Sorrento is a beautiful place. Assuming that you can see it. My own eyesight is a little bit restricted so I can appreciate the beauty of Sorrento. In a restricted way.
A few months ago I signed up for a week in Sorrento with a travel company by the name of Traveleyes. As the name suggests Traveleyes specialises in holidays for the blind and vision impaired. Given that my own dusky, tunnel vision eyesight falls into the latter category, I paid my money and I opted for the Italian Riviera.
Kick off was the easyJet check in area at Gatwick North, meeting at 16.30, flying at 19.05. Nice times. The tour rep, Caroll, calls me the day before departure to confirm the meeting time in Gatwick. So far so good.
Introduction meeting in Gatwick goes well. Our group is 20 in total , ten sighted helpers , nine Vision Impaired (VI) travellers and Caroll . Three of the VI’s are from Germany and will make their own way to Sorrento. All bar one of the helpers has previous experience of VI guiding .Caroll does a little demonstration around standard guiding procedures with one of the VI’s, John. All is well , ready to bonjourno and roll.
Delayed flight means arrival at Sorrento in the early hours and a swift departure to room and bed.
First morning and my sighted breakfast partner for the week, Hannah, calls for me and my roommate John.
Negotiating a hotel breakfast buffet as a VI can be something of a challenging experience. Which is where Hannah comes in. Faithful servant that she is, she deposits me at a table and goes in search of coffee, bread, ham and cheese.
Breakfast done and devoured, its time for a walking tour of Sorrento with my guide for the day, Susan.
Vi guiding is a two way street. The guide needs to be alert to potential hazards (steps, traffic) and the VI needs to be attentive and trusting.
When it comes to the whole matter of town planning I feel confident in saying that vision impairment was not high on the priority list for the good folk of Sorrento.
Footpaths are narrow and often come to an unexpected end. They are frequently dotted by very ornate but also very large lamppost ‘s, thereby reducing further the already limited walking space. Bushes and trees regularly overhang walls.
Highlight of the day was a visit to the local limoncello outlet. A guided tour of the garden was followed by a very pleasant sampling of the various delights on offer. I can strongly recommend the mandarin.
Day two was a cooking course for some, a free day for others. Given that the good citizens of Marks and Spencer cater for the vast majority of my needs in this area of existence, I felt no desire to enhance my culinary skills.
So it was a free day with my guide for the day Helen. After a pleasant tea and chat with my roommate John and his guide, Catherine, it was off to the beach for a dip in the Mediterranean.
The sea water in Sorrento is warm, clear, buoyant and very beautiful, which made for an enchanting swim.
Day three brought a visit to the metropolis of Pompeii. It all seems a little unfinished in this particularly old town.
I do hope they someday complete all the various construction projects that are currently in progress. Getting around Pompeii, with my guide Jane, was surprisingly stress free. Town planners of Sorrento, take note.
Day four was a free day. With a hint of thunderstorms in the air, myself and John opted for a wander around the pedestrian area of Sorrento with the idea of ducking into a bar or cafe should the heavens decide to descend upon us. Our guides Tracey and Sue took very good care of us as we happily meandered from cafe to church to cafe to shops and back to our starting cafe. The town planners got it right here.
Day five and we were off to Capri. Sue was the lucky lady who had the dubious honour of escorting me around. A short minibus ride, a bumpy sea crossing and we’re there. Tourism is pretty much the only industry in Capri so it was filled with lovely shops and cafes. Highlight of the day was a chair lift across the top of the island with beautiful views below.
Day six was another free day and so it was off to Amalfi After a stopping/starting/horn honking bus journey we arrive.
Energy levels were a little low so it was a cafe day for myself and John whilst the ladies explored the shops. Evening time back in Sorrento brought a very enjoyable evening with the local Three Tenors. A lovely way to end the week.
So there you have it. Sorrento by dusk by Traveleyes. The hotel was quirky, the group diverse. Personal highlights were the ever so slightly liquid lunch with John, Tracey and Sue, and also sharing a room with John. We hit it off and will most likely cross swords again.
So will I go with Traveleyes again? Few things in life are for certain. But I do think I will keep an eye on their website. Just to see what they have on offer.
And lo and behold, I’ve noticed they have a very nice sounding walking trip to the Algarve coming up soon.
All of a sudden, my feet feel strangely itchy.