Yet again arriving on the Amalfi Coast was like being transported to another completely different world. Mum and I have gone to the Amalfi Coast for 8 days of unguided walking – this means we are given the maps and route instructions but don’t have to deal with any group activities or guides, our hotels are also all organised and our big bags are transported for us (talk about living the high life!).
We started our 8 days on the coast in Ravello, high up on a hill overlooking the sea and seaside towns like Maiori and Minori. Our late arrival into Ravello on Sunday night/Monday morning meant that we took day one very easy. Wandering into the town we found a local sight to see called Villa Rufolo while the villa used to house a wealthy Italian family from the thirteenth century it is now open to the public and has a maze of beautiful gardens and courtyards. Of particular interest to us was the erection of rather a large stage overlooking the sea – it turns out that every year an orchestra plays at the villa as part of the Rufolo Festival.
After debating how to spend our day we decided to start one of our walks. This walk went from Ravello through Atrani to Amalfi. Knowing that between us we had no natural homing pigeon sense of direction or the ability to read a map, we favoured the written directions and hoped they would be sufficient to get us by (well that and asking people where to go). The walk to Atrani and Amalfi followed the coastline and involved us walking down a lot of steps alongside lemon and olive groves. It was the perfect day for it, not particularly hot but with a lot of sunshine so the sea was sparkling! The walk took us all of an hour and a half (with a stop for a cappuccino along the way). Once in Amalfi we were immediately amongst hordes of tourists and beach goers – we quickly realised that not being by the beach made a big difference to how busy a location is.
We stayed in Amalfi for lunch and returned to Ravello by bus in the afternoon. Enjoying the quiet of our town we chose to spend the afternoon lazing by the pool. Venturing into the town for dinner we had an enjoyable evening watching the locals and tourists go by and eating pizza!
The next day we unwittingly ended up on a guided tour of Pompeii… We thought we were just sharing transportation there! While our guide had a grating voice that assaulted our ear drums on the bus and through Pompeii via individual radios with earpieces, she was very knowledgable and was able to shortcut the queue to get us tickets… So it wasn’t all bad. Pompeii really is amazing, as a town that has been completely preserved thanks to volcanic ash meaning that where frescoes and mosaics haven’t been uplifted to museums you can see them as they would have been in 79AD.
The city remains themselves are marvellous and do exemplify Roman intelligence when you see things like how they heated public baths or dealt with their lack of sewage system (through stepping stones). Mum also thought that the plaster casts of humans and animals alike would be an excellent way to preserve your family if you were that way inclined!
We were also fortunate that presently there is a sculpture exhibition on inside Pompeii by the deceased Igor Mitoraj. 30 large-scale sculptures depicting imposing mythological characters sit beautifully within the Roman remains and in my opinion enhance the experience of Pompeii.
The one downside to our trip to Pompeii however was undoubtedly the heaving mass of humans that were there with us – we were informed by our guide that Tuesday is a bad day to go as the cruise ships come in on that day. Due to the business of Pompeii we didn’t get back to Ravello until 2:30 at which point exhausted by our guide we chose to repeat the previous day’s afternoon and evening routine of lazing by the pool before venturing into the town to watch the world go by over dinner!
Stealing rolls, fruit and hard boiled eggs from breakfast we left Ravello behind ready for what we were told was 4.5-5 hours of walking. Departing Ravello and bound for Amalfi our guide told us we were to go via Pontone, Torro Dello Ziro, and Valle dei Mullini to Amalfi. Despite some discrepancies between the directions we were given and the actual route we successfully navigated our way to all these places. The walk to Pontone was just a lot of stairs and views of the sea. We then walked down to Torro Dello Ziro this gave us an excellent view of the coastline and the ability to see Atrani and Amalfi from above.
From there we returned to Pontone for our cappuccino in the very small town square. Walking out of the town we came across a few unusual wee walkway decorations… Our favourite was a mini village built into a wall which was about 4 metres long and filled with endless ‘daily life’ scenes!
Walking into the nature reserve and along a path – that was meant to take us half an hour to reach the end – I was adamant the path couldn’t end when it did as it hadn’t taken us long enough and climbed up and around a waterfall insisting that this was a path. Mum was not so sure and hung back… Sure enough she was right! My path was 100% out of bounds as a local guide who found us informed us!
I slid my way back down the rocks and returned to the beaten path with my tail between my legs. Reaching Amalfi within 3 hours we realised we had a lot more free time than anticipated. Anxious to use it wisely we first lay on our beds using wifi and then went down to the beach where we lay reading and eavesdropping on other people’s conversations all afternoon. Mum also managed to pick our some lovely eligible bachelors for me… However I feel that in her desperation for grandchildren she has really lowered her standards.
Our next walk was up from Amalfi to Scala, Valle Delle Ferriere and Pogerola, returning to Amalfi. While one option was to take the bus to Scala and walk from there, the alternative was to walk up. The instructions said the walk was very steep and had a lot of steps… I can now confirm that walk is very steep and does involve a lot of steps. I convinced Mum that we were being pathetic if we didn’t walk up and more or less bullied her into the walk. While I think she was silently cursing me as we walked up what felt like 1,000 flights of stairs she said she was happy we had done it at the end of the day.
From Scala we walked into the nature reserve of Valle Delle Ferriere, the same place we walked the day before only this time much higher up. Walking along rocky paths below towering cliffs it was hard to believe we were within 5km of the Amalfi coastline, it looked like a mountainous village.
As we walked deeper into the Valley the path’s surroundings became denser and greener, giving us much needed shelter from the beating sun. As this occurred the path became much narrower and more overgrown with some of our navigation being done on a gut feeling as opposed to following a clear path.The “stairs” we were climbing also became more what I would describe as boulders to scramble up!
Despite some guesswork we successfully navigated all the way into the valley and all the way out!
Our descent took us to the village of Pogerola where we stopped for a bite of lunch and a brief rest of the legs before tackling some more stairs. Our final afternoon in Amalfi was once more spent lazing on the beach and our evening spent moving from restaurant to restaurant on the Main Street watching the holidaymakers go by.
A note on holidaymakers:
Holidaymakers are strange humans, who wear very strange clothes. Nearly everyone around us had made an effort to dress for dinner (not a habit I ever intend to indulge in on a regular basis) – their choice of outfit may range from a 60-something year old woman wearing denim short shorts with a strappy singlet and stilletos to some sort of unflattering dress with an horrific floral pattern on it. Alternately girls my age might opt for either the skin tight strapless minidress that shows off their latest tan lines or perhaps a maxi dress and a full face of make up. Turning now to the men, while most of them favour chinos and a shirt and therefore cannot go too far wrong others try to look like the cool dad on holiday and have some ghastly printed t shirt paired with a pair of cargo shorts and travel sandals… A look their dolled up wives certainly have not approved.
While Mum and I have a fabulous time watching these people and guessing how everyone is connected and what their conversations are I am sure they see us go by and think (at least of me, Mum not so much) “oh god how could she leave the house like that, shorts and a t-shirt appalling… And has she even done her hair? What an embarrassment she would be to have as a daughter.”
Anyway… As far as people watching goes Amalfi is a wonderful place.. However not one I would race back to. Ravello, where we were, and Praiano where we are now are much quieter places with equally spectacular views but far less hype!