and ristorantes that you can dine at while on tour with VBT.

For those of you who don’t know the difference, a trattoria is an Italian restaurant serving simple food in an informal atmosphere where there are no printed menus and your wine comes by decanter; a ristorante is a full-service restaurant with menus, and chefs that prepare their special takes on traditional dishes; and an enoteca is basically a wine bar, where small snacks are served as you sample various local wines.  Buon appetito!

Trattoria Mario: Via Rosina, 2, Florence

IMG_2032You’ll find this welcoming, family-run place on a corner of the Piazza del Mercato in Florence—which is either a pre- or post-trip extension city on four of VBT’s Tuscan tours. It can be busy, noisy and a bit hectic at times, but I assure you it is all entertaining. It was recommended to me years ago by a friend who lived in Florence, and I go back whenever I visit this great city.  It is open only for lunch, and often there is a wait, but it is worth it. Your name is taken and you are called when space is available at a communal table. This is one of the best features- making new friends and sharing the experience.

On one visit, a group of American students were seated at a table with me. None of them spoke Italian so I assisted with my very limited language skills and with the help of a patient, laughing waitress, we ordered food for all, and enjoyed the meal together.  There was no stress and no rush…just good cheer. The menu changes daily and is handwritten on a wall over the very busy kitchen. Some house specialties are always on it, but there is always a fine variety of delights to sample. Soups are popular, especially the bean soup, and they have excellent steaks and home-made ravioli which are my favorites.

Bengodi Enoteca and Cucina: Via della Societa Operaia, 11, Castelnuovo Beradenga,  Siena
This small restaurant and wine bar is located in a small hill town in the Siena Province – about 7 miles from the 20101002_ITALY.Canon2_8084W-Lcity center of Siena (a town featured on both our Tuscan Hill Towns by Bike and Italy: Quiet Pathways of Tuscany tours). They have an amazing selection of reasonably-priced wines for such a small place, and the owner is happy to assist in making your choice. Largely unknown by tour groups—as Castelnuovo Beradenga  is off the beaten tourist paths—Bengodi is very popular with the locals. We enjoyed attentive service, frequent interaction with the owner, and a few small surprises he provided as we waited for our meals.

Steak and wild boar items were plentiful on the menu, and they have an excellent assortment of homemade pasta dishes. Ample appetizers, salads and wonderful desserts made for a memorable meal for our party of twelve. If you find yourself in the in the area, be sure to visit the Poggio Bonelli vineyard. You can go to their small outlet on the vineyard property to purchase their excellent Chiantis, Vin Santo and enjoy one of the prettiest views in Siena.

L’Antico Moro Ristorante – Pizzeria: Via del Moro, 61/62, Trastevere, Rome

910464624_img_2027We happened upon this one day while strolling through our favorite Roman neighborhood. We were looking for a place to eat and I poked my head in to look and heard all at the three or four occupied tables speaking Italian. Bingo! A place the residents go to is always a strong recommendation.

I have been back on every trip to Rome (which is a city extension on 6 VBT tours) and am always delighted with our meals, whether lunch or dinner. The consistency is overseen by the owner, Elisa and the ingredients are always fresh, well-prepared and well-presented that yield simple Roman dishes cooked to perfection. We have enjoyed their pizzas, a mixed grill plate, a superb oxtail dish, many pasta specials, lasagna and so much more. L’Antico Moro is not fancy, but it’s definitely the real deal. Also worth noting is that many times our waiter has been a man named Cee Cee who is attentive and fun.

Tasso Ristorante Pizzeria : Via Correale, 11d, Sorrento
We first visited this place on the recommendation of a resident of Sorrento, and I quickly learned that this is a 800px-Margherita_Originalefavorite of the locals. We had very attentive service and thoroughly enjoyed our lunch, but dinner is also served there. Tasso is located very close to Piazza Tasso, at the main intersection of Sorrento.

We decided upon a simple meal and began with antipasto which was a nice selection of cheese, meats and olives. Then we enjoyed wonderful salads along with two pizzas—one similar to what we would call a Margherita in the States  with thin sliced tomatoes, fresh basil and mozzarella cheese—and a second with many interesting cheeses, artichoke hearts and onions. Along with the house wine, we were completely pleased and satisfied with all.

Trattoria del Moro: Via S. Leonardo, 7, Orvieto
This trattoria provides real value and well-prepared meals, as well as and friendly service in a warm and cheerful environment from the moment you walk in the door—what’s not to love? In busy seasons you will want to make reservations, often the day before, as it is a favorite of many locals.

Cinghiale_01This small family-run trattoria offers wonderful steaks, specials with cinghale (wild boar) that are to die for, excellent pasta , soups and just and wait until you have their desserts—they are fabulous!  Also they have a nice selection of reasonably priced wines and a good house wine. It is located on a small lane but easily accessible. Orvieto is a small, charming town and this place reflects that personality.

To learn about all the wonderful places you can travel to in Italy with VBT, click here.

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