Is this Heaven? No it’s Iowa Praiano, Italy!
After 4 days jam packed with sight seeing and touring ancient ruins in Rome, Ben and I hopped a bullet train, a local train, then a bus to Praiano, on the dream-like Amalfi coast in southwest Italy.
Once an ancient fishing village, Praiano, located between Positano and Amalfi, is home to under 1,000 residents and a handful of quaint hotels.
The phrase of this leg of our vacation was – “no seriously – people actually live here!”
It blew our mind that this is normal. This is a normal, every day sight for the people that live on the Amalfi Coast. I can’t imagine growing up with this kind of natural, breathtaking beauty in my backyard.
The houses and villages in this area are literally perched and built into the cliffs of the coast.
Aka – you CLIMB to get home!
And climb we did!
Every morning, after breakfast, we’d set out on a hike. We’d either climb down the main hill to town from our hotel, and begin wandering that way,
(making sure to stay VERY CLOSE to edge of the road, as they’re literally only wide enough for a 1 bus and 1 moped, as evidenced by Ben getting scraped by a bus as it tried to squeeze through a tiny street next to a car and us!)
or we’d head straight to any of the half dozen staircases right outside our hotel, start to ascend and explore!
The scenery in the hills will take your breath away. The seemingly ancient stone cliffs, walls and staircases that the town residents use to get home are covered with beautiful flowers and vines.
Every new turn lead to a new discovery.
Whether it be a beautiful rose bush growing out of the planters that are built into the rock,
a quick peak at the beautiful sea down below,
or an entrance adorned with the Virgin Mary.
Homes are named by their owners (Villa IGE has a nice ring to it, don’t you think?!) and are located right off the staircases and paths.
We never got sick of smelling the luscious scent of meals being prepared, wafting through open windows as we passed by. The house in this picture was cooking up sausage and peppers when we walked by at 10am. The scent was unmistakable and were this close to knocking on the door and asking to stay for lunch!!!!
One of the most interesting things we found in Rome was the abundance of free flowing public water fountains, cascading clean drinking water (water in Italy is high in calcium, btw!) at all hours of the day and night. We were so tickled to find the pattern continue in the hills of Praiano. How cool, right?!
During our hikes we ran into friends like this tiny, grey kitten.
Who found us mighty interesting and followed up for a good ways.
OMG CAN I TAKE IT HOME?!
But we never got sick of climbing and exploring. Well, ok, once we were racing up the biggest staircase possibly in the entire town trying to get to a local pizza place before it closed for the afternoon (I know) and I literally thought I was going to die. I was ready for a break after that!
The COOLEST thing, though, about the villas in the hills, was the orchards and gardens that nearly everyone grows in their backyards!
There were grape vines hovering over pumpkin patches, spilling over the tops of stone walls.
Ok, I’ll admit…
I picked one. I KNOW!!! I held off all week because I KNOW these are on people’s private property, but I couldn’t resist – it was so hard!!! Best grape I ever had.
Pumpkins are a local specialty here,
and of course the tomato vines were off the charts.
Many homes had sweet, juicy tomatoes bunched and drying in the sun. Can you imagine what those must taste like?
The crops that were in most abundance were lemon trees,
olive trees (literally, olives just littered the ground throughout the entire town!)
and banana trees! Fig trees were EVERYWHERE too, and we also delighted in seeing cactus fruit, oranges, limes, eggplant, zucchini and peaches!
When we weren’t hiking in the hills of town, we were at the beach!
The water in this part of the Mediterranean is crystal clear and perfectly turquoise.
There was a main beach in town that was tucked between three sheer cliff faces.
So cool, right?!
This day, during particularly rough seas, a small boat had sunk and a group of locals were pulling it to shore.
Of course it wasn’t all hiking and exploring. We sipped our cappuccinos every afternoon and drank our wine on the terrace at night.
We sat in the piazzas and listened to the sounds of the town. The children laughing, the church choir singing and the sounds of the waves down below.
And we swam. ;) Infinity pool into the Mediterranean, anyone?!
If you’ve ever thought about taking a trip to the coast of Southern Italy – DO IT. Start saving $20 a week and go in a couple years. You will never forget the experience and perspective it gives you on your own life. Do we NEED Costcos, Super Targets & giant shopping malls? Would life be simpler without them? Maybe yes, maybe no – but it’s still neat to see how other people live their lives in simplicity.
I’d also encourage you to stay in a smaller town like Praiano. Neighboring Positano and Amalfi are bigger, but are largely tourist towns. We took a day trip to Positano and were weak with relief when we got back “home” to Praiano – away from the crush of high prices and tourist traps! Don’t get me wrong – both are absolutely beautiful, but I think Praiano gave us a real taste of what life is like in a small, coastal town in the Mediterranean!
Be back tonight with highlights from Roma! Ciao!
Other Italy Recaps: