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  • Writer's pictureAlta's Oyster

The Italian Coast: Start of a Love Affair

I left the U.S. twice in the first quarter of 2023, and I aspire to make that a regular occurrence. In March, my sister Janine, our friend Jennifer, and I traveled to Italy to celebrate Jennifer's 30th birthday.

We'd heard about the racist experiences that Black travelers had in Italy, specifically Rome and Milan. There may be other cities, but those are the only two coming to mind right now. However, Jennifer wanted to enter her 30s in Italy, so we crossed our fingers and hoped for the best. And I'm happy to share that we got the best!

Picture of the Sorrentine Peninsula in Vico Equense, Italy.
Photo Taken by Alta

Located in Southern Italy, on the coast of the Sorrentine Peninsula, Vico Equense is a gorgeous town and commune in the Metropolitan City of Naples. We stayed in Hotel Mary, in the Executive Room with Sea View, which sleeps three. Be forewarned that this looks like one double bed and one single bed.

Now, when they said sea view, they meant sea view. We arrived at the hotel around 11:00pm, so it wasn't until the morning that I saw how astonishing the view from our balcony was. Hotel Mary is literally on the side of a mountain, so I was looking at the homes and hotels on the side of the mountain directly across from us, and the Mediterranean Sea stretched out on our right. I'd never seen anything so beautiful. That view cemented that we were in Italy.

Hotel Mary harnesses its proximity to the sea by using a deep aqua blue color throughout its decor. In addition to the outdoor pool, Hotel Mary has an on-site wellness center, where we spent several hours on Jennifer's birthday. The center features an indoor pool with jets, sauna, massages, facials, and more. It was marvelous, because we were the only clients in the wellness center until near the end of our appointment. It felt like they allowed us to stay longer than the time we booked, but maybe that was an illusion brought on by total relaxation.

A Black woman in a bathrobe lying down on a pool chair next to an indoor pool.
Relaxing in Hotel Mary's Wellness Center

We received excellent customer service. First of all, they arranged for airport pickup and drop off. We flew into Rome, and it would've cost us too much for them to drive that distance, so from Leonardo da Vinci-Fiumicino Airport, we took a 30-minute ride on the Leo Express Train to Roma Termini Train Station, then we boarded another train for an hour and a half ride to Napoli Centrale, and the driver picked us up from that train station.

The front desk was responsive to our requests for drivers, even the one time we asked them to make a next-day reservation super late at night. The drivers were always prompt. They're not part of the hotel staff, because we paid them separately, just drivers who seem to have a partnership with the hotel. It's true what they say, though: if you use private drivers instead of a taxi, your money will Sha'Carri Richardson out of your pocket. Look her up.

We took public transport at times, rode the Cirmcumvesuviana train once. The cash I'd brought was slowly trickling out as I bought souvenirs. Then we booked private drivers back-to-back the last two or so days and poof! Drivers can upcharge you, depending on the destination, and unless it's glaringly outrageous, you have no way of knowing. Taxi drivers have to use a meter. Some of them try not to, but those are the scammers. If you run into one who doesn't want to, in whatever country, move on to one who does use the meter. I'm not saying the drivers at Hotel Mary upcharged us, but whenever they told us the price, I very much wondered if taking a taxi would cost the same or less. But you pay for convenience. There are no rideshares like Uber or Lyft in Vico Equense.

Anyways, we knew that private drivers cost more, so our decision was a conscious one.

Back to Hotel Mary. It offers daily, free, delicious buffet breakfast. Whew! That food was so good. That cappuccino was so good. I avoid cappuccino in the states, because they're too bitter. I hate bitter coffee. But in Italy?


Sí, per favore.

I had a cup every day with my breakfast. A small cup, cause you know they care about portions over there. Two packets of sugar, and I was sippin' and enjoyin'. The staff who worked the dining room were incredibly nice and so was the bartender.

The feeling of being alone that we had at the wellness center permeated our entire stay. It felt like we had the run of the hotel. The dining area was half full one day at breakfast. The rest of the time? A table or three in addition to ours. One staff member told us that most of the guests were a lot older. Hey, we'll take the serenity.

Hotel Mary doesn't serve lunch, but they serve dinner, for a price, and that's where Jen had her birthday dinner, and the meals were delicious.

I had to ask the front desk for an iron, which they gave me. Our room didn't have a microwave, and we couldn't adjust the air conditioner. We visited in March, and it was still cold enough for a light puffer jacket, so their heat was still on.

I can sweat very quickly at night, so I was worried. Maybe it was our proximity to the sea, but it never happened. Oh, and no washcloths. I never travel with a washcloth, because I expect the hotels to have them. The hotel in Thailand had washcloths, but it was also a Marriott, so that maybe made a difference. I didn't think about washcloths not being a thing in Europe, so for five days, I bathed with my hands. Do better than me!

There's a cute park about a five-minute walk from the hotel, which is where I took the first picture above and this one below.

A Black woman leaning on a railing, facing the camera. The Mediterranean Sea is behind her.
The coast agrees with me.

The food around town was mouthwatering. I tasted pistachio gelato for the first time and fell in love. Pistachio-flavored anything never sounded appetizing before, and now I'm a changed woman.

Vico Equense was a wonderful introduction to the Italian coast. We did a lot of fun activities, including shopping in Amalfi, which I'll cover in the next post. I think this is the start of a dreamy relationship between me and the Italian Coasts. There's Cinque Terre, Palermo, Venice, Genoa, and so much more.

Which Italian cities have you visited? Which would you like to visit? Head over to my Tiktok to check out our fabulous time in Vico and Hotel Mary.

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