Day 34: The Longing Winding Road To Amalfi

I woke up at 7 am to make sure I made the train to Sorrento but still ended up jogging to the train station which got me nice and overheated. Into the train I went, along with all of Naples. I am not lying when I say I barely had enough room to rotate my body (as for lifting my arms over my head to grab some handle – forget about it). To make things better on this hour long ride to Sorrento, the train had practically no air flow while I got pinned into a corner by an oversized woman and the raunchiest perfume of Italian body odor wafted in the air. Once I left that steam room of a train or subway, I needed to figure out where to get the bus to Amalfi. I found a tourist office around the corner but was informed the buses to Amalfi were on strike today so the only way to get to Amalfi would be by ferry, which would take too long and cost way to much money. I asked about traveling to Capri and she made the trip sound appealing until dropping the almighty dollar sign. My whole plan was falling apart so I ended up booking a ticket to travel around Sorrento which had a package for limoncello tasting. As soon as I left the office, I overheard a guy in a Cleveland Browns shirt asking about a bus that seemed to be headed for Amalfi. I ran outside and investigated this possibility. A woman with a city touring bus company told me they were actually going to Amalfi; I could buy a reasonably priced ticket but the bus was leaving soon. Frantically, I ran back to the tourist office and pleaded for a refund before whipping it in reverse to get on the bus before it left. Somehow, someway as I huffed and puffed from all the running around, I sat on the bus to Amalfi. I heard crazy stories from my mother about the wild Italian drivers zipping down streets that practically hanged over the edges to the sea below. Despite all the images in the my head, the journey was great. I had a window seat so that I could look down the cliffs to the water and see all the towns filled with houses situated on the slanted hillside. True to from, Italian drivers are nuts. Our bus wound back and forth on innumerable switch backs while mopeds sped by. At times, the road narrowed to the point that only one way traffic could flow. In one memorable instance, our bus and another crossed paths; if one bus shifted an inch over in the wrong direction contact would have been established. Besides the death defying driving, the views were spectacular. I could clearly peer through the blue water to see its rocky depths. Away from the city life sat these cute towns nestled into their chosen land where life seems so much simpler. Despite the lack of space in these closely knit towns, the citizens still managed to build small football pitches that the locals probably revolved around. We passed through Positano, which is another beautiful coastal town, before arriving in Amalfi an hour and a half later. I had some intel on the city but had no idea what to expect or do. First, I laid my eyes on the church, which sits on top of a tall wide stairway that leads to the main piazza. After all the churches and cathedrals I have seen on my trip, I did not expect much from this small coastal town’s pride and joy. The church somehow mesmerized the eyes. The dome is brightly colored, similar to the domes on the famous Orthodox Church in Russia, and has all 12 apostles standing in between pillars below a mosaic of Jesus. You don’t have to be religious to find yourself speechless. Next on my to do list was an uphill climb to a neighboring town with supposedly amazing views along the way. I asked numerous people in Italian (basically a lot of dov’e – where is…? and sinistra/destra – left/right) to get around and felt as though I was headed in the right direction. On the way, away from all the tourists, I got a behind the scenes look at an Italian town with its tiny houses, hanging laundry, and narrow corridors. Shortly afterwards, I ended up back in the same piazza I started my hike. I more or less gave up on the hike and bought some limoncello and fruiti di bosca (fruit of the forest) gelato. The limoncello was sooo refreshing on a hot day; I wonder if the actual drink will have the same effect. To feel completely refreshed, I looked for a somewhat uncrowded beach (i.e. next to impossible). I walked to the neighboring town of Atrani (just around another one of those tight bends) to see a much quieter church and a beach. After I got into the water and swam away from most of the swimmers, I had another “I can’t believe I’m here” moment. Here I was looking up at the towns clinging to the side of the land only to spin around and see the Mediterranean Sea expanding with no land in reach. I left the water salty and cool as a cucumber (I hate cliches but I was due for one). Then, I roamed around Atrani and Amalfi and fell in love with the vibe of the area. Naples provides a nice scope of Southern Italy but I keep finding myself drifting away from the city life. I ate some fried squid, fish, and anchovies with the necessary lemon. This bouquet of fried seafood was outstanding, including when I stared down a whole baby octopus before dismembering it in my mouth (PETA will probably put out a search warrant for me after that comment). With a salty taste in my mouth, I needed something to cleanse my palate but where could I find such a thing in Italy. Ding, ding, ding, more gelato. I went back to the same gelateria to get the same gelato pairing. With limoncello on my mind and tastebuds, I hunted for the cheapest bottle of limoncello in town. I had a bad experience the first time I had limoncello, so here’s to hoping for the best. On the way back to Napoli, the lack of sleep hit me. When I should have kept my eyes peering out the window at the coastline, I bobbed my head and nearly rested on the shoulder of the person next to me. For my last night in Naples, I had a margherita pizza. Unfortunately, my two favorite pizzerias, Gino Sorbello and Di Matteo, were both closed since it was a Sunday. For 3 euros, I feel like it is a crime the pizzas are so cheap and delicious. Not a bad way to go out. I chatted with my roommate from Brazil about culture differences, food, and where we have traveled. This encounter was just another example of how friendly people have been and how rewarding it is to meet people from all over the world. Tonight I planned out my trip to Rome for tomorrow while drinking a glass of limoncello. Life is good, no…great!

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