Landing for the first time in a foreign airport at your destination can be an overwhelming experience. The layovers are one thing – you either have just enough time to get to your gate, just not enough time to actually go see the city you are in, or just enough time to enjoy a whirlwind tour of the place you are trapped in. For me, the destination airport is a dizzying experience, full of strange sights, sounds, languages and smells. I repeatedly said that I am a good destination person – I’m not a very good traveler. I don’t like to fly. I’m claustrophobic. I don’t like airline food. I generally get sick. I get angry with other passengers. Although, as Laura pointed out on our last trip to Italy, I am getting much better.
There is one thing that I would recommend to you, particularly in Europe. Resist the temptation to rent a car. Just don’t. So many of our friends have done that, and they always have a miserable experience. You can’t read the road signs, the maps are confusing and traffic safety is generally ignored in most other countries. Traffic police are there to scrape up the roads and keep people from shooting one another, not to actually issue speeding tickets. Unless you are going really, really fast and you happen to be American. But that is a whole ‘nother issue.
I would recommend that you hire a driver. They are easy to find on the internet and through word of mouth, generally reputable (or at least relatively easy to check) and can save you a world of pain. I resisted the manly urge to rent a car during our trip to Italy and I am so glad I did. Arriving in the Naples airport in a whirlwind of activity, vision blurred from Ambien and head pounding from the stress of the last few weeks, it was unbelievably wonderful to just head for the guy holding a sign over his head that just said, “Ron and Laura.”
For roughly the cost of a round trip bus ticket, we were soon speeding out of Naples towards Sorrento in a black six speed manual Mercedes, heedless of speed limits, pedestrians, traffic, street signs or anything else. Our driver, clad in a black suit, white shirt and black tie, effortless dove through the streets, handling his car with the skill of a NASCAR driver, although I think he would be angry at the comparison.
We were deposited in Sorrento, where we spent a week wandering the streets, watching soccer, tasting limoncello and eating at whatever restaurant looked inviting. They all did. We were picked up by another driver and deposited at a little restaurant in the small town of Praiano, about a half hour or so from Positano.
Proving that you can indeed exist without cell phones, our entire family arrived at the same restaurant at nearly the same time, without a single line of communication between us since we all left the U.S!
It was beautiful. I’m still a little speechless. Our villa overlooked the Tyrrhenian Sea, had three full bedrooms along with a full kitchen. After a week of eating out, I was nearly desperate to cook something. We discovered that while it is expensive to eat out every day, it is relatively cheap in comparison to cook! We found a small market, a butcher shop, produce stands, a fishmonger and we were set. I purchased a giant eye of round, roasted it in grape leaves from our very own vineyard, accompanied it with Laura’s homemade gnocchi and we all feasted and rested from our journey. It was a very good day.