Wednesday, September 13, 2017

A Trip to the Amalfi Coast

Positano. Amalfi Coast. Sorrento. Magical, seemingly mythical places I had heard about but thought I would perhaps never see. Until yesterday.

I left Rome on a high-speed train around 7:45 with a group of 14 other people on a small-group day tour, bound for Naples. At speeds often approaching 200 mph, we made the trip in a little over an hour, passing by the famed Abbey of Montecassino and other sights along the way. 

As we approached Naples, I saw a mountain off to the left and was surprised when our guide pointed it out as Mount Vesuvius. From the angle at which I saw the famous volcano, it seemed a lot smaller than I had imagined. It was only once I saw it from the south that I could get a much better sense of its size.

Mount Vesuvius as seen from our van as we passed through
Castellammare di Stabia (see map below)

Upon arrival at the Naples train station, we transferred to a 16-passenger van for the drive to Positano. I had heard about the immense traffic jams that are sometimes encountered on the busy road to the Amalfi Coast, but it wasn't bad at all. The weather, after the storms that had passed through the area over the weekend, was picture-postcard perfect - blue skies with temperatures in the low 70's.

Our first stop for photos was at Vico Equense. At the time, I thought we were actually on the Amalfi Coast, but these pictures were actually of Sorrento and the Bay of Naples (I think).

From there, we continued our drive along the breathtakingly beautiful coast to Positano, a town that is crammed onto slopes than plunge down toward the water. It was also crammed with tourists. 


We had a couple of hours of free time here. I was tempted by many shops, including some men's clothing stores (thinking of my still-missing main suitcase), but in the end only purchased a couple of bottles of rosé (rosato) - one from the Amalfi Coast and the other from Puglia, a bottle of "Five Roses." I had learned about this wine in my Italian Wine Scholar course. It was the first Italian rosato to be commercially produced and sold in Italy and exported to the United States, discovered by an American general during World War II.

At lunch in Positano

From Positano, we boarded a ferry that took us to the town of Amalfi, providing us an opportunity to see the famed coast from the water instead of the busy road cut into the sides of mountains:

Once in Amalfi, we walked past the beaches and then up, up, up the side of a steep hill to visit a lemon farm built onto the terraced hillside. The area is famous for its lemons and limoncello, and we sampled both at the farm we visited.

The beaches in Amalfi

Climbing up the lemon farm terraces

Members of our group sampling lemons, lemon cake and limoncello

After visiting the lemon farm and taking in the views of Amalfi it offered, we descended to the town square - dominated by the beautiful Cathedral of St. Andrew - and again had some free time to walk around, browse in shops and take pictures.

From Amalfi, we took another ferry to Salerno - the site where (I learned following my visit) Allied armies launched their invasion of mainland Italy in September of 1943. It was immediately apparent that the city's buildings looked fairly new, so I assumed that Salerno must have been flattened during World War II. I've got some reading to do when I get home. 

From Salerno, we took another high-speed train back to Rome. It was a long but enjoyable day. Today's itinerary includes a foodie tour in the Trastevere neighborhood of Rome and a wine dinner tonight. Hopefully, my suitcase will turn up today!

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