Tuesday, June 17, 2014

The Amalfi coast (Sorrento log 6)

Today started with a rushed breakfast as we had to be at the meeting point early; unfortunately, our breakfast lady came a bit late so breakfast took longer than expected. Then the taxi which we had ordered for 7:35 didn't come on time. Our efficient hotel clerk phoned the excursion company to explain the situation and as a result, the minibus waited for us to arrive.

Today we drove around the Amalfi coast, which is to the south of Sorrento. First, there was a drive of around an hour and a half before we had our first (pit) stop, before the town of Positano; here we bought the traditional shirts, etc. Then onward into Positano, which had been described by my favourite painter, Paul Klee, as "the only town in the world conceived on a vertical, rather than a horizontal axis." When we were in the early stages of planning this trip to Italy, my wife had considered staying in Positano, although that idea was swiftly dropped when she read about the number of steps one has to take to get around. Dubrovnik has nothing on Positano in this respect.

It's a pretty place, for sure (as the Europeans tend to say), but I'm not sure that I would like to stay there at all. As our guide remarked, anyone who wants to do anything on their holiday (like shopping or going on excursions) would stay in Sorrento; only someone who wants to relax without doing anything would be better off in Positano.

From Positano we continued through Praiano (which is basically the same) and onto Amalfi. Here we disembarked from the bus and boarded a boat waiting to take us on a cruise up to the end of the Amalfi coast (just past the village of Maiori). This was very interesting and of course broke up the monotony of the bus ride, but it did cost extra money. I have just checked the tour prospectus and this trip wasn't even mentioned.

After we returned to Amalfi, we had about an hour to explore the small town, which is dominated by its cathedral. We started with ice cream - very tasty but also a large portion and a proportionally large price - then carried on walking through the 'tourist lane', filled with shops mainly selling the same things. If Sorrento is big on wood inlays and sandals, then Amalfi is big on ceramics. Several shops had a bewildering variety of ceramic goods for sale, some of them purely decorative and some somewhat useful (olive oil bottles, pizza slicers, ice cream spoons, etc). We resisted the temptation.

After Amalfi, we headed for the hills; first we ate in a restaurant in a village whose name escapes me, then we continued onto the small town of Ravello. One can't tell this from the map displayed above, but Ravello is about 400 metres above sea level. The road which leads there allows only one lane of traffic; a traffic light determines whether traffic can go up or down. The town itself is dominated by a large town square which is surrounded by a large number of shops and cafes. After walking around for a bit, we stopped for tea in one of those cafes.

Ravello hosts classical music concerts throughout the year and also has a music festival in the summer. This apparently is due to the fact that Wagner composed the second part of his opera Parsifal here. I gleaned the fact that Israeli artist Asaf Avidan is due to appear at this year's festival in a few months.

From Ravello, we drove back to Sorrento in a roundabout route which took us over the milk mountains (separating the north side of the Sorrento peninsula from the south side), so called because they are made of limestone which apparently reminds some people of milk, reaching an elevation of around 800 metres. From there, we descended to the area around Pompeii and returned to Sorrento via the same coastal road that we traveled yesterday (and of course on our first day, from Napoli to Sorrento).

After returning to our hotel at around 5:30pm, we rested for a while before walking to the Marina Grande and eating a spaghetti alla Napoli at the Taverna Azzura. With regard to this restaurant, I had read a good review of it previous to arriving in Italy, but to be honest, I wasn't impressed by it in either of the two meals that we ate there. Today, we ordered tea with cold milk along with our spaghetti but were served hot milk. This makes for a revolting cup of tea! I find it hard to reconcile our experiences with those mentioned in the review.

Today was definitely the best day of our holiday so far.

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