The Amalfi coast is legendary. So are the crowds and the narrow, winding coast road clogged with traffic. Mid-week, late April, we anticipated that we might avoid the masses. On leaving Salerno it soon became apparent that we had underestimated the effect of a Fiesta day. Tutti il mondo and his wife had decided to head out to the coast before the influx of tourists when the season started in earnest.
Our first glimpse was taken as we headed round a bend, sparkling sea, incredibly large lemons in lemon groves, impossibly constructed villas hanging on for grim death onto the craggy hillside. Steep and craggy, my mother said once on a visit to Switzerland, so many moons ago when as obnoxious teenagers we thought it was such sport to make fun of her. Steep and craggy it certainly was.
Taking us as long to drive the 24kms to Ravello as the 120km to Salerno we found our destination full. Full of happy Fiesta daytrippers. Full of cars wanting to park. Full of officious, yellow-bibbed parking ladies who directed us around the town to yet another completely packed parking area.
Finally entering the
main piazza a vista spread out past the ubiquitous cypress trees while underneath them a tottering bride stood next to a huge earthenware jar. On the steps of the church a varied group posed for photos with their padre dressed in a brown cassock. Were they a large family? A congregation? A collection of people bearing the Saint's name? Of all ages, they sat there and smiled, the youngest eating ice-creams and the oldest too.
Ah, ice-creams again. Still in search for the best stracciatelli, I noted the gelateria at the corner of the piazza and vowed to give it a go before we went. How is it that in your memory the chocolate chunks were always so much larger and irregular shaped? How is is that the ice-cream was so much more creamy and vanilla flavoured? Thoughts of those remembered cones in San Gimignano so many years ago sustained me as we wandered the cobbled lanes checking out the views and the tourist shops in equal measure.
We paused outside one of the leading hotels of the world and wondered how it would be to arrive like the young Chinese couple we saw
in a chauffered limousine, welcomed by name and ushered into the grand palazzo with its stunning views (awesome, if I was American) and pampered and cosseted and made to feel special? Hang on, would I really like that unctious fawning? Polite and willing because I have money?
Continuing our meanderings around the town walkways we happened upon several ceramic producers. How friendly, how charming! Oh, you don't actually want to buy anything? We were left in peace to browse at the intricate hand-painted designs, marvelling at their skill and artistry. We did succumb to buying house numbers to eventually take home to Australia and two cheerful ceramic key hooks for our little house in Dorset.
Sitting back in the square, supping drinks and particularly good panini we remembered how rich we actually were! Leisurely gazing around, smiling in the sun, laughing and talking with good company. What more could you want from the Amalfi Coast? An excellent stracciatelli, you might say, and indeed it was good, still not the best, but pretty good!
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