Ah'm all for Amalfi

Trip Start Mar 14, 2007
Trip End Apr 10, 2007

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Flag of Italy  ,
Monday, March 26, 2007

Too often, what you seek in traveling, you never find, but what you find instead makes the journey worthwhile. For Nancy, the elusive goal was warm sun, which we never really found. It was sunny much of the time we were in Italy, but Italy was experiencing atypically cool weather. What we all found instead was the beauty of the Amalfi coast.

Before we left Florence, Gabriele extended one final gesture of hospitality, driving us to Gran Caffe San Marco for cappuccino and then to the train station for our trip to Sorrento.
The long train ride seemed to pass quickly, and soon we were in the Naples central station, looking for the ticket window and Circumvesuviana train to Sorrento (actually our stop was San Agnello, one stop before Sorrento). We managed to buy our ticket, but missed the entrance to the platform (downstairs) and ended up outside the station. We circled around to the front entrance and back inside. Scanning an information placard to figure out where we'd made our mistake, we were approached by the infamous Old Guy In The Light Blue Jacket. For those who haven't had the pleasure of this particular scam, allow me to enlighten you.
The Old Guy In The Light Blue Jacket approaches bewildered North American tourists looking for the easily missed Circumvesuviana train and urges them to hurry along with him because the train leaves "in ten minutes." He escorts them to the ticket window, sometimes insisting on carrying their bags, takes them to the entrance to the platform...and then demands money. If the tourists offer up, say, 5 Euros, the Old Guy In The Light Blue Jacket makes it be known that this isn't sufficient. What is remarkable is how often this guy seems to get what he asks for. Every other North American family we talked with who was staying in the Sorrento area was approached by Old Guy In The Light Blue Jacket, and every one of them gave the guy a significant amount of money, typically 20 Euros. Not wanting to cause a scene in front of their family seemed to be the leading reason for forking over the cash.
Forwarned of the Old Guy In The Light Blue Jacket by a Rick Steves radio show and already having our tickets, we walked along with him to the entrance to the platform and then just waved as we went on through the turnstile. He was still sputtering something about tickets as we descended down the stairs.
An additional word of caution: The Circumvesuviana train is notorious for pickpockets and bag snatchers.
After we got off in San Agnello, we eventually found Mami Camilla, which is essentially a cooking school run by an experienced chef who also offers rooms for the cooking school students and other guests. The focus is decidedly on the food. For 15 Euros and advance reservations, dinner guests are treated to four-course meals of fresh local ingredients prepared mainly by the cooking school students. The meals are fabulous. The rooms are comfortable, but less attention is devoted to them than to the food. And because everyone sits at one long communal table, conversation with the other guests is inevitable. It is all very casual and relaxed.
The next day, we walked into Sorrento and had a quick look around before buying bus tickets to Positano at a bar near the train station, where the bus leaves from. The ride to Positano is spectacular along the Amalfi coast. The road somehow clings to the sides of the mountains, creating almost vertical views to the sparkling blue Mediterranean below. Sit on the right side on the way out of Sorrento, unless you suffer from vertigo (vertigo? don't go).
Once in Positano, it was a long walk down stairs and steep streets to the impossibly cute center, with its impossibly expensive boutiques. Eventually we made our way to the beach front restaurants where we had lunch and enjoyed something approaching warm sunshine. Then it was a climb back up to where we caught the internal Positano bus back to the bus stop for Sorrento. Waiting there as one already-full bus swept past, we were entertained by watching two huge tour buses negotiate past each other on the narrow road at a sharp corner, while motorbikes and small cars wove through the mix. (See the photo of the top of Nancy's head as the near bus passes within inches of her toes.) Most entertaining, as I said.
Back in Sorrento, we hadn't made reservations for dinner at Mami Camilla, so we stopped into a restaurant that was recommended by another traveler (Zi'ntonio Ristorante Pizzeria). We didn't notice the placard in English with its "tourist menu" as we went in or we likely would have avoided it. My risotto was edible, but Nancy and Braden didn't finish their pizzas they were so bad. Imagine, a hungry 26-year-old guy not finishing a pizza. If you want to consider this a bad review, so be it.
When taxis in the main square (Piazza Tasso) wanted 20 Euros to drive us back to San Agnello, we walked instead.
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