Today is the day that all the cruise ships came to Sorrento. Three massive, huge, gigantic, big liners were parked just off the Marina Piccola, disgorging passengers like cattle onto small ship-to-shore boats. From these little boats come forth guides holding aloft circular signs with numbers printed on them. Today they were everywhere. It looked awful.
For us, today was a Sorrento day. We slept in (after a lovely long night resting footsore feet) and had a leisurely breakfast before I left Mirinda to visit two more churches. I’m having withdrawals from the last couple of days without one.
First on my list was the lovely Church Santa Maria del Carmine. It’s a very spiritual place, rebuilt in the 15th century by the Carmelite nuns and sits in one corner of the Piazza Tasso. There’s a fantastic painted ceiling, like most Italian churches. The main doors effectively cut off the outside world. Quite a few people were kneeling in prayer so I sat and joined them before wandering round in my clumsy tourist way.
From St Marys’ I wandered down to St Antonino’s Basilca with a slight detour to get Mirinda some throat lozenges, which turned out to be tablets. This place dates back to the 11th century and is undergoing some major restoration. Half of the church is covered with foggy plastic as machines whirr and dust flies everywhere. It tends to remove a lot of the appeal though, of course, it’s necessary. No such distraction in the crypt though.
Unlike most crypts, this one is beneath the main body of the church but with an outlook over the back garden as the basilica is built on a bit of a hill. In the centre of the crypt is St Antonino’s tomb, which he stands over. The room is designed around the tomb and as you wander around, large display cases on the walls show tin medals of various body parts, presumably some sort of pilgrim’s badge offered for a cure to the relevant part of the pilgrim. There’s lots of them!
On the wall outside the church there’s a poster in Italian offering tours of Our Lady of Lourdes and a statue just inside the main door appears to be her so maybe it’s part of the same thing. Perhaps they had a thing; Antonino & Mary Lourdes. Who knows.
I gradually made my way back to the hotel and, after collecting Mirinda we set out for the Piazza Angelina Lauro and the Museo Correale.
This piazza is where the original central meeting place for Sorrento stood before being supplanted by the Piazza Tasso in the 19th century. It’s all been rebuilt quite recently and, according to the Lonely Planet guide, is now the haunt of the young Sorrentines. The prices of the eateries are a vast improvement and we decided it was where we would be eating lunch today!
Just along from the piazza is the lemon grove I visited earlier in the week, which Mirinda was dying to visit. It was lovely strolling between the citrus trees avoiding the fruit on the ground (signs warn you not to touch the fruit) and it all smelled of lemons. Lovely. The fact that the noise from the road recedes as you wander is a major bonus.
Leaving the grove, it’s just a short hop across the road to the Museo Correale. Apparently this is one of the finest provincial museums in Italy. I have to say it’s pretty good although the Lonely Planet guide doesn’t sound that impressed.
The museum was originally the home of Alfredo & Pompeo Correale, very wealthy brothers who lived there in the late 1800s. In the first room is their family tree. It dates back (in two parts) to around the year 1000! How amazing is that. Also in this first room is the death mask of Torquato Tasso – quite eerie – sitting in a glass box. The statue in the piazza seems a bit romanticized in comparison.
The museum is in the house so the rooms meander in two sections. In the back of the first section is the good stuff! Lots of Greek and Roman artefacts – it’s amazing how such great civilisations managed with so many limbless people.
There is also a cabinet full of artefacts taken from Sorrentine necropolises dating from 3000 BC – a fragment of pottery and a copper dagger – and including objects from Greek, Attic and Roman graves.
Across the passage is the main part of the museum, which rises through three floors of paintings, porcelain and wonderful inlaid furniture. Mirinda was in raptures. There were no St Sebastians but I did find a wonderful painting called The Centaurs Family by Ignoto Fiammingo in the 17th century. A very odd picture – the daddy centaur appears to be bringing his wife and child a wombat for dinner.
The views from the balconies as you climb higher get bigger and better as you rise above the trees and the Bay of Naples is laid out before you. That’s where we spotted the three liners. The water looks fantastic and Vesuvius is probably the clearest it’s been so far but even so, there’s still a pall of pollution over everything. Maybe our eyes are just getting used to it.
As you leave the museum there’s a garden out the back with a funny English sign – we didn’t find it in the least uncomfortable and in fact walked all the way down to the balcony at the end and looked over the Bay. The day was beautiful and our hearts went out to those poor sardine tourists being poured from the ships to the crowded shore.
Soon afterwards we sat at the Ristorante Bar Angelina Lauro having a massive proscuitto and mozzarella panini each and drinking a beer. We then had a massive ice cream each before walking back to the Piazza Tasso. Actually the guy who ran the restaurant invited us back for an evening meal, as they would be preparing some very special Sorrentine fish. Nice people and a restaurant that Italian’s frequent.
Gary’s Post Office Adventure or Futility Abounds
The post office is very weird in Sorrento. You pass through an odd airlock thing with two automatic doors. When you finally get into the PO itself you have to take a ticket from a machine, which has a number and a letter on it. One of the tickets is for postage and the other is for something else. You take a ticket and watch the numbers appearing on a big screen with a desk number.
Nothing seems to make any sense. Obviously everything is in Italian but a lot of knowledge is assumed. There’s also no-one to ask. There was about 20 people in the post office bustling around from desk to desk but no-one appeared to be buying stamps. Eventually I gave up after waiting for about ten minutes. When people get postcards stamped from the UK, this is why. Upon returning to the UK, Karen told me that she sent me a postcard from Italy 6 years ago which I’ve still yet to receive…
Anyway, back on the tourist rail…When we made it to Piazza Tasso it was just in time for the Sorrentine version of Le Petit Train (Lilliput Train).
So we paid our euros and jumped aboard for a trip around the town we already know so well. Actually we know it a lot better than the girl on the tape we listened to as the train went around the streets and down narrow alleys. Funniest thing was the Australian’s sitting behind us. Talk about innocents abroad. The wife sounded JUST like Kath Day-Knight and the husband kept getting annoyed with her. I think they came from Melbourne…that’s probably because I come from Sydney.
After the train it was back to our room as Sorrento closes for siesta. Mirinda took to the bed as I took to my rooftop chair as usual. Until the laptop battery ran out anyway.
A bunch of really annoying Americans invaded my rooftop spot this afternoon. They bought their own food and wine and one guy kept telling each new arrival that he bought it all in Rome yesterday and wrapped it with a cool brick. They are from ALL over the US – one couple even from Naples, Florida! One older woman asked me if I loved my computer. What the hell does that mean? I pretended I only spoke Italian.
A little later I overheard all about one woman’s divorce and her daughter Taylor’s non-relationship with her biological father. Actually I think most of Sorrento probably heard it. It all sounded like a particularly bad US sitcom.
After Mirinda’s siesta we headed down to St Antonino’s Basilica Pizzaria for dinner. Then it was time for the most exciting treat of the whole holiday. Forget Pompeii, forget Capri, forget even Amalfi. This was Torno a Sorrento – Musical.
Talk about funny. For ALL the wrong reasons. Imagine a reasonably good high school musical and you’ve about imagined it. The show is supposed to take lots of traditional Italian songs and weave them into a story, which a primarily non-Italian audience couldn’t possibly hope to understand. It was all this and so much more.
The serious girl with short hair who looked angry when anyone put a foot wrong. The girl who kept forgetting to smile then suddenly her face would light up for a few minutes before once more lapsing. The couple who had only miserable songs and seemed to have been cast because of their excellent moping abilities. The goofy guy who was a bit annoying. And the list goes on and on. It was so bad they had to get the audience clapping every ten minutes to stop them falling asleep.
I know it sounds dire (and it was) but we really enjoyed it on some odd level. Possibly because we were laughing AT them not WITH them. One of the funniest moments came from the audience – some chap behind us video-ed the entire thing. Like when is he going to watch it? And having already sat through it, WHY? Not to the mention the dozens of people taking flash photos. Oh the humanity!
There followed a side-splitting walk home to the final strains of Funiculi Funicula.