We took a long train ride from Catania to Salerno. The train quickly filled up and our compartment was full. Fortunately, the train was on time throughout the journey. A highlight (OK - the only highlight) of the trip was the crossing from Sicily to the mainland at the Straits of Messina. There is no bridge or tunnel (although there is talk of building a bridge) so we we experienced something which was once much more common - a boat-train, where the train is shunted onto a ferry and is then unloaded at the other side. Paul saw this years ago between Denmark and Germany and I believe it used be common between England and France, but both have now been replaced with a bridge and the Chunnel. This was all new to Kris who had a hard time believing the train would actually go on the ship. I think she thought I was pulling her leg !
The train being shunted onto the ferry and Kris about to board the train after the short crossing of the Straits of Messina
Once we arrived in Salerno, we waited about 45 minutes for the bus to take us to Amalfi. The road along the Amalfi coast is famous - a narrow , twisting road which in the US would make a really nice bike and walking trail. Here it carries buses, cars and road vehicles, in two directions. At many of the corners, either the bus and following cars or the oncoming traffic would have to stop and back up to allow the bus to pass. It made for an interesting journey, especially as the bus was packed. It's hard to capture, but these pictures may give you some idea.
The Amalfi Coast road from the bus and a view from the ferry
We knew that our B&B, the Residenza Del Duca, was located at the top of a long flight of stairs, so when we arrived, we called the hotel from a bar in the main square and they sent two young men and a small truck to collect our luggage ! Thank goodness. For the rest of our stay, we knew every time we went out that we would have to climb the steps on the way back, but at least we didn't have to carry our luggage. The hotel was small but we had a nice balcony with sea view and there was a nice terrace where we had breakfast every morning.
The breakfast terrace in the afternoon and Kris enjoying a limoncello on our small private balcony
Amalfi itself was a small but very busy little town with many shops and during the day, many tourists. Things slowed down a little at night when the day visitors left.
Amalfi from the breakwater and from the coast road looking along the beach
The Cathedral which dominates the main square and the local Kayak basketball team (really !) practicing in the harbor
We stayed in Amalfi for five nights and used it as a base to visit various local villages and other sites. One of these was Ravello, a small town towards Salerno, but located much higher up than Amalfi. Ravello, like Taormina which we had visted the previous week, has been visited by various famous artists and writers over time and now hosts a major festival in July, for which preparations were much under way.
The main square of Ravello and getting ready for the Ravello Festival
Spectacular views of the coast from Ravello and LOTS of ceramics to buy
Kris thought we needed some exercise so we walked down a VERY long flights of steps from Ravello to another village (Minori) which was on the main road and where we could catch the bus back to Amalfi. Thank goodness she didn't try to walk UP the mountain. I doubt if either of us would made it.
The view from the top as we started down the stairs to Minori and about half way down.
Sunday turned out to be a national Saints Day (St Anthony) and the locals celebrated with brass band music, which we enjoyed, and loud fireworks (lound, not pretty) which went on intermittently all day and into the evening. We assume that each set of explosions had some kind of significance, but we never did figure out what they were.
Celebrating St Anthony's Day with Brass Band music
Another day, we took a bus ride to Positano, another famous and pretty village along the Amalfi Coast.
Positano from below and from the sea
Pretty shaded paths to explore in Positano but LOTS of people on the (rocky) beach)
On our last full day, we took a short bus ride to see the Grotta Smeralda (Emerald Grotto). It's a natural cave in the cliffs, open to the sea through an underground tunnel. When the sun shines in, the water glows with a deep blue light. The best part is that their are elevators (lifts) down to the cave so you don't have to walk. Once you get there, you are taken on a short, slow boat ride around the cave.
The boats were more floating boxes than boats. Our tour guide gave explanations in three languages and sang a little opera as well
The Emerald glow we had come to see. Not so sure about this picture of us in the boat - talk about the "deer caught in the headlights" look
And so the next day (June 15) we left Amalfi for Sorrento, which will be the next section of our blog