Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Amalfi Coast

One of our goals while in this part of Southern Italy was to bike the Amalfi Coast. Our guidebook described the route in detail, and its claims of this stretch of coastline being the most spectacular in Italy and quite acheivable by bike. We decided to ignore the looks of horror in the eyes of fellow tourists when we mentioned we would be cycling the road.

It was a cold and damp and overcast day when we left Sorrento, so the views of the highest cliffs were obscured by clouds. There were a couple of steep grades, but in general the most scenic stretches were nice and even. Many times the only thing separating us from the cliffs below was a rock wall and no shoulder. But the rock wall was more substantial than any guard rail in the U.S., and cars and scooters were also enjoying the view and moving at a reasonable speed. We just tried not to look down while moving

We passed a group of hikers also traveling the road (the red blob sharing the road with me in the photo above).

We took two days to do the coast from Sorrento to Salerno. In the midsection of the coast are towns built literally on hillsides. Roads go impossibly up, but the highest parts of the towns are only reacheable by foot. Construction materials are carried up by horse and mule. And on the slopes are terraces with groves of lemon trees

Our plan was to find the campground menitioned in our guidebook, but we could not find it. It was still early, so we continued on. We decided to just try and find a hotel or pension house along the way. By the time we got to the town of Minori it was getting late and we were cold and tired. We noticed an agriturismo sign with a tent symbol for Il Campanile -- just our style. But it pointed uphill, and we were not sure how far it would be. We ducked into a travel agency, where the agent spoke enough English to call the proprietor of the farm, and he met us at the office. We followed him by bike until it got so steep we could pedal no more, then walked the bikes to the bottom of a very steep set of stairs. From there we took off the panniers and walked a thousand steps, came back and carried the bikes up the same steps. Our host was a gentleman and carried my bike -- good thing, because I don't think I had it in me to do it myself.

The bikes were parked within the front gate, and the bags were shuttled up another thousand steps. to the top-most terrace of the town. We were surrounded by terraces of lemon trees and vegetable plots. We were shown to a grassy terrace, and at the end was a bathroom with shower and toilet. We were told dinner would be at 7 pm, on the patio where we parked the bikes (one thousand steps down).

That evening we enjoyed a home-cooked meal of local specialties overlooking the lights of the town far below -- pasta, grilled sausage and pork (there goes that vegetarianism out the door again), fresh bread, salad with tender greens grown by our hosts and topped with the juice of lemons from the groves surrounding us. They seved us wine from grapes grown on the farm and bottled themselves. By the time we finished a liter of the wine we were too drunk to say no to home-made limoncello. We stumbled up the thousand steps to bed, happy and satiated.

The next day we finished our Amalfi Coast tour, arriving in Salerno by noon. We headed for the train station, and bought tickets to Ladispoli, a coastal town north of Rome. Within an hour we were on the train, looking out the window at the landscape we had biked just a week earlier. From here we would begin the next leg of our journey, heading north towards Siena and Florence.
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Anonymous said...

Hi Doris & John,
I'm lovin the blog.......WOW! That's all I can say, simple beautiful.......Happy Trails....Lynn

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