After we returned to Sorrento we agreed that this was the perfect time to try the famous Italian ice cream and we went across the road to the little bar and selected our preferred flavours and sat on the terrace under the blue and red umbrellas that were rocking back and forth in the gentle breeze in their whitewashed concrete stabilisers and enjoyed the end of the afternoon. The ice cream was excellent and we established that we would come back here again tomorrow and try some different varieties.
On the third day we were feeling much more confident so we decided that we would be more adventurous and explore the town and so set off along the cliff top walk towards the main square of Sorrento. The roads were very busy and almost every driver considered it necessary to drive with one hand surgically attached to the car horn and this, together with lots of three wheel Piaggios buzzing about like wasps and Vespa scooters roaming in packs, made it very noisy indeed.
The walk from Sant’ Agnello to Sorrento took no more than twenty minutes and from the main square that was surrounded by bars and restaurants there was a long road that twisted through several u-bends before it finished at the busy harbour that was full of nautical activity with fishing boats, ferries and passenger boats waiting to take day trippers across the bay to the island of Capri.
We explored the crooked alleys and poked about amongst the boats and then climbed back to the upper town by way of steps – lots of steps – lots and lots of steps. In the main square everywhere was getting rather busy and waiters were prowling the front of the bars imploring passers by to sit down and eat or drink. I had never seen this before and was used to making my own mind up without the pestering attention of others and on this first day, being unsure of how to deal with it, we quickly ended up sitting down at a bar with red table clothes under wide umbrellas out of the glare of the sun and with a menu thrust into our hands.
Being full board we had to plan the days to make sure we were back at the hotel for lunch so we wandered back through some side streets looping back and forth amongst the cobbled passages and cute narrow lanes away from the seafront and once back at the hotel dining room we took our seats and sat down for more pasta.
In the afternoon we went to the swimming pool in the garden and sat under the shade of the orange trees, sunbathed, occasionally swam in the pool and read the books that we had bought with us. Sometime later in the afternoon Maria (the Cosmos holiday rep) came into the garden through the hotel back door, selected a sun lounger and prepared for sunbathing.
Although she was Italian she was honey blonde and pale skinned and when she took off her dress she had a near perfect figure and was wearing only a tiny cream bikini. She was probably in her early thirties and quite gorgeous and as she lay provocatively in the sun occasionally changing from side to side to make sure she was catching the rays evenly I arranged my seating arrangements so that I could watch her from behind my book (The First Great Train Robbery by Michael Crichton). Dad made some alterations to his own seating situation at exactly the same time I seem to remember!
By late afternoon we had had enough of sunbathing, swimming and snooping so we dressed and went across the road to the little bar and had more ice cream and as well as different flavours we were pleased to note that the portions were slightly larger today.
In the evening we had to skip evening meal because we had booked for the tarantella evening somewhere in the town.
The tarantella is an Italian dance that originated in the town of Taranto in the far south of the country. Being the popular theme song of pizzerias and restaurants all over the World it is probably the most instantly recognisable of all Italian music.
There is an alternative story about the origin of the dance and I like this one better. It suggests that the frantic solo dance is performed supposedly to cure, through perspiration, the delirium and contortions that are caused by the bite of a tarantula spider that in olden times was apparently common in the fields at harvest time.
The evening entertainment was held in a large restaurant with food, cheap wine and lots of dancing by people wearing red and gold and black and looking like a hand of playing cards and as they danced they moved and changed position as though they were being rearranged into a winning combination. To be honest it all became a bit repetitive and we got hopelessly bored way before it finished and so we left early and instead of taking the tour bus took a leisurely walk back through the side streets of Sorrento to the hotel.
On the way we stopped and draped ourselves over the railings overlooking the sea, staring transfixed across the magical sweep of bay across to brooding Vesuvius and distant grimy Naples and out to the sea the floating islands of Procida and Ischia. Lights twinkled around the bay and merged as one into the stars in the sky, it was perfect and I wanted to stay there forever.