Monday, April 27, 2009. The weather continued to be very windy, and as a result, our destination was changed to Naples. From there we commanded a taxicab to drive us to Amalfi and Positano. The Amalfi Coast is one of the most spectacular drives on any Italian route.
As we drove along the roads, we were treated to some of the most breathtaking views. We passed by picturesque churches and trees perched on the sides of the mountains, defying gravity. A colorful sign informed us we were on the way to Furore, a city for painters.
Amalfi contains ruins of battlements used to defend it from invaders. There are many restaurants, hotels, and very busy streets. There's very little vehicular traffic, so most of our exploring was on foot after the cab dropped us of at a central location. We had lunch and the proceeded to Positano.
The coastal route runs from Amalfi through villages like Conca dei Marine, Praiano, and Furore, until it reaches Positano.
The drive was hair raising, but our driver, Salvatore, was excellent. He not only drove carefully, but he also gave us a running commentary of the sites we were going through.
Along the sides of the mountain road there were miniature villages, abstract replicas of the towns we were passing through. They were very detailed and obviously had required many hours of work.
Like in the USA, children go to school in yellow buses, and what great views they enjoy!
Salvatore told us that the most expensive hotel in Positano was St. Peter's, costing upwards of 1,000 Euros per night. It is very inaccessible, built on the mountain, with even a tennis court, visible through some strategically placed wires. The hotel slopes toward the sea of course, and it has its own private beach.
We continued traveling along the main roads, past some local construction and sculptures on the side of the mountains. we also saw some local signs and "rules of conduct" for Positano visitors. The town does not advertise for tourists, it has more than it can handle comfortably. After some more delightful views, we were on the road to Pompeii.
The ruins of Pompeii are close to Naples. Our driver took us to an area from which we could see some of the ruins and take pictures without paying the entrance fee. By now it was late in the day and we were exhausted, so we were happy to do what we did. Pompeii was destroyed and completely buried during a long, catastrophic eruption of the volcano Mount Vesuvius. It was lost for almost 1,700 years before an accidental discovery in 1748. it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Pat had been in Pompeii before, and she remarked that the main difference with Roman and Greek ruins, was the fact that Pompeii was built with bricks and not marble, therefore appearing much less opulent than its counterparts in other European cities.
Our next and final stop was Naples. It is said that either you love or hate the city. We had been told on the boat to be very careful of pickpockets and merchants who would offer some merchandise but deliver something completely different an worthless. I was very happy to explore the sites in our cab. Salvatore took us to seemingly impassable streets; they were very narrow, winding and busy. There was a lot of construction, and I found the city dirty, noisy, and decayed.
Some parts of the city were nicer and cleaner. We drove by a piazza and saw the famous Galleria Umberto I, a shopping area similar to the gallerias in Buenos Aires or even Red Bank.
As we were winding down our excursions, we passed again by the castle in the port. It was the Castel Nuovo, aka the Maschio Angioino, so called to differentiate it from other castles in the area, like the Castel dell' Ovo, of which legend states that an egg was buried under it, and the day it breaks, it will signal the fall of Naples.
This castle was on of the first things we saw as we docked in Naples, and fittingly, was also the last image we took with us as we returned to the ship to get ready for our next adventure, Taormina, Sicily, in Italy.