Breakfast at this hotel is rather interesting. You arrive at the restaurant and if there’s no waiter present you naturally head for a table. However this will get you moved because although the tables have numbers on them they do not relate to anything and the waiters have their own little system. So my best advice is to wait for them to seat you. This is always the furthest from the door – it’s an odd system – unless you’re with a big group when you are generally over by the window.
If you have paid for dinner as well as breakfast, your table is marked with a little bit of cardboard with your room number written on it. You are told “this is your table for breakfast and dinner tonight“. Unless, like me, you’ve sat yourself at someone else’s table and started breakfast before the waiter catches you so that when another couple arrives, he puts them at the next table and points at your table saying “and that is where you’ll have your dinner tonight.”
I had a small plate of scrambled eggs and some more of the weird little sausages with my gallon of coffee before going back to the room where Mirinda told me off for not waking her for breakfast. D’Oh!
So I went for another with her. This time I sat where I was told. I didn’t have a second breakfast but I did go another pot of coffee. Mirinda complained about the juice, the fruit and the eggs. She is obviously not well.
After breakfast we decided to go and take in Sorrento cathedral. Although the Lonely Planet Guide claims that the Corso Italia is pedestrianised from 10am to 1pm, we had to cling to the edges of the buildings along the thin strip of footpath as bikes and cars whizzed by. That’s actually a major exaggeration but the traffic is definitely allowed along it.
Originally built in the 11th century, the cathedral was completely rebuilt in the 15th and is rather nondescript from the outside. If anything it looks like a warehouse. The main entrance was shut so we went in by the side door. From this door there is inlaid wooden images everywhere. The 12 stations of the cross, and the extra ones I’ve never seen before, are all beautifully executed in inlaid wood as they circle the main walls of the church. Around the altar are a dozen saints likewise inlaid. Locally this is called intarsia, a craft which has been around only since the mid 19th century. There’s a lot of it in the town – some beautiful, some tacky, some just plain ugly.
The ceiling paintings in the cathedral are fantastic. They appear to be surrounded by some sort of patchwork material. They are by two painters. Malinconio is responsible for the nave (Sorrentine Martyrs & Four Patron Saints) while the transept was done by Giacomo del Po (Assumption, St Philip & St James). They are gorgeous. I took a photo by putting the camera on the floor and taking it over a second – it’s in the photo album.
In a small side room, which might have been a chapel but looked more like a forgotten store room stands the crucifixion which the Lonely Planet raves about. It has been moved from above the altar and a smaller, definitely inferior version, erected in its place. It’s quite gruesome but very well done. Actually, on reading a local book, I have found that there was another chapel with a crucifixion and this may have been the one mentioned in the Lonely Planet. It’s all a bit confusing when there’s more than one altar!
I noticed a tiny plaque beside the door to the choir’s changing room. It is a depiction of a bare breasted siren and seems odd in a cathedral and somewhat pagan, to say the least. Perhaps it’s the Italian version of the Green Man. Whatever, it’s a very Roman thing and I love that!
Outside on the Corso Italia there was a procession of thousands of little kids dressed up in various odd ways, each group led by banner holding adults. It all seemed rather odd and there was nothing for us to work out what was happening. It looked like a primary school dress up parade except with about 100 primary schools and through the main street rather than in the playground. Odd but the kids seemed to be having fun. Once the parade had passed us by we went in search of coffee.
We eventually settled (actually Mirinda attempted to take us into two not so promising cafes before I settled on the one that the Italians preferred) on one and sat outside enjoying the parents hauling their made up kids back to where ever they came from. After our caffeine fix we walked down to look over the sea and use the queuing toilet then made our way down to the Marina Piccola; the quay.
We checked out the ferry times and places – there was a possible trip to the Amalfi Coast leaving in an hour and a half – then settled at a lovely pizzeria for lunch. I had a fantastic pizza Vesuvius which you’d expect to be hot. It did have an egg in the middle, which was my main reason for ordering it. Mirinda had a Hawaiian, which the waiter thought was oddly amusing…and confusing. He did say later that Sorrento was better than Hawaii, which I’d agree with. I mean how easy would it be to sit at a dock in sight of a volcano eating pizza in Hawaii? Come to think of it, it’s probably REALLY easy.
After a long, long, delicious lunch, we decided to skip the boat trip for today and take a bus back up the hill (only €1 and no climbing). It was then just a short walk back to the hotel where we watched yet another episode of Desperate Housewives after which Mirinda dived into her siesta and I popped up to the roof for a few beers and typing.
I have to say the large group of topless English girls sunbathing in the corner were a tad distracting – though more so for the old gentlemen of failing eyesight who, upon close inspection, realised what they were staring at and managed a classic double-take as their wives clouted them around the upper arms. The girls were easily picked as English as they were all lilly white…oh, and their distinctly Northern accents.
After a lazy afternoon of Desperate Housewives, we finally set out for dinner. Tonight it was my choice and boy did I choose well. I have to admit to some help from the Lonely Planet but let me add to their praise for the Restaurant Sant’Antonino. Fantastic atmosphere, great food and terrific service (with a smile).
The fact that it is in amongst lemon and orange trees is a big plus but also that this is raised above the ground level so it’s also very quiet – well except for the other millions of diners of course. The people just keep turning up, queuing down the stairs. It’s very popular. I overheard an Australian waiter saying how popular it was – he teaches EFL during the day at a local high school. At a table across from us a couple were also armed with the Lonely Planet guide, presumably turned to the same page as us.
I had yet another pizza and ice cream to finish. We tried the local vino, Sorriso and I cannot agree with Tiberius, it is lovely. I should explain. When the Romans came here to spend their summer holidays, Martial (the poet) believed that Sorrentine wine was delicious after 25 years while Tiberius Caesar thought it tasted of vinegar. Not so anymore!
After dinner we went for a lovely stroll through very lively alley ways and streets. Everything was open and alive and the streets were crowded. It was an excellent atmosphere. It certainly solves the problem of youths hanging about after dark – they are not going to bother when all the adults are there as well! And it wasn’t for drinking either. People were just wandering or meeting and greeting each other. I love this about Europe.
We were back at the hotel at 10, ready to turn in.