The Long and Winding Road

IMG_3757.JPGAnother week-long school break has found us once again in Italy, this time on the Amalfi coast in the southern region of Campania. It really is like what people say, unimaginably beautiful, with its winding, rugged coastline rising straight up from the sparkling Tyrrhenian Sea dotted by colorful houses crammed closely together on mountain cliffs with magical views plunging down to the blue green water. These dramatic and somewhat scary vistas viewed from inside our public SITA bus headed from Sorrento to Amalfi seem surreal.

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I don’t know this Italian bus driver, but I have bestowed my life and (my family’s) in his young capable driving hands as we twist and turn jaggedly creeping around impossible bends making our way to Amalfi. Each loud bus beep warning oncoming drivers no one on this bus can see sends my heart racing as I simultaneously snap photos with my Canon 35 mm camera hoping to catch the eye popping views out my bus window. The quicker and less crowded ferries weren’t running today because of chop. So here we are viewing this land and seascape from high above. We paid a mere 2,70 euro each for this interesting and colorful ride.

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I’ve captured some prized pics already, but I’m waiting. I know it will be coming. Finally, Positano has crept into my lens as we wiggle around corners and I’m eager to capture that magnificent little town in my viewfinder. The lime green and blue dome of the Santa Maria Assunta church shines in the sun. Got it!  The bus stops to let passengers on and off in a matter of seconds – the town center is tiny and it’s bordered by a very slim stretch of road that is actually a highway barely fitting two cars (let alone a bus and cars). From Sorrento to this stop it’s already been an hour for just 15 km. We have 20 km or so left to Amalfi. I smirk thinking that perhaps the best and worst part of our trip has actually been spent on this somewhat scary, somewhat exhilarating public bus ride.
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We are packed in like little Italian anchovies and the gasps and loud chuckles of passengers are clearly audible as the driver maneuvers around the endless stretch of zigzagging road. I’m grateful we have seats and I’m seated on the right side for pictures. There are little bus stops here and there and Italian voices yell out to get off, passed up  one person to another to the driver to help whomever needs to disembark, at a barely recognizable bus stop named something most tourists sharing this ride have never heard of. I believe this is what is called community.

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Inching our way along slowly but surely, Praiano comes into view and my wrinkled fingers start to snap snap snap. Another memorable view captured. Suddenly, distant memories of my honeymoon road trek to Hana, almost 25 years ago in Hawaii, come flooding back to me and I think this equally treacherous, yet much less expensive ride is way better, mostly because this time, my husband isn’t driving.

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Finally arriving in Almafi over an hour later in the rain, we find a large cafe with heat to use the facilities, get a map and our bearings to explore. I just love my Italian husband who automatically orders the local house wine, a Fanta for our daughter, and some nibbles. You can always count on him to make a pitstop into something much more celebratory. He’s already assimilated into his heritage. Or maybe he’s just in need of relaxation after that somewhat long and harrowing drive.

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After the baseball-sized arancini and bruschetta topped with onion sauce, parmesan and olive oil are inhaled, we plot our course up the beautiful and interesting little cliff-top town of Amalfi. Each one of these towns has its own unique flavor, church, lemon grove, specialty stores, pizzerias and restaurants. It’s uphill for us and after an hour of touring, again my husband finds the best local place for good eats. But, really, can one ever have a bad meal here? We seem to be renaming this country EATaly as we make our way through it.

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Heading downhill to the bus back to Sorrento we get in line at a stop – again – with no markings whatsoever, asking people in the line, “Sorrento?” Assuring ourselves it is the correct line, we arrive just in time to board. I strategically sit on the side with coastal views for pictures curiously wondering how the locals fare with this kind of travel whether daily or otherwise. It’s a long way around to anywhere driving in this region.

Settled back at our hotel over two hours later we are all grateful for a day that went a little sideways in plans. A quick ferry ride along the famed Amalfi coast that wasn’t running gave way to a long and winding bus ride granting us an inside view to a culture and land that provided much more experience than we could have hoped, and for only 8 euros and 10 cents.

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