Sunday, 8 November 2015

Amalfi Coast: Sun, Surf, and Sandwich


The Amalfi Coast - where dreams of sun soaked beaches beneath clifftop towns come to fruition. It takes a considerable amount of time to traverse the winding roads so we spent two days along the coast, interspersed with staying at a campsite in Sorrento, which is to the west of the coast. 
The drive began by a narrowing of the roads so that there needed to be a convex mirror on each bend to avoid collisions. Then we saw village after village with little houses clinging to the cliffside and gleaming church domes. 

Minori, Italy
We may have eaten scazzetta in Salerno not long before, but we had heard of a great bakery in the tiny village of Minori. 
Once we filled ourselves with focaccia sandwiches and three types of cake, we chilled on the beach for much of the afternoon. The beach there was small and touristy (one man fell off his inflatable sea couch), but the weather was stunning, the water refreshing and we couldn't keep away. At one point I heard another visitor exclaim "It's like a pond!" to which his companion replied "Welcome to my poor man's riviera." Well, I like it. Also, apparently the blue washed-up glass fragments are much harder to find. 
We then attempted to stay at a campground up the hill from Minori, but once we got around the problem of common languages, we were told that it would cost €60. I seriously thought he was joking for several seconds and even almost laughed. I think it was a kind of organic agritourismo camping. That's when we drove as fast as we could to Sorrento for the night as we needed someplace to sleep and we knew that there were two decently priced campings there, passing gorgeous twilight vistas that we unfortunately had no time to jump out and photograph. 

Ravello 
The next day we approached the hilltop Ravello, which probably has excellent views of he surrounds but it costs €5 to park for one hour! So we left. We can get great views elsewhere, thank you. (You may be seeing now that the Amalfi Coast ain't cheap. So how rich do you have to be to visit the riviera?)

Amalfi
We parked by the waterfront in the eponymous town of Amalfi and walked up the central Via delle Cartiere for lunch. Once you got past the piazza del duomo and surrounds, there was hardly anyone around! 
On the way up we saw a strange little town made from cinder blocks and children's figurines, giving the feeling of a little fairy community. 
Right outside the restaurant was this dope car. I can see the Beach Boys riding around in it having somehow squeezed all their surfboards in. 
At Trattoria il Mulino, we supped on pizza and house wine. The fare was tasty, unpretentious, and reasonably priced. (This post could be confused for a food blog, but I have to eat! I can help it that Italy has amazing food. But you know this isn't a food blog because I tucked straight in and forgot to take any photos of the food. This happens a lot.)
For a post-lunch treat, we dropped by Pasticceria Pansa just to the right of the duomo and purchased many chocolatey things. Sitting in the steps up to the cathedral, we feasted on chocolate covered orange peel - a delicacy as the family that runs the pasticceria (opened in 1830!) uses fruit from their own orchard. 
The beauty of the duomo and the waterfront hides a tragic past: in 1343 a catastrophic earthquake caused most of the town and its residents to plunge to the bottom of the sea. 

Furore
I only mention Furore as it was the nearest village to an awesome beach we scoped out! Unfortunately we ran out of time to visit it, but it was tucked away in an alcove in the cliff and you could only see it when you were driving across the bridge in a western direction (if you were on the other side of the road then you couldn't see down to the beach below). If you're going to the Amalfi Coast, try to find it! 

Praiano
We didn't actually stop in the town of Praiano - rather, we gazed at it from afar on a few occasions and at different times of day. Much of the time a haze clung to the horizon, preventing you from being able to tell where the sky ended and the sea began. 

Positano
Also a beautiful town from afar, Positano provided some of the most stunning views - the title post is a sunset snapped as we had just driven past the town. 
It was also the scene of a bourgeoning forest fire that caused huge delays in traffic. As the road is so narrow, emergency services had to strictly control the flow of vehicles and it was quite a while before we were able to return to our camping in Sorrento. As we were directed past at one point in the road, we saw the shell of a burnt out car and wondered if that was what caused the flames that spread to foliage. Sparks carried on the wind and several different patches of trees were glowing hot and throwing off plumes of smoke. It was very dramatic, and hopefully it was extinguished quickly. 
All in all, the Coast is a series of postcard-perfect views interspaced with touristy beaches and brilliant pasticcerias. Save up your euros visiting a wonderfully inexpensive place like Croatia (and choose accommodation in Sorrento as it is vastly cheaper), and then live in the lap of luxury for a couple of days on the Amalfi Coast.