Friday, October 26, 2018

Italy, Part 2 of 4: Amalfi Coast, Pompeii, and the Isle of Capri

Leaving Rome for the Amalfi Coast was a strong jolt to the psyche ...
there are 2.8 million residents of Rome ... but only 3,942 residents of our home base, Positano!


Positano is the quintessential quaint Italian village, set on steeply terraced hillsides.
It doesn't just LOOK beautiful 24/7 -- it even SOUNDS beautiful!
(play the video below to hear the sound and sweeping views from outside our balcony)


But before we could get to Positano, a train ride to Naples and a heart-lurchingly twisty-road drive would be required, looking here out over the coast and Sorrento.


Between the Naples Train Station and Positano is Pompeii, perhaps the world's most famous archaeological site.  Once a thriving and oh-so-sophisticated party town, Pompeii's charms were destroyed when Mt. Vesuvius (in the background above) blew its lid in 79 AD and completely buried the city under miles of ash and pumice, preserving everything beneath.


Pompeii is ENORMOUS (170 acres total!) and features excavated streets, houses and businesses that visitors can explore.  


A shocking number of frescoes still exist, especially in the town's signature colors of red and white.


They are still making new discoveries every day.
These amazing frescoes below were just uncovered last year.
Click here to read about the undisturbed skeletons they just found! 


The stunning mosaic floors made me feel bad about my Home Depot laminate.


Our guide explained that this was "Pompeii GPS."  It was near the sea-port entrance to the town and the, uhhhh, ARROW (yes that's it) literally points visitors in the direction of the brothel, tactfully called the "jumpy jumpy place" by the guide. I cannot speak to the liquid surrounding it here.


Brothel customers arriving from out of town didn't even have to speak the language!
They could just point to "order" from a "menu" of painted scenes depicting graphic acts. 
(here, one of the tamer ones)


The town center and location of all excitement, like Old Town Scottsdale without the little golf carts, was one of the highest points of the city because .....


 ... being smart people, they designed the roads to flow down and outside the city.
Meaning, water, sewage, horse poop, trash, and everything else would just be flushed away down the streets and out the city gates!  Stepping stones were installed for crossing the street above the flow.


The detail and beauty of the excavated buildings was simply amazing. 


Leaving Pompeii and arriving in Positano, we were instantly relaxed
and enchanted with the beauty, especially as the sun went down and the skies darkened each night.




There is one major beach, and everything is built upward from there.  Lots of steps!  Lots of sweat!



Roads are super-narrow, and parking is non-existent.  Residents of Positano park their cars along the side of the road from May through October and never move or use them at all, because they will never be able to find another parking spot.  Instead, they use the bus and most have purchased a scooter to zip around during these busy tourist months.


You know you're in Italy when the weed growing in the roadside ditch is fresh basil.


Touring further along the Coast, we dreamed of winning the lottery and buying one of these places.


Amalfi Cathedral was one of the more beautiful churches in this area (with stiff competition in that category!).



This church featured a "crypt," which I figured to be a dark, dank scary place.
Not in Italy!  Here is their crypt:



All that beauty made my eyes tired, so we stopped in a dark cave the "Grotto Della Smereldo" (Emerald Cave) to be crooned to by a swarthy Italian boat driver.  Just like in Vegas!


It was really cheesy (meaning I loved it), but more importantly:
look at that water color!  (unretouched photos!)


The color is caused by natural sunlight from outside which enters the cave through an underground passage, and the strength of the sunlight affects the color.  


Ravello is another pretty hilltop town, filled with lemon orchards and vineyards between charming buildings.


Entrance to famous Ravello garden "Villa Cimbrone"


Villa Cimbrone was equal parts gorgeous gardens and beautiful sea views!


Philip makes friends wherever he goes, so in Positano the local limoncello maker was his newest acquaintance.  The burgeoning friendship netted me a demonstration of how this delicious liqueur is made, PLUS fresh lemon rind rubbed on my wrists as "Italian cologne."


The name "Path of the Gods" (Sentiero Degli Dei) had our interest;
how could it be anything less than amazing with that lofty name?


We hiked only a portion (4.8 mi) of the entire trail (from Nocelle to Praiano) 
and were rewarded with stunning views ....



... but punished with thousands (no, really ... thousands) of steps, both up and down,
on both ends of the trail.



Besides the sea and coast views, the path winds through a number of hillsides which
are terraced for privately-owned vineyards.  



Alas, no wine bottles or tasting rooms were spotted on the path, just the raw materials.


Our favorite day trip took us from Positano to the Isle of Capri via ferry.



This island has been featured on Lifestyle of the Rich and Famous and is a modern-day getaway for Kardashians and movie stars.  Plus lots of tourist chumps like us.



Besides uber-expensive stores, Capri also specializes in porcelain tiles and housewares.


But why buy it, when you can just "borrow" it for a photo!


Lunch with a view ... in this case, Capri's famous "faraglioni" or sea stacks.



"Step back honey ... just a little bit further ... that's it, keep going ..."
just kidding, I love my husband.


This path winding down the side of the island has been permanently closed 
due to danger of rock slides.  Pity, because we could have used the calorie-burn of coming back up.


We hopped a chairlift from Anacapri as the view from the top was purported to be absolutely spectacular, with 360 degree views of the coast and beauty as far as the eye could see! 


Uhhhhh...... NOT TODAY!  We could barely see the nose in front of our face.


But the foggy weather made for one of my favorite photos of the trip ...
behold the mystical, magical hiking path!


The Amalfi Coast has its own unique charm, all related to the water! Farewell to anchors and seagulls and fresh fish, we're headed to the lush fields and farms of Tuscany!
Coming soon, in our Italy Installment #3!