Time to get from Rome to Citicavecchia and catch up with our ship, the Royal Clipper. The Royal Clipper is the largest square-rigged sailing ship in the world, and I have to say, it is impressive. That’s a picture of it to the left.
Getting on board is fairly easy, as there are only a little over 200 passengers—it’s not like one of those big ships that have thousands of people. In short order we’re on the ship, and I’m headed to the Tropical Bar, which is where you would be most likely to find me for the next week.
First stop is Ponza, a stunning island that most people have never heard of. Louise wants to explore the town, so we begin climbing stairs again. What is it with this woman and stairs? I’m now convinced she’s trying to kill me, and I think I should remind her once again that I don’t have any life insurance. That should buy me a couple more years.
As we climb higher and higher above the town and the tourist area, we start to get nasty looks from some of the locals. I’m pretty sure they don’t think we should be up here, but Louise wants to check out every alley she comes across. I wait for her to come back from exploring while I keep tapping my inhaler to try and get some more juice out of it. Finally we work our way back to the waterfront, and there’s a restaurant with cold beer. Actually, all the restaurants have cold beer, but this one is right in front of me. I think it’s a message from God in the universal language of cold beer. Thirsty no more, we catch the tender back to the ship and change for dinner. After dinner we set sail from Ponza to head for Sorrento, where we will arrive tomorrow morning.
After breakfast, we find ourselves in Sorrento, with no idea what to expect. We get dropped off at the dock, and I’m staring up at a sheer cliff—and the town’s on top of this cliff. I tell Louise she can climb it if she wants, but I’m finding another place on the beach that serves beer. Glancing around, I see a sign that says, in English, “lift to town.” Aha, an elevator for old Americans who don’t climb stairs anymore. Its worth spending a euro each.
These streets are damn crowded, and there’s more tourist shopping here than any other place I’ve been—and its almost all high end. Every fashion designer has a store here on the main drag, and you can probably buy anything you want. Louise buys me a pair of sneakers. And what kind of sneakers did we buy in Sorrento, Italy? Adidas. Go figure.
We’re going to be meeting some new friends from the ship for dinner, so we find a quiet restaurant on top of the cliff and settle down with a couple of beers to watch the sunset. I’m at a loss for words to describe the beauty, so I just sip my beer and watch the sun slowly slip into the ocean.
We head to the restaurant for dinner. I’ve mentioned Italian food before, but this restaurant has convinced me that it really is the best food in the world. To start, I order whole baby calamari, which I’ve never seen before. Tiny squid about two inches long, lightly fried and served with the restaurant’s homemade marinara sauce. They’re so good that I insist Louise try them … and I can promise you, I don’t share food.
The calamari is followed by a meat-filled ravioli with a gorgonzola cheese sauce. I would never have thought of using gorgonzola as a cheese sauce, but if you’ve never had it, make some tonight. It will change your life. Just heat some heavy cream until it starts to thicken, add gorgonzola and a bit of parmesan for the saltiness, and that’s it. One thing about the Italians, they don’t screw up their food by making it complicated. In fact, its so simple, its actually hard to do.
Even with all of the stairs, Sorrento was one of my favorite stops. One of the highlights I missed was a side trip to Pompeii. Louise didn’t miss it, but I was having trouble breathing and decided to spend the day on the ship. My breathing was so bad that I went to see the ship’s nurse, who decided I needed a nebulizer treatment with some inhaled steroids. Fifteen minutes later my breathing was fine, and the nurse had become my newest best friend. I still missed the trip though. I did get to look at Louise’s pictures, and it must have been quite a tour. Still, I’ll trade a trip to Pompeii for being able to breathe again. By the time Louise got back, I was a new man and just looking for some damn stairs to climb.
I should mention what its like to leave Sorrento and the other ports when you’re on a giant clipper ship. It begins with the ship playing some incredibly dramatic music, which the company uses as sort of a theme song. If you’d like to give it a listen, its “Conquest of Paradise” from 1492, and it will get your blood flowing. We start out on the engines, and everyone’s on deck to watch the crew raise the sails as we become a sailing ship. There’s no feeling quite like it, and Louise is determined to grab onto every second of the experience. Me? I stand on the deck behind the captain and pretend I’m a pirate looking for a treasure-laden ship we can raid. We’ll capture the booty and the women and bring them all back to our secret island, where we will drink rum, count our coins, and ravish the women. This works well for me until Louise comes up and says that she’ll now allow me to buy her a glass of wine at the Tropical Bar. Oh well, at least I’ve got the rum and a woman. The coins will have to wait.