Our 72 Hour Italian Mishap
Updated: Jan 7, 2020
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There we were on December 20th...packing up our things in Split Croatia and heading to Italy for Christmas and New Year's. We rented a place in a quaint little town named Furore high up on the Amalfi Coast that had an amazing view of the ocean and coastal villages below. We were heading toward a storybook Italian Christmas.
And that’s where things took a slight turn. Let us tell you a story about our 72 hour Italian mishap...
[TL;DR: We booked one of the smallest flats in one of the smallest towns on the Amalfi coast and spent the first 3 days there in the middle of one of the worst storms in recent Italian memory. We ended up moving to a larger town and renting a second flat for the month.]
Being in Split Croatia, we had a lot of travel options for getting to Italy…combinations of ferry, flight, bus, and train. A flight from Split to Naples (the closest airport to the Amalfi Coast) would have set us back ~$400 USD per person, which we felt was too steep. To keep travel costs down we opted to fly instead to Rome where we would take a train from the airport to Rome city center (~30 minutes) and then catch a second train to Naples (~2 hours).
We both tend to get hangry when our blood sugar is low so thankfully we were able to hit an ATM and track down some sandwiches in between train connections.
Once in Naples, we met the driver from the private transfer service we had pre-booked whose name was Roberto. Up to this point in our trip, we had only had such service when arriving in Split when the driver our host had arranged was holding his phone with our names clearly displayed on it. Having our own private driver was convenient after traveling for 4-5 hours by that point.
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Roberto launched into tour guide mode almost immediately after pulling out of the parking lot. He had a lot of knowledge about the area and seemed keen to share every last detail. The drive to our Furore rental high up on the Amalfi Coast took approximately ~1 hour from the main Naples train station, so he had plenty of time to fill us in on everything he felt we needed to know.
By the time we arrived in Furore it was around 21:00 and pitch black outside so we weren’t able to see much of Italy as Roberto zipped through the twists and turns of the Italian hillside. But hey, we would be there for a month...we could wait until tomorrow morning for the breathtaking view the photos in the Airbnb listing promised.
As we got closer to the rental, our driver was unable to find the exact address since we were driving around on extremely windy, very narrow roads late at night so he offered to call our hosts and figure out the exact details. It ended up that we were in the right area. The house was just down a staircase on the side of the road that was barely visible at night.
We said farewell to Roberto (and mistakenly tipped him 70 euro (when the trip cost 100 euro) instead of the 20 we had intended, which we only discovered later) and followed our hosts (a mother and daughter) down to our storybook Italian villa where we would be spending the holidays. Okay, okay, not really a villa per se. We knew we rented a fairly small flat, but HOLY CRAP this place was T-I-N-Y tiny! We knew it was small when we booked it, but assumed the large outdoor terrace would more than make up for it. Stay tuned to find out why didn't get to spend a single minute outside.
The kitchen/living room/dining room were all one space smaller than Eddie’s college dorm room. The kitchen ran along a single wall and had a sink, stove top, and small counter space for kitchen essentials. Aside from boiling water for pasta, no cooking would be happening here. And we had just come from a rental in Croatia with a kitchen better-equipped than ours at home! Bummer.
Fast forward to Saturday morning (Dec 21), our first full day in Italy, and we should have been welcomed by some of the most beautiful views in the world. Instead, we woke up to one of the worst storms in recent Italian memory. It was rainy, windy, and so foggy you couldn’t see anything past our balcony. You actually couldn’t even tell we were along the coast at all as the sea wasn’t visible.
Being our first day in town and not knowing how to get to the store or restaurants, we opted to avoid wandering around in a nasty storm and stayed indoors.
Luckily, our hosts had left a few breakfast items, coffee, spaghetti, and pasta sauce in the cupboard. We ended up spending the day binge watching “The Witcher” on Netflix (any book/gaming nerds out there will understand why Eddie thought this was a wonderful use of time) and making fresh-out-of-the-box spaghetti. Sounds gourmet, right?
Eventually, the rain and wind died down enough that we could venture out to the local restaurant and mini-market. Apparently the fog didn’t get the same memo that the rain and wind did because we wandered through some of the densest fog either of us has ever seen. Eventually, we found the mini-market, which was conveniently adjoining the restaurant. Did we mention this was a super small town? Yes? Okay then.
The only employee working at the mini market that night was an Italian woman who spoke zero English, but still somehow got across to us that the restaurant was closed for the season. The sole restaurant in Furore would be closed until spring of 2020. Lovely.
Quickly recalculating how many groceries we would now need to purchase, we sorted through a very strange collection of items (none of which went together) and wound up buying cereal, yogurt, pancetta, spaghetti, pasta sauce, wine, Pringles, and cookies. This was not even remotely close to the delicious food we had been looking forward to during our time in Italy.
We thanked the woman at the mini-market (“grazie!”) and headed back out into the fog to return to our flat. At this point, we were feeling kinda down about the last 24 hours and weren’t in the mood to cook even the simple things we’d just purchased, so dinner that night was cookies and Pringles before it was finally time to sleep. We snuggled up in bed with high expectations for the next day.
In the middle of the night, Megan was woken up by a very bright emergency light above the front door flipping on and off all night, lighting up the entire flat as we lost electricity and it came right back. She said it reminded her of the flash of a camera, which was absolutely not conducive to getting good sleep.
After a rough night of sleep, Sunday morning (Dec 22) we woke up to MORE fog, rain, and wind instead of the beautiful views we’d hoped. It was actually so windy that the plastic trash bins on the terrace broke apart and were strewn all over the place. The deck furniture was scattered and our screen door had slammed shut so hard that it pressed past the frame and was jammed shut until Eddie gave it a pretty solid shoulder (without breaking it, thankfully) to get it to open.
Due to the weather, we once again decided to hang out indoors and be entertained by a combination of Twitter, Netflix, and Facebook for most of the day (yet again). This was really getting old by this point and we both tried to keep faith we hadn’t made a huge mistake in booking this rental.
Starting around 14:00, we started to lose power every 15 to 20 minutes for just a few minutes at a time. And with the power goes the WiFi. This is incredibly annoying when you’re trying to do something that requires a consistent internet connection.
We should also mention that we had very poor cell service, which was a first in our 5 months of full-time travel to date. So, anytime the power would go out, we were effectively cut off from communicating with anyone since we didn’t have service. This was beginning to feel more like a camping trip in a very remote location.
During one of the periods of power and internet (hallelujah!), we received a message from our hosts letting us know that they would be stopping by the next morning to drop off some homemade traditional Italian sweets, which was so incredibly kind of them. We were glad to have received that message ahead of time and that they didn’t show up with us in our pajamas and hair a mess. Haha!
After one particularly long power outage around 16:00, we gave up trying to do anything online and decided to start making dinner. Luckily the stove and heat were gas-powered and worked regardless of the electricity being out. Unfortunately, the gas stove uses electricity to spark the burners so we were SOL on boiling water (there were no matches or lighters in the rental anywhere and we aren’t smokers so we don’t carry any).
Eventually, the electricity came back on momentarily and we were able to get a burner started for our pasta. Just imagine how quickly we jumped up to try and light the burner. We think we probably broke a Guinness World Record or two. The electricity went out almost immediately after getting the stove lit, so we were lucky.
Wanting to heat up pasta sauce on another burner, we decided to do a little science experiment and see if a spaghetti noodle would catch on fire so we could use it to light another burner. AND IT WORKED! We ate our spaghetti mostly in the dark using cell phone flashlights to light up the room a bit and ended up going to bed early around 20:00 since the power was still out.
“Okay, the next day will be AMAZING” we thought to ourselves. Once again, the universe said NOPE! Waking up on Monday morning (Dec 23), we were welcomed to the power still being out and more rain.
Because Megan works remote part-time and Eddie is going to school online, we both need to have consistent power and a good Internet connection. Outages that last 8+ hours aren’t acceptable.
In a stroke of brilliance (probably from the fancy college degree he’s working on), Eddie decided to look for the breaker box in the flat and see if any fuses had flipped. Lo and behold, the main breaker for the flat was in the OFF position! This means that the last outage we had the night before probably flipped the switch and we could have easily just turned it back on to regain power and cook dinner with all the comforts that electricity provides. We are choosing to believe that this isn’t the case and something happened in the late hours of the night, well after we were asleep, that caused the breaker to flip. Either way, we turned it on and regained power.
Unfortunately, the events of the last few days combined had skewed our thoughts about Furore and staying in such a small town. What was supposed to be relaxing and lovely in every way you imagine southern Italy was more like an odd comedy/horror flick that went straight to DVD.
Sitting at the dining room table, we looked at each other and had an unspoken agreement pass between us…we needed to find another place to stay.
We realize that none of the problems we’d experienced were the fault of our hosts. We just didn’t like how small the town was, how small the flat was, and the terrible storm was just icing on the cake.
Before our hosts arrived that morning, we hopped on to our computers (now that we had power and internet back) and researched places to stay in larger towns nearby. After a flurry of messages, we landed on Sorrento, Italy as our new destination and found an available flat overlooking Piazza Tasso (the main square in Sorrento).
We confirmed that there was a SITA SUD bus that stops in Furore and would take us to Amalfi where we could catch another bus to Sorrento. We re-packed our bags, which thankfully we’re pros at at this point in our trip. Our hosts stopped by with sweets to share and told us they understood why we wanted to relocate.
Thankfully they stopped by for a chat because there was just one wrinkle in our plan. They informed us that the storm had caused rock falls on the coast and the main road that our bus would need to take was closed. BAH! “Can this get any worse?” we thought. Luckily, our hosts explained there was a different route we could take that they had confirmed was open. They would drive us to the next town, Agerola, where we would catch a bus and then pick up a local train to get to Sorrento. Phew!
With the sun finally shining, we left Furore and easily found our way to Sorrento. After checking into our new rental, we both felt so much more confident that we would enjoy our stay in Italy 100% more after the change in plans.
We really have been lucky that this was the first major change in plans we’ve had since we left on our trip July 15 (a full five months prior). Some people are true nomads and might never know where they are going to sleep that evening, but we prefer to plan ahead by a month or two minimum.
Looking back, it is humorous now to think about the 72 hours we spent in the tiny town of Furore and how so many things didn’t go our way. We’ll just chalk it up to circumstances and will be sure to fully appreciate electricity, an Internet connection, sunny days, and grocery stores a bit more in the future!
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