Sunday, July 24, 2016

Walking versus Riding on the Amalfi Coast

Like a previous trip I have been extremely remiss in not staying current on these posts.  However I did use that wonder App called Track My Tour (please tell Chris that I sent you if you check it out) which did a much better job.  Here is the link to this part of the trip -- Click here.


I've droned on and on about the narrowness of the roads and the large numbers of traffic on them in past posts but I don't think I've done it full justice.  Certainly we simply avoided the entire issue by not hiring a car and handing ourselves over totally to Daniele and his mates. In doing that we didn't have to drive, worry about other cars, worry about having a drink here or there or worry about where on earth we were in a land where roadsigns are to say the least open to question (if available).  For sure it cost us money to do that but on the other hand we were able to really enjoy ourselves and not wonder what some total plonker coming at us will do in that tiny gap in the traffic (hint: they won't wait and wave you on).

On the days we had no adventures we felt imbued to walk everywhere.  Being based just outside Amalfi itself, this was no real issue.  Had we wanted to go to other villages, both bus and water taxi were available but on the one occasion we tried the bus, it was full, the next one was an hour away and in any event the bus may not have been going where we wanted.

Further leaving early would certainly mean getting onto your preferred means of public transport but given the crowd numbers, that didn't automatically guarantee your return visit would be available to you.  So we didn't bother trying.

What we did discover is that the entire area is actually very small.  With headlands and mountains everywhere you tend to forget that the next village is only 1/2 a mile away and in any event the local inhabitants had found a short cut there years ago... over the top.

The short cut
That's what we did with Atrani, home to the best colatura pasta on the coast (according to who else but Daniele?  "Mention my name to the owner and he will..." You probably can guess the drill here).  Even though it was only 1/2 kilometre away (had we walked on the road around the headland) it took us over 3 hours walking up and down hillsides, viewing the cemetary on the side of the hill, various churches, monasteries and cathedrals and all manner of lovely stuff.

We'd meant that it would take us this time as we needed the exercise for sure after the wonderful food and drink we'd had.

We walked the Via Valle dei Dragone nearly up (a lot of steps and steep paths) to Ravello before turning around and strolling the lanes over to Atrani, a village with an 11th century cathedral that was in use for a family funeral... with 1,000 attendees (the village itself has 1,300 full time inhabitants and is the smallest city around).  Of course everyone in the village turned up!

The best colatura on the coast according to Daniele
The cathedral itself is right on the point where the coast road turns around over 90 degrees from Amalfi and with parked cars everywhere, it was a trial for normal sized cars to pass, let alone the two buses that came to a grinding halt facing each other.

This is the point where someone would normally reverse or say something like 'after you' but in Italy neither happen of course.  Both buses started edging forward gently whilst any Vespas in the vicinity nipped in and out of the cars and between the buses generally being thoroughly annoying and unhelpful.

Duelling buses
It was fascinating so we found a vantage and watched.

To us it was improbable in the extreme that either bus could pass the other given the space available yet within no more than 15 minutes of edging around that happened and the traffic started to flow again leaving me with this thought: if it doesn't work, don't worry.  Go to Italy.  It will there!

The view from the cathedral at Atrani.  Decidedly unshabby.
Despite itself seemingly, Italy just works... just. Don't ask me how but I love it!

We'd booked train tickets from Salerno to Rome for our departure and asked the landlord to give us a lift to the station (a service he does for all guests apparently) some 40 minutes away at the end of the coast road.  The gentleman in question was about 70 and had a car that was quite old.  I'd spotted him banging something on or in the car to get it going before he'd announced his arrival. Clearly this would not be a luxurious ride like we'd been enjoying with Daniele and the others.  This would be a real local experience and so it proved.

The coast road winds through a series of little villages and in one of them there was quite a long promenade for the region.  That meant people walking along a sea walk and... wait for it... pedestrian crossings.  We'd seen how pointless these were in Naples already on this trip and experienced for ourselves that feeling of 'will they won't they' when cars approached the crossing that we were thinking about crossing.  Random results.  Some stopped, others didn't.

Traditional traffic.  Plenty of room to pass.

At this village there were several such crossings and quite a lot of people around.  At one an elderly couple, one with either a walking stick or zimmer frame was slowly crossing the road and our driver simply didn't stop.  Or rather it did but with a screeching of brakes and the car somehow stopping just and I do mean just before ploughing into this little procession.

Both were Italian as all around people started shouting, gesticulating and banging on the bonnet of the car.  The response was not a 'sorry, my bad' or equivalent, it was zero to total maniac in a nanosecond.  He started shouting and screaming too.  How I wish I spoke Italian!  I'm sure if he'd had a gun, he'd have used it.  Everyone by this point was totally beside themselves.

Then it stopped.  The elderly couple shuffled off and we started off again.  Our driver showed absolutely no sign of either remembering the incident or showing remorse over it.  It just happened and now it was over!  Had he been able to wash his hands like Pontius Pilate, I think he would have.

Like I said, I don't know how it works, but it does!

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