The house we’re renting in Tuscany sits high on a hillside above the road to Seggiano. It’s either a recently built or recently renovated structure of solid timber and stone. Even though the days are warm, the house is always cool. This is the first time on our trip I’ve actually needed covers on my bed to stay warm at night. Instead of waking up to the harsh sounds of motor scooters and garbage trucks, in the morning I’m surrounded by a chorus of cuckoos and other songbirds.
It’s hard to grasp the fact that just two days ago, we were on the bustling Amalfi coast. Perhaps that’s partly because I haven’t told you about Amalfi yet. Since it was just 20 miles or so away from Pompeii we decided we’d drive down and see if we could find a place to stay before our long-planned house-rental in Tuscany.
Just getting to Amalfi is quite an adventure. You drive along winding, poorly marked roads, with hurried, aggressive drivers on your tail the whole way. These roads are so narrow, yet so busy, that there are traffic guides with walkie-talkies spaced every kilometer along the whole route, stopping cars and especially buses at specified intervals to make sure that everyone can get through the tight spots.
Our first hint at what was in store came outside of Sorrento, still not technically part of the Amalfi coast:
The city comes right down to the top of these sheer vertical cliffs. The beaches for the tourists seem precariously perched on the edge of the sea, as if they might collapse into the water at any moment. We then took a winding road up over a 4000-foot mountain range and descended onto the proper Amalfi coast. Here is what we saw:
More cliffs, descending precipitously to the ocean, and our road hugging improbably close to them. Houses were again perched where it seemed no reasonable person would attempt to build:
Wherever the slope diminished from deadly to merely steep, a town was built. Here’s Positano:
Houses stair-step their way all the way up the mountain, as high as humanly possible. A few miles later we finally arrived at Amalfi, the biggest town on the coach by virtue of having a half-kilometer or so of actual flat ground. It was crowded, and there was no place to park, so we drove on, finally finding a parking spot in Minori, another town built literally into the side of the hill. Here we found a hotel with a place to park, so we stopped for the night. For 10 euros, you can rent a spot on the beach with an umbrella and two chaise lounges, so we paid up and headed to the sea. The thing to do once you get in the water is turn around and marvel at the fact that anyone would attempt to build a town here. Unfortunately I didn’t have my glasses or my camera, so there’s no record of our beach visit.
Here’s the view from our hotel window. Nothing spectacular, but it does give you a sense of how tightly the houses and apartments are packed in here:
The town actually extends off to the left for at least a kilometer or so up the hill. Wherever there weren’t houses or cliffs, there were lemon trees, planted on tiered platforms of stone, and for some reason partially shaded. The town makes its own brand of limoncello, so we bought a bottle to take with us to Tuscany. Greta and I had some last night, a pleasant way to end the evening.