April 22, 2010 – The Amalfi Coast
You canâ€™t come to a place like the Amalfi Coast without craving to spend some time on the water. It gives you perspective, like looking at that tiny speck of Montepertuso we had climbed up to the day before – see the tiny steeple near the top? My calves areÂ feeling it today!So after a leisurely breakfast at the hotel, we boarded the noon ferry from Positano to Amalfi. Sometimes travel by boat can be slow, but on the Amalfi Coast of Italy itÂ actually saves you time and money.The ferry costs 6 Euros and takes 25 minutes – a cab would have cost $50 orÂ more and would have taken twice as long, driving through the winding and narrow hillside roads. The views along the way – of Positano and of Amalfi as we entered the port – were a treat and are part of the reason you should travel by boat. We had timed the ferry to arrive in Amalfi in time to spend a few minutes in the S. Andrea church in the center of Amalfi before it closed for the afternoon break – a practice of all shops and churches in Italy that kind of drives my husband crazy.Â I love it as itâ€™s the perfect excuse to linger over a longer than usual lunch with a glass of wine.The church is really lovely, filled with frescoes, smaller in scale, and somehow different from many of the larger cathedrals Iâ€™ve wandered through. It’s tiled dome has a sort of Byzantine look to it, different from the Domes of Rome and Tuscany. As it closed at 1, we passed on the option of a $100 roundtrip taxi ride and insteadÂ took the local bus up the hill (1o Euros roundtrip for 2) to the tiny town of Â Ravello, a slightly terrifying 25 minute ride on a bus much too large for the tiny twisting road.Â You should note that the taxi wonâ€™t get you there any quicker as everyone is forced to take turns waiting while traffic passes through the narrow turns. Ravello is worth a visit for the sheer beauty of the views from its high perch on the hill, rows of lemon trees cascading down the side in what seems like an impossible feat of agricultural ingenuity. I learned on this trip that lemons are harvested virtually year round in a quarterly cycle – hence the abundance of lemons in every shop you see in this part of Italy.I’ve never wanted to stayÂ inÂ RavelloÂ as it seems a bit remote and the rest of the Amalfi Coast isn’t very accessible from here, but if you want to escape to a hillside paradise with stunning viewsÂ and completely unwind, there are three really exclusive hotels here – the Caruso, Palumbo and Sasso all line one small street and all offer views like these to the coast. Iâ€™m partial to the patio and pool area at the Palazzo Sasso for enjoying a beverage and taking in the sights. We didnâ€™t take the time to see the gardens of Ravello while we were thereÂ – Villa Rufulo and Villa Cimbrone – having already walked through these on a previous visit and a bit concerned about getting back down to Amalfi in time to catch the final ferry to Positano at 4:20. We actually shared a quick pizza in Amalfi and I now know what the waiter in Capri was trying to tell me. Many of the small cafes and bars in Italy offer pizza, knowing tourists crave it, but the product is actuallyÂ frozen. Ours clearly was,Â with an inferior crust and bland cheese – not even worth a photo, justÂ worth the warning to make sure you are getting pizza from a pizzeria, not the microwave.The weather was turning by evening and it was clear we had enjoyed the best two days of sun and warmth while we were here. In search of something simple for dinner, we found Covo dei Saraceni, right on the beach and attached to a hotel we had somehow never heard of. The restaurant had the advantage of being right on the water but offering glassed in dining on the patio to avoid the rain and wind. We shared the fried calamari with a fabulous, obviously homemade, tomato sauce before diving into our own pasta dishes.Spaghetti with a fresh tomato and basil sauce for me and ravioli for my husband.Not feeling like it, but knowing we needed the vegetables, we each ate a salad before calling it quits and heading home to pack. I don’t mind packing up and moving around when traveling. If you’re with someone else, it helps to start combining dirty clothes in one suitcase and using the other one to live out of. Tomorrow itâ€™s back to Rome via the train from NaplesÂ – the forecast is for rain, but maybe weâ€™ll get lucky!