So, as I mentioned in my Rome post, Laney and I had had enough of cities, and, frankly the HEAT! It has been so hot since we got to Italy, we just couldn’t take it anymore! It had been in the mid-90’s some days. Even with a lot of gelato, that’s hot. Too hot. HA.
So, in a bit of a rush, I booked us to go to the Amalfi coast for 2 nights. There were closer beaches we could have gone to, for less aggravation and expense, but I really wanted to see what the big fuss is all about with “This Amalfi Coast Thing” HA.
SO, a taxi, a train and a couple buses later, we were getting there!
Getting to Ravello, the name of the town where we booked a room at a B and B (via Airbnb) was – well – a challenge. We struggled, as Kaitlyn would say (and, as we said a lot in our time together). The train was fine, the first bus was pretty much OK, except that we had to get off at a specific place, and, in my experience, except for Iceland, buses don’t announce their stops, or have signs in the bus or at the stop, and don’t have readily-available bus-stop maps. SO, we were guessing and relying on the help of the driver, as we were instructed to do by our B and B host. WELL, there is a sign, directly over the driver’s head that says “Please do not speak to the driver”. Hmm. Well, I showed him the name of the place where we were to get off. Several stops and an hour later, a larger than average number of people were getting off. So, I asked the driver. He nodded and pointed to the ground. Here. OK. We get off. Now we wait for another bus. Meantime, I went into the little store to get Laney something to eat. Did that. Then realised we would need tickets, so back into the store. As I am buying tickets, the bus we need comes, Laney is trying to get the bags loaded and call for me at the same time. Well, we made it. On the bus. Seated even.
Now, I read my hosts instructions to look for the traffic light and ring the bell and get off at the next stop. Well, I see no traffic lights. We ride a lot longer than the host said it would be. Eventually, again, a lot of people get off. So, I ask THIS driver, optioning to the name of the place I’m going. He nods and points to the ground. Here. OK. We get off. We appear to be in the middle of nowhere. Nothing obviously there. The road back down the hill and a road through a tunnel (which, being new there, looked impossible to pass through as a pedestrian). After a few minutes of looking clueless (A state, by the way, I’m not ALL THAT familiar with at home, but have become VERY USED TO in travelling. I’m the Clueless American Tourist. I should just wear a sign. HA). Anyway, a guy we think is a taxi driver asks, from a short distance away, in ENGLISH “Do you need help?”. YES I NEED HELP! HA! I smile. He comes over, I show him the address where we want to go. You are downhill! 20 minutes back!! meaning, we should have gotten off the bus 20 minutes ago. Meantime,the bus is trying to turn around in a very tight area. Thank goodness because this stalls him a bit. THEN, it gets interesting. The taxi driver (if, in fact, that is what he is), starts talking very heatedly with the bus driver. Who KNOWS what he’s saying. They start arguing! At least, it sounds that way to me. Back and forth. Loud, gestures. But they are Italian so who knows. Might be the way they always talk. HA! Anyway, the taxi driver says “Back on the bus”. I look at him with doubt, because the bus is now moving as though going back down the steep windy road. “He’s not going to let us back on the bus”. YES. On the bus. So, we walk up to the bus. The driver opens the door, we go to put our luggage in the hold (below the bus) he says NO, bring bags on coach. OK great. This bag weighs like 60 lbs and I have to lug it up the bus and put it WHERE exactly? SO we get on the bus. And hold our bags. And try not to fall down, or into anyone else. For like 20 minutes.
Meantime, I am on my phone and communicating with our host. He tells me the name of a place to look for. Cantina something or other. San Marco. And to hit the buzzer when we see it. We look out the window with GREAT INTENSITY. We see a sign, hit the buzzer and struggle (ha) to get our bags back off the bus. Then we look at each other. Half laughing, half wanting to cry, thinking, what now? We look up and down the road. I say “I think that might be the place” – the building looks familiar. In this unfamiliar territory. Then I see someone waving from the porch. LOOK HE’s WAVING! THIS MUST BE IT! WE ARRIVED! WHEW!.
Our host was insanely nice and showed us our room. The place was BEAUTIFUL with an amazing view and terrace overlooking the ocean. In the middle of the picture is the outdoor terrace, the entrance is the rounded-topped doorway. The terrace is shaded by grape vines (!!!) and from there (and our room with terrace, out of the picture, further to the right) you have the view below!
We unpacked and wanted to get to the beach, so we asked how to get there. There are beaches ‘occasionally’ along the coast. Much of the area, as you have seen in pictures, is sheer cliffs and mountains that go right into the water. We were told that, typically, people walk down to the beach, and take the bus back up. Our host pointed out a set of steps that are accessed from the (narrow, windy, cliff-hugging) road, and that we should walk down and turn right.
So we changed, packed a little bag and headed out. Down the steps. Down more steps. And more and more. Later, Laney counted them. 450 stairs. HA. our goal was Amalfi, but we stopped at the first beach town we came to.
We approached one of the beach restaurants and asked about pizza. No pizza, it’s too late in the day. The nice man pointed us to the ‘square’ and mentioned where to get pizza. We found the square quite easily (there’s not much around, as I said, the beach areas are somewhat small, nestled between mountains and cliffs). The square was adorable, with a stage set up in the middle, though we didn’t know why. We looked at the menu. For 4.5 Euros we could get a Margarita pizza. I asked how big? She showed with her hands. Plenty big enough for the two of us. We were SO hungry after our travels that pizza and the wine was awesome. And within budget. HA. having decided on this excursion at the last minute, we spent more than expected on the room and the transportation, so we needed to ‘eat cheap’ a bit. This did it! After that we headed down to the open/public part of the beach. The sand here was pretty fine, and mostly black (strangely, the next day, at Amalfi beach, it was rocks. Not sure why, they are only about a quarter mile apart). The water was GLORIOUSLY warm. Good thing, because it was getting late in the day. We swam and chilled for a couple hours, but it was getting late, so around 9pm we decided to head home. After about 20 minutes of looking for the right bus (with the right name on it), we gave up and decided to walk home. YES, UP 450 VERTICAL STEPS). Our calves hurt for DAYS. Mine a few days longer than Laney’s. AHH YOUTH.
We had picked up a bottle of wine on the way, and drank on our veranda and talked about all kinds of things. It was wonderful really.
The next day, the B n B hosts tried to convince us to do something else for the day (Pompeii, or go up to the mountains) but we were tired from our travels and just wanted the beach. This time, again, we walked, and we walked through one of those pedestrian-unfriendly tunnels and we found Amalfi (technically known as Marina Grande, according to this description of Amalfi beaches). It was much bigger and just as wonderful. We secured beach chairs (called Sun Beds in Italy) and spent the day relaxing, eating, drinking and mostly Laney was swimming. I swear she was in the water all day. We bought some swim goggles (like snorkel mask but without the snorkel) and Laney was seeing all kinds of fish. I was happily connected to wifi and was catching up on all kinds of stuff.
This tiny bar (above) next to one of those pedestrian-unfriendly tunnels. The little bar was so cute, beautiful, and the tunnel, yes, supports two-way car traffic AND pedestrian traffic. Not safe by US standards, but it seems to work here!
This beautiful building is in the middle of the square at Amalfi
There was sand at Atrani beach. But stones at Amalfi.
The picture above is from the Atrani beach, one beach away from Amalfi. Somewhat smaller, but just as beautiful.
For dinner that night, I wanted fish (enough pasta and pizza already!). So we wandered through the Amalfi ‘square’, which continued uphill and saw a place that looked appealing, but we had to climb steps and go around some corners to get there. We were the only ones there at 7pm (Italians eat late. some restaurants don’t even open until 8). We chose a table outside along some of the steps/pathways that lead between buildings in the Amalfi area. It’s hard to describe but here’s a picture. It seems the pathways and steps are ‘public property’, as they allow people to pass from house to house and town to town – up, down and vertical. Although they are right outside people’s doors.
We met a father-daughter-granddaughter that live in that house (door on the left of the picture). Ironically, the grandfather was born in New York and moved here when he was 3 or 4. He would like to go back. his daughter rolled her eyes. They had the most beautiful baby girl with them. She was about 14 months old.
The next day we had to head back to Rome, to spend the night and catch and early flight. Getting back was also a challenge, and, in the end, we punted and took an (expensive) taxi to Salerno where we waited a few hours for our train ( the earlier trains had been booked before we got there – lesson learned. book the train – I had hesitated not knowing when the bus would get us there).
Back to Rome, for a one-night quick stay out of the main city, closer to the small airport of Ciampino airport. We had a lovely room in a boarding house type of place ( My goal was cheap, since we’d only be sleeping there and only for a bit). The people were wonderful, with just enough english that we managed to get by. HA. You should see me gesturing for food. WE needed dinner! We walked down the road a ways. Most places were closed because it was Sunday. We arrived at the pizza place to a loud place, with a gaggle of families. It was wonderful. Laney had pizza with bell peppers. I had one with eggplant. when I pointed at it, the lovely girl behind the counter was kind enough to say “Chili Pepper!!”, in case I didn’t know. I nodded yes, I need something spicy!
We headed to bed and caught an early taxi to the airport. Off to Bulgaria for us!!