May in France is inundated with holidays, all conveniently landing on Thursday this year. May 1st was Labour Day and last Thursday was Victory in Europe Day. And there is still one yet (Ascension Day) at the end of the month which we will take advantage of as well. The term ‘faire le pont’ means to literally ‘make the bridge’ and when talking about holidays it means taking the day off between the holiday and the weekend to make it a four-day long weekend. That’s exactly what we did so this past weekend we were off for some sunshine to the Amalfi Coast for four days. We flew into Naples and wasted no time in the city. We rented a car and headed for the coast but not without getting horribly lost and stuck on the highway going the opposite direction… twice. Finally once we were oriented, we drove along the Sorrentine Coast having a quick lunch stop in Sorrento taking in all the glorious views along the way. We checked into our hotel in Praiano, a very quiet, small town between Positano and Amalfi thus making it a great base to explore the coastline. The small rocky beach in Praiano between the two cliffs reaching high into the sky lost it’s sun in mid afternoon but we managed to sneak in the first few rays onto our lily white skin before calling it a day. We spent our second day on the water and on the island of Capri. We purchased an excursion that took us around Capri, with a skipper to point out all the significant spots in broken English. We stopped at the famous Blue Grotto but none of the six other people on our boat wanted to spend an extra 15 euros each to get a mere 15 minutes inside one of the tiny overpriced row boats. When asked if it was worth it, our skipper quite bluntly said, “it’s a cave with water and it’s blue” so we continued in our way. Capri was quaint but full of tourists and tour groups, an epidemic I know I am a contributor to but still get annoyed by. Not much is ‘off the beaten’ path in these parts. The authenticity gets muffled by all the souvenir shops, restaurants with bad English translated menus and visor-wearing tour group leaders holding up tiny umbrellas. We stumbled upon a pizza joint whose owner proudly sunbathes on the rocks, in full shirtless girth, on the label of his homemade wine. We passed on the so-called ‘very good’ wine and drank water instead. Luckily, the pizza was excellent despite some negative reviews on TripAdvisor and we followed it up with gelato of course. We had pizza everyday for at least one meal. And gelato. I’d be happy not to look at another pizza for a long time. But I could always have more gelato. For our third day we ventured out west, stopping in Positano all the way through windy streets, through mountain passes to a small little resort area called Marina del Cantone. We spent a glorious afternoon sunbathing and dipping ourselves in the crystal blue but quite cold Mediterranean. The gorgeous cliffs dropping straight into the ocean don’t give way to nice white sandy beaches but we made ourselves as comfortable as possible on the pebbles. But you wouldn’t think so by the rock patterned indents across our back, legs and torso. The Italians really have a penchant for building the most spectacular seaside towns, unbelievably clenched to the rugged, almost inhabitable cliffs as well as windy roads with white-knuckled hairpin turns and magnificent drops. Amalfi reminded me a lot of Cinque Terre but more spread out. David loved driving the scenic road and I was able to enjoy it myself when not holding my breath in fear for what may be coming at us from around a corner. I’m amazed we escaped without so much of a scratch as the number of times another car or a large tour bus came within inches of us trying to make a turn are innumerable. The death defying roads are worth the majestic, awe inspiring views. It was simply breathtaking. On our last day before heading to the airport, and after sunbathing on our ocean view balcony, we drove east along the coast stopping in Amalfi and Ravello.
The road up to Ravello was the windiest and steepest I’ve ever seen. The town at the top was very lovely and absent of the large tour groups (probably because buses can’t get up that road easily) like Amalfi which was by the coast. We enjoyed our last pizza of the holiday and the best one from a small hole in the wall place, while eating at a narrow counter. certainly not a bad way to end a great trip.
All the small towns have beautifully decorated churches with multi-coloured dome roofs. I’m still amazed at how (and why) people ever carried the first few building blocks to these future settlements.
David and I enjoyed cheap and tasty cocktails at Bar del Sole in Praiano every night watching the sun set behind the mountains. Service was quick. And the views amazing.
Lemons are everywhere in these lands. On terraced gardens, in doorway entries, in supermarket displays and on restaurant dishes. They were the size of melons in most cases. I had never seen lemons that big. Souvenir shops bank on this by selling anything lemon related including bottles of all shapes and sizes of the lusciously sweet limoncello liqueur.
In the end we had a lovely time enjoying the weather and the pizza and the wine and the gelato on our vacation. Although despite all the places in Italy we’ve been (Rome, Florence, Venice, Milan, Cinque Terra, Lake Como, Siena, and now the Amalfi Coast) the small hilltop medieval towns and rolling hills clad in vineyards of Tuscany still remain our favourite.
But I’d go anywhere in Italy at the drop of a hat.