Tag Archives: Amalfi Coast

Alt Amalfi

This is a series of posts about Italy, Malta, and Spain that starts here.

I had seen the one attraction in Amalfi, the Paper Museum, in under 15 minutes.  I wandered back toward the center of town, then saw a little sign that said “Ancient Stairs.”  Of course I had to follow it.

Whoever wrote the sign wasn’t kidding.  The stairs were stone, worn concave by thousands of footsteps.  They were also slippery as hell—at one junction my left leg slid left and my right slid behind me, leaving me face down, arms splayed in the “worshipful peon” position.

Having torn my knee ligament two years ago, I was relieved to get up and feel okay.  I was also reminded of one of the pitfalls of traveling alone.  The town was deserted.  Who would have helped me up, then down all those stairs if I had torn my MCL?  I began paying more attention to my steps.

The stairs led up and around and up and back and down and up and around.  Here are a couple scenic views along the way:


These mailboxes may seem unremarkable if you are Italian, but in Minnesota everyone is named Johnson, Swanson, and Anderson, so they were charmingly exotic to me.

There was another sign that pointed to a Cimitero.  I love cemeteries and, having no other plan, decided to visit.

There were no more Cimitero signs, just crude arrows hand-painted here on a wall and there on stair.  Some of the walls were so close together that the sides of my umbrella brushed against them.  I climbed, and climbed, and counted steps: 200, 300, 400 … every so often the view would open up before me:

view view-3

Heartbreakingly beautiful, eh, even with the rain?

There were more lovely mysterious entryways.  I would have loved to be invited in for lunch:


500, 600, 700 … Here’s a tip: Go while your knees are still good.

800 … I wondered why the cemetery was at the top of the mountain.  Wasn’t that kind of unhygienic?  I had not seen a single human until now, when a couple came my way and said with in rough English, “The trail is closed.”

I figured they couldn’t possibly be headed for the cemetery.  Only I was weird enough to hike 800 stairs to see headstones.  So I smiled and kept going.

“But it is still beautiful,” said the woman over her shoulder as they hiked down.  And it was:


This was as far as I got because when I turned around from shooting this photo I saw the sign for the cemetery, which had closed five minutes earlier.  FIVE minutes!  Again, this is one of the hazards of traveling in the off season, many sites have limited hours.


The hiking couple had been right, there was an orange plastic fence across the path just beyond the cemetery entrance.  I stood there a moment, waiting for some special feeling and, feeling none, turned around and walked back down the 800 steps.

All that hiking had helped me work up an appetite, and not for a protein bar.  I found a hole-in-the wall pizzeria (it seemed like every restaurant in Italy was a “pizzeria”).

For 4€ I got an enormous sandwich with grilled red peppers, eggplant, and onions smothered in melted mozzarella, and a Coke Pink, which was everywhere.

Since I come from a land where we must huddle inside for six months of the year due to the cold, I always sit outside when I’m traveling, even if it’s raining, which it still was.  I pulled up a café table under the awning, leaning in to stay dry.

There was a bored English middle-aged couple sitting nearby, and a pair of middle aged Italian women.  Suddenly one of them said to me in perfect English, “You made a joke.”


“You made a joke in the museum.  I’m an English teacher.  I understood.”

We laughed and chatted about languages; it was nice to have a little human interaction.  Then the English guy asked me what I thought about Donald Trump.  What a buzz kill.  I made a noncommittal comment, wolfed down my food, and walked off.


This is a series of posts about Italy, Malta, and Spain that starts here.

Bells, bells, bells.  If you like being awakened by bells, you would love Italy.  This was my 7:00 am Sunday wake up call in Sorrento.

Today I would go to the Amalfi Coast.  Tomorrow would be Capri, and I would try to squeeze in Pompeii on my way back to Rome.

But first, some breakfast, where I chatted with my fellow hotel guests.  There were a couple of empty nesters from Australia and an English couple with a son who appeared to be around 12.  They were all wearing that khaki travel uniform—you know, the one with the many-pocketed vests and matching many-pocketed trousers?

I asked about Pompeii—had they gone?  Was it a must see?  Could I “do it” in an afternoon?

“We spent five hours at Pompeii and could have stayed longer, but it started to get dark,” said the Australian guy.

“We spent the better part of the day there,” said the English husband.  “Andrew is studying the ancient world and it’s been wonderful for him to see it outside of text books.”  Andrew looked embarrassed.  “In fact Andrew has been like our personal tour guide,” said his mother.  Andrew slumped in his chair.

“Well I’d better get going then,” I said.

I traced the taxi route back to the train station, and there was a bus to the coast waiting for me.  Well, waiting.  I bought my 8€ all-day ticket and settled down for the ride.

When most people think of the Amalfi Coast, they envision intense blue sea, dizzying cliffs, and charming, sun-washed towns.  I had the dizzying part, but my day on the Amalfi Coast featured rain, rain, and more rain.  The sea was slate grey.  It was windy and my umbrella kept blowing inside out, then flipping back and splattering me with rain.  It was still beautiful, just in a different way.  The wind moved the clouds around quickly, changing the light by the minute.

The bus wound along narrow roads with mountain walls on one side and cliffs on the other.  Occasionally there were shrines on the side of the road—for buses that had gone over the side?  I eyed the windows.  If I was the sole survivor of a fall over the cliff, which I was sure would be the case, the windows only opened about six inches wide.  Could I squeeze through?  I noted the location of the hammer of life.

In no time we arrived in Positano, which I had decided to skip.  Why?  I just didn’t think I could do justice to more than two towns in one day, so I had picked Amalfi and one other TBD.  It felt too soon to get off the bus in Positano.

I hopped off in Amalfi, taking care to note the location from which the bus would depart.  I didn’t have a plan aside from visiting the Paper Museum, for which there were signs every few yards.  This was refreshing.  I arrived at the museum and bought my 3€ ticket from a young woman who told me to wait by the door for the tour.  I looked around.  I was the only one in the room, which displayed handmade paper gifts I wanted to check out, but I figured I’d better stay put for when the tour group arrived.  Two minutes later the young woman walked over and said “I will take you on the tour now.”

The museum was a former family-run paper factory.  In the basement, my guide showed me vats of pulp, had me smear pulp over a strainer, then showed me the presses which were no longer in use.  “That’s the tour,” she told me.  It had been 10 minutes long, but charming.

Back upstairs, a group of about 30 Italian tourists was crowded into the room waiting for their tour.  I bought some paper and an old man emerged from nowhere to gift wrap it meticulously when I told him it was for my mother.

“I guess men really can wrap presents,” I joked out loud.  Nobody else laughed.  I strode out to explore more of Amalfi.

In the Dark

This is a series of posts about Italy, Malta, and Spain that starts here.

After a day of sitting on trains I was eager to get out and explore Sorrento.  It was dark and rainy, but that’s what hats with brims and umbrellas are for.  I found the ocean overlook and although it was dark, I got a sense of the sea’s grandeur and felt excited about traveling along the coast the next day.  I think I went inside a church that was on my list, the Chiesa di San Francisco, but I couldn’t find a sign so who knows?  I think I sat in the Villa Communale, but again there were no signs, so I’m not sure.  It was lovely, despite being dark, dotted with pairs of lovers on benches under the lemon trees.  Reading the guidebook back home, I had pictured myself here on a sunny day, gazing out over the intense blue sea looking glamorous and catching the eye of an attractive—preferably wealthy—widower.

There was supposed to be a marina nearby with “wonderful seafood restaurants,” but everything was dark and shuttered for the season.  I saw a sign for the Museo Correale, which I knew was open until 8:00 pm.  I followed the direction of the sign, then walked and walked.  I never saw another sign and it got darker the further I got from the center.  I wandered back toward the hotel, through alleys of stores which were still bustling, and bought some of the obligatory lemon soap, pasta, and dried spices.

The pasta made me hungry but since it was only 7:00, no restaurants were open.  Only 7:00.  In Minnesota, dinnertime is 5:30.  I decided to dine on a protein bar in my hotel room.  Eating protein bars in Italy may sound pathetic, but they’re a huge money saver; I always bring a box in my suitcase, along with dried fruit and nuts.

There was still a crowd in front of the Church of San Antonino.  Why?  I pried my way through and slowly moved up the entry steps as others came out.  I made it to the entryway but was too short to see what was going on inside.  A priest was going on in a soporific monotone on a loudspeaker as bells chimed over our heads.  I took this very brief video just to capture the audio scene.

My hotel room door was still closed but popped open at my touch.  Inside, I flipped the deadbolt.  It had been a long day, I was tired and damp.  I had read 300 pages of The Other Boleyn Girl on the train and looked forward to finishing it in the bath with a glass of wine, even though I knew it didn’t have a happy ending.

But alas, there was no corkscrew.  I picked up the phone and there was no dial tone.  I had no choice but to take the elevator down to the ground floor and ask the desk guy whose nametag said Diego for one.  “I’ll deliver one up eh-soon,” he promised.

I went back upstairs and waited.  Eventually Diego appeared with the essential tool, quickly left, and I stripped and started the bath water.  That’s when the lights went out.  After moaning and wishing they would magically re-appear, I re-dressed and took the elevator back down.  “I will eh-start her up in a minute,” Diego promised again.  I went back up and sat on my bed and listened to the bells.

Then I thought, the power in the rest of the hotel is onThink, Anne.  What would you do at home?   I found the fuse box in the closet, flipped the breaker, and the lights came on.  Just then the door popped open and Diego stood there, looking a little wary, like maybe I was luring him into a trap.  I could hear him asking me in his Spanish accent, “Are you trying to eh-seduce me, Mrs. Robinson?”

“I figured it out!” I exclaimed proudly.

“Good,” he replied, “because the electric she likes to go off in this room.”