Vallone dei Mulini

I remember seeing this Vallone dei Mulini (Valley of the Mills) while briefly crossing through Sorrento, Italy in July 2004. I remember being fascinated by it but not know what it was. I recently can across this story that explains that it was an old mill that ended up in this crevice due to an earthquake. I see that there are tours there. I would have really liked to tour this building. Maybe next time I am in the Amalfi coast???

Villa Cimbrone & Ravello

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.

 Villa Cimbrone

Note: This post was taken from an 2004 journal.

Isle of Capri

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.

Note: This post was taken from an 2004 journal.

Paestum & Amalfi

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.