April 12 – 16, 2008: Admiring the Amalfi Coast, that is, I wasn’t so taken by the town itself. The coast easily made my revisit list, despite an inauspicious introduction. I left Capri, with a cold, in a rainstorm, and as soon as I got off the ferry at Sorrento I fell on the slippery metal quayside. After that, instead of pursuing a search for an elusive bus stop, I treated myself to a taxi for the ride to my out-of-town hotel, only to be cheated by the driver.
Things looked up from there. It’s true that my hotel, Il Nido, was somewhat inconvenient, as its shuttle never seemed to mesh with the train and bus schedules, but I had a great view from a comfortable room at a reasonable rate, and enjoyed the food at breakfast and dinner. Perhaps staying five kilometers outside is why I never warmed to Sorrento, which I found to be a typical seaside town, although one built well above the water. Perhaps finding few restaurants I would be willing to revisit had something to do with it too. It didn’t matter much, as I was just using Sorrento as a base for visiting a lot of other places.
I had planned to spend my first day at Pompeii. I even had reservations for the villas that required them. But I just didn’t feel up to it. A nice sit-down bus ride to Amalfi seemed more my speed, and I was able to catch the bus right outside my hotel. I did get to sit down both ways, although not everyone was so lucky coming back.
That ride along the Amalfi Coast? The one the guide books rave about? It’s everything they say. Everything you expect from the pictures. Just stunning. Go see it! (But for heaven’s sake, go early or late in the season, it was already getting crowded, with standing room only on some buses, in early April.) After all the beauty of the ride along the coast – rugged cliffs and deep blue sea – Amalfi Town came as a bit of a shock. I had expected small and sleepy. I got small and crowded and touristy. I checked the time for the next bus up to Ravello, and had a quick cappuccino right in front of the photogenic Duomo.
And Ravello matched the bus ride. Not that it didn’t have tourist shops (think ceramics), but they weren’t wall-to-wall. I did the walk out to the Villa Cimbrone and just loved the grounds and the views. I could almost (almost!) imagine coming up with the money to spend a night there, although it’s more of a place for honeymooners (first, second, third…)
After spending a morning at the Sorrento hospital getting prescriptions for my cold and accompanying cough (25 euro for the doctor, 11 euro to fill three prescriptions), followed by an admirable lunch at the laid-back “Mozzarella Bar” Bufalito, I took the bus over to Positano. Again, I was captivated by the coastline, but also, somewhat to my surprise, by the town. I had thought it would just be Sorrento with stairs, but I found it charming. True, the hillside on which it is built is steep – but there are little buses to take you to the top. True, there are lots of tourist shops – but they seem more spread out, with actual houses in between, at least in the upper reaches. True, the beach is small, and made of grey sand and pebbles, but there are waterfront cafes, and I hadn’t come to swim. I hadn’t brought my camera either. I just wandered around, admiring the Duomo, watching the crowd disembarking from a ferry, window shopping but not buying, enjoying the views.
That was the day I had intended to visit the Greek temples at Paestum but hadn’t felt well enough. I did, however, make it to Pompeii, Herculaneum and the Archaeological Museum at Naples, they’ll be the next post.