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Travel Tales


ITALY | Thursday, 1 October 2009 | Views [518]

After a great night’s sleep at Portanova, we set our sights on Amalfi. With ferry timetable in hand, we said ‘ciao’ to Angelo, who god bless him, carried our luggage yet again, to the front door, and off we set. Decided against the taxi, we were experts at dragging our luggage across the cobble stoned streets of Napoli by now, and after the walk from the train station, the ferry port was a piece of cake! As we approached the ticket office, as casual as you like, this Italian man drawled to Jo, whilst smoking a cigarette, that the ferries to Amalfi were closed for the winter and we would have to walk back and organise our transport over at another office (his). We didn’t know if he was trying to scam us or not, because he said he could drive us there in a private mini bus for 100 euro, ‘yeah right’, we thought, so we thought we’d check it out for ourselves…..as it turned out he was totally right and it was going to be quite a hassle to arrange a train and a bus, so we set off to find him to see if his offer still stood. Smug as, “ahhh so you changed your mind! I told you, but you not listen” was his response, he turned out to be quite the character, and entertained us the entire way with his stories and love of Napoli. Once in Amalfi we had to board a bus to Ravello, which for anyone who has ever done this will appreciate how hard this is to do with luggage! But the bus driver was pretty cool, and let us know when our stop was, which was pretty much at the door of Punta Civita, our B&B. Of all the accommodation we have had so far, I think this has to be the most endearing to us. Roberto and Nada, the couple who owned and ran the property, were absolutely wonderful. It was so idyllic, set into the cliff over looking Atrani, and was a working lemon grove and gardens. Roberto is a man who never stops, and was so kind and informative about the area. Nada, was very sweet, and made delicious cakes (and amarena jam), which were served for breakfast every morning on the terrace with views to die for. As there were 4 of us, we were given the entire bottom floor, with our own terrace and garden area. If there was going to be anywhere we were never going to want to leave it was going to be Punta Civita, for so many reasons. After we settled in we were given directions to walk into Atrani, the cutest little place ever, a little village on the coast just before Amalfi. I’m sure we must have walked down about 450 stairs, maybe more, but was such a gorgeous walk down. We were all not looking forward to the trek up though. Found a nice place for lunch, Jo’s life has been forever altered by this place, but that’s a whole other story, and it’s a long one, so we’ll just leave it at that! The walk up was as deadly as we feared, waiting for the bus never looked so attractive! The Amalfi Coast has a bit of a rivalry thing going on with the Cinque Terre, easy to see why, but they are both amazing, hard to choose which is better. The water is so clear you can see right to the bottom even from up on top of the cliff face, the coastline is rugged, and is amazing what they have done there with buildings and homes and gardens. Ravello was about a 5 minute bus ride up the cliff (no way we were going to walk this one, not up any way!) We were lucky in that the bus stop was at our front gate. Ravello is gorgeous. It’s so hard to put in to words, as gorgeous, quaint, beautiful, amazing, get a bit boring after you use them so much, but Ravello is all of that. Wandered through it’s little stoned streets all morning, Jo dropped a bit of cash in the ceramic store, but was money well spent. Is supposed to be chip proof, but couldn’t be guaranteed to be kid proof, so we’ll see how long it lasts. At least she’ll have an excuse to come back to replenish her set if any gets broken!! As we were walking along we came across a big white rabbit, not a statue, a real one. It was just hopping around, and was quite tame, Jo was able to pat it, as we left, it decided to follow us, kind of like a puppy, was the most bizarre thing. After lunch, a Panini, which tore all our mouths to smitherines, (you know you’ve had a great bread roll when it shreds the roof of your mouth) we went to have a look in Villa Rufolo. It’s a 13th century Villa that in it’s heyday, boasted to have “more rooms than there are days in the year” It was truly unique of its kind, the gardens were exceptional, as were the views. It was a shame it was a little overcast on the day we were there, as a haze was cast over the horizon, and our photo’s would have been so much more spectacular with that gorgeous blue sky as a backdrop instead. We wandered around here for a couple of hours then decided to make our way home… on foot. It was easy to find which path to take back to Punta, and we passed so many other gardens and homes built into the cliff on the way. Such an awesome lifestyle these families lead….then there were the stairs, I kid you not, from the top of the landing they went for so long and were so steep you couldn’t see the bottom. Unbelievable! No idea exactly how many there were, we forgot to count them, but there must have been well over 600, so glad we were coming down!! Positano was next on our agenda, we decided to catch the ferry there for the day. Was a very pleasant trip, and such a perfect day, the sun was shining and the water was too good to be true. Positano was very nice, but we were all glad we decided not to stay there and just do a day trip instead. (Thanks Tiffy) Was very commercial and touristy, with not much to do but shop, swim and eat, which is ok if you have lots of cash (was 20 euro for ½ hour to hire 2 sun lounges) and don’t mind lots of people. We got to see a few brides, one in the church and one having her photo’s taken before her big moment, have to say quite a spectacular location to get married, her photo’s will be amazing. Spent most of the day here, looked in a few shops, went on a bit of a walk, the views from the bus stop were probably the most picturesque. We all wished we were swimming, the colour of the water was indescribable, and we were all hot from the trek up to the bus stop. The bus trip back to Amalfi will probably be the most memorable from the entire trip. Again with the one way windy streets posing as dual carriageways, with sheer drops of about 200m, with only a small guardrail to stop you from plummeting to your death on the cliff side, that looked so frail a bicycle could break it’s barrier!! The fun began when 2 buses needed to pass each other on several occasions, have to take your hat off to some of the drivers, they so have their shit together, didn’t even break a sweat….as for the passengers (well the foreign ones) most were wishing they had taken the ferry back…including us!! We did make it back alive and without incident though, and decided to have a little browse around Amalfi for the afternoon as we hadn’t yet done that. We really liked it, more so than Positano, and even made a few purchases. We put the Edna on a bus, and decided to tackle the stairs, just for fun!! Jo and Paul (after constant nagging for about 20 minutes) decided to go for a swim. After much deliberation, we ended up jumping off the rocks near Atrani. There was nobody else in the water, and only fisherman lined the coast. The water was just the right temperature, but because the sun was going down, it had lost that aqua hue, was still very refreshing though. We got a bit worried when some local boys started laughing at us, and after saw a sign that prohibited something, we couldn’t understand what though as it was in Italian. All we got was Veitato and scoglio, turned out it was just a sign prohibiting diving off the rocks as there was a reef all the way along the coast. The stairs were even shittier the second time around, especially in wet swimmers! Drove to Scala for dinner, which was quite an experience, and had a really nice meal of hand made pasta, with an even nicer bottle of red, the restaurants very own label. It was called La Margherita, and was set into the cliff that over looked Ravello. The views were stunning. Had a little incident going up a dead end street with no room to turn around, a couple of local men helped direct us out of there though. Learned at breakfast that Roberto had had a bad accident the previous day. He was carrying 2 heavy bottles and had tripped over falling onto them, the broken bottles had cut into his arm and he was most likely going to end up having surgery to repair the damage. Poor Roberto. We set off for Pompei after breakfast, with a little help from our friend Ms Navman. Just through the entrance, conned into a tour, with Guiseppe, though Jo gave it a miss. He turned out to be quite knowledgeable and made the tour quite interesting, otherwise it would have been just a heap of ruins. He had quite the manner for explaining things. Kept the tour moving very briskly, because as he explained the young girls in the ‘family’ would get bored, based on his experiences of dating women. He moved so quick, that as Sharon was getting one more photo in a house, came out and the ‘family’ had disappeared. That was the end of the tour for her. Lucky it was at the end and only missed the brothel. After lunch we decided to drive up to Vesuvius, it was only ½ hour away, you could drive about ¾ of the way up and then you had to walk the rest. We were running out of time as we had to have the car back by 6, but had just enough time to get there at a stretch. The views on the way were fantastic overlooking Napoli. By the time we eventually made it we were cutting it really fine, but we had come too far not to climb the mountain now, so Sharon and Jo set off, leaving a Paul and a whinging Edna in the car park!! It was so uneven and rocky, we were thankful to be handed a walking stick each on the way up. It was supposed to take about 20-25 mins to get to the top, we double timed it and made it in under 15. It was so cold up there, our lungs were heaving from breathing in the cold air, but it was so worth it. The views from up there were unbeatable, the haze was setting in though, next time we would probably go up the mountain first, when it was fine and clear, then do Pompei in the afternoon. Was so worth the effort though, we were rewarded with a little piece of Vesuvius when we got down, by the man who gave us the walking stick…just have to get it past customs!! Got the car back with seriously 1 minute to spare. Was all too perfect. To celebrate we decided to head down those stairs one more time into Atrani, have a nice cold beer and get something to eat so off we went back to the little life altering café. We ended up having some mighty fine spaghetti, and a couple of nice cold beers. Met some hilarious boys from the UK, who had us in stitches for a while, but unfortunately had to leave to take the Edna home some dinner. The quote of the evening had to go to Luigi, when Paul asked him if it would be a problem to get something to take away for the mama, his reply was “the problem is only for you….for the women, there is no problem!!” Love it, the Australian boys have so much to learn. Reluctantly left to tackle the stairs for the last time, was actually easier to go up a little bit pissy than stone cold sober…nice surprise! It was with much regret and a heavy heart that we left our beloved Punta Civita, we caught a taxi to the ferry in Amalfi first thing in the morning, and had one last look out the window as we passed the gorgeous coastline.

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