We used the popular app Whatsapp during our most recent trip to Italy. It proved to be very helpful as it allowed us to communicate with family and friends at home without incurring any international charges or utilizing any data. All we needed was WiFi, which was free and readily available in most public locations, and in our private accommodation, and for the other party to download the app onto their phone as well. It can be downloaded on most phones (Android, iPhone, Windows), and also features a handy group chat that has allowed our travel group to remain in contact since our return.
The fact that Android users like ourselves can use it to communicate with iPhone users, makes it worth it. It's just like placing a call at home, and there is very little lag time despite the call being placed over the internet.
A tidbit is to make sure your phone remains on airplane mode the entire time during your international stay and turn on your WiFi manually. This is more common for short-term travel where internet is readily available versus long-term travel whereas it's advisable to purchase either an international plan (AT&T international plans have a minimum of 30 days) or an international chip for your phone. Another suggestion is to switch to T-mobile (if you aren't already with them) which allows for all calls made internationally to be free.
Of course email is still a popular way to keep in touch, as well as social media sites like Facebook and Instagram.
Have you tried Whatsapp? Are there any other communication apps that you use to keep in touch with family when traveling internationally?
The highlight of our trip to the Amalfi Coast was the yacht experience. We took to the open waters on two seperate yachts that accommodated up to 8 persons. The entire journey was an hour each way. Sometimes we rode fast, and others times slow. Often close enough to take pictures of the many picturistique towns we were passing by. Most notably, the town of Positano that is often dipicted in pictures of the Amalfi Coast.
The time flew by as we took pictures, sung old school hip-hop, and drank champaign. For the couple on the trip, it was the cummulation of week one of their marriage after a small private ceremony in Rome the week before. For others, the trip was their birthday gift to themself, and it felt good for their soul to be "free" as they approach their mid-thirties. For many, the entire week of experiencs were unparallel to any travel they've ever been on, even if they've been to the region before.
As we stepped foot in the town of Capri, we were considered instant celebrities of some sorts. Our precense created a stir as if we were VIPs, and our pictures were snapped by random people as we headed to the top of Capri. Many in our group traveled to the top via the funicular and few used the chairlift. Capri is famed for it's Blue Grotto where the waters, surrounded by a cave, naturally glows electric blue. It's an astonighing view from the the top as we piered down to the waters below.
After a few hours of taking pictures, eating pizza, and drinking lemon granitas, we set foot back on our yacht to the town of Amalfi where we originated. On our return trip, we laughed until our stomachs hurt and even cried a little, as our entire trip was coming to an end the next day. This was a day we'll never forget!!
We had an opportunity to tour a lemon farm near the village of Ravello. We started out atop the hill and found ourselves at the bottom. Another hike!! This one at least had a wonderful smell of lemons during our mile downward truant through the farm.
Lemons are an economic staple for the residents of the Amalfi Coast. Many families owned and operated lemon farms, and currently take part in a co-op agreement that sells their lemons all over the world. In the past, it was the men who cultivated the land and picked the lemons, and the women who transported the lemons from the terraces into town to sell to offshore fisherman. Today, the operation is more shared equally amongst the men and women, and there are more automatic techniques of cultivating (including watering the lemon trees), transporting, and packaging the lemons.
We later toured a lemon co-op packaging facility that is able to transport and ship the lemons all over the world, and draws the neighboring lemon farms a nice profit. In addition, the facility is able to make another by-product of lemons- limoncello. A nice blend of 97%+ alcohol, lemon skin, water, and sugar, is all it takes to make this alcoholic beverage. We were able to drink variations of limoncello, including chocolate and strawberry.
As we left the lemon factory to head back to Ravello, we were tickled to find traditional Italian musical instruments on our seats. We don't know if it was the alcohol or the joy of the noise we made, but we had a jam fest heading back to our abode. La dolce vita!!
Several of us from the group decided to spend our free day in the larger town of Amalfi. We were given several different directions, and came to an agreement that a short 20 minute walk from Mamma Agata's would be ideal. The 20 minute walk turned into an hour hike, and we got so frustrated at one point that once we found ourselves on level ground, we literally ran to the middle of the road to stop a bus to pick us up. After catching our breath, we settled down and enjoyed the 15 minute ride by bus to the Amalfi city center.
We then enjoyed a relaxing lunch outdoors serenaded by Italian musicians. It was during our departure from the restaurant that we met Kat. Apparently there was an altercation between a man with a "troubled mind" and a little boy. We were so insulted by his treatment of the little boy, and not understanding Italian, we tried to intervened. This upset the man even more and Kat came to our rescue. Realizing we were Americans, she said just enough in Italian to get us safely away from the man before his insults would lash back at us.
Kat is from Nashville, Tennessee and journeyed to Italy on her own. Yes, a solo journey. She has been to Italy many times (most recently the previous September), and was hoping that her twin sister would join her. However, her sister was unable to make it and Kat went on her own. She recently turned 33 (four ladies on the trip turned 33 in the last few months, what we affectionately called our "Jesus Year") and was on a 30+ day journey that was to take her along the southern coast of Italy all the way to the northern parts. When we met, she had just finished a 7 mile hike of the Path of the Gods (I guess we took a short cut) that took her to the Amalfi city center. In fact, she was so fearless in her journey, that she even rented a car to make the drive up the coast. Hmm....anyone who has been to Italy know that driving along these coastal curves and mountains is insane. This brave tactic and her audacity to do it alone was very inspiring. Many people will say she's crazy, but this southern hairdresser and hockey fanatic knew her purpose. Often times family and friends can't make a trip, but does that mean don't go? It helped that she met up with Italian friends she knew along the way, but she also took the time to help a few new friends that happen to be Americans.
Mamma Agata's terrace sits high up in the clouds in the small Italian town called Ravello. Guest are surrounded by the view of the Amalfi Coast and the lemon trees below. On the table are numerous little dishes that can't wait to have food placed on them. We spent the vast majority of the morning and early afternoon preparing our own breakfast and lunch. A lesson well taught. And once you do begin to eat (and can't stop), you'll find yourself all ears to Mamma Agata's daughter, Chiara, as shares stories that make the conversation interesting, along with a few jewels for thought. Like the apron needs to be neat across a woman's bosom, or that there is no such thing as Caesar Salad in Italy....WHAT!! Her story of meeting Martha Stewart is delightful. And what's that red stuff everyone craves? They call it Red Hell for a reason. Consisting of 5 different types of chili peppers, it went on everything...bread, zucchini, pasta, etc. Check out the pictures below, and if you'll like to place an order and have it delivered from Italy, check it out here.