What I Wish I Knew For Mount Vesuvius

I’m not going to bad mouth Mount Vesuvius, because at the end of the day, this is obviously a pretty significant landmark for the area. However, there isn’t much to see when you get to the top and the amount of money you pay to walk through put me off.

DSC00003.jpg

In General

Bathrooms which you do need coins for. Note that you have to pump a button on the floor with your foot in order to flush the toilet.

Bathrooms which you do need coins for. Note that you have to pump a button on the floor with your foot in order to flush the toilet.

You’ll end up winding back and forth on a road that will lead you to a small check point and some Italians requesting for money to get a parking pass. Don’t be discouraged if Google Maps kind of “stops.” There is no other way but up and down so you won’t get lost. I recommend going AS EARLY AS POSSIBLE because you will be fighting for awkward street parking and racing the people who are taking buses up to the entrance. We wanted to make a morning out of it and get our walk in, but it was a pain in the ass dealing with buses on the side of us and it disrupted the stillness in the air. You’ll walk for a bit until you have another entry point, where you’ll have to pay and additional 10 euro per person to keep walking. Oh and then you have to pay a euro or two to use the restrooms. If you’re not wanting to go up or down on foot, there’s an additional five euros for that too… so all in all look to spend on average for the day, 30 euro if you decide to opt on transportation and you and your plus one has to use the bathroom.

DSC00016.jpg

There was a ton of gravel so don’t wear sandals. I wore sneakers and even then I was sliding around. FYI All Birds were not the way to go for this walk. The shoes got really warm and have next to no grip.

Once you get to the top you kind of look in and go… that’s it? Dave went off and scooped up some dirt for his sister while I tried climbing around on some benches to look in. There are tons of weird little beetles flying around at the top. You get a pretty nice view, but be mindful of the weather. When we drove down we saw that the top of the mountain was COVERED by clouds by the afternoon and there was no way anyone at the top saw the sea and the rest of Naples. So again, head their early! We traveled during the summer so it was eventually a little warm. Other blogs have mentioned bringing small jackets, but once you get moving you warm up quickly.

What I’m wearing

My top is hand-knitted from Pico Vela. The fabric is made from bamboo fibers and linen so even when it’s a little muggy out, I felt like I wasn’t sweating through the fabric. My pants are vintage and lightweight which I bought from Shop Kaleidos, one of my favorite boutiques in Virginia. I love All Birds because I can wear them without socks and they’re not supposed to stink, and they feel like you’re walking on pillows. However, as mentioned before, not good for anything close to strenuous. They’re meant to be worn leisurely, so it worked walking everywhere else in Italy.

Time Spent

I believe we left our Airbnb around 8 AM, then we got there around 9 AM and headed back down to our lunch that started at 12:30 PM. It takes about 35 minutes up and down so plan for an hour or more for driving if you decide to eat where we did. Don’t pull off to any of the pizza places on the way down that have employees shouting you out from the road. That’s an indicator that they don’t get enough business and the food may not be good.

Check out the blog for where we at in the are HERE!

Our distance from the top of Mount Vesuvius to our lunch at the winery.

Our distance from the top of Mount Vesuvius to our lunch at the winery.

The Secret Winery at the Bottom of Mount Vesuvius

It’s really difficult finding places to experience for an affordable price in Italy. Since majority of us can’t keep secrets, I thought I’d follow along that trend and share something that I thought was valuable and worth leading people away from the tourist traps and supporting a small winery in the area. Just be sure to keep your eyes open because the entrance comes quick!

Make sure to go in the first left, because the entry after is narrow and for the owners.

Make sure to go in the first left, because the entry after is narrow and for the owners.

After spending a few hours “hiking” Mount Vesuvius (click here to read our blog about Mount Vesuvius), we ventured down the bottom for lunch which was planned last minute through Airbnb. The winery is called CANTINA DEL VESUVIO WINERY & VINEYARDS. This was our first booked “experience” and I was a little hesitant because I wasn’t sure what the quality would be. We took our chances finding something on the lower end, about $30, which offered a small tour of the winery, a three-course lunch, and a six-glass wine tasting. We were just wanting the wine tasting so everything else was a bonus.


If you can call these cons

There are some things you should be aware of when going on this little adventure.

  1. You might not meet Giovanni, who is advertised on the ad to chat about the ins and outs of the winery and sharing his family’s history. Instead you may be greeted by the countless servers on the deck.

  2. Take your time eating but also be mindful about how long you booked your experience (usually for 2 hours). The servers come quickly to serve your glasses. Don’t be shy to ask them questions because they won’t chat too much otherwise.

  3. Get to the front of the group during the walk around the vineyard, otherwise you may struggle to hear your leader over the sound of trampled gravel and their accent. I know I missed some information because I couldn’t here. The tour itself is was probably less than 15 minutes.


DSC00024.jpg
DSC00038.jpg

The food

Haven’t won you over? Well, the amount of food alone could have been easily been over $40 per person in Amalfi or Positano. We had a lovely plate of bruschetta, casatiello bread (UM, the best bread ever), provolone cheese, salami and capocollo (cold dry meat). We graciously dipped our bread with their wine vinegar (and couldn’t help buy some for both ourselves and our hosts back “home”). Durum spaghetti with Piennolo Vesuvian tomatoes and basil was our second meal, which was served with a side of wood fired baked bread and olive oil (as to be expected). I mentioned six wines earlier because what they’ll pour your favorite from the group for a final tasting which isn’t advertised and was a sweet surprise. For dessert they served an apricot liqueur served on the side with a traditional Neapolitan pastiera pie which had ricotta cheese, grain, and candied fruits. Sounds like a Christmas dish you’d regretfully receive from your great grama, but this was bomb! I’m always hesitant with ricotta, especially knowing Dave got food poisoning from it, but this was very well made. I loved that all the wines paired beautifully with all our dishes. We ended up adventuring around the vineyard to explore the grape field a little more deeply, snag some pictures…and pluck off a few grapes. We felt rebellious, though we’re sure they know everyone who visits probably does this…and if not, we’re shitbags for it. I was just so curious how fresh they tasted in comparison to store bought in the United States. They were so plump and vibrant, we just couldn’t resist.


Fun Facts

We were greeted a few times at our table from the family who mentioned that they have 16 acres of land which is pretty small. Part of the reason why I enjoyed visiting was because we felt like we were supporting a small, local business.

What I thought was interesting is how they treat the soil. They are certified organic, so you won’t find sulfites in their drinks. They don’t need to water their land because the volcanic soil retains moisture well. They also had rose bushes planted at the end of each row to determine whether or not their was a disease or bacteria in the soil. Essentially, the rose bush would show signs first before the grapes which gives them enough time to search and fix the problem.

I’m sure you’ll find criticism on their reviews, but I like to put things into perspective with what I’m getting for pricing. Not too many places will be perfect, but I’d come back again if that says anything. The price is amazing for the quality of wine and food you receive. Even with turning and burning their tables, the meal was delightful and we know we can order from them online instead of needing to deal with bringing wine back through customs.

Click Here to Book The Same Wine Tasting We Had

Marina In Cucina: The Cooking Class You Regretted Not Finding in Positano

We had ONE THING planned for our entire two weeks in Italy. ONE THING…which was a cooking class. I received recommendations from heaps of friends - and no shame to them - but nothing was calling out to me, nothing was screaming “authentic AF.” Somehow I came across “Marina in Cucina” and felt the romance building quickly. I loved the idea of having this intimate dinner with her and a few others, nothing pressured or oversold. Just a solid five hours making pasta, drinking wine, all being taught by a whimsical personality.

Marina made the recommendation of putting basil and tomatoes in table water. The basil for the taste and the tomatoes for a splash of color. Small savory cookies were places as snacks.

Marina made the recommendation of putting basil and tomatoes in table water. The basil for the taste and the tomatoes for a splash of color. Small savory cookies were places as snacks.

DSC00104.jpg
DSC00080.jpg

This home used to be a convent, but now rests in the hands of a beautiful, curly haired Italian chef, who runs her cooking classes from her kitchen. These high ceilings made me feel like royalty, especially the intricately carved, wooden dining chairs. Busts of warriors perched stoically on shelves and end tables. Sprinkles of modernized Italian knick knacks balanced the heaviness of historical collectibles. Despite the room being large for company, I felt more at ease knowing she could be spending very peaceful evenings in solitude, her bare feet propped up on the coffee table, reviewing a book with Cocles himself in the foreground of her reading. She was the epitome of my Italian dream. She wore bright, red stripes and thick red glasses to pair. There was no where I would have rather gone than at the gated doors of Villa Cocles.

We got paired up well. My apron has mermaids on it ;)

We got paired up well. My apron has mermaids on it ;)

Getting Things Started

Um, he’s taken. For real tho - we engaged.

Um, he’s taken. For real tho - we engaged.

We got to Marina’s a little early. Originally, Dave and I had planned for gelato, but we kept getting lost and at some point realized it might be too far of a walk. We opted out (as regretful as that was) and decided to awkwardly buzz the door for entry. I was heart-warmed by the greeting, our names shouted out as if we were old friends. To be fair, she slightly knew us from assisting over the phone with what to cook when Dave had food poisoning a few days ago (apparently add lemons to everything).

Once the rest of our group arrived we were gifted aprons with hand-written Italian phrases on them. If you’re lucky they’re a little cheeky. We were taught how to whip together quick small bites for guests like olives with a pinch of spice and a whole lot of lemon! If the others weren’t there I wouldn’t have been hesitant to devour them all.

She moved into the art of making pasta and shared a bit of history of how she grew up around it, like laying pieces across beds to dry out when she was a child. I wouldn’t mind having my bed filled with food - jus’ sayin’! A girl can dream…but apparently these weren’t dreams for her! That reality created a foundation of appreciation for the time spent into cooking and the influences that have taught her what she practices today.

DSC00082.jpg

I won’t share everything about the recipes themselves, because it would defeat the purpose of attending on your own, but I will mention that our pasta batch didn’t have eggs! Her point was to learn how to make pasta even if you’re just left with the staples in your cupboard. I’ve already tried making pasta at home and felt with a little more practice I’ll have friends hounding at the doors. She encouraged to add chopped parsley to the batch - it’s wonderful for some color!

DSC00110.jpg
DSC00112.jpg

Don’t be Saucy!

One thing that blew my mind was the sauce (something I believe I won’t get right until I have those tomatoes). She had chopped garlic, lemon and orange peels with dried oregano. These peels have been cured with salt in a large jar that sat on the edge of one of her counters. She stated she didn’t need to add salt to her sauce for this very reason. She cooked the tomatoes down to a paste, allowing the caramelization to add flavor when turning the edges into the middle. The water from the boiled pasta added liquid that was cooked out in the process. Genius I say!

Starting the evening right with learning the difference between Spumante and Prosecco!

Starting the evening right with learning the difference between Spumante and Prosecco!

Sharing meals

DSC00084.jpg

Majority of our time was spent on the balcony. Whether it was rolling dough or smooshing tomatoes, we were in bliss looking out at the sea, the cascade of cement homes, and listening to the harp that was being strung across at a rooftop wedding reception. I was both envious and at peace with my surroundings.

Please note that despite this being a cooking class, you are rarely cooking. You have moments where multiple hands are helpful, but this experience was more like having a private chef. Marina would scoot off once in a while to prepare the rest of our meal, which gave us optimal time to attempt small talk with our temporary company. Coincidentally, the couple who shared the table with us and their parents, had also gotten engaged. Dave and I smirked at each other and kept ours private.

We started with a bread salad which was one of my favorite meals, mainly because our hosts back at the Airbnb used it as well, so there was a sense of familiarity. Marina mentioned that back during the War, the soldiers would carry bags of this hard bread (it was like biscotti and also twice-baked). It could hold up to about a year, which was great during those times of rationing and being on foot. All you had to do was run it under water and life would be breathed back into the loaf. We loved it so much we made sure to have it in our suitcase coming home.

We also learned that green salads are normally eaten on the side of entrees versus eating them as an appetizer. Our pasta was served immediately after, which I wasn’t shy to keep scooping onto my plate. Nor was I shy when the chicken came out as well. Hell you’re paying for it, might as well dig in!

I would encourage booking for the evening. You get to cook, eat, drink, and chat whilst seeing the sunset and feel the rolling breeze from the water. The table used to roll and cut pasta was beautifully painted, ceramic designs that become familiar and desirable by the end of your visit.

DSC00089.jpg
Bread salad with basil, tomatoes, oranges, and onions. You have to soak the bread in water first!

Bread salad with basil, tomatoes, oranges, and onions. You have to soak the bread in water first!

Chicken thighs which will be dressed with a sauce made from homemade limoncello.

Chicken thighs which will be dressed with a sauce made from homemade limoncello.

Once the evening ended after eating a ricotta based dessert, we lagged behind to speak with Marina. One thing Dave and I really enjoy whilst traveling is getting to know more deeply about the people who call whatever country we’re in, home. It’s important as humans that we don’t just trample around like cows, but to move like birds, pollinators, in the way that we collect and share so things can bloom and spread for others to enjoy its influences and abundance. That’s the sweetness of knowledge and experience.

DSC00131.jpg