Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Amalfi Coast

The Amalfi coast is an area of great physical beauty and natural diversity. It has been intensively settled by human communities since the early Middle Ages. There are a number of towns such as Amalfi and Ravello with architectural and artistic works of great significance. The rural areas show the versatility of the inhabitants in adapting their use of the land to the diverse nature of the terrain, which ranges from terraced vineyards and orchards on the lower slopes to wide upland pastures - http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/830
This is like tourist-heroin
An easy day trip from Naples, I have to admit that I originally thought the Amalfi Coast was a lot bigger than it actually is. Turns out a couple of hours is all you really need to get a feel for this iconic part of Southern Italy. I’m sure it would’ve been nice to stay a couple of nights, especially in summer when you can enjoy the beaches properly, but then you’d also have to fight with the hordes descending from the rest of Europe and America.

After so many trips, I can safely say that we generally much prefer going to places in low season, even if the weather isn’t as likely to be ideal. In fact, the unseasonally good weather followed us the entire way through Italy and even the UK - so it was a win-win really.

A bus squeezing past oncoming traffic
Despite hearing that the coastal mountain roads in Italy were narrow and dodgy, we found the way to Amalfi to be in fantastic condition, with reassuringly solid barriers made of rock on the edge of the road. Definitely an improvement on what we’d seen years ago in Eastern Europe, and also India and Nepal.

After depositing our car in a (literally and figuratively) cool carpark which had been dug into the side of the mountain and felt like some sort of Bond villain lair, we navigated some crazy tunnels to descend into the town proper. Once we emerged on the other side,
I felt like we had stepped into a postcard - the sparkling blue seas, the charming narrow laneways - Amalfi is the very embodiment of picturesque. And we really couldn’t have had better weather.
Amalfi cathedral
I bet that 80% of tourists can't resist taking a photo of this
In fact, the only bad thing about the whole day was my ill-fated attempt to send a postcard. Sometimes the word ‘lazy’ or ‘sleepy’ is used interchangeably with ‘charming’ or ‘quaint’ to describe a town, like it’s a good thing. Unfortunately in the case of Amalfi, lazy could also be used to describe the attitude of the staff in the local post office. Basically I (and two other tourists) ended up waiting more than half an hour just to buy some stamps for a postcard - and not because they were short-staffed either, but simply because some of them just couldn’t be stuffed helping out, even though they clearly had nothing better to do. 

I really should have cut my losses and left after 10 minutes, but you know when you get to that stage where you think ‘oh, I’ve already waited so long, I’ll just keep waiting...’ or ‘surely it can’t be THAT much longer..?’ Maybe this explains why I didn't bother sending any more postcards for the rest of the trip. Or, it's just as likely to be sheer laziness. Either way, if you were one of the two lucky people who got a postcard from me on this trip, count yourself lucky!

That aside, Amalfi is beautiful and definitely worth the visit. Just don’t bother getting stamps from the post office.
Main beach at Positano

After Amalfi we drove on to have lunch at Positano, another lovely settlement perched above the glittering Mediterranean. Unfortunately nearly everything was shut either due to the time of day or just the fact that it was November, but it was still nice to snap some photos and tick it off the list.

Overall, the Amalfi Coast totally lived up to my expectations in terms of beauty. A lot of people also recommended we visit the Cinque Terre, and though it is a UNESCO site and definitely on my list of places to go, we simply didn't have enough time on this trip, so will have to leave it for the next visit. I wonder how they compare?
Me with the UNESCO sign
[Flickr set here]

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