Today we visited the town of Ravello. Ravello is not too far above the town of Amalfi but due to the curvy roads required to get there, it is about a 30 minute trek. We walk along narrow streets like we had seen before in Capri. Although the streets here are more narrow and have much more character than Capri which is highly commercial and crowded with tourist shops. I took pleasure in walking the streets that contained many villas and hidden restaurants. Gardens are every where. Vines with ivy and flowers line many pathways. During our bus ride there, I viewed many lemon trees, many of which used to make Italy’s famous Limoncello drink. We were able to sample this drink today from a store that produced it. Limoncello is at the same time bitter and sweet. We are told that it is made from the seeds of lemons and then fermented. A woman sitting next to us at lunch recommended that we visit the Villa Cimbrone. The villa is surrounded by many gardens. A trail through a wooded area in front gives a spectacular view of the water. At the end of the path was a statue of a man with a little boy on his shoulders. We soon reached another courtyard – a beautiful rose garden. We pass two more gardens, one with two statues and another with a fountain one end and another with a huge covered patio. The greatest of all was a rainbow of flowers that appear along the path back to the house. After the villa, we take the bus back to Amalfi to catch the ferry to Salerno. From Salerno, we catch the overnight train to La Spezia (6 hour ride!). Could spend at least 5 more days here.
In the morning we set off for the Isle of Capri (pronounced with the emphasis on the first syllable). I observe beautiful views from the ferry that we take to arrive there. Upon arriving in Capri, we purchase one of the three tickets we need to get to the Blue Grotto. Another ferry takes us around the perimeter of the island. Row boat picks up 4 passengers each from our ferry. The row boat takes us up to another boat where we pay for our admission ticket and row boat charge for the grotto. While waiting to go in, the boat men are yelling at each other in Italian, perhaps making jibes at each other. A small passage is the entry point into the grotto. We all need to duck our heads to go through it. Once inside, the color was magnificent. Apparently the sunlight bounces off rocks outside the cave and is reflected back in to produce the vivid blue color. Our boatman asks us if we would like to go for a swim. We give an emphatic yes! Swimming in the grotto was so refreshing. Other row boats glided around us while we swan around. Unfortunately, time was limited and we had to the return to the boat.
Swimming in the blue grotto=fantastic
When we got back, we decided to check out a natural arch (arco naturale). The walk there was estimated to be about a mile, however, the uphill journey and many steps made it seem much longer. We witness an older lady struggling to pull a bag up the hill. Nikki offers to help. While walking with her we attempt to communicate. It proved to be difficult cause she spoke no English and us no Italian. We did understand that she has to carry her groceries this far uphill distance frequently and she has been living on the Island for about 40 years. When we arrive at her house, we find that it overlooks the arco naturale. Viewing through the arch, we can see crystal blue water below. Next to the arch was an entrance to a path that led us down to this cave called Grotta di Matermania. It contained a few man made steps that didn’t seem to go anywhere. Not quite sure what the cave was used for besides it was built by the Romans and used to contained mosaics that are now in a museum. Past the cave, we followed a path that led us to another breathtaking view. After a long and sweaty walk back, we take the funicolare back to the marina (a train like object that takes us down the mountain). We decide to take a swim before our ferry arrives. Arco Naturale
Arriving back to the town of Amalfi, we decide to rush back and shower for the expected performance that evening. When we arriving, it appears that there is no performance. I observe the same charming people from the evening early – an older lady with her dog, a man with his daughter. Not sure why there is no performance , we begin asking a couple of Italian guys for a cheap place to get a nice dinner. The nice guys walk us to a great restaurant and decline to join us but offer to ride us around in their vespas later on. We agreed. I had a great shrimp risotto and a great white table wine. The thing about Italy is that even the cheapest wines taste great. After dinner, our earlier guides meet us in front of the restaurant with their vespas. They ask if we would like to go for a walk on a pier. After walking for a little bit, they suspiciously separate us. My Italian companion is getting a little too friendly for my liking so I locate Nikki and she feels the same way. They give us a ride back to Atrani, we have one drink with them and bid them good night.
I woke up early in the morning to walk down to Amalfi. I took pictures while no one was around. I was able to witness the town waking up and preparing for the day. The original plan is to go to isle of Capri. We discover that we miss the only morning ferry. We decide instead to make a visit to Pompeii. After more train confusion, we finally arrive at Pompeii. Due to our original plan being the isle of Capri, we are both wearing sandals instead of walking shoes. It turned out to be a very poor idea. Pompeii was very rocky and rough. We spent most of the day tripping and slipping over rocks. At the end of the day, our feet changed in color from all the dust that they had collected. Pompeii itself was amazing. I was in the understanding that Pompeii was a small village that happened to be destroyed by the eruption of nearby Mt Vesuvius. That was not the case, Pompeii was a large functioning city. While walking around, we witnessed well preserved frescoes, impressive cooking appliances, and modern day looking buildings that once served as bars. The baths were impressive also, the Romans loved their baths. In the building that held the baths, we saw stone covered bodies as a result of the volcanic eruption (You could even see the expression on their faces). My favorite part of the city was the brothel. The brothel had rooms that contained rock beds. Above the door of the rooms, scenes depicted the services that could be provided. Very interesting. Also amazing was the large faun house, and the olympic garden (contained a huge pool – perhaps olympic size?). We ran out of time and were not able to see it all.
Famous brothels of Pompeii
Frozen in time
Note: This adventure was taken in July of 2004 with my friend Nikki. The account is from a journal entry from that trip.
Today was traveling day from hell. The direct route from Rome to Naples was sold out and due to communication problems it was hard to figure out an alternate route. We finally decided on a ticket to Salerno. The plan is to check our bags there at the station and take a local train to Paestum. The town of Paestum holds the last Greek structures established in Italy. They are also the most well preserved. We begin our journey of Paestum by disembarking from the train. All we can see is a rural road that runs perpendicular and a small path straight ahead but no directional signs. After asking someone we determine that we need to follow the path straight ahead. The path is a paved walkway lined with brush, flowers, and agriculture. At the end of the path we find a street lined with tourist shops. We arrived after the tourist office has closed and could not locate a map. We ended up purchasing a guide book to direct us around. Once inside we witnessed how life would have been in an ancient Greek town. Lots of detail were given to the Greek temples where they practiced their pagan worship of gods and goddesses. We completed our visit with gelato.
Soon we begin our journey from hell. I am not sure if everyone in Italy makes it a sport of getting tourists lost, or we cannot communicate clearly, or they just don’t know the answer and are too proud to admit it. In regards to directions, what train to catch and such, we are inundated with wrong answers. Despite all of this, we ultimately arrive at our desired destinations, but not efficiently. It is frustrating. I have learned to view it as a comedy (sitcom) that I am in and to not let it ruin my days. When we arrived back in Salerno, I was in the understanding that we needed to take a train to Amalfi- our desired destination. I even had a train ticket that I purchased in Rome that had the destination as Amalfi. For this reason, we spent a great deal of time trying to locate the train to Amalfi. We finally discovered that no train to Amalfi existed and I guess my ticket was actually a bus transfer. I still do not know how I could have figured that out on my own, especially when the ticket looks exactly like a train ticket. Once we discovered it was a bus we needed, we could not locate our bus in the many stops that existed around the train station. After asking many people, it was a nice Asian tourist that directed us to the correct bus. Her opinion was that Italians give wrong directions on purpose, I am still not convinced that they are that evil. In addition to helping us, she informed us of a free concert that night in Amalfi.
The Death Bus
Our bus finally arrived and we climbed aboard what I would call the hour and a half death trap. I call this ride a death trap because it first takes you along the coast line on a very narrow two way road that at best it about 1 1/2 cars wide. It runs along the cliff looking down on the water. The size and height of the road alone would be scary but it is also very curvy with lots of blind curves. To inform cars around the corner that the bus is coming, the bus driver honks his horn constantly; there are many curves. Also because of the narrow road cars have to constantly stop and back up to give the bus room to pass. Meanwhile vespas zoom in and out of traffic while the madness is happening. It is not unusual to see cars double parked in Italy (we saw it frequently in Rome) but cars here actually park in the road, totally obstructing traffic. Additionally, I am almost certain that we hit a car that refused to back up out of the way and decided to continue forward instead (It might of been a building but I am almost sure it was the car we hit). On the bus, we meet a local artist that has moved to the coast from Ireland. Leo tells us of nice places to visit and a cheaper place to stay up on the hill. Deciding to stay closer to the action, we check into our orginal hostel. We place our bags in our room, change clothes, and head down to amalfi to catch the concert. Amalfi is about a 10-15 minute walk from our town, Atrani. Amalfi at night is so beautiful and charming. It is a picturesque coast town with houses and shops placed up all along the hill. Building restrictions ensure that now new development is possible and the town will retain its charm. Along the shore, a series of boats and ferries sleep for the evening. We walk into the city center just as the concert begins. The Broadway caliber singing group begins their program with the Star Spangled Banner in celebration of the current day. We sit on the steps of the church where they are performing. We witness great performances of songs from such shows as Les Miserables, My Fair Lady, and Phantom of the Opera. Toward the end of the concert we meet up with Leo who is visiting a friend in town. He recommends an restaurant away from the main piazza. We order a carafe of wine and enjoy good discussion. He expresses his disgust with our president and the way he is running our country. I ordered a superb handmade pasta with clams and mussels. Delicious.
sweat, the vatican, drunkeness [Jul. 3rd, 2004|10:36 am] I arrive yesterday morning fresh from my nap on the plane and I finally found my hostel by the train station. I was imediately greeted by Nikki and her friend Cliff (the boy who got stuck in the belly of the bus in Greece). Apparently he and his traveling companions decided to come to Rome coincidently. When I arrived, too early to check into room so we went sight seeing. We grabbed a bus at the train station to see Vatican city. It was amazing. I, like most americans see St. Peters Basilica only on TV and never give it another thought. But being there, you will understand the importance of religion in Roman everyday lives. The money and time that was spent to create what i can only discribe as masterpieces. The vatican additionally has a great collection of art. We followed up our tour of the vatican with a visit to the sistine chapel – something that you will also have to see for yourself. Interesting enough, our tour guide told us that Michelangelo didn’t even want to paint the sistine chapel. We are all glad he did.
Nikki, Cliff, I and cliff’s other traveling companions decided we were going to get drunk last night. We to Rome’s equivalent of a happy hour. It only lasted until 9:30 so we went off to find another bar recommended by our hostel. When we find it, we discover beers to be 5-7 euros, definitely not within my companions’ budget. We ultimately end up buying wine bottles and beer and find a nice piazza to drink the night away. We meet three guys who have the same idea and drink with us. We go back to the original bar for a while an dance. Much more I don’t remember, I guess Nikki and someone else help me to my bed. I woke up to a loud thump from the street in this noisy hostel. I feel like something that the street sweeper picked up from our piazza last night. I need to get over it and just go cause much more to see and alot more sweating to do.
The colesseum, roman forum, etc [Jul. 3rd, 2004|04:59 pm]
Hungover as I was from yesterday’s drinking adventure, we didn’t get started until about noon. Believe it or not, we got alot done in a matter of hours. Our journey started as we walked a couple of our new friends to the train station because they were off to a new destination 😦 We almost broke down and bought Mc Donalds(hangover cure) but we stopped ourselves and bought nice cheap sandwiches instead. Besides, Mc. Donalds isn’t as cheap here. We walked down to the Colosseum and ate our yummy sandwiches in front of the colesseum under a shaded tree. The struture had me in awe. It was so great, I tried to imagine what it would have been like to be a Roman watching the debachery and slaughter in this monument. Because Nikki and Andrew had already been inside, I decided I will come back on my day alone in Rome.
Next we wandered over to the Roman Forum. From a distance it looks like just a bunch of bricks and stones lying around. We however happened upon a free tour (like the one we had at Basilica di San Pietro). Through the tour, the roman forum came alive for us. We learned of saints being grilled alive and an old emperor’s indiscretions with a horse. The view from the top had me speechless.
Later we visited the Trevi fountain and made our two coin tosses (One to return to rome, and one a wish). It was spectacular also but was spoiled a little by the crowd and street vendors.
Finally we visited the spanish steps, took pictures of course and walked to the top.
I am happy because we found an internet place where I can check my aol mail, it didn’t seem to work in the hostel. Speaking of the hostel we are in, it is great. The people who work there are very nice and cool, and we are meeting many new people there. A charming and playful kitten also wanders around (it lives there). The “cute” kitten gnawed on my hand when I tried to pick it up. Spunky kitten. My only complaint about the hostel is the showers. Cold water, small water stream, and no pressure make a poor shower. Well, enough for now. We have a couple more things to see today and then a nice dinner. Tomorrow I suspect we are heading south to isle of capri and pompeii. See ya later.