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Italy 2007 Day 4: Amalfi Coast

Thursday, March 22, 2007


The theme of the day today was "potential", much of which went unfulfilled. It rained. Really hard. For most of the day. My umbrella broke. None of this really enhanced my experience exploring the Amalfi coast -- supposedly some of the most beautiful coastline in all of Europe. From what I could see between the rain drops today, I would probably agree. It was indeed beautiful. Just a little soggy.


The day began with a 9 AM shuttle from the hotel into Sorrento (~3 km, I would guess). My first goal was to find a place to check my e-mail. The hotel wanted to charge me 5 euro for 30 minutes. It always amazes me how the more expensive hotels charge so much for these types of "extras". For all of its faults, the Hotel Julia did have a free internet connection. Anyway, I found a little bar/café on the main street in Sorrento that only charged 3 euro for 30 minutes. I did end up spending another 6 euro on hot chocolate and croissant, but at least I proved my point to the Grand Hotel Vesuvio!


Did I mention it was raining today? The rain had actually gotten stronger while I was checking my e-mail so it was hard to find the bus station (I only got a little bit lost). My goal for the day was to explore the Amalfi Coast. I thought about hiring a private tour from the hotel to do this, but I could not find anyone else in our group who was willing to spend the 25-40 euro this would have cost. The 8 or so people in the ski club from Chicago who were on the trip convinced me I could have almost the same experience for a lot less money (4.70 euro) taking the public bus. They were probably right.


My first stop of the day was the seaside village of Positano. The bus ride there took almost an hour and, from what I could see through the rain, we were indeed driving along some amazing coastline. Positano is literally built into the side of a cliff. The road the bus travels on loops around Positano more or less above the town. There is another one way road that descends the cliff via a number of hair pin turns and re-joins the main road on the opposite side of town. I believe this is the only car-accessible road through town but the charm of Positano is the alley walkways that connect the rest of the buildings in to this street. Walking up and down the steps of these little streets is a really unique experience with some amazing views.


In the center of town, there is a small beach, a little shopping area and a church. I walked out onto the beach for a few pictures (I am getting good at taking pictures under an umbrella), had a quick bit to eat (a slice of pizza) from a small place in the shopping area and stopped in to visit the church. The beach seemed OK (though too rainy and cold to really enjoy it), the pizza served its purpose (i.e. I was hungry) and the church was worth the quick look I took (especially since it was free). ON a nicer day, I think I would have enjoyed spending more time in this really interesting little town. As it was, I just continued walking through town and caught the bus at the stop on the other side of two where the two roads I described above come back together.


The next stop was the town of Amalfi. After another ~1 hour ride, the bus dropped us off right in the middle of town. Amalfi is a little bit larger town than Positano. It is also build right into the coast, though not in nearly as dramatic of a way. Amalfi was much more crowded than Positano and did not have nearly as "quaint" of a fell to it. In search of smaller crowds, I headed off for a short walk to the nearby (< 1km) village of Atrani. Atrani was indeed much less crowded than Amalfi -- I was one of less than 5 non-locals I saw in the town square. The square itself is not as nice as Amalfi, but it seemed like a great place to escape the crowds at Amalfi, especially if I had been here on a nice summer day when the crowds at Amalfi are somewhat unbearable.


One thing I have not mentioned so far: my umbrella picked today (of all days) to stop working. It opens up just fine, it just doesn't like to stay open for very long. I had been trying to fight through this, but the rain still had not let up by the time I got to Atrani so I took the plunge and bought a new umbrella. I ended up with a nice one, just not quite the color I wanted. In the store, it looked black. Out in the light, it was definitely purple. I even went back and tried to exchange it, but the color I had chosen was the best of the bunch. Needless to say, the rain stopped about an hour after I bought this. If the rain stays away for the rest of the trip, this will be the best 15 euro I have ever spent!


After my umbrella experience, I noticed a sign on the main square in Atrani that said Amalfi and pointed towards this tiny little alley/walkway/stair case. I decided to check it out and it did indeed lead me back to Amalfi via a much more interesting route (i.e. walkways and stair cases) than the one I had come in on (i.e. the main road along the Amalfi Coast).


Back in Amalfi, I paid 2.50 euro to visit the church in the center of town. Nice enough. I then walked around for a bit looking into some shops before deciding to catch the bus back to Sorrento. By now, the rain had stopped and I got to experience the full affect of the Amalfi Coast. It was indeed gorgeous. I'd like to come back some day. Speaking of that, Lonely Planet mentions the Grotto dello Smeraldo, an emerald colored cove about 4km outside of Amalfi. Apparently, for 5 euro you can hire a boat to take you there from the beach in Amalfi. Sounds like a great thing to do the next time I'm in this area.


Back in Sorrento, I explored the town a little bit. It is much larger than either Positano or Amalfi with a lot more places to shop, but it's not really as nice as either of the other towns. I can imagine spending a week in Sorrento on my next visit to this area. It is conveniently located for day trips to Pompei, Positano, Amalfi, Ravello (which I did not do) and Capri (which I will do tomorrow). It seems like this would be an ideal base for exploring the Amalfi Coast.


After my brief walk around Sorrento, I caught the shuttle bus back to the hotel. Dinner at the hotel is included with our tour package. This is both good and bad. On the positive side, the meals have been excellent and it has made it really easy to have dinner with the people in my group (I've been hanging out with Anna and Dino). On the negative side, it might have been nice to get out and try one of the restaurants in Sorrento. Oh well, I guess I shouldn't complain!


Day 3 Index Day 5

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