Friday, April 08, 2016

A day in Amalfi (2016/4)

Today we traveled by bus from Sorrento to Amalfi, via Positano. Two years ago, we made a similar trip with a organised coach, but this time we decided to make our own way. As a result, we made a leisurely start, catching a bus which left at 9:15am. There are buses every half hour, so we didn't have to target any particular bus. An all day ticket costs only 8 euro, much cheaper than an organised trip (although of course we had no guide nor pre-paid lunch).

As the ticket was unlimited for the day,  we considered getting off the bus at Positano, spending a little time there then continuing to Amalfi. But when the bus arrived at Positano, there seemed to be so little to do that we decided to spend all our time only in Amalfi. The bus took the route via St Agata which meant that one moment we could see the gulf of Sorrento, whereas the next moment we could see the gulf of Salerno, then back to the gulf of Sorrento. This also means that we didn't travel all the way along the famous coastal road, although we did have our share of hairpin bends and splendid views. As Rick Steves put it, the costal trip from Sorrento to Salerno will leave your mouth open and your film exposed. You'll gain respect for the Italian engineers who built the road - and even more respect for the bus drivers who drive it. As you hyperventilate, notice how the Mediterranean, a sheer 500-foot drop below, twinkles.

After morning tea, we walked up and down the tourist alley before stopping at a restaurant for lunch. As there are so many restaurants, choosing one seems very much to be a random event. This time, however, I think that we made a good choice: Il Tari. Once again, we had grilled sea bass, my wife with salad and I with grilled mixed vegetables (not included with the fish). Although the meal was 10 euro more expensive than last night's meal at Leone Rosso, we thoroughly enjoyed it.

After leaving the restaurant, we walked back down to the town's centre, stopping in a shop selling ceramics. There are as many shops selling ceramics in Amalfi as there are restaurants, but this one was special. It sells a line of specially made ceramics, designed by a local artist. The colours - mainly olive green - seem exclusive to this shop and we were sorely tempted by some of the items. Unfortunately, the quality and exclusivity are directly related to the prices, which were just too high to justify (45 Euro for a salt and pepper set).

After picking up a few more little pieces, we found ourselves at the bus stop, where there was a bus waiting to take us home to Sorrento. We arrived in Amalfi at 10:45 and left at 15:00: maybe only four hours, but those were very enjoyable four hours. We also had the fun of another bus ride along the Amalfi coast to look forward to.

In the evening, we bought little bits and pieces in the local shops - lemon soap, limoncello, lemon chocolate, etc - as gifts. I would also like to mention Guiliana Petagna, from whom we bought two sets of wooden coasters. Unfortunately, she doesn't appear to have much of a web presence, but her shop can be found at Via Tasso 24. 

Today started a three day 'festival', in which local artisans open up their workshops to the general public. Obviously we didn't see very much of this today, but tomorrow there should be a fuller report.

A few general remarks about Sorrento in early April: so far, the weather has been very good. The first two days were very hot but it has cooled a little. As I wrote before, yesterday it rained a little in the evening, and tonight a few drops of rain also fell. The forecast is for more rain, but every day it seems to be delayed by another day, so hopefully the next two days will stay dry.

There are far fewer people in Sorrento in early April than there are in June, which means that it's very easy to walk around the alleys of the old town. There were some groups today in Amalfi but they mysteriously disappeared in short order. The groups that we have seen in Sorrento seem to be composed of Italian schoolchildren; they've now gone, to spend the weekend at home, and  most of the people now walking along Corso Italia outside our window speak Italian.

I wrote the other day about the economics of the shops in the market. Today in Amalfi, I spoke with the sales lady of a dress shop in Amalfi (she was British and came to Italy about twenty years ago). I asked her whether the stock belonged to the shop or was on consignment (which means that the shop pays the suppliers only when something is bought): she surprised me by saying that the shop owns all the stock. She wished that it were on consignment - the stock represents a very large investment which may take a long time to pay back. I didn't see any other customers in the shop, and we were there for at least half an hour. The shop owner would like a quick turnover but it seems as if business is slow. Presumably the pace improves during May through September, which is when the bulk of the tourists come. It seemed impolite to ask many business related questions.

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