09-27-2018 Day 3 The Amalfi Coast

A classic image of Positano from the ferry as we departed from the dock for our short cruise down the coast

Deanna and I woke this morning to a lovely pastel sky.  We both noticed after a few days with this view that the pastel colors were something that we don’t often see in our world of the west.  Dramatic sunsets are not unusual, but pastel skies with so many colors are more rare.

Another walk to Positano wasn’t something we cared to repeat. Instead we decided to walk to the square and wait for the Mobility bus scheduled to run on the hour.  The bus was half an hour late, something we discovered was quite common. We bought several tickets at the grocery store, making sure we had enough for the next few days on the coast.

The weather was gorgeous in spite of the strong breezes.  Brilliant sunshine lit up the sea and the colorful houses cascading down the cliffs.  The bus passed us on the way to Nocellle, a few kilometers up the hill, turned around and traveled back our way and we boarded for the trip down to town.  It was almost noon by the time we actually made it down to Positano Spiaggia (beach).

Enzo had warned us, “Don’t even think of taking the Sita bus to Amalfi, it is much easier and quicker to go on the ferry, and only 8 Euro.”  The square was a bit crowded with long lines for the various ferries, but we got our tickets without a problem.  We chose only one way tickets so that we could experience the wild ride along the coast in the Siti bus.  These buses are a bit larger than the local mobility buses, and the cost between the town of Amalfi and Positano was just 8 Euro, exactly the cost of the ferry.

We were happy to see that the ferries were operating since they had been closed the previous day.  We had to wait about an hour for the next ferry to Amalfi and that required another gelato.  This time we chose the cup since gelato is very soft and melts very quickly in the warm sunshine.

One of the advantages of taking the ferry is the chance to view all the charming cliffside towns from the vantage point of the water.  Priano lies between Positano and Amalfi, but there are a few other small towns dotting the hillsides. 

We sat on the top floor in the warm, bright sunshine.  Deanna and few other passengers managed to get the shades closed so that we had a bit of protection from the glare.

The trip only lasts about half an hour and in the beginning the winds were slight.  However, before we reached Amalfi, the winds shifted and great gusts began throwing the boat around and lots of spray reached the decks. As the ferry approached Amalfi we looked up to see huge clouds of smoke billowing from the hillsides above town. 

With the high winds the flames looked frightening and we could hear sirens.  The emergency vehicles have a terrible time trying to get anywhere with the narrow roads and all the tourist traffic.  We read later about these fires that have been plaguing the Italian coast this past summer and much like the western US, there is a drought and lots of dry fuel to burn in terrain that is terribly difficult to manage.

Once we landed in Amalfi we were inundated by throngs of tourists, even more so than in crowded Positano.  With our offline Google maps we attempted to navigate a bit and found the main square in town and the lovely cathedral. 

The town of Amalfi didn’t seem as charming to us as Positano.  There were many side roads with many shops and a lot of people, however it didn’t seem as clean and was much more touristy.  We thought perhaps that with more time to wander the back roads it may have seemed nicer but those roads seemed to go off in directions that were much farther than we wanted to walk.

The cathedral Duomo di Sant’Andrea is quite lovely and as is often the case in Italy there is a charge to enter. I think we paid just 3 Euro and it was well worth it. The exterior is dramatic and colorful although the colorful marble and colored stone façade was refurbished in 1891.

From Wiki:

“The first church, now the Diocesan Museum of Amalfi was built on the 9th century on the ruins of a previous temple.[2] A second church was built to the south in 10th century, and this is now the Cathedral. By the 12th century the two churches formed a single 6 aisle Romanesque church, which was reduced to 5 in the 13th century to allow the construction of the cloister of Paradise, in the Arab-Norman style.

The remains of St. Andrew were reportedly brought to Amalfi from Constantinople in 1206 during the Fourth Crusade[3] by Cardinal Peter of Capua. In 1208, the crypt was completed and the relics were turned over to the church.[2] It said that later on manna issued from the saint’s bones.[4]

The bell tower was constructed between the 12th and 13th centuries in front of the first church, topped by an elaborate crown decorated with marble and majolica in the Arab-Norman style, also seen in other churches in southern Italy in this period. The chapels inside are variously Gothic and Renaissance, with the nave decorated in the Baroque style in the 18th century.

In 1861, part of the facade collapsed, damaging the atrium. The whole front of the church was then rebuilt to a design by architect Errico Alvino in a richly decorated manner drawing on Italian Gothic and especially Arab-Norman styles, similar to but more ornate that the original, completed in 1891.”

The main altar depicting Saint Andrew

We were impressed with the gorgeous stone mosaics in this cathedral

The bronze doors to the cathedral were cast in Constantinople before 1066

After our visit inside the cathedral we joined others on the cathedral steps to enjoy a light lunch of breakfast leftovers while we people-watched.

By this time, it was getting a bit late in the afternoon and we decided that it was time to make an attempt to return to Positano.  Winding our way through the crowds, we found a tabacchi  (tobacco shop) on the main thoroughfare to purchase Sita tickets for the ride home.  This is where the crazy Italian bus system first reared its ugly head.  There were dozens of buses in the square and many of them had no names in the destination window at the top of the bus.  No one seemed to know which bus went to Positano, or to Ravello, or perhaps on to Sorrento without stopping in Positano.  We did finally discover that we needed the Sorrento bus, but to be sure to get one that actually stopped in Positano.  People were crowding around the entrances of all the buses, but no one seemed to have a clue about anything and the bus drivers were all yelling at each other and gesturing wildly.  Lines mean nothing in Italy and people pushed and shoved to get to the head of a line only to have the bus drivers yell at us saying laggiu, laggiu!!  “Over there” we later learned.  Then all the people wildly went “over there”, willy nilly, with people in the front of the line ending up in the back of the line.  It was important to catch a bus because the next one might leave in over an hour and then be late as well.  We managed to get on the bus but it was definitely a bit stressful

Once on the bus we were in for the ride of our lives.  The road from Amalfi to Positano is narrow and winding and just a tiny bit wider than the little roads on the hill between Positano and Montepertuso.  It took an hour of craziness with amazing views and fascinating exchanges between car drivers and bus drivers, and many contorted negotiations between vehicles and cliff sides.  An interesting trip that I loved doing and wouldn’t want to do on a regular basis.

We were thrilled to at last reach our little town of Positano, getting off the bus at the upper end of town near a restaurant and a water closet.  Have I mentioned that these are few and far between in these small Italian towns?  We had a delightful lunch at a streetside sidewalk table overlooking the sea where we laughed about our day.

We still had to get back home and this required another crazy bus ride.  At first we thought we would walk up to the Mobility bus stop we had seen where the Siti bus also stopped, but decided instead to walk down toward town where we had boarded the Mobility bus the previous day.  This turned out to be a great idea.  We had to wait half an hour or so for the bus and once again do the pushing and shoving routine required to get on a bus in Italy.  It was a good thing we chose the lower stop because by the time we arrived at the upper stop the bus was jammed full and it didn’t even stop!

Winding up the roads on the smaller Mobility bus was becoming almost routine to us by this time and we were incredibly grateful to disembark at the square and walk down the path to our lovely quiet little apartment.

Photos from this day are linked here and include many shots from inside the cathedral with frescoes and more of the crazy bus ride.

Author: kyotesue

Soil scientist/mapper working for 35 years in the wild lands of the West. I am now retired, enjoying my freedom to travel, to hike without a shovel and a pack, to knit and quilt and play, to play with photography and write stories about all of it.

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