Naples, Amalfi, Sorrento and Pompeii in 3 daysMichelle Chenery reports on a +39 Events spectacular fam trip
With an early start to the day and a 6.20am flight, I picked the most convenient way to start my journey with a night's stay at the Radisson Blu Stansted, a two minute walk to the airport via a linked walkway and with rooms so well soundproofed you could hear a pin drop. I woke up refreshed and ready for the days that lay ahead of me.
After a comfortable flight I was met at the Naples airport by the group's host for the weekend, Managing Director of +39 Events, Lorenzo Pignatti. With a private transfer waiting for us we were off on our way through the busy streets of Naples to our first port of call, Grand Hotel Parker's.
The ballroom foyer can seat up to 100 people for a banquet, with a further seven rooms able to accommodate between 40 to 220 delegates depending on the configuration.
The group had a 3-course lunch in George's Restaurant overlooking the Bay of Naples. On a clearer day we would have had a view of the nearby islands of Capri and Ischia.
>After a quick tour of the hotel we were on a bus to the town centre and for a walking tour of Naples, taking in the Piazza del Plebiscito, one of the largest squares. On the eastern side stands the Royal Palace and to the west the Church of San Francesco di Paola. We were able to visit Gambrinus, the oldest café in Naples, and Galleria Umberto I, an impressive glass-roofed arcade in the shape of a cross, with mosaics of the zodiac on the floor. Its arching dome stands 184ft tall, built in the late 19thC.
Our walking tour finished when we arrived at the Renaissance Naples Hotel Mediterraneo. This Is a 4-star property located in the historic heart of the city, with 224 rooms in total: 187 deluxe, 24 executives, four junior suites and one presidential. All rooms are air-conditioned and have minibar, Wi-Fi on demand. The executive rooms and suites have tea and coffee makers. The hotel boasts 11 meeting rooms of various sizes and configurations, the smallest able to cater for groups of up to 25 theatre-style. The largest measures 85sqm and can seat up to 110. Terrazza Angio, the roof garden terrace, has an impressive view over the city, including Mount Vesuvius, Piazza del Plebiscito and Maschio Angioino (Castel Nuovo).
After a quick drink in the bar, it was time for us all to brave the coastal roads in a private transfer to the final destination for the day, Amalfi. A journey certainly not for the faint hearted, over twisty winding roads with the added extras of blind corners and hairpin bends on the way. But we did come across numbers of minibuses and coaches happily moving up and down on the coastal roads. And what a view of the Amalfi coastline feasts your eyes as you near the apex of the climb and come out of the dark of a tunnel! Nothing but stunning sea-scapes as far as the eye can see, and of course since you climbed up to the top of the mountains there is only one way, and that is down, the roads being much the same as those on the way up, winding and fairly narrow in places.
An hour and a half after leaving the centre of Naples, we arrived in Amalfi, where we were due to overnight at the NH Grand Hotel Convento di Amalfi. Housed in a 12thC monastery featuring a 13thC Norman-Arab cloister, it has been totally refurbished, and blends modern comforts with the hotel's historic past. The hotel has 53 rooms, suites, panoramic restaurant, outdoor swimming pool, well-being oasis, fitness room, tastes and flavour laboratory, private chapel and private parking. All rooms and suites in the hotel are sea view facing, each with an outlook onto a picture-postcard setting. The group enjoyed a short respite before joining each other for an evening meal in the Cappucini Restaurant for cocktails and a local menu of octopus, squid, pasta and a superbly light tiramisu. Then we enjoyed the local after-dinner liqueur Limoncello, certainly a comforting way to finish off the day.
The next morning started with a buffet breakfast served in the Cappucini restaurant, table service for tea and coffee, with a vast array of pastries, cold meats, cheese, bread, rolls, cereals, and the option of a cooked breakfast. We assembled in the Sala Lettura meeting room for a group briefing ready for a private sailing regatta. We were met by some of the team from Sailing Challenge who were to look after us out on the water.
With a room full of people who had never really sailed before, they had their work cut out. The briefing was clear and concise informing us of all of the things that would be expected of us while onboard, safety and the enjoyment factor being paramount of course. For those who didn't quite grasp some of the terms in the briefing these were quickly shown to us once aboard, with explanations of reading the wind direction, operation of the winches and the safe and the not-so-safe areas of the boat.
With one skipper each, half of our group competed with the other half on the other boat. With the rules of the regatta explained to us during the briefing and a few test runs at tacking and getting all of us working in sync, tightening the jib, and mainsail and not being hit by the boom during the tacking.
We had to race around a buoy and back to the finishing line. Luckily our boat was laid back and were not concerned about the not-so-good steering of yours truly Accepting defeat gracefully, we all sailed to Sorrento, where we rode in an elevator from the harbour straight to the Grand Hotel Excelsior Vittoria for lunch and a tour of the hotel's facilities.
A member of The Leading Small Hotels of the World, the property has been owned by the Fiorento family since 1834. It is also affiliated to the Italian Historical Establishments. In the heart of Sorrento surrounded by a 5-acre park with orange groves, with easy access to the small harbour below accessed via a private elevator for hotel guests. The hotel boasts 98 rooms: 16 suites, one Royal Suite and one Imperial Suite, with views overlooking either the gardens or the Gulf. All come complete with all air-con, satellite tv, minibar, phone, safe and free Wi-Fi. There are also three restaurants to choose from, the largest being the Vittoria, a panoramic 240-cover restaurant with a frescoed ceiling, the Terrazza Bosquet, a summer restaurant with views over the Gulf able to cater for up to 100, and the pool restaurant, open air cuisine in the surroundings of the orange grove.
There are six meeting rooms. The Vittoria, with marble and ceramic walls, bas relief carvings decorating the 19thC salon of shallow domes with trompe l'oeil frescoes can hold up to 350 for a reception or seat 280 for a banquet.
We were then able to visit the Hilton Sorrento Palace, the largest hotel in Sorrento. Located five minutes from the city centre and surrounded by lemon groves, this modern hotel boasts 377 rooms and four suites.
There are as many as 21 meeting rooms and three auditoria, able to seat from 170 up to 1,500 delegates, all boasting the latest in touchscreen technology, plug-in connections in every meeting room including the latest lighting and AV equipment, with a separate entrance and reception area for the Auditorium floor.
We were then handed over to HR tours who provided us with a range of classic cars from the 60s and 70s. The majority were Alfa Romeo Spyders but with a Triumph in the mix as well. We were given a briefing on our route and we had a team of moped riders with us in case any of us needed assistance. We drove along the Sorrentine peninsula, with a stop off at Il Convento for a quick tour of the lemon grove and a sample of the Limoncello produced there, All eight cars were in convoy back to Almalfi. Many of the locals waved as we passed.
Our farewell meal was at the Da Gemma restaurant. The group was seated on the terrace to enjoy a 4-course meal. Those of us who opted for the non-seafood starter enjoyed three different concoctions of mozzarella and tomatoes, all fresh local produce with such great flavour. The following morning we were all still talking about how good the food had been the previous night.
Then we were back on the coastal roads for a guided tour of the excavation sites at Pompeii. We had explanations and anecdotes about every place we stopped at, including the house of ill repute. Women used to howl for business in the streets and from the balconies so they could be found easily. Our guide gave us a fascinating insight into how the people lived and worked before Vesuvius erupted.
Our final meal was at the Il Principe Restaurant, where the delicacies they serve taste the same as they did 2000 years ago. Recipes are reproduced from the evidence preserved in the frescoes of the Villas and the graffiti found on the walls of the inns.
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