Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Ravello, beyond and above Amalfi

We're still trying to figure out why the camera-iPad is not uploading, so no pictures!

03/17, Saturday, St Patrick's Day
Not many Irish here! Probably we'll have to go without corned beef and cabbage, and beer is more expensive than, maybe we'll celebrate with pasta and wine.

An young Italian doctor at breakfast shared his thoughts about Italian youth (they eat too much and don't exercise) and the new government under Monti (he is raising taxes and limiting social services hoping to reduce the debt crisis).

This is our third bus ride along the coast with an extension of 5km into the hills to the towm of Ravello above Amalfi. This small town hosts an annual theater season in the summer including jazz, symphony, dance, and acting.

It's another beautiful day, temps in the 60s, a little fog over the sea. We saved some sandwiches from last night's "dinner" to lunch on when we first arrive, then called our host, Guiseppe (Ju-SEP-ee), to pick us up after trying to find our way walking (the MAPS app had good directions, but I couldnt find the alley names. The next day we used the directions backwards, and they worked.)

We have great sea and mountain views with a terrace for breakfast and to watch the sun set. After enjoying the view, we venture into town via old streets and piazzas. There are very few people on the streets. The Villa Rufolo is about to close, so we will visit on Sunday.

03/18, Sunday
Another beautiful clear morning. Warm croissants delivered to our room.

Enjoyed the terrace again before walking to Minori, a town about 1000 feet below Ravello. Quite a descent (at least 700 steps down) and the sea always in view.

Sunday seems to be family day (Sergio told us that) and it was fun watching the people enjoying the coastline in Minori. Saw several swimmers and quite a few sun worshipers. Minor is a busy Place, more of a working class town, less touristy than Amalfi. It has plenty of shops and restaurants and hotels and churches, but more comfortable somehow. It would make a good place to stay, too.

Had a great lunch outside in the shadow of the town basilica. A bus ride from Minori to Amalfi, and another up to Ravello (no, we didn't walk up 700 steps). Coordinating bus arrivals and departures is our daily homework and we still have moments of confusion. Traveling keeps you on your toes and hopefully good brain exercising. Read a saying last night, which seems to fit us. "Why tip toe through life only to arrive safely at death." We aren't tip toeing !

Villa Cimbrone, recommended by our B&B host, is 200 steps up from the main Ravello piazza. We were surprised by the size and beauty of this Villa. It was an enormous estate in Roman times producing timber for naval use and then for farming. After being abandoned for many years it was purchased by Lord Grimthorpe in 1904, determined to bring it back to a real work of art. It became one of the meeting places of London's Bloomsbury Group (James Joyce and his cronies). It is privately owned still and has 19 rooms rooms in the villa about to open for the season. Around $1000 per night and you have to walk up ! Of course one would step where Greta Garbo walked and I'm sure some other notables.

Lots of motor cyclers on the road this weekend. They are daredevils! Seems to be all ages enjoying the sport and speed is important. Italians are very good drivers. They go fast, but they're very courteous. We have yet to see an accident or any road rage.

Along the Amalfi coastline and up 2000 feet to towns like Ravello, where we are staying, give hairpin curves a whole new dimension. The bus drivers make driving an art. All cars defer to buses and will backup to allow the bus around the curve. Buses periodically allow cars to pass and get so close to each other you wouldn't want to have your hand in between. The bus drivers honk to warn oncoming traffic of their approach at many curves, but otherwise very little honking.

Lots of cars have scraped and dented fenders, probably not due to buses, but the drivers' own misjudgement. Italians say it takes them 30 minutes to drive the coast while anyone else takes two hours.

As the town lights come up along the coast below us, we sit on the terrace with a glass of wine and philosophize about humanity and natural beauty.

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