Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Amalfi Coast

We spent the last four days peeking into the world of the rich and famous along the Amalfi Coast.
We, of course, stayed at a campground in a very old camper/mobile just to be sure we didn’t lose touch with our roots. The weather was cool with spots of drizzle but we did get to see the sun most of the time. It is probably a good thing the weather was not spectacular because we may not have wanted to leave otherwise.

We spent a day on the isle of Capri. This island looked a lot like you could find sirens hiding in alcoves along the coast but, of course we all know they perished when Ulysses tied himself to his mast a sailed on through them, forcing them to think they had lost their substantial charms. There is another island nearby named for Ulysses, probably as a great big thank you. I mean, who wants to perish in the arms of a slinky siren? There may no longer be seductive women creatures luring one in but their seductive song is certainly still there. The island itself seemed pretty close to paradise to me.

Once the coast was free of monsters, the Roman emperors began to take notice of it. Tiberius traded something or other for the rights to call the island his own and lived there for some time. The ruins of his palace are still there. He also made good use of the “Blue Grotto” which some of you may have heard of. This is a cave that can only be entered by lying flat in a small boat and using the waves to help wash you in. Once inside, the light reflects through the water to create an ambient blue colour, highly romantic and a powerful aphrodisiac for the ancient Romans. Perhaps for locals, too? It is thought they may have had statues of Poseidon and other water powers rising out of the water back in the day. We didn’t actually go into this cave. Being the common rabble we are, we watched others enjoy their two minute ride. They were charging around 12 euros for the privilege and for our family that would translate into about $70 for a two minute glimpse. Plus, there’s nothing romantic about packing into a small hole with hordes of tourists.

Although we missed out on the blue cave, we got to see the green cave and the white cave. You don’t lie flat in a boat but they were both pretty spectacular. We also stopped at the island for the day and did lots of walking. We took the chairlift to the top and on our arrival I heard Rhys say to Julia, “Some people would call this paradise”. I’m not sure if that meant he certainly wouldn’t or if he was awed by the amazing scene the same as me. Once again, I was moved to tears. We watched the birds fly around the cliffs below us and felt like we could see clear to the other side of the world. I can well understand why Tiberius called this home. Apparently, Churchill and Eisenhower also met here during the Second World War for a little R&R.

Our second day here we visited Pompeii. It was fantastic. It reminded us all a lot of Ephesus but not as wealthy. The columns here were made of brick covered in marble and the roads were stone with narrow sidewalks. The rich and poor lived all together with no elite neighbourhoods and you could see that this town was a working town. There was evidence of roadwork and restoration that had been happening when the volcano exploded. You can see in the picture the chariot slots in the foreground of the road and then they disappear because the road had been “repaved”. There were stones in the middle of the roads that acted as crosswalks. The chariots were high enough to rise over them. The roads were sunk down lower than sidewalk level and every night the Romans would flood the streets to clean them. The stones would allow people to cross the street without getting their feet wet. Three stones in the middle was a two way street. One stone was a one way street. They also had stones blocking entry into pedestrianized areas like the Forum. These significant features made the city feel real and the lives of the people who lived there seem more like our own. The houses even had stonework out front that took the place of doormats we have today. One said, “Cave Canem” meaning “Beware of Dog” and another said, “Have” meaning “Welcome”.

While the city came alive with these meaningful signs, the whole mood of the town was like Ordour Sur Glane, the French village annihilated by the Nazis. It had the creepy feel of “something bad happened here”. Vesuvius rose ominously in the background. The two bodies on display were eternally frozen in their death throws and it was fascinating in a horrifying way. You could feel the terror of their final moments. I didn’t realize that most of the people here escaped. There were only about 2000 of 20 000 bodies found in the city. Thankfully, most had time to get out.

One of the funnier moments in amongst the solemnity was finding the “Lego” brick. I didn’t know the Romans played with Lego too!

On our final day we drove the famous Amalfi Coast. Tom drove. The rest of us oohed and ahhed. This is a very slow Whistler drive with narrower roads and higher drops. At some points they have police officers helping cars squeeze around corners. It was most interesting being behind a camper because whenever he got around the corner or past the bus, we knew we were fine. Do you know the difference between a French car and an Italian one? The French car has a myriad of small dents and bumps on it. The Italian one has one long scrape along the side. Tom met someone he knew from work while we were in Amalfi. Isn’t Italy just the gathering place for us all? His colleague had just scraped up the side of the rental car trying to squeeze past a bus.

I’m glad we came to visit the Amalfi Coast. The towns nestle or cling, depending on where they are located. Most of the coast is cliff but it really doesn’t seem to deter human inhabitation. The area didn’t scream farmland to me, but someone along the way just saw those cliffs as a challenge as you can see by the picture. There isn't much people won't build on the side of a cliff. After catching glimpses of the resorts clinging spectacularly to the sides of the cliffs, I’ve decided our next trip I’d like to come back independently wealthy.

1 comments: said...

Loved hearing about the Isle of Capri and the Amalfi Coast...two of the spots I want to visit before I can't see, walk, enjoy and move...Amalfi shoes are my FAVORITE! :) Love Mom