August 16 - Along the Amalfi Coast

Whenever I mentioned to anyone that I was going to Italy this summer, they told me I must see the Amalfi Coast. Today I got to find out why.

We started our day with a bus ride from Sorrento to Amalfi and the trip was just as all the guidebooks said it would be. Cliffs rise high above the Gulf of Naples and the road that follows it is quite a feat of engineering. Skillfully our bus sped up to the top of the cliff and made one hairpin turn after another. Looking down below we could see villages rising like steps from the sea, olives and lemon groves, and tiny beaches tucked into hidden coves.

The town of Amalfi was much busier than we expected. A sea of holidaymakers sat on the beach under yellow, green, blue or candycane striped umbrellas. Some swam or used paddleboats, others slept or listened to music, and some even had espresso delivered to them in real espresso cups.

Lunch was at Cafe Francese Amalfi. It is an Old World cafe dating back to 1845 with beautiful wood and brass fixtures. We ordered paninis and frozen lemon mousse which is the best I have ever had. It was light, fluffy, and tasted so fresh the lemons might have been on the trees yesterday.

In the center of town is the Cathedral of Amalfi. It is undergoing considerable restoration and they have uncovered beautfiul frescoes hidden under centuries of plaster. The church also features a museum of church relics such as the bones of St. Andrew and a intricately carved cross made of mother of pearl.

Walking around the main shopping street, lemon products were displayed everywhere. Limoncello was sold in beautiful bottles along with lemon soap, lemon table cloths, and lemon marmalade. I found myself attracted to an appealing display of baskets of lemons in front of benches with comfy lemon yellow cushions. I ordered a glass of fresh lemon and orange juice which they hand squeezed right in front of me. I was happy when the owner told me I could have it on the cute benches until I realized I had become a live advertisement for the store.

Since it was a nice sunny day, we took a boat back to Sorrento. It was a high speed jet ferry with seats inside and out. Watching the shoreline dotted with ancient watch towers, we couldn't imagine what it might have been like for people long ago to make a living on a cliffside that rises like a mountain from the sea. The boat stopped briefly in Positano and it looked like a very relaxing place for a holiday on the beach.

Back in Sorrento at the dock it was so hot and humid that most people could not picture themselves hiking up the road to the top of the cliff to the main part of town. Everyone piled into a bus including us which was so packed people were literally bursting out the doors. The only problem was this was a 15 minute break for the driver. In this heat no one could believe the driver was casually standing around having a cigarette and conversation and called out in Italian to leave now. Finally he boarded to cheers of bravo. There was so much enthusiasm and energy that the whole bus broke out in a series of Italian songs, possibly sports related. As we got off the bus in town, they all cheerfully called out, "Arrivederci!" to us.

Tonight was decided to have a picnic dinner on our balcony. As we ate, two giant cruise ships all lit up sailed right by our accommodation with their long deep horns echoing throughout the town.
We could see hundreds of flashes from cameras all over the ship. I am sure Sorrento looked as magical to them as they did to us.

Right now we are sitting outside on the balcony enjoying the lights in the distance. Everyone was right about what they said about the Amalfi Coast. In Italy, it certainly is the place to be.


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