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Italy’s Amalfi Coast

Written by Denny Custer.

Hey Karen, quick look at the billboard!

We’re on the Circumveuviana Railway train from Naples to Sorrento. We go by this large billboard near the track and all it had on it was the word/name “IZZO”. Alas, we were too slow in getting the cameras out. Even for a Wolverine, it would have been great to give the picture to Tom.

We had come overnight from Vienna to Rome, checked 3 bags at the stadium (nice clean and safe place…but for 4 days storage it cost nearly $100!), and then continued by train to Naples. The train station for the Circumvesuviana Railway is adjacent to the main station, so it is easy to make a connection.

We stayed at the Grand Hotel Cocumella in Sorrento, an excellent property about a 10 minute walk from the center of town. A charming city with neat narrow streets, Sorrento is “infested” with motor scooters. Walking, though hazardous, seems the best way to enjoy Sorrento.

In the morning, we caught the train back towards Naples, getting off at Pompeii. I loved Latin in high school and this was a major event, to finally view Pompeii. Hmmm, no one said that the cobblestones were nearly impossible to walk on. We lasted a couple of hours, but it is a rigorous walk. Neat things to see, amazing to find a city frozen in time, still with considerable portion to remain uncovered. Artifacts from Pompeii are housed at the National Museum in Naples, what you see are the houses and shops – still very unique and worthwhile. We arrived first thing in the morning, a wise move to avoid the crowds.

We hydro foiled from Sorrento to Capri, on a special mission. We stayed at the Hotel Quisisana, arguably the best on the island. One spot we wanted to see was the Villa Jovis, the home from which Tiberius rules the Roman Empire for over 30 years. There is only one way out there…you guessed it, by foot. A superb walk, nice views, an hour each way. Just ruins left, but if you are into ruins, very nice. After a superb dinner, we walked around the city noting that the day trippers had all left and the folks that were left were seemingly (except for us), the “moneyed people”.

In the morning, we found that trips to the Blue Grotto were cancelled for the day (as they had been for several days) on account of sea conditions not being conducive to the trip. My guess is that this is more often the case than not. Just as well, we had time to take the bus up to Anna Capri (at a higher elevation than Capri) and, once there, the 30-40 minute chair ride up to Monte Solare. Most worthwhile. The views en route as well as on top are spectacular. The ride is quiet and gentle and peaceful, very very nice ride.

Once back in Anna Capri, we walked to the hotel San Michele, where many day trippers are brought for lunch. It was in 1967 that my mother and father did just that, posing for a picture in the sunlight on the hotel’s veranda, with the mainland in the background. For years and years and years, I’ve wanted to go to that spot and have our picture taken at the same spot- this being our special mission. Mission accomplished, one generation later. The contrast in travel attire is dramatic. Capri was just a great place to see.

We hydro foiled from Capri to Positano, on the Amalfi coast and stayed 2 nights at the Hotel La Sirenuse. Positano is “the picture postcard” town of the Amalfi coast…one just needs to remember that, unlike Capri which has a handy funicular for surmounting heights, you climb steps (lots of them) in Positano. Views and atmosphere are enormous. Now, for that famous coastline drive!

You can rent a car and do the driving yourself. If you do, you are either very brave, or haven’t thought things through enough. Driving anywhere in Italy is not much of an option, but on this stretch of the road- no no no no. Our plan was to ride the local (SITA) bus from Positano to Salerno, leaving the driving to an experienced driver. Then we would take the boat from Salerno back to Positano. The morning light favors the bus ride and the afternoon light favors the boat trip and that’s what we did. In heavy traffic it can take up to 2 hours to travel 23 miles. If you drive, the poor driver has no chance to enjoy the fantastic views. Using the SITA bus (or hiring a car and driver-or taxi- the views can be relished. The car and driver hire might have some special merit in that you could stop and get out from time to time as the few circumstances allow. The round was just thoroughly enjoyable.

Positano is truly a uniquely wonderful experience.

Overnight rains had closed the road from Positano to Amalfi on the day of our departure and buses were not running, so we had to take a cab back to Sorrento, to catch the train back to Naples.

A great 4 days, made even greater by having made the decision in advance, not to haul the large suitcases with us. Even the high cost was well worth it.

A real neat web site is for the Hotel Onda Verde (The Green Wave) at Priano, Italy. It has just a ton of information about the Amalfi cost and nearby areas…complete with a lot of pictures and video clips. The website is: www.ondaaverde.it/welcoming.html If anyone can tell me how to download some of the music featured at the website, I’d appreciate an email at dennycuster@home.com. The owner of the Onda Verde emailed me the name of the CD it is taken from and store in Sorrento to find it. We found the store but alas, the owner indicated he had the title for several years.

One other suggested web site is www.caesar-augustus.com This, for the hotel across the street from the hotel San Michele. Select English and start surfing. Pick “rooms” for pictures of the rooms. There is a corner suite that has a view which is simply “to die for”. We didn’t ask to see the room, but we did go into the hotel and it seemed very nice. We’ll do that for sure if we return one day.