Visit the wonderful Amalfi coast with a guide or just some practical guidelines

We all know that the Amalfi coast is stunning and well worth a visit. Nothing new there. But the best way to get there? The best way to get around? What to avoid and why? All of these important points and more are not always obvious as the coast is very long, winding and varied and each town along the coast has its own quirks and characteristics.

Here follow a few insider tips and guidelines for you to consider before you visit and/or I am happy to offer more precise guidelines for specific visits:

  1. Avoid August. Period. Unless you love sweltering heat, massive overcrowding and traffic queues then it is better to leave well alone. July is also very hot and slightly less crowded. August swells the 3,000 Amalfi population to 30,000 per day.
  2. Do not bring a car unless you have to. The coast road is very beautiful but also very crowded and narrow. Driving in the area is not easy even out of season, and from May through to October is really slow and hard work. Or get a local to drive you.
  3. The wonderful ferry service works from April thro’ to October and covers the entire coast from Salerno to Sorrento. It is not expensive and hops along the coast, the ferry is probably faster than any road transport and you also get to view the coast from the sea as well as enjoy the sea breeze.
  4. Book early, as last minute is very complex and expensive and generally you will find only out of the way places. Folks still book the same room for next year when they leave their favourite hotel, like in the old days!
  5. Be very cautious of the giants like Booking, TripAdvisor and the rest cos they are not reliable on the coast. Simply put these giants cannot get the percentages they want here as the hotels and restaurants are generally full anyway, so often they seem to publish rubbish. Use the direct web sites for better information.
  6. Avoid taxis as they generally charge you a fortune, I guess because there are so few of them. If you have to then ask then to know the fee before you go and you can negotiate. Ask the hotel to book for you for some protection and always ask the fee in advance.

Any other information you require, just ask.

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Multi service point on the Amalfi coast

Ok so here is the latest idea. We will soon have our first property in the Amalfi area, in Tramonti which is about 12 km from Amalfi and about 6km inland from Maiori. We should hopefully take possession by June given that there is no purchase chain and we can settle quickly. We have several ideas for this property (which is actually two properties, one tiny “house” and one very large garage):

Storage. The city of Amalfi is tiny and has NO spare space. Property in Amalfi is wildly expensive and limited, every square metre is used for hotels, restaurants, housing and shops given also the physical layout of the town which is confined by the sea in front and the mountain behind which rises up to almost 1,000 metres above sea level.

There are no storage facilities to rent in a radius of 20 or so kilometers from the town. For instance mopeds and motorbikes are used by all of the locals during the good season and then need to be stored over the damp winter months. Car parking is very very expensive, the 2 public car parks cost 2 Euro per hour or 30 Euro per day all year round.

Every activity in the area needs more space to store all sorts of things they need in the season including spares, for instance essential parts or equipment that may be needed during the very busy summer season. An aircon unit will generally fail in August when it is mighty difficult to get a replacement, hence the need to purchase and store one or two reserve units nearby. In August a van will take even 2 hours to arrive from Salerno.

Even routine maintenance for cars or bikes means that you must travel to Salerno or Castellammare, each of which take 40 minutes by car if the traffic is good or 3 times that in the peak season when Amalfi town swells from the 3,000 residents up to 30,000 visitors daily!!

So we have many ideas and options for our new premises, watch this space!

European trips for you….I have the superb Vito 3.0L van plus an excellent 2-axle car trailer

You need a car or a motorbike delivered from the UK to France or Italy?? You wanna bike holiday in the south of France but do not fancy the 1000km down from London?? No problem. I can come to you, collect the car or motorbike or bicycles plus your panniers or luggage or whatever and take it for you, you pay the fuel plus motorway plus a charge but I aim to keep the costs as low as possible cos I can sleep in the van!!! Perhaps you wanna buy a bike from France or Italy but dont wanna ride it home???

Ask me for a price and dates!!!! I can be fairly flexible and I have winter tyres on the van for the cold and wet months so I can run most of the year round.

Another UK trip

Given that my bikes are all UK registered, I travel quite frequently between Italy and the UK. Sometimes by bike (if the travel is in the spring or summer months so the weather is ok) and sometimes by my trusty van with a bike or two onboard. I love both travelling and France, so the trips are something I really look forward to either alone or in company. The van has a 3.0 TDI V6 engine with 200+ horses and fitted with a great stereo, cruise control, aircon and whatever.

This March I needed to return my Super Tenere 1200 which I traded in for an almost brand new Yamaha FJR1300. The FJR is a lovely bike which the shop had registered as a demonstrator in September 2017, as required by Yamaha UK given that Alf England is a Premier Dealer, and I just looked at the clocks to see that the total kilometers covered so far are the grand total of 63!!! That could be one or at most two demo rides I guess. Wonderful.

OK back to the trip, as you can read about the bike elsewhere. I was not sure how easy it would be to load the Super Ten into my Vito van given that 3 years ago we used an excellent ramp at the shop which I do not have of course. My van is a low roof model (as I like to travel and the Vito drives almost like a car) so interior height can be a problem. So I removed the mirrors and the screen from the bike and thought that I would run here up my aluminium ramp to see how much more I would need to remove, luckily she went straight in with a few millimetres to spare, so all was good. I then loaded up all of the other bits I wanted to return to the shop like the original exhaust, then strapped the bike down, checked the van’s oil, water and tyres and I was ready to go, this was Wednesday morning.

Well I left Roma at about 11am happy to have gained half a day, and headed north on the motorway. The weather was very cold so I had my winter tyres on the van and very valuable they would prove. Winter tyres are great not just for snow but anytime the ambient temperature is below 10ish degrees C as they are softer and grip even in the cold, and they also expel water much better. The temperature was only a few degrees above freezing and as I got nearer to Florence I had to make a decision and I chose to head west towards the coast instead of north because the motorway would climb to cross the Pennines to Bologna and I did not want to risk the snow. In Italy if any motorway gets blocked it is always that one.

So I headed west to Livorno and then north to Genoa and then to the French border so past Monte Carlo and I decided to stop for the night in Nice, where I know a lovely little hotel which is easy to find and has a petrol station next door, ideal for an early start! I found the Esatitude Hotel, parked the van in their excellent underground car park, got some food and headed to bed. About 700km covered today.

The next morning I left the hotel early and hit the road with a full tank as today was going to be a long one. I left at about 4am and the navigator indicated about 1230km for Calais for the P and O ferry to Dover. So I knew that the day would be a very long one but I had booked an open ticket with a 5 day return so I had no real deadline, essential for a fairly relaxed long trip. I covered about 400km before I stopped for a wonderful breakfast on the motorway and then I carried on, the fantastic (and very expensive) French motorways let me make great progress north, I stopped for a snack and fuel refill somewhere near Dijon. The weather for the first 600km was fine and dry, still cold, whereas the second half was rain and snow with loads of snow covering the fields next to the motorway, so only a few degrees above freezing.

Well I then headed non stop for the ferry and I got to Calais by about 4pm and after a short wait and a coffee we were loaded on board and I went upstairs to the lounge, which is included in the open ticket, so for some good coffees plus a snack and a read of the newspaper. We docked after 90 minutes so I drove up to Dover and headed north, Martin had booked my 2 nights at the lovely Royal Arms Hotel in Sutton Cheney and I arrived in time for great beer and a snack before bed, a great day!!!!

The trip back was easier as the weather was a little bit warmer, and I drove the quicker route, stopped for the night in Chamonix Hotel Mercure and then through the Monte Blanc Tunnel. 4600 km total was the round trip.

Service no limits

I am Simon, I am English and I live between Roma and Amalfi in Italy. I have lived in Italy since 1990 and I speak reasonable Italian and French, plus some English!!

I love travelling and exploring, I have worked in Export Sales for more than 30 years which has taken me all over the world, and I like nothing better than travelling around Italy and Europe by car, van or motorbike alone or with friends.

I know Italy fairly well and I love to help others to discover the beauty of Italy and to avoid the many pitfalls. Many visitors love Italy but do not really know how to avoid the difficult bits, as the language and the mentality is very different from the American and North European “norms”.

I also have a small fleet of vehicles that I can rent out to the right people or can use to transport you around. You fly into Roma and wanna get to the Amalfi Coast?? I can take you. You need to transport you and/or your luggage around between hotels? Call me. You wanna try a motorcycle experience?? I can supply a touring bike with a satnav in English all ready to go. You wanna visit the Ducati or Ferrari factory?? No problem. You need a route for a 3 day visit to Sicily or Sardinia? I can supply it.

Here follow some blogs to give you a taste of the Italian experience. Thanks!!

New property comes closer

We have found and made an offer on a new property, as threatened!! This small property is fantastic and is perfect for what we need, a small working base in the Amalfi area. The property is a WONDERFUL double garage and is very recent indeed, it looks virtually new, and has all of the permissions and stuff in order too which is very unusual, so it can be used for storage, as a garage, for working or whatever. It has a small bathroom too plus water and electricity.

The location is almost ideal too as it is only 12km (about 15 minutes) from the centre of Amalfi and is in a small residential area with houses on each side. Photos and stuff to follow if our offer is accepted!!!!

Stop press: We have revisited the property today and it would appear that all is in order and we can go ahead. We aim to conclude at about the end of March. Watch this space.

Used spare parts for cars and scooters

Given that cars (and bikes) become ever more expensive and complex, and the spares follow, we see a fiendish idea to start a potentially-interesting business with used and regenerated spare parts. We therefore intend to purchase some cars and some scooters and strip them for spares, indeed we have already acquired a Honda SH125, the best selling scooter in Italy. The market for used spares is an interesting one and traditionally mainly in the hands of not totally honest suppiers. We want to start an honest business with spares and repairs, we already have a Roma base and we are now seeking another in the Amalfi region so that we can operate in both areas.

Photos to follow of our SH125 and then the cars too, as we start operations so watch this space.

 

A week takeover of the lovely Aurora Hotel, Amalfi. October 20-27th 2018

Ok so here is the master plan for the hotel so far:

  1. I have asked her indoors if I can book the whole hotel PLUS the 3 apartments for the whole week, and (so far so good) she said yes. Poor woman. This event is by personal invitation only and is NOT open to the general public BUT we do plan to run similar events in the future.
  2. I therefore have 15 rooms in the hotel to host my “guests”, plus the 3 apartments if required.
  3. My idea is to offer the lucky chosen few an “all-in package price” for the week to include almost everything, B&B plus some happy hours and even some meals too.
  4. I am looking to organise a wide range of activities, events and visits for the week and everyone will be able to select say 3 activities. Additional events (if we can arrange them) will be charged but more or less at cost.
  5. I will rent a minibus for the week so that we can provide all local transport free. I suggest that you try to come either by motorbike (free safe parking under the hotel) or by public transport, cos a car will cost you about 30 Euro per dayfor parking!!! From Roma the best way is train to Salerno (2 hours door to door) and then either bus, ferry or minibus to Amalfi centre. The hotel is then only a 10 minute stroll.
  6. I need to plan carefully so I need your yes or no asap please and I will then ask you for a non-refundable deposit for every room, to ensure that you will really come.
  7. We will organise trips to Pompei, Caserta, Thermal Baths and Underground Naples for sure. Other activities will be organised depending on the weather we have that week, for instance a boat trip and motorcycle testing. My Raptor 700 Quad and TMax 530 will be available.

More to follow very soon, watch this space………

I wanna show you the lovely Amalfi coast….by bike. Watch this video!!!

Ok here we go, I have the GoPro 5 and I intend to make some trips along this stunning coast and show you the beauty of this area……please let me know what you think.

Please enjoy the trips…..here is the first one, from Amalfi along the coast to Positano. The GoPro is mounted onto my Yamaha TMax 530, please let me know what you think.

Services moves to purchase a property

We have recently been studying the property market in the Amalfi coast area. To be more precise, inland near the coast where the prices are more reasonable, given that we are not looking for a holiday home with sea view.

The ideal property may be a small detached or semi detached house/villa with some land, or it could be a small business unit or even a piece of farm land with a stable or even a garage. Our plan is flexible as there are very few properties on the market and of course anything with a view over the coastline is worth a small fortune!

We may indeed need to rent some parking space to have a fast solution, and then search for a property to purchase later as the ideas are growing as we search. Some ideas are:

a. Car and van parking. There is always a need for safe parking spaces in the Amalfi/Ravello area. In Amalfi town there are only 2 public car parks and by 10am they are both full and so no more cars can stay. Also, the hotels always need more parking spaces.

b. Van and minibus parking. For daily visitors, as again there is nowhere to stop.

c. Rental car services. To be explored, we have alot of ideas on this front.

Etc. Watch this space, we start our property visits this week!!!!

Restoring a truly unloved 2008 Audi A5 3200 V6 coupe

I bought a very neglected and really scruffy 2008 Audi A5 in early 2015. The car had two owners from new and was a really sad sight when I went to view her in the corner of a yard of a second hand dealer in the south of Roma. Badly scratched and damaged paintwork plus a very tatty interior, but I was specifically looking for this two-wheel drive version of the A5 with the 3.2 litre non-turbo petrol FSI engine, which was in production for only a few years. I love a large lazy engine as in my book this makes for very relaxed driving, I am not a fan of fast and furious turbo or supercharged engines.

This car would have cost over 55,000 Euro new in 2008 and was listed now at 19,500 euro, so after a quick inspection I offered 15,000 euro which was accepted after some very gentle haggling. Anything over 2.5 litres is considered a large engine here in Italy so prices are quite low, the Italian state makes you pay very heavily both to transfer the car into your ownership as well as for the annual road tax, which both go on the horsepower of the car.

I knew well that the cash I had “saved” on the deal would be needed to put the car back into decent working order. The front tyres were totally bald, for instance, which on a 265 bhp car is not a good start, so 950 Euro went on a new set of Pirelli P-Zeros. The seats of the car were threadbare (amazing!) so I found a complete new leather interior from a scrap A5, bought and fitted for 600 Euro and it even had electric seat controls!! The car was totally unloved so I also took her for a full service (for the first and last time!!!) to an official VW Audi dealer, that cost me about 700 Euro (and I even supplied the engine oil).

I found a web site for the A5 called http://www.a5oc.com and this helped me to gather loads of useful information advice and opinions about the A5. Well now two years into my A5 ownership (and love affair, I confess) I am happy to show my progress so here are some recent pictures. The leather interior is lovely. The bodywork still has quite a few scars but I am reluctant to spend on a respray given that the car lives in the city of Roma and so bumps and scratches are the order of the day. I have had the lovely 19″ alloy wheels refurbished and I have recently fitted a full set of Brembo brake discs and pads and also repainted the brake calipers.

The engine and auto gearbox have very luckily required only normal servicing so far. I did take quite a gamble as the car had zero service history but luckily the engine and gearbox have been bulletproof over the 40,000 km I have covered so far. I think that I will keep her for a few more years ‘cos the A5 is a lovely car and wonderful fun to drive.

Update: As it was time for the annual service, we put the A5 up onto the service ramp to have a good look underneath. Beppe spotted a very worn bush on the front suspension upper arm. So we decided that both bushes should be changed and at the same time we decided that all 4 shock absorbers should also be renewed as they showed some leakage. Some photos follow, and the car feels MUCH better!! I also opted to change all 4 discs and pads for Brembo and the car now stops better than ever. Lovely, such a fun drive.

 

 

 

Project TVR Cerbera. Wow…..

This is an interesting and unexpected development for sure. I love the TV programme Wheeler Dealers with Edd and Mike….these pictures I found on the web. But the car is real.

I recently spotted a rather unusual car for sale here in Italy, a 1997 TVR Cerbera. The car is RHD and has only 42k miles on the clock, she dates from 1997 and was then transferred onto Italian registration plates in 2007. I aim to go and see her this weekend. This car has the TVR-made 4 litre V8 engine. The story is that this plus another TVR were owned by an enthusiast and his wife is looking to sell them as he has passed away. Very sad.

So what is the plan?? Well, this car is far too beautiful to keep here in Roma and given that she is RHD she is not readily usable nor saleable here in Italy. So, my idea is to take her back to the UK and sell her there where there is a reasonable market for these very specialist cars. TVR is a UK manufacturer which survived on a shoestring but made some truly stunning cars.

I have my trusty Vito van and I can borrow a car trailer from a friend so I have contacted some specialised UK dealers for their opinions. One is very interested and has suggested how I should proceed so I think that I will take the car to him first.

I went to see the stunning Cerbera last weekend and goodness, what a car. I have made an offer so let’s see what happens. And here below are some pictures of the car for sale…