The road to Da Adolfo

Da Adolfo is a beloved hidden gem on the Amalfi Coast — a favorite among locals and travel bloggers who seek fresh ingredients, exclusive beaches, and a story to tell. By some fluke in the universe, though, we got a table during our honeymoon. And this is how you can, too:

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First of all, the place basically never answers their phone, and rumor has it that they only pick up for local numbers, nor do they take online reservations. So your hotel has to call to book your table during a particular window of hours when they do answer the phone, as far in advance as possible, and it’s very competitive. Then, on the morning of your reservation, you take a boat from the main beach in Positano to the beach where Da Adolfo is located, which the restaurant shares only with Le Sirene hotel. Oh, and though the boat ride is free with restaurant reservations, the skippers on board the boat will make sure your name is on the list before letting you board. If — even by a fluke — it isn’t there, they will turn you away. Then, after an admittedly beautiful ride to the Da Adolfo beach, you rent lounge chairs (and umbrellas, if you don’t want to fry in the sun), and wait for your table to come available around lunchtime. That’s…three hoops just to make the call, a literal boat ride and the hope that they remembered to write your name down, money to rent space on the beach, and a few hours waiting.

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But none of that is necessary if you stay at Hotel Pellegrino. If you stay at Hotel Pellegrino, owners Luiggi and Sandra will refuse to call and book you a table because it’s “too hard” (something I initially doubted but now understand to be extremely true). They will, instead, cryptically drive you to a stretch of cliffside highway as early in the day as you’ll let them, point you to an incredibly inconspicuous set of stairs, and wave goodbye. And then down the cliff stairs you go.

When you finally reach the bottom, you are standing on a beach and staring at the back of the Da Adolfo building. Walk around the front, add your name to the list, et voilá. You’ve skipped the entire reservation circus and get to spend your morning on a private beach with an Aperol spritz, followed by lunch at an iconic restaurant (likely surrounded by influencers, celebs, and more). And you can take the boat back to Positano at the end of the day — if only so you don’t miss out on that part of the experience.

So, basically, you have two options: go the insane phone call route and cross your fingers it works, or stay at Hotel Pellegrino and be dropped off at a secret cliffside staricase early enough in the day that it doesn’t matter you don’t have a formal reservation.

Some extra tips: maybe don’t try to do the latter with a big group, since it’s easier for restaurants to accommodate two surprise guests rather than, say, four or five. Also, ask nicely since you’re asking for a spot on the waiting list, get comfortable with a good book, bring sunscreen sunscreen, and relax. Tip generously. If you’re lucky, you’ll get seated at a table next to a celebrity chef (hi, Thomas Carter and Danny Meyer) or just your average, run of the mill A-lister like Gwyneth Paltrow.

No matter what route you take to get there, it’s worth the trip. You can read about what (and how) we ordered here.

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I hope this helps at least some of you! Feel free to comment or ping me with any additional questions.

Love, me.

Honeymoon, part 3: The Amalfi Coast

Honestly, where do I even start? The Amalfi Coast was one of the most effortlessly stunning, luxurious, romantic places I have ever seen. Neither my photos nor words will do our experience there justice, but here are the highlights anyway:

We stayed at…
The Hotel Pellegrino in Praiano, an independently-owned and family-run hotel with an in-house restaurant and views of the sea. We paid approx 160 euros per night — which was a steal for the quality of hospitality we received — and were within easy walking distance to downtown Praiano and a short public bus ride to Positano (tickets for which were free of charge, courtesy of the hotel). Luigi and Sandra upgraded our room when we mentioned we were traveling on our honeymoon, as well as greeted us with a free dessert at the restaurant upon our arrival. For the price, quality (of service and of food), and views, the Hotel Pellegrino went above and beyond.

Note: Praiano worked for us because we wanted something smaller and less touristy than the nearby Positano, and we didn’t mine walking or bussing. But Positano is where a lot of the Amalfi Coast attractions are. If we were to go back, we’ve agreed that we’d splurge on the indulgent San Pietro di Positano, which would be more relaxing and more central.

We ate at…
1. Da Adolfo, a hidden gem on its own beach that forces patrons to jump through proverbial hoops to score a table. If you can get a reservation — and I am honestly still thanking the food gods that we did — don’t try to order for yourself. Let the waiter give you his recommendations and go with those. We ended up with mussel soup, grilled mozzarella on lemon leaves, linguini and clam sauce, tuna carpaccio, and panna cotta to finish. It was up there with Frenchie as one of the top three meals best meals of my life.

2. Ristorante Santa Croce, after a long, extremely difficult hike. This was a recommendation from Luiggi (remember, he’s the owner of Hotel Pellegrino) and we managed to get there just before they started to close for a few hours between lunch and dinner.  We didn’t want to eat much since Jake knew I’d spoil my appetite we knew we had reservations at La Sponda later on, so we split a shrimp scampi and salmon carpaccio to keep it light. Unfortunately, this was one of the only times I remembered to order an Aperol Spritz  — a traditionally Italian cocktail — and I barely drank it. I was so exhausted and dehydrated from the hike that alcohol was the last thing on my mind.

3. La Sponda, the Michelin-star restaurant inside Le Sirenuse. We had certainly worked up an appettite that day, so we ordered two tasting menus and a wine pairing to share. Honestly, I can’t even remember what we ate except that there were so many incredible courses I lost count…and that the wine pairing for one was more than enough to drink for the two of us.

We spent the evening enjoying some of the best food in the world while overlooking the ocean and reminiscing about our 11 years together. All I could think about was how happy and lucky I was. I will treasure that memory for as long as we live.

We hiked…
Il Sentiero degli Dei, also known as Path of the Gods, which was recommeded to me by a friend who had just done it. Traditionally, hikers start at Agerola and work towards Nocelle in Positano. We…sort of did that, but we started at our hotel in Praiano, which means we tacked on an extremely strenuous hike up to the Convent of San Domenico (where we popped in to say our vows again). It was one of the only times I’ve ever been legitimately concerned about throwing up or passing out from heat. That said, it was 100000000% worth it. The views were stunning, the workout was great, and it was just an all-around awesome experience. Word to the wise: pack sunscreen and a ton of water.

We took day trips to…
Capri. And only Capri. There was so much do to do nearby that it seemed silly to stray too far, but we happened across a tour company on Spaggia Grande, the main beach in Positano. We paid 70 euros per person which included a lazy, sunny, round-trip boat ride to the island, several stops to swim, drinks, and visits to the various grottos along the way. It technically included a stop at the Blue Grotto, but we ended up not doing that because the wait was several hours, which is apparently something that happens all the time. Still, we saw plenty of other grottos that were equally impressive.

We shopped at…
Schettino di Capri. This was part of our day trip (in Capri, obviously), and was not planned. Truthfully, and especially if you ask Jake, you will find that the last things I need are more shoes, but I couldn’t help but fall in love with a few pairs in the window. So in we went. Turns out that Aldo and Lydia, the owners and shoemakers, have been making shoes for decades — including several pairs for Jackie Kennedy and countless other fashion icons. I bought myself some 70 euro sandals and wore them every day for the rest of the summer.

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Warning: they stretch! Buy your usual size and don’t be deterred if they’re tight at first.

We also made a stop at Ceramiche Casola. One of the things we registered for as part of our honeymoon fund (thanks, Zola!) was ceramic, Italian servingware. My aunt kindly donated to that part of the registry, so we spent an hour picking out our favorite pieces from this iconic Positano destination. The quality here is truly unbeatable, the business is family-owned, and the customer service is outstanding. We left with several gorgeous trivets and a spoon tray, all of which serve as both practical pieces and decor when they aren’t in use.

There were a few other shops of, of course — for limoncello, linen, and lunch — but I found so many of them overpriced and indistinguishable from the others. Seemed prudent to whittle this list down to my favorites, in order to be the most helpful for those with limited time and budgets.

So that’s that for the Amalfi coast. We left full of seafood pasta, vitamin D, and a deep wish for more time.

I had actually forgotten this, but we stopped in Pompeii and Naples during our last 24 hours in Italy, so I’ll have one more post. And then also probably one or two others about getting to Da Adolfo and maybe how I packed for the whole thing. Any preference? Ideas? Am I being insufferable? Let me know.

Love, me.

Honeymoon: part 2, Rome

Full disclosure: this was not my favorite part of the trip. It was 90+ degrees, Jake and I argued, and the city felt extremely overwhelmed by tourists. Not to mention the smell was garbage was exacerbated by the heat, etc.

In any case, there were parts I loved. After driving through the traffic and speeding hellscape that is the city entrance, our first day looked something like this:

  1. We stayed at the Hotel Modigliani and really enjoyed it. We got a room with a balcony (as you can see by this blog post’s main image); however, the air conditioning from the room above us was blowing hot air directly down onto the seating, so that…wasn’t ideal. Also a baby bird had apparently fallen from an overheard space and died, so we had to call housekeeping to come clean it up. BUT, once we were over the heartbreak of seeing the bird, we found the room to be clean and quiet. It was also small, which worked for us since we were out and about all day.
  2. We stopped at Pinsa ‘MPo for dinner on our way to Vatican City. It’s a little hole in the wall around the corner from the city entrance and we had found it on some food blog beforehand. We split two personal pizzas and it was plenty of food. Needless to say,  we were not disappointed.

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    I mean.

  3. After that, we had night tickets to Vatican City and the Sistine Chapel. I highly, highly recommend this for people who want to experience a few hours of history without the insanity of crowds. You won’t be able to get into St. Peter’s Basilica — it closes earlier than the chapel — but you’ll still be able to wander through the absolutely gorgeous museum and grounds. It’s also great for (and this is embarrassing) people like me who have a limited attention span and only have a few hours of focus in them at a time. Warning: bare shoulders (including tank tops, sleeveless shirts, etc) are not allowed inside the Chapel and you will be expected to cover up. They have paper shawls there that are available, but you’re probably better off just packing a summer scarf.

Our second day was a little rougher. I was miserable in the heat as we spent the afternoon looking at ruins (which I likely would have appreciated more if it hadn’t been 100 degrees). But heat made me cranky, tensions flared, and Jake and I had our first fight as a married couple. I was extremely grateful when we got back to our hotel and heard that our concierge booked us a table at Il Gabriello for dinner.

Il Gabriello, for me, was the highlight of our entire Roman weekend. Despite its mediocre ranking on TripAdvisor, our meal there salvaged an otherwise pretty crummy day. This might have been colored by the 70-euro bottle of wine we split — I have never loved Jake more than when he pointed at the price tag, shrugged and smiled, “When in Rome!” — but now I recommend this spot to anyone who’s traveling nearby. Picture this: exposed brick, candlelit tables, an entire wall of wine as the backdrop. Then add classic Roman cacio e pepe followed by panna cotta topped with fresh fruit. Finish it off by walking home through the gorgeous cities of Rome with a light buzz and your new spouse. It is perfection.

The only other thing that kept my sweaty attitude in check throughout the weekend was the history we found on every street. We’d turn a corner and suddenly be faced with a fountain that had been there for centuries. It’s nice to have a break from being crabby because you’re surrounded by stuff that’s so cool.

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Anyway, to recap: do not drive in Rome! Maybe I didn’t emphasize this enough at the beginning, but “hellscape” is honestly an understatement. Try and do things (esp things like The Trevi Fountain or Spanish steps) early or later in the day when the crowds have dispersed a bit. Have your concierge book you a table at Il Gabriello. Prepare to find gorgeous bits of history around every corner. Maybe also don’t go in July.

Stay tuned for the final — and favorite — installment of my posts about our time in Italy. It’s time for Honeymoon diaries: Amalfi Coast edition. 

Love, me.