One of those burning questions that no-one is EVER going to be able to answer: Was Amalfi named after the nymph loved by Hercules and buried in the area or is it derived from the town of Melfi when people left there to go to Amalfi? I prefer the first option. Particularly with Sorrento being named for Sirens, it’s rather nice to stick with the mythical. Anyway, whatever the reason, Amalfi is one amazing place.
It sits perched on the edge of very sheer cliffs. I can just imagine the builder looking at the designer and saying “You want me to what, now?” Well, this was our destination today. Everything started well enough.
Mirinda assured me the ferry left at 11:25 so we slowly wandered down to Marino Piccolo to find that the ferry actually leaves at 13:25! We caught a bus back up the hill and decided to have a coffee at the café on Piazza Tasso in order to people watch. After a suitable refreshment, we headed for the newly non-existent museum in the Villa Fiorentina. According to our Guide to Sorrento, this museum houses many archaeological finds…actually it houses a gym and a desperate artist with his paintings who smiles expectantly when two more tourists come searching for the museum.
Disappointed but undaunted we left to find the Museo Bottega in Via Nicola. We found Via Nicola, we found a banner for the museum…we found a locked door with a sign next to it declaring it was open daily. We feared there was a plan against us and Mirinda’s solution was to wander down to the Foreigner’s Club and have a drink. I’m not averse to having a drink when things are looking a bit grim, so I agreed.
The Foreigner’s Club is an odd place. I’m sure Mirinda would want me to stress that the only reason she wanted to go was because they have an excellent terrace bar which looks over the Bay of Naples and, particularly Mt Vesuvius. Both of these are true. Except the seats by the wall were all full and Vesuvius was bathed in pollution. Still we had a drink then left. Actually I really disliked the place. And it was full of foreigners…
Slowly we made our way, once more, to the Marina Piccolo where I purchased return tickets to Amalfi (FINALLY). We were still half an hour early so we waited about half a mile away under the only shelter the port authority could obviously afford. It’s an odd thing. Thousands of people catch ferries from here to all manner of places and, apart from the fancy one for the Capri ferries, there are no shelters anywhere. Just concrete. And we all know how the sun feels on concrete.
Anyway, the ferry eventually arrived and started loading and we, at first, took seats outside except it quickly became very crowded with the option of being extremely uncomfortable so we moved inside where an awful lot of empty seats beckoned menacingly.
Actually the trip was fine. It would have been nice to be outside but it wasn’t possible and we had a nice (if somewhat water sploshed) view from the shaded windows. The trip took about an hour and a half and finally we pulled nose first into the Amalfi dock.
The first thing that strikes you about this place is the extraordinary cliffs, then the fact that some lunatic managed to graft a house onto one of them. And finally, not satisfied with this, a whole bunch of other crazy people followed suit! This place is a testament to man’s crazy ingenuity.
Everything is up. We wandered towards the city centre, admiring the Duomo before wandering back to a restaurant that Mirinda fancied – risky I know but actually very nice. After dining on clam spaghetti (her) and lasagne (me) we headed back up to the town centre to climb the 62 steps to the cathedral. What an amazing looking place. It looks like Hansel & Gretal’s sweetie house but in Turkish.
The cathedral is dedicated to Saint Andrew, the same St Andrew who is patron saint of Scotland. The building was started in the 10th century but, unfortunately because of various problems including two tidal waves in 1013 and 1343, which also decimated the entire town, it has been pretty much rebuilt based on fragments that suggest its likely visage. Inside, the building is divided into four parts. The first is the Cloister of Paradise.
Don’t fret, I’m not going to rave on about this church as I have so many before but I do like the fact that the cloisters are called this. They are particularly peaceful – even when invaded by an Italian tour guide and crowd – and nice and light. There’s also two interesting sarcophagi from the 2nd century AD which once held Roman centurions. One of them has a bas relief of a wedding while the other is of a rape. It was difficult to tell which was which but even so…odd choices.
Two Roman centurions walk into Burius Romanus the Undertaker’s shop
Roman 1: I’d like something a little bit different when I go.
Roman 2: Yeah, me too.
Undertaker: We are doing a fine line in bas relief imagery. We can do any myth you like as long as it’s either The Rape of Proserpina or The Wedding of Peleus and Thetis.
Roman 1: Ooooo, I’ve always loved a wedding!
Roman 2: (after a short thought) I’ll take the rape.
After the Cloister it’s into the museum, which used to be the main part of the original cathedral. There’s lots of great church-like stuff that I could go on and on about here…but I promised, so…then there’s the crypt.
At the altar (why there’s an altar in the crypt, I have no idea) a statue of St Andrew stands guarding his earthly remains (his head and other bones). The guide goes into great details about it all but, unfortunately restoration work was going on so all we could see were his feet.
The thing is, apparently twice a year, manna flows forth from his tomb and some crazy people actually drink some of it. Gross! This has happened for 750 years. Oddly, Mirinda claims when she was in St Andrews, in Scotland, they claimed his bones were there as well. All a bit peculiar. Actually the crypt had the making of a truly eerie place except for the construction tape and scaffolding around virtually everything.
Lastly you enter the massive cathedral. A lovely bright, colourful, high ceiling-ed church. Fantastic. See? I’m being very restrained.
After church we wandered up the Amalfi High Street and then back down amid the hundreds of tourists (it was a Sunday after all) and insane drivers. It was hard to believe that this slightly over-sized alley-way, was actually a road. There is even a set of traffic lights – they start at the top of the road and end just before the square because the lane is so narrow. The lane is also full of people. Cars and scooters manage to somehow manoeuvre through the tourists with minimal tooting and no yelling and screaming.
We safely managed to make it back to the dock to wait for the ferry. We had a lovely ice cream while we waited. Have I mentioned that ice cream is a speciality of this region and that it’s seen as the highest insult if you don’t have some at least once a day. In order to cement Italian/Australian relations, I’m having at least three.
We joined the 800 other people for the trip back, firstly jostling for position in the quay-side queue then squashed and sweating in the back part of the 45 seater ferry. After about 15 minutes I checked the empty section upstairs. It was open. We quickly moved and the trip was actually quite pleasant after this!
It didn’t quite prepare us for the half hour wait on a tiny sweatbox of a bus at the other end. Crazy world. And, typically, Mirinda’s was the only seat on the bus that didn’t have a window that opened. But eventually we made it back to the hotel for a shower and change before going for dinner (with a Desperate Housewives episode thrown in).
Tonight it was the L’Abate Pizzeria in the Piazza Antonino. I had a fantastic wood fired pizza called a Pizza Melee. It was jam packed full of pizza goodness. And I was very soon jam packed with it as well. Mirinda had the seafood jobbie and said it was delicious as well, though personally I can’t see how a load of shellfish on a pizza can be anything except awful…
We made it back through the Sunday night crowds (clothing shops were still open at 9:30pm!) to the hotel and fell asleep, exhausted. A hot and full day.
I just feel I should comment on the sun protection of Soltan SPF 50+ lotion. It claims it works for 12 hours. Well, I’ve been rubbing it in once a day and have yet to get any sun. You can’t say better than that!