9 to 14 July 2017
By car, train and bus we explored the area around Naples and the Amalfi Coast from our base in Salerno.
With Suzie and Mike from SV Toy Buoy we first hired a car and took to the windy Amalfi coast road. Reminiscent of a scene from The Italian Job someone broke into a rendition of The Self Preservation Society and then Mike found On Days Like These on his iPhone. It was funny until we got to a tunnel where we hoped that life wouldn’t imitate art!
At the recommendation of the man in the car hire office, instead of visiting Amalfi we drove high up above it to Ravello, a beautiful town full of sunny ceramics, shady lanes, old mansions and plenty of limoncello.
On our wanderings and over lunch we enjoyed wonderful views down the spectacular Amalfi Coast over organic vegetable gardens and hill top villages.
Several more twisty, narrow kilometres on the cliffside road we arrived in Positano where the town and its houses cling vertically to the cliffs.
In the heat of the afternoon we appreciated the shade in the tiny lanes and the air conditioning in the art gallery, but the town was so crowded and the parking so expensive that, after stopping for a compulsory ice cream, we quickly moved on.
We drove on through Sorrento and back to Salerno via the motorway rather than retrace our route on the slow road. Driving back we saw a number of forest fires burning in the hills around. We later heard that the coast road had been closed the following day due to the fires so felt lucky to have been able to make our day trip.
The following day Stefan and I hopped on the train for the short journey from Salerno to Naples. The city was just as I remembered it from my Mum’s surprise 60th birthday trip – gritty, edgy, lived-in and full of formerly splendid, now faded and often crumbling buildings.
We had a wander around narrow, pedestrian streets of the centro storico where tourist tat shops rub up alongside the butcher, the fishmonger and the barber.
We had gone to Naples in search of its underground Graeco-Roman Neopolis. We started in the church of San Lorenzo Maggiore built on top of Naples ancient settlements and with its beautifully painted chapter house and refectory ceilings.
But then we were taken by our guide down into the Roman streets which form the foundations of the church above. The Romans had in turn used the previous Greek settlement as the foundations of their city! The Roman baker’s, fishmonger’s and dyer’s shops, all accessed by the porticoed arcade, were incredibly well preserved.
However, somewhere in those ancient, subterranean streets Stefan wearily declared “if I see any more Roman stuff, I’ll start wearing a togo!” The Mediterranean’s rich archeological heritage was getting a bit much and so we headed back to Pintail.
From the train back we could see the fierce fires burning on the slopes of Vesuvius and around.
Being based in Salerno meant we had time to explore it too. Like Naples its historic streets rub along with the ordinary lives of its residents.
We found quirky shops and brightly coloured washing hanging out to dry. In the wonderfully shady public gardens I loved the whimsical book swap.
High above Salerno sits the Byzantine Castello di Arechi. Despite The Rules, it is by now far too hot during the day to think about climbing such hills so instead we got on the local bus to reach the castle. The views across the Gulf of Salerno and down the Amalfi Coast were somewhat obscured by the smoke from the fires still burning in the surrounding hills but we got a great view down to Pintail in the harbour and had a good nose around the castle captured at one point by the Normans.
Selfie, looking down from Castello di Arechi to Salerno harbour and down a slightly smoky Amalfi Coast.