Thursday, March 15, 2012

Amalfi Coast

03/13, Tuesday
During breakfast at Il Roseta, we met two ouples our age, one from Austalia, the other from England. They shared some of their experiences in Sicily and Pompei. It was a great breakfast, with fresh squeezed orange juice and many homemade items.

We walked into Sorrento to the old town, Centro Storico, to get some tourist info. Sorrento of today is a pretty good-sized city. Narrow streets and lots of cars and motor scooters. We wonder what it must be like during the summer when tourists fill the streets.

There are lemon trees everywhere. The park in town has hundreds and the streets are lined with them. We look right out on a lemon orchard from our bedroom window. The lemon was found in frescoes from the excavation of Pompei, so it has been part of the landscape for centuries. Lots of dishes containing lemons in all the restaurants.

Lemon trees are as common here as olive trees or grape vines in other parts of Italy. Tall wooden "scaffolds" surround the tree groves, holding up landscape shade to protect the trees from cool weather. Lemons are as large as oranges. Their abundance generates the lemoncello industry similar to wine in grape-growing areas. Actually we are sipping lemoncello as I write this...25% alcohol.

SITA bus is the only public transportation along the Amalfi coast. We catch the 11:30 bus, riding all the way to the town of Amalfi, about 25km, 14 miles, but it takes 80 minutes. It is an incredible ride up a mountain, winding roads, along the coast, through small towns...all spectacular scenery. The bus driver is very good, maneuvering around tight corners, around parked cars, even backing up to make way for another bus going the other way. At times there were just inches between buses passing. Quite a ride ! The sheer cliffs and rugged landscape overlooking beautiful clear, aqua colored water really makes a spectacular coastline.

The cathedral of Amalfi was impressive. It was a complex including the "Cloister of Paradise" which had a small Mediterranean garden surrounded by pure white columns. Next was the Basilica which is now a museum with many treasured items including a Mitre with 20,000 pearls and beautiful chalices. Next was the crypt, built to hold the bones of Andrew and finally the Cathedral with a huge Baptismal Font from a Roman villa.

It is a clear day and sunny, but cool (60F). The views from high in the hills along the steep coast are fantastic. The small village of Positano clings to cliffs. We hope to return to this town tomorrow to do some hiking high in the hills.

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