Tuesday, June 19, 2012

A day on the Amalfi Coast

Saturday was phenomenal.

See, ever since I arrived here in Sorrento, I've been trying to go on the excursion to the Amalfi Coast that's offered by the school.  The first week I was here, I signed up for the excursion... only to have it cancelled at the 11th hour due to a boat race.
I went to Vesuvius instead, so it wasn't a bad day at all.

The second week, they offered it again, but I was already booked for Capri.  Looong, interesting day, but it meant that I missed the Amalfi trip again.

So, finally the third Saturday that I've been here, I booked the trip and hauled myself out of bed at 6:30 on a Saturday morning to meet the 7:50 tour bus.
It was completely worth it.

The Amalfi Coast was the entire reason I picked Sorrento as my study abroad destination.  Let's be real... it's friggin beautiful.

The bus left the depot at around 8, and stopped to pick up a few people before heading on it's way.  I was the youngest person on board by a large gap, but you know what?  I loved it.  I loved everyone I met.  The nice lady and man from Yorkshire who sat next to me on the bus.  The sweet newlyweds (second marriages) Nigel and Angela from Kent who sat with me at lunch.  They were all so lovely and kind, and I never had to struggle for something to say.  
If there had been someone else my age, we probably would've felt obligated to stick together.  Now, I love traveling with my friends and family, and I love meeting new people, but I hate being forced to buddy up.  I'm nineteen now... I really can cross the street on my own.  The man I sat next to on the bus was very surprised that I was traveling alone, but I told him I loved it.
I love choosing where to go, and what to see, and how long to stay there.  If I wanted to sit in a cafè all day and drink espresso, I could have.  If I wanted to hop from town to town, I would have.  I got to do exactly what I wanted, and for exactly as long as I wanted.  It was glorious.

As we drove along, there were hints of the view to come.

Our first stop was for a quick cappuccino in Praiano.  Praiano is a little town outside of (the much more famous) Positano.  It was originally inhabited by the Spanish, who called it "Playa Playa" - "beach."  Eventually "playa" turned into Praiano.
We stopped at a cute little tourist shop that sold all kinds of ceramic goodies.

I loved these pizza trays!

Pretty much anything ceramic that you see in this style was made in Vietri Sul Mare, a town further east.  It's famous for it's ceramics.

After our 20 minute caffè stop, we headed off through Positano.

I thought we were supposed to stop in Positano, but we ended up driving right through it.  You know what?  It was fine with me, though.  There are way too many steps in Positano, and I wasn't prepared to walk all day and have to climb a freaking mountain!  

Positano, I promise: I will be back soon.  This weekend?  Okay, see you then.

We drove straight on through to Amalfi, where we disembarked from the bus and immediately loaded onto a boat.  

We rode up and down the coast, from Amalfi to Ravello, just taking in the sights.

After that, our hilarious tour guide (he kept referring to us as his children) led us through the tiny streets of Amalfi and into the main piazza, where the beautiful Duomo was.

From there, we disbanded for about 45 minutes of free time.  I wandered up the main street, stepping in every store that caught my fancy.  I had a very specific purchase in mind, and eventually I found it in the last store I entered!

Streets of Amalfi

I also picked up some limoncello - a famous drink here in Sorrento and along the coast - and a present for my sister.

Then, it was on the bus again and off to Ravello!

Ravello was gorgeous.  I wish I had had more time to explore both it and Amalfi.  The minute we got there, we were brought to a nice hotel restaurant for lunch.  We had to climb a couple flights of steps to get there, but compared to the other cities on the coast, Ravello is flat.  
I loved it.
At lunch, I had roast pork, fries, rolls, and red wine, and chatted with Nigel and Angela.  Then we were led down to the main piazza, and we disbanded for another 45 minutes.

Jasmine along the way
La piazza

Now, in my guide book of Italy that I read like a novel, it mentions two villas in Ravello, Villa Cimbrone and Villa Rufolo.  Both are beautiful old homes with spectacular gardens and views, but supposedly Villa Cimbrone is far superior.  Unfortunately, it was a half hour walk from the piazza, so I settled for exploring Villa Rufolo, right off the square.

Entrance to Villa Rufolo
It was beautiful.  And the best part was, I only stayed as long as I wanted to!  It was an amazing feeling.

They have concerts here in the summer; hence the stage floating on the side of a cliff

After a little more exploring of the square, I knew some caffè was in order.  So I spent my last 15 minutes sitting staring at this

while drinking this

mmm iced caffè latte
And then it was time to board the bus for the 2 hour ride home through the mountains.  The drive along the coast is a one way road with many twists and turns and a spectacular view.  The ride home was significantly longer, but with equally impressive views.

Ciao Napoli!
However, our guide advised us to use the toilets before we left, because apparently there are no rest stops in the mountains!

It was a long, beautiful, and thrilling day, and I was glad to come home to my beautiful Sorrento.

I met my roommate Katie in town, and we had dinner before hitting the hay.

Congratulations, Amalfi Coast.  You've captured my heart.

Now I don't want to leave.

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