After four months in Italy, Elizabeth Gilbert claimed to have gained 23 pounds eating Italian pizza, pasta, and gelato. In just four days, my mother and I may have accomplished the same feat.
Today was an amazing day. We were up with the chickens – again – and headed to catch another coach, this time for a full-day excursion along the Amalfi Coast. And can I just say that Ama-lfi is Ama-zing?!? I never knew Italy had landscapes like this. It was like the Pacific Coast Highway, only better. In the early morning light, with clouds obscuring the tops of the mountains, the cliffs rose out of the sparkling sea to impossible heights…topped with umbrella pines (tall, thin trees that poof out at the top in these canopies of pine needles…looking just like, well, umbrellas!) and the odd villa here and there. It was hard not to imagine mountain goats on these craggy steep walls. The road wound around them with nothing but a small rock wall between us and the clear, turquoise water dashing itself against the rocks far and straight below us. (I’m sure I’m setting Dad up for his e-brake-off-the-mountain nightmare again.) And they just went on forever. The only bummer was that the coach never stopped to let us out and take pictures…so we finally just started snapping them through the window, and we’ll just see which ones turn out with the least amount of glare or camera shake…I did my best (Mom’s camera, but I was near the window).
We blew through Positano and Praiano, much to our dismay…I still can’t understand why a stop wasn’t on the agenda in one or the other of those two places. Positano showed up in Under the Tuscan Sun, where Frances runs off to find Marcello…and it’s every bit as beautiful in real life as it was in the picture. We did stop at an amazing little ceramics shop on the way, though…we picked up some beautiful tiles to frame, a bowl, and a ceramic-bead bracelet I’m just in love with.
On to Amalfi…when we stopped, our guide offered us a 10-Euro boat ride up and down a section of the coast, which we took…got some pictures there (as long as the boat rocking cooperated), including a few of Sophia Lauren’s and Gore Vidal’s villas. We could see lots of natural arches and bridges, too…cool-looking caves, stalactites, terraces…hotels that looked like castles, with private beaches on the cliffs far below them, connected by steps or lifts, depending on the swank factor of the hotel. It was beautiful.
Turns out Amalfi is the resting place of St. Andrew the Apostle. This took me totally by surprise. We took a tour of the cathedral in Amalfi, and it was strange to look up the center aisle of the cathedral and see a painting of a man being crucified on an X…and the real crucifix relegated off to the side. Beautiful artwork in the cathedral…crypt down in the catacombs…strange to know that I had to walk 500 miles to find my first apostle’s burial place…this one I stumbled upon by accident.
My only huge disappointment today was not finding a worthy street artist…I really wanted to. We found some local art, but nothing that was the right size and shape or that spoke to us.
After Amalfi, we headed to a little village up in the top of the cliffs called Scala to have lunch. We had pasta (finally, a meal without pizza) and sat with a nice young couple from Scotland, on their honeymoon. We tried to kill a whole bottle of wine between the two of us and the groom, but failed (I had to find the restroom and the others gave up before I got back). The whole town of Scala was out putting up props and backdrops for an upcoming Medieval Festival, so that was cool. But the coach whisked us away to another town nearby, called Ravello, where the tour guide dumped us off for an hour and ten minutes, after telling us nothing about the town or why we were stopping there. That was a bummer…wish we could’ve traded Ravello for Positano. We wandered through, but saw a lot of the same stuff we’d already seen elsewhere.
After Ravello, we headed home, over the mountains. The bus was completely silent, like it was on the way home from Pompeii yesterday…everyone was just knackered. It was a great, great trip. A definite must-do if you find yourself in this part of the world.
Mom and I were exhausted when we reached the hotel again…she went for a dip and I brought my Kindle down by the pool and read while she swam. (Julie and Michelle, you were right about The Hunger Games…it’s amazing and it’s killing me not to read it right straight through.)
And finally…it was time! Had to hunt down “the best pizza on the Amalfi Coast.” I asked this girl at Starbucks where the best pizza was, and without hesitation, she gave me the name of a pizzeria in Vico Equense by the name of Da Gigino…their thing is pizza by the meter. So off we went on the Circumvesuviana metro train, armed with nothing but a piece of paper with the address on it. When we got off in Vico Equense, a few stops away, we found a nice old couple and tried to ask them where it was, and they took us by the hands and went out of their way to direct us there…and they were right.
The waiter seemed to know as soon as we walked through the door that we were American…at least, not Italian. We can’t figure out how. Maybe our pants and shoes look as funny to them as theirs do to us. Anyway, he sat us and gave us English menus that said that a meter of pizza can feed five people. FIVE?? We ordered a 1/2-meter of Capricciosa (?)…mozzarella, baby artichokes, ham, parmesan, and mushrooms. And let me tell you, a half-meter of pizza is a lot of pizza!! I had to help Mom with her half of it! And it was GOOOOOOOOOOOOD!!! They brought it around on a trolley…and in a corner of the restaurant they had glass windows to the back where you could watch them make the pizzas and fire them in real fire ovens. We got the house white wine and killed the bottle between us (as I type this, she is crawling into bed with a plastic cup full of Crown Royal, straight up…and telling me she’s “here for comic relief.” I think that’s for you, LY. By the way, she poured it out of a Gilby’s gin bottle, courtesy of my father. Ladies and Gentlemen, my parents.). ANYWAY, back to the pizza. Yeah, by the time the wine was gone, we both got a little punchy trying (unsuccessfully) to peel the wine label off the bottle for my journal…and then the 19-year-old-lookin’ kid at the next table on a date tried to peel his off for us…also unsuccessful. Oh well. Point was, it was really good pizza and totally worth the trip to find it.
We were so full and so exhausted on the way home that we even passed up our evening gelato. SHOCK! HORROR! Sigh. We did find ourselves in the midst of a street fair, though, at 11 o’clock at night, with mimes and statuers and street performers and everything! Go figure…on a Thursday night. We did snag a bottle of limoncello on the way home…figured since they pull in four lemon crops a year here, this is the place to get anything lemon!
Tomorrow is a travel day. I have to be up at 7 am TO RUN…YES, I WILL RUN…and then re-pack everything and check out by ten. From there, we get back on the Circumvesuviana to Napoli…then the train back to Rome…will arrive somewhere in the midafternoon, find our hotel, and figure out what to do with ourselves…
…when in Rome!