Amalfi Coast and Around Vesuvius, Italy
These round, thick-ass vessels run up in the sky so deep it be crying. Yeah, you thought it was rain.
After changing planes in Atlanta and Rome, J and I arrived at Naples airport on a sunny Saturday morning.
Not knowing any better, we waited outside for a small shuttle bus to a rental car complex that was in walking distance.
We picked up a pristine, black Fiat Tipo sedan and drove towards the center of Naples to pick up our travel companions.
The toll highway leading into town was relaxing enough, though we overshot our exit and had to backtrack through surface streets to avoid paying the toll again.
Naples was full of bumpy cobblestones, potholes, and obstacles both human and car. The closer we got to our companions’ hotel, the crazier the drive.
The neighborhood was a chaotic mess of crusty buildings, construction, litter and people. Cars were parked on both side of the roads, reducing it to a single car’s width that both directions had to share. People were wandering in, out, and along the roads. Scooters zipped through narrow gaps.
J tried her best to navigate to their hotel, but none of the roads cooperated due to closures or one-ways that weren’t indicated on Google Maps. We circled and circled, trying different combinations until we got close enough for a pickup. The roads were a maze, and I suspect that there was only one possible way to get to their hotel. We never found it.
Both driver and passengers were ready for relaxing ocean views, so we entered the toll highway towards the Amalfi Coast.
Our route ascended green mountains with views of Naples, then descended via numerous harrowing switchbacks towards the coast.
After some crazy maneuvers to get a parking spot near town, we sat down at a marina-side restaurant just before the kitchen closed.
From our table on the water, we enjoyed the view of the marina with Amalfi center in the distance. It was beautiful and relaxing, and I could finally let my driving sweat dry. Temporarily.
Vesuvius and the sprawl of Naples.
Crossing the mountains between us and the coast.
Horse from above.
A thriving, but small scale logging industry worked the mountainsides.
Crusty bus stop, beautiful view.
Minori town, as seen from the start of the switchbacks.
A tall house amongst switchbacks.
Colors of Amalfi.
Our AirBNB, Casa Escher was a 30 minute walk from the center of Amalfi, along the main road.
The 200 year old historic villa had been split into a few apartments and a cottage on a terraced property that went up the hill. There were numerous fruit trees including fig, apricots, and the regions famous lemons. A vegetable garden was on the penultimate terrace.
To accommodate an tiny elevator, a cave had been dug leading from the street into the hillside. It was like the entrance to a Bond villain’s lair.
After unloading our luggage, I parked the car at a nearby hotel for 20 euros a day.
We relaxed on the deck, and I even fell asleep. Later that afternoon, we walked into town in search of groceries and dinner.
The backyard with original fresco on the far wall.
View from the outside terrace.
Lounging into infinity.
The private stairs leading up the property’s terraces.
Free fresh apricots.
The high pedestrian path into town.
Old man on a half shell.
Cool abandoned residence.
Forgotten fresco at a tunnel entrance.
Travel buddies as seen from the high road.
Public tit fountain.
Our bedroom doors.
Flowers, flowers everywhere.
Old fennel and the sea.
Another old villa, unrestored.
The high road.
A mysterious residential tunnel.
The cathedral and bell tower.
A thousand year old Turkish door.
Another moody pathway.
Main street buttresses.
On our second day, we woke early and walked to town to catch a local bus to Bomerano. This village high up on the hills is a popular start to the “Path of Gods” hike that leads to Positano.
It was hot and sunny, but the clear skies offered great views of terraced farms, winding roads, abandoned houses, and the glimmering ocean far below.
We stopped for a lunch of crackers, cheese, salami, and olives under the shade of an old olive tree.
It was a beautiful hike with epic views the entire way.
Our first view.
Abandoned farm house.
Now that’s what I called terraces.
A bee enjoys the epic views.
J and the shade tree.
Another abandoned house.
Another terraced property.
Positano as seen from the Path of the Gods.
J rounds the bend.
Leggy trail cat.
Looking back at the trail from Nocelle.
At the hilltop village of Nocelle, I broke off ahead of our group to daydream while descending hundreds of steps to the main road leading to our destination.
Positano was swankier and busier than Amalfi, and I was glad that we had stayed in Amalfi instead. The town’s use of bougainvillea was on point, however.
While waiting for the ferry back, we ate gelato, drank beer, and watched the crowds.
Who watches the watchmen?
Another path cat.
Spying on an old fiat.
A precarious cemetery.
Blue waters and a little boat.
So much bougainvillea.
View of Positano from the pier.
Quite a compound.
The peach building is ours.
We cleaned up after the hike. J and I wandered into town to sit on the steps of the cathedral and watch the mix of locals and tourists.
Our group met up for a tasty dinner near the main square, but I didn’t feel like lingering at a restaurant and I left before dessert.
The next day, we hiked down a cliff to a secluded beach near our place. We spent the day swimming in the clear water and relaxing on opaque chairs.
The thatched roof restaurant behind us was a source of expensive and generic lunch with beautiful views, as well as a clean bathroom.
That evening, J and I walked into town to get groceries for dinner. We made pasta and salad and ate outside overlooking the ocean. After sunset, there was a large fireworks show at the marina that we watched from our balcony.
Apricots and figs. I had the groundskeeper help me pick some ripe figs. He got up in the tree and passed them down.
The Bond villain cave entrance to our villa.
A view of our swimming beach from above.
Apricots. I harvested some more with a rake.
Grapes on a power line.
Roof cat, oranges, ocean, boat.
Dame of the flowers.
The next morning, I left early to walk to the cemetery on other side of town. But it was closed on Tuesdays. A local woman with a bouquet of flowers seemed pissed at this too, and she called out into the neighborhood. An elderly man dressed and styled like an Italian Elvis swaggered down the path to open the gate for her. I didn’t bother to follow her.
I met up with our group and we spent most of the day at a crowded beach near town. A group of local tweens we had watched the evening before were all out to swim and chat loudly. The people watching at the beach was better, but it wasn’t nearly as relaxing.
Another view of the bell tower.
Landing to the closed cemetery.
What you see when you start feeding a skittish cat that lives outside.
Wednesday, we caught an early bus to Positano and hopped on a ferry to the Island of Capri. We arrived with no agenda, but C quickly convinced us to rent two scooters to drive around.
Our yellow, Korean-made 50cc scooters were severely dinged up, but they worked. With C and I as drivers, we navigated out of town and to the extremes of the island.
The roads were good and didn’t feel nearly as narrow on a scooter. There aren’t many roads on the island, and they all dead end. We drove out to the lighthouse beach, then stopped for lunch before taking a road down to some old ruins and the beach near the Blue Grotto.
We stopped for a drink, snacks, and a restroom break before driving back to drop off the scooters.
Four hours cost 40 euros per scooter.
Our return ferry left so promptly that C didn’t make it back from a snack store in time. He had to catch the next one.
The early man gets the swim.
Fish heads! Get your fish heads here!
The big marina.
Stand up paddle boat.
Power plant behind an overpass.
The harrowing view from the narrow road around the hillside.
We were really high up.
Where the hell is Juliet?
Vesuvius as seen from Capri.
Positano from afar.
Do doubt about it!?
Thursday morning, we checked out and drove to Pompeii to explore the ruins. We spent more than three hours wandering around, imagining what it might have looked like before getting buried by ash.
The snack situation inside the park was dire, so J and I talked a guard into giving us wrist bands so we could leave the ruins and eat lunch on a nearby commercial drag. We enjoyed enormous caprese sandwiches.
Me and my scooter truck.
Grant is like me, a digger.
Marble variety pack on an ancient storefront counter.
The new Pompeii.
Passageway under the arena.
A side street.
For the last three nights, we stayed at an AirBNB on the slopes of Vesuvius.
The main road near the property was heavily covered with litter and overripe apricots. A narrow road lead up the hill past various restaurants and vineyards to a gated dirt road shared by a few properties.
We checked in, got the rundown of the place from the friendly grizzled host, and then drove back down the hill to find groceries.
Despite the depressing atmosphere of the neighborhood Decò, the produce, meat and cheese were cheap and high quality. My favorite score was three kilos of cherry tomatoes and two wedges of hard cheeses.
We made dinner and ate outside until the bees came.
A view towards the water.
A homemade dinner.
Snack platter with kickass tomatoes and cheese.
Our backyard volcano.
Reading in the shade.
Grapes on all sides.
Our travel companions stayed with us that night, as they didn’t want to return to their sketchy hotel in Naples for the night before their return flight.
In the morning, we dropped them off at the airport and spent the rest of the day reading and relaxing. That evening, fireworks went off at multiple weddings around the area.
On our last full day in Italy, we drove to Vesuvius National Park. We paid the 5 euro parking fee, walked up the road to the park entrance, paid 10 euros each, and entered the trail. The park was sloppily maintained, with litter around the road, only portable toilets for restrooms, and no potable water.
Clouds were drifting in and obscuring the surrounding view, though they did offer a break from the sun.
Along the path to the rim were a variety of refreshment shelters selling overpriced drinks and snacks. It was a little crass, but also a decent source of shade and hydration.
Shrine of the times.
Fauna of the volcano.
Ranger using a lifted Fiat Panda to go down the mountain.
Looking into the crater.
J ascending to the rim.
Clouds rolling in.
It’s hard to get a sense of the scale, but the crater is about half a mile across.
During our time near Vesuvius, I imagined the volcano blowing up. J and I have temped fate many times while traveling, and I wondered if our luck was finally going to run out.
But I calmly surrendered to fate’s plan, since I’d rather die by volcano than a plane crashing into the Atlantic.
Luckily, neither happened and we made it safely back to our house, garden, and cat.