My blogging rate has slowed to a crawl. Sorry! Back to Italy…
Italy’s big cities of Rome, Venice, and Florence are excellent destinations for tourists. But the smaller towns are also amazing, in their own way. We tried to balance big and small on our trip.
From our base in Rome, we took a day trip south to the Amalfi Coast. That area is quite a bit different than most places in Italy. It’s full of small coastal towns built on hills. We are also motivated to flee from Rome that day, since millions of believers converged on the Vatican to see Pope John Paul II’s Beatification ceremony.
The Amalfi Coast is a peninsula that sticks out to the Mediterranean Sea. It’s southeast of Naples, which is south of Rome. There are a bunch of towns on the coast. We visited Positano, Amalfi, and Ravello. You may also have heard of Sorrento. Other sights in the general area include Mt. Vesuvius, Pompeii, and Capri.
Usually travelers spend at least a few days in the Amalfi Coast. It’s the best way to appreciate the beautiful and chill atmosphere. But we didn’t have the time, so it ended up just being a day trip. That meant waking up at the crack of dawn and taking a 1.5h high-speed train to Naples. Btw, the Pope followers were already flocking to the Vatican at 5am!!
I passed through Naples on my last trip (photos above are from that trip). There is some charm to this city. Great coastline, nice view of Mt. Vesuvius… This time around, however, Naples was just darn ugly. The city streets where pretty ghetto everywhere. There was construction all along the major boulevard, making it a pain to get around. And they have had this seemingly perpetual trash worker strike problem, so everyone was just dumping trash in large piles at street corners.
We had a bad transit experience in Naples as well. We walked from the train station to the docks, expecting to hop on a ferry to the Amalfi Coast. Turns out that there was no ferry service to the Amalfi Coast that day (May 1). It wasn’t posted anywhere, not even on their website, and no one cared to be helpful. Things got a little stressful amongst our crew, I think. But luckily, we found a Hertz car rental place nearby and rented a van. Returning the van was messy too. All the construction and traffic made it really difficult to drive in the city. We barely returned the car on time and made it out on the last train back to Rome – with just a couple minutes to spare!
Once we got out of Naples, it was all good. Driving down to the coast was a most enjoyable experience. In fact, I am glad we drove, because we could see so much and just stop anywhere. The drive involved a lot of mountain passes, windy roads, and amazing views of towns and valleys. The photo above is of the infamous Mt. Vesuvius (left, in the distance), the volcano that entombed the town of Pompeii in 79 CE.
The first town we visited in the Amalfi Coast was Positano. Wow. It is one of the most picturesque towns I have ever seen. Positano is built on a hill that drops right into the sea. There are only a couple roads in town. The roads wind back and forth, up and down the hill. From afar, it looks like the buildings are built on top of each other.
Positano was once a small fishing village. It started getting some notoriety in the 1950’s, starting with John Steinbeck. Now it’s totally a resort town. You may have seen it in movies like “The Talented Mr. Ripley” or “Under the Tuscan Sun.” At the base of the hill, the city center leads out to a relaxing rocky beach. There are all sorts of cozy restaurants, with great views of the town and the sea. The winding streets take you by dozens of shops, eager to lighten the wallets of tourists.
Here’s a funky 180+ degree panaroma I took of Positano. Click on it for a full screen view (you can do this with any of the photos on this blog).
Amalfi is the main town in the Amalfi Coast region. In the middle ages, Amalfi was the capital of the Duchy of Amalfi, which was an independent state. Although parts of the town are built on a hill like Positano, the city center is bigger and flatter. The piazza (below) is a great place to relax, drink some coffee, eat gelato, and shop.
Like most cities in Italy, there is a big church in the city center. It looks magnificent with the afternoon sunlight shining on it.
Ravello was the last town we visited in the Amalfi Coast. Unlike the other two towns, Ravello is situated inland, high up in the hills. You have a really nice view of the hills and valleys from Ravello. Unfortunately, we needed to get back to Naples to catch the train, so we didn’t have much time to spend in town. Apparently we completely missed the seaside view from Ravello. I didn’t too my research well enough – oops. But check out these photos from others on the Internet. Holy amazing!
This photo of Ravello is courtesy of TripAdvisor
The Amalfi Coast is a beautiful, relaxing region of Italy. I am very glad we went out of our way to see it. I’m not sure I would travel back to Italy to see Rome, Florence, or Venice again. But I could certainly see myself spending a few days wandering the hill towns of the Amalfi Coast. The area really deserves several days of your attention (or weeks, if you’re retired haha). I’d love to see the Cinque Terre again too. Life may be short, but it should hopefully be long enough for a return visit!