April-May 2005 in Italy and Malta
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April 24-27 Capri
May 6-7 Sicily, Scilla and Charybdis
May 7-8 Tropea (Capo Vaticano)
May 10-12 Abruzzi National Park
May 12 Tivoli, Villa Adriana
Capri to the Amalfi Coast
On our last morning on Capri, I arrived in the breakfast room to see a wonderfully evocative misty scene of the island and the harbour. I ran upstairs to get my camera, but when I got back the light had changed. It was still pretty good, but not nearly as good as it had been.
The mist soon burned off, giving us another bright and beautiful day. On the floor of the patio outside the hotel, while we were waiting for the hotel bus to take us down to the Marina Grande, I saw a mosaic naming the eight winds, which I had not previously noticed. I think it's worth a look.
At the Marina, we bought our tickets, and waited on the jetty for the Aliscafi. While we waited, the big Napoli ferry and another big catamaran for Ischia came and loaded up. Finally, it was our turn. Whereas when we had arrived in Capri, it was standing room only, the seats on the return trip were only about 5% occupied. It was a quick, comfortable trip. We were eager to get on our way south, though a bit sad to be leaving the Isle of Capri, probably for the last time.
When we got back to Sorrento, it was an easy taxi ride back to the Casa Susy, and a friendly greeting from Nicola and Rafaella before we left. We had intended to take the road across the Sorrento Peninsula to Positano and then follow the coast road to Salerno, but when we got up to the top of the mountain spine of the peninsula we were confronted with a sign telling us that the Positano-Amalfi road was closed and we should go back and cross more directly to Amalfi. That took some time, and we arrived on the Amalfi coast at Furore. So we missed the famously beautiful town of Positano entirely. Furore isn't bad, though, and it was quite a trip down from the heights to the coast road.
The Amalfi coast road is well surfaced, as are most of the roads we used, but it is narrow and with many sharp hairpin turns aroud cliff edges, some of which require buses to back and fill in order to get around the corner — and there were lots of tour buses along the road. But the worst road hazard was the swarms of motorbikes ridden by people who seemed completely oblivious to the idea that someone might be coming round the blind corner that they were cutting. Not a few cars also cut these hairpin corners, coming half a car width onto your side, which is sometimes rather scary. I learned early to keep well over to the right when going around any corner, right-handed or left-handed.
The compensation for the hazardous road is the beauty of the coastal landscape. It is steep down to the shore, and sometimes sheer, with many narrow inlets and gorges going back into the mountains. Most of the gorges have small towns at their mouths, climbing up the hillsides.
Coming into the town of Amalfi, we stopped and parked to enjoy the beautiful view. (Unknown to us, we apparently parked in a place reserved for residents, and five months later, I received a parking ticket for E45, which seems both excessive and unfair, so if you park in Amalfi, be warned!) And beyond that, since as we walked we passed a hotel-restaurant, we thought we might have lunch. The hotel claimed to be four-star, but we only wanted something light. Nevertheless, the elegant waiter was happy to serve us, as we were the only customers. It might have been a bit more expensive than a pizza place, but not too much, and it was worth doing, just for the view (second picture, below).
At the southern base of the Sorrento Peninsula, the eastern end of the Amalfi Coast, is the city of Salerno, an industrial city that we manage to bypass on the autostrada. But soon we left the autostrada to visit Paestum, a Greek city that was apparently a satellite of Sybaris. It was taken over by the Romans around 270 BC. After the Romans, it was abandoned — perhaps because of malaria — and lost until the 18th century. What remains, apart from masses of low foundation walls, are three great temples and a theatre. A major musem is in development, but it already has quite a few interesting exhibits. Paestum is on the coast, surrounded by a large plain edged by mountains that reach the coast at its north and south ends. Probably it would have been marshy and mosquito-infested. It seems a strange place to have built a major city, but there must have been a reason.
From Paestum, since time was getting late, we regained the autostrada, and pressed on to Maratea, where we arrived at our hotel well after sunset. Luckily, we just happened to spot its neon sign and din't have to spend time searching for it. Maratea and the region are the subject of the next page.