Monday, October 8, 2012

At The End of the Road

So, I call my friend Emmanuele in Como and ask him: “I’m looking for a nice quiet place for a vacation, completely away from the rat-race of life in the car business in Detroit.”

“Giovanni,” He says: “You must go to Nerano. You must stay at the Taverna Del Capitano, you must also rent a boat and captain, and take a day trip to Capri. Believe me you will love it! It’s quiet, it’s peaceful and the food is fantastic. It’s the only Michelin-starred restaurant south of Rome.”

I look for Nerano on a map, I can’t find it. I can’t find any reference to it in my atlas at home. I call Emmanuele, and he says: “Well, the Taverna is not actually in Nerano, it’s in a small fishing village called Marina Del Cantone. Most people go there by boat, because it’s at the end of a very narrow, twisting road from Sorrento. Most people in cars usually drive right past the turnoff. That’s because there’s no sign!”

He tells me the landmarks to look for, so I’ll take the correct road, and says not to worry about the tariff. Three meals a day, and a room with a view will be quite expensive, but you’ll love it!”

Marina Del Cantone. Taverna in the centre of the photo with arches

We found the Taverna, at the end of the road, looking over a sparkling Tyrrhenian Sea. We stayed four days, we took a day trip to Capri, we ate like millionaires, and we loved it! Emmanuele was right, it was expensive, but worth every Euro. Family Caputo which has owned and run it since Great Grandfather Salvatore built it in the 1930s are a fabulous group of people, and they really look after you.

Beach view from our terrace

Marina Del Cantone is part of the district of Naples, in an area known as the Massa Lubrense and it’s a relatively undiscovered gem. Sure, the Italians know about it, but most international visitors to this area go to Positano or Amalfi. Believe me, you don’t want to miss them either, but if you are looking for quiet, relaxation, some good walks around the coastline to Recomone (East), or Punta Campanella (West), this is the place.

A boat for the day, preferably with Antonio, will cost about 300 Euros, but he will take you across the stretch of water from Marina Del Cantone to Marina Piccolo.

Marina Picolo, Isle of Capri
Antonio will wait for you while you take the little bus up to the main Piazza for lunch, then you call him on his Mobile phone and he comes alongside to pick you up.

Captain Antonio

You’ll see Faraglioni, and maybe even go around the island to the Blue Grotto. If you’re lucky, one of the small boats that take visitors into the Blue Grotto can fit you on board, and you can negotiate a price for vacant seats, out there on the water, with the captain (well, the guy who steers the boat).

We rented a fabulous Renault Megane diesel hatch (the one with the cute bustle backside) and the trip from Rome’s Fiumicino Airport, with a stop for lunch in a cafe at Castellammare di Stabia, to Marina Del Cantone took us under four hours (about 296 km).

Once you leave Sorrento the roads are narrow, twisty, and not well sign-posted, so you won’t be driving quickly.

Having said that, ahead of you is the challenge of driving from Marina Del Cantone along the beautiful Amalfi Coast on that narrow road (SS163) perched high up on the cliffs - where you are harassed by coach drivers, local ratbags in tiny Fiats, and total Wingnuts on Vespas. Don’t let that put you off.

This is one of the most beautiful parts of Italy, and most visitors swear they didn’t spend enough time there. However, it’s been there a while, so you can always go back.

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