Did I ever tell you about that one time I basically went on a honeymoon in the Amalfi Coast?
Only briefly? Hmm, well here--let me fix that.
Let's begin not in Amalfi but back in Slovenia, where my romantic idea became reality.
I honesty didn't think it was going to happen. Yet here I am writing about it.
There must be something in that European air that makes you take chances. And since I found myself inhaling that dangerously sweet air, I did something very European: I asked for what I wanted--directly. No bullshit.
So what did I want, exactly? Oh you know me, I just wanted to explore more. All my friends were spending spring break in Prague, Vienna, Budapest or some other city I had already visited. I wanted a new adventure.
I decided I wanted to go to the Amalfi Coast; a place I had yet to go but had always wanted to visit. With its picture perfect beaches and colorful hillside homes, can you blame me?
Oh, and did I mention I asked my kinda-sorta ex-boyfriend to come with me?
Like I said, I really didn’t think it was going to happen. Yet by some stroke of luck it all seemed to fall into place that one weekend I was off exploring Slovenia.
My query got a "maybe--let me think about it and get back to you," type of answer. But hey, it was better than the, "I'm sorry I can't," answer I was expecting. So I waited.
A few days later my phone buzzed and lit up saying I had a text from Mitch. I opened it and somewhat expected rejection.
“So I have some good news :D," he said.
My face quickly matched the grinning emoji he had just sent me.
WHAT?!!! Does that mean what I think it means?
Yup—that’s right. Mitch was coming to visit me in the Amalfi coast for spring break.
We had planned to meet at the train station in Rome. But as most travelers can tell you, many things do not always go according to plan.
The plan WAS to meet up in the train station in Rome. What ended up happening was a bit different. What ended up happening made me second guess ever taking this chance in the first place and had me thinking I was off to the Amalfi coast for a beautiful and romantic journey all by myself. That’s right. No Mitch in sight.
Time to panic.
I waited for him at the entrance of the train station for what felt like an eternity. Twenty minutes until our train left.
Fifteen minutes until the train left and still nothing.
I called it quits at five minutes 'till takeoff. I wasn’t missing this train. And so there I was, reluctantly hopping aboard. I sat down in the loneliest chair I could find (I'm dramatic I'm sorry) and texted all my friends and family I was alone on what was supposed to be a beautiful journey for two. I knew this trip was too good to be true.
Just as tears started to fill my eyes I decided to distract myself from the situation and pull out a book. The train took off and still no sight of him. That was it--I was officially alone. For some reason I kept checking the door though. I still had that dangerous glimmer of hope.
A few minutes into the ride, I looked up from my book and I saw the outline of a man at the door connecting my cart to another. My heart stopped while the door slammed opened.
There he was.
Before I even realized what was happening I found myself smothered in his arms, our bodies instantly clung together like magnets. We let out a sigh of relief. Our stiff, tense bodies loosened and relaxed.
A hug has never felt so good.
We stood like that for about 2 minutes before letting go. I had almost never been so happy to see anyone in my entire life. Turns out he was looking for me everywhere too. His phone wasn’t working so he assumed I would be on the train somewhere-- he anxiously looked through every car multiple times before finding me. We were both still a bit shook, thinking we were going on this journey alone. But we were finally together, and all felt right in the world.
Okay, fast forwarding to the good stuff.
I fell in love that trip. Sorry Mitch, someone else stole my heart that weekend. Well, not someone else, somewhere else: Minori. The southern Italian town gets its name from a tiny river that runs through it called the Rheggina. In ancient Latin, they called the river Rheggina Minori, or small Rheggina. Eventually the town simply adopted Minori as its full name, literally meaning “small.” *Cringes at the cuteness*
Though the town itself might be small, the kindness of its 2,800 residents is unprecedented.
Since Amalfi is just a 10-20 minute ride away from Minori, and the picture-perfect town of Positano is just under an hour drive from the small city, Minori seems to be relatively overlooked by tourists. This fact is what makes Minori…Minori; It’s genuine Italian town, where just a simple stroll down its cobblestone streets will give you a true taste of the culture.
Nobody really spoke English there and I liked it that way. Mitch kept trying his broken Spanish, but we were in Italy so that didn't quite work. As I’m sure you've gathered, Mitch and I barely spoke a lick of Italian. We struggled to converse at restaurants and in stores; we used hand signals and pointed to things with the bus drivers and bakers. Though this was difficult, I appreciated and adored the town's charm and authenticity.
Everyone seemed to know everyone there. It was just one of those towns. A sweet town. The sweetest town I had ever been to, actually. At times it was even a bit uncomfortable how sweet, genuine and generous these people were to us.
How so, you ask?
Exhibit A: Our taxi ride:
When Mitch and I got in our taxi over to Minori, the sky was pitch black. There was a hint of a dim, dusty yellow coming from somewhere in the distance. It was one of those one-lane windy roads, and all I wanted to do was get in my new bed. As we inched closer to our destination—an adorable little Airbnb, right off the sand—our driver told us the price.
“Fifty euro,” he said.
I remembered my wallet was getting a little light and I only had about thirty euros on me. Mitch had been in Rome for over a day before meeting me, touring the city and the Colosseum so I was sure he had the extra twenty. I was wrong.
And thus begun our first minor(i) spat. (Ha, see what I did there?)
“What do you mean you don’t have ANY cash on you? You’ve been in Italy for over a day, you don’t have any Euros on you? How did you think we were going to pay for this?”
Sometimes I get a bit annoyed with him, but I think I was just cranky and tired from the travels. I'm sorry, babe.
“It’s okay,” the driver replied." Just leave money on your dresser on your way out Minori and I’ll come pick it up another day. I'm good friends with your host, Alfonso”
Okay, what? He’s letting us NOT PAY fully for our ride?
“Oh, no, don't be ridiculous. There must be an ATM open somewhere at this hour. Where is the nearest one?” I asked, still perplexed by our driver’s strange calmness about the whole ordeal.
“No, really, its okay,” he said in his italian accent. “Just remember to leave extra 20 on your way out. I’ll get it from Alfonso I know him well, don’t worry.”
So, as we pulled up to the beachfront cottage, he helped us with our luggage, made sure we got in safely, and just drove off.
This would have NEVER happened back at home, I thought.
I marveled at his trust. His solution was so foreign to me that it almost hurt. I felt like I was ripping the guy off (though I fully intended on leaving him more than the 20 euros we owed him on our way out).
And so I went to bed, having just experienced my first “Minori Miracle.”
Exhibit B: When [some lil’ old Italian lady who speaks no English] brings you lemons…you make lemonade?
So we were off being young and stupid and just strolling through the town.
The night before covered the beautiful beach right outside our doorstep; when we woke up in the morning we found ourselves in the cutest little town. A town perfect for expLaur-ing.
Here let me show you:
We found beautiful alleys.
And my personal favorite, unique doors.
Oh and who could forget the sun-kissed beach right outside our doorstep.
This is literally right outside to our home... just take that in for a second. We sure did.
We had no agenda for the day except to simply take in the town and explore. (my favorite!)
We quickly learned the town, or well, the entire region, was FAMOUS for their lemons. Aaay Lemonchello
Lemon trees and orchards (are they called orchards with lemons?) were everywhere even in such a tiny town like Minori.
A self-discovered hiking trail (or, well, about a million stairs leading to gosh knows where) brought us to the most beautiful view.
Soon after, we found a similar climb near the beach and Mitch decided to go all the way up to the top.
Something told me to stop. It looked like a residential area and it didn’t seem like we should be there. So I hung out on a step and waited for his return.
A few minutes later, an old, Italian woman with a garb around her head and an angered look upon her face started yelling at me in Italian. Or least I thought it was yelling. Those Italians speak so passionately I had NO idea when someone was angry or just being enthusiastic. Turns out this time I was right and she was yelling at me. She was telling me to go away…that this was private property… that much I understood.
“Oh…no ummmm…Mi dispiace,” I’m sorry, I said. “P-parli inglese?” Do you speak English? I asked.
She shook her head no and smiled.
She said something else and it took me a good minute or so to realize she was asking me where I was from.
“Oh Americana,” I said. “America.”
She looked at me like she had never seen an American before in Minori. Suddenly she wasn’t mad at me anymore and grew very curious.
She used some hand motions and pointing and asked me something in Italian. I understood. I pointed to the edge of the beach where our little cottage sat under the hill.
“We’re staying at Alfonso’s. Alfonso,” I told her.
She probably had no idea what I was saying. I didn’t think she would really know exactly which house I was pointing to, or who Alfonso was. But hey, it was a small town, maybe she did know him. Our taxi driver did..
Then I started thinking I probably shouldn’t have told a complete stranger exactly where I am staying. That was not a good idea and I knew it. But she was just a little old lady, and I didn’t think she would know which one exactly.
Mitch came down the stairs I waved goodbye to the old lady, and we made our way back to the beach.
We went about the rest of our day like normal. To be honest, by the time the knock came on our door, I had completely forgotten about the little old lady.
Mitch and I were resting in bed when there was a faint knock on the door. I always get scared when the door knocks and I’m not expecting company.
We both looked at each other perplexed. Who the heck could that be? We don't know anyone here.
There was another knock.
Mitch hopped up and grabbed a robe and ran to the door. When he opened the door nobody was there. He looked around the patio; maybe someone left a note or something. No one was there and nothing was left--or so we thought.
It wasn’t until we left the house to go to dinner and had to lock the door that we found them.
An entire bag filled with beautiful bright yellow lemons.
Who would leave us free lemons like that?
To this day we still don’t know. But I’m convinced it was the old lady from the hillside. I told her where to find me after all…
Mitch and I looked at each other and smiled, free famous Italian lemons? What to do with them? Well you know what they say.. when a lil' old Italian woman (probably?) brings you lemons, you make lemonade. And so we did.
Exhibit C: The restaurant owners
There's only so many places to eat in such a small town. Once we realized we were hungry, we went into the first little restaurant we could find. We'd end up going for lunch there almost every day.
The first time we ate there we realized nobody spoke English. But it was okay we just pointed to what we wanted on the menu and we made do.
I'm not sure how this happened again--don't laugh at us--but we were short on money when our bill came. #PoorCollegeStudents?
Since we couldn't communicate very well with them, it was a bit hard to explain. Nonetheless, they understood and said it was okay and let us leave without fully paying again.
WHAT THE HECK IS THIS TOWN?
I realized they didn't really seem to care about the money. It was about the relationships. They had such trust within one another. We were so humbled and gracious that they trusted us and brought us into their circle
Though they didn't tell us we needed to, we came back the next day. Before we even ordered we went up to the counter and gave them some extra cash. They smiled and nodded and seemed so appreciative that we came back and paid what we already owed them.
We sat down to eat and before we even ordered, the waitress set down a plate of onion-ring-looking donuts without saying a word.
But we didn't order these? our faces probably said to the waitress. She smiled at us.
I guess it was their way of thanking us for doing what was right? What an interesting town.
Then my sandwich (that we did order) came out like this:
They're just so sweet here it still continues to blow my mind.
Okay, anyway, moving on from how adorably sweet Minori and its people are, and lets focus on my trip. The region in general is absolutely BREATHTAKING. Mitch and I took a like 3 euro bus up the hill and over to Amalfi, and let me tell you, it was beyond beautiful.
We just couldn't get enough of that turquoise water.
So we had a minor photoshoot to remember the beauty by--and I mean hey, if you're in a beautiful place with a beautiful boy, it would almost be a sin to NOT take pictures....
Awww, see. Worth looking like tourists for that shot.
A few minutes later my smiled turned into well, this
Why you ask? See those cracks in the rocks behind me? My beautiful RayBan sunglasses now call those cracks home. Yyupp I dropped my sunglasses in the Amalfi Coast. Poor sweet lil' Mitch was helping me look in every nook and cranny for them, but they were long gone.
But hey, I was in the Amalfi Coast after all, so I got over that little accident quite quickly. And it makes for a good story later, so it was okay.
Nothing a little sweet shop can't fix. The overwhelming smell led me right through the door almost as if I was hypnotized.
So we sat down, had a little lemon treat, and then went about the rest of our exploring.
We found this beautiful church/basilica and went inside
Then this happened:
Oh, and then we ate..again
But it's Italy we're talking about here and we're on vacation. So calories don't count right?
Oh, and we bought matching Amalfi sweatshirts. Barf, I know. But we were cute. And it's still one of my favorite sweatshirts so #noragrets.
All right y'all here it is-- the moment you've been waiting for--the poster child of the Amalfi coast: Positano.
It's no wonder this town is world-renowned. The city's beautiful hills and ocean look like something out of a romance novel. It's something you see in postcards-- on Pinterest. But seeing it in real life--whew. Breathtaking.
I was positively in love with Positano, that much was for sure.
Turns out though, that the beginning of March is a wee bit too early to visit (we had a wonderful time though don't get me wrong) but most shops and tours were closed or re-modeling--getting ready for the tourist season about to begin in a month or so.
Since there wasn't much to do other than marvel at this town's exceptional beauty, we decided to spend most of our time in Positano on the beach.
That's right. We plopped our little butts down on the sand..or well.. in this case.. the rocky-like-sand.. and just sat in a silent stillness, taking in our current surroundings.
It was quite nice just sitting there. Having a few rays of some much needed sun shine down on our skin. There's just something calming about the warmth. The sound of the crashing waves didn't hurt either.
But you see these moments doesn't last forever.
And that my friends brings us to our second trouble in paradise moment--our second minor(i) spat: Pompeii.
Ugh, even hearing that word still makes me upset.
Not for the reasons it should though. I know I should be upset that such innocent lives were lost that day Mt. Vesuvius erupted all those years ago. I know I should be sad about this ancient city being blazed and blanked in ash. But that's not why I'm upset.
Those who know me well know I have trouble letting things go. I'm working on it.
The real reason I get upset when hearing the word Pompeii is stupid, really. Even just typing it feels petty, but hey, ya feel how ya feel.
The real reason I get upset is because I never ended up seeing it. I made it as far as the gate to enter the ancient city. I was there. I saw it from afar, over the wall. But wasn't allowed in.
Remember how I told you March wasn't the best time to be doing touristy things in this region? Well Pompeii was no exception. The "museum" aka the grounds and ruins of the incredibly well-preserved city closed at 3 p.m. The worst part? We got there at 3:15. Maybe even 3:30. But regardless, we were refused entry.
Stupid Winter hours. What a load of #$%^&*
The actual park didn't close until 5 p.m., so guests already within the premises could stay and roam around until then. But no new guests were allowed past 3 p.m. I pled with the guard, saying we'd come all the way from America to see this (partly true?) and I promised we would be out by 5--we'd make our rounds quickly, but at least still get a chance to see such a rich piece of human history. Nope. We were refused. Rejected.
I turned over to Mitch and gave him quite the look. Definitely NOT a look you'd want to be given, let's leave it at that. I gave him the silent treatment for a few minutes. I took my disappointment out on him, I know. I shouldn't have done that. I'm sorry, baby. You were upset too though. I know you were. And you planned this day, or rather, were in charge of our train times. We missed the train we needed at first, and got on the next closest one. But as you know, it didn't get us there soon enough. You always did say you weren't the best at planning--but that's okay b, you have other incredible strengths.
To be fair, neither of us knew the park would close so early.
So this leads me to my *Travel Lesson #1: DO YOUR HOMEWORK* Research where you are going. Make sure it's safe. Make sure it's something you want to do. Make sure it's OPEN.
I feel weird ending such a sweet trip on such a sour note. So I won't. I'll tell you about our taxi driver on our way back home.
His name slips my mind, but his story has stayed with me. He had a brother in the states. He had a fancy corporate job and was living the American Dream. He had money, but our taxi driver had happiness. Yes, he was a taxi driver, but he still had hair on his head, unlike his brother who lives day after day in work stress. He had the flexibility to take the day off when he felt like spending a day with family. He was happy with his simple, stress-free life. And reminded us of the importance of the simple things in life. The important things.
And so we rushed out of the cab (we were late to the train station but what else is new) grabbed our bags, and were left to depart one other contemplating that thought.
My train back to Verona left before his left to Bolognia. As I got on board the train, I found a window seat where I could still see him. The train started to leave the station, and I waved goodbye to him, our little improbable honeymoon, and to the sweetest town I had ever known.
I'll see you soon Minori, I know it.
xoxo your little honeymooner