Saturday, 6 June 2009

Amalfi - Who Are You?

24 August 2005. A coach tour to Amalfi. The driver takes his time round the hairpins - far more comfortable than the frantic tear-arsing of the local bus that took us to Positano! There must be two distinct training regimes for public transport drivers in Italy.

On the coach driving training course they play Chopin and those soothing cheap CDs with the sound of waterfalls behind little tinkling piano riffs that go nowhere. They say things like, "Ok, here's a slight bend... Pip your horn to warn other drivers and slow right down before you turn or people may be forced to lean".

On the bus driving course they play Deep Purple's Rock Hits and say things like, "Ok, hairpin ahead - you need a good run up to this, get your foot down and wrench the wheel....NOW!!!"

It's a longer trip today and we actually stop for a while above Positano for people to take photos. Then it's back onto the coach and on towards Amalfi, stopping for lunch on the way at a roadside ceramics shop. As you do...

The coach went over a bridge at one point where the sea actually flowed underneath us onto a tiny triangular beach between a cleft in the cliffs.

What's the first thing we see when we get into Amalfi? Correct, a Sita bus! I beckoned the driver to lean out of his window. "Talk to him, pal," I said, pointing to our relaxed and chilled coach driver, "he could teach you a thing or two!"

"Piss-a off!" The Sita bus closed its doors on the ample rear of an Italian mamma who hadn't quite got on, due to the mass of humanity packed inside and screeched away from the bus stop. Wait - no, it was the woman whose arse was caught in the door who was screeching...

We walked into the town and found ourselves looking at everything on two levels. Looking horizontally we could see the ground and the bottom half of buildings.

But it was only by looking up that we saw the true spectacle and majesty of the setting for these wonderful buildings.

The front of the basilica is richly decorated, but the real beauty is high up over the entrance and in the columnar top storey of the bell tower.

The streets and alleys of the town are the same. The view above is often more rewarding as you find tiny pathways and alleys climbing up stepped streets and turning tight corners, buildings appearing to stack above each other, so close is the town to the rising cliff faces.

It was here in Amalfi that the magnetic compass was invented and the Italians traded it all over the Mediterranean in the 1200s. So with such a nautical tradition here we are, of course, going to take a trip up and down the coast on a boat. First I'm taking a wander up the side alleys for a bit whilst Fran and Mum hit the souvenir shops!

The photos from this holiday can be viewed as a series of montages.

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