After another lovely breakfast at the B&B with homemade cake we headed back to the train station to meet up with my friend Nick who was the original reason for our visit to Italy (his friend was getting married in Atrani on the Amalfi coast and Nick was the best man). He’s been a friend of mine for about five years (and he can’t seem to get rid of me!) We bought bus tickets and took our first trip on the very winding coastal road from Salerno to Amalfi. We were supposed to have our host stop the bus outside the apartment we were renting but the bus refused to stop for him, so he called and told us to look for an old man with white hair in Amalfi town to give us further directions. We were a little worried about such vague instructions, but as we got off the bus, an old gentleman with unruly white hair approached us and told us that his son, the apartment owner, was coming to pick us up. He drove us back to the apartment, which was lovely with an absolutely beautiful view of the ocean and coast line.
After unpacking a bit, we headed into Maiori (our nearest town) and had gelato (as well as a nice conversation with a local business owner). We wandered around the town for a bit, checked out the ruins of an old Roman villa (with completely intact staircases) and went to a bakery for some treats (yum macaroons!) Next we decided to walk into Amalfi town which took about forty minutes, but was worth it for the gorgeous views of the coast. The only concerning bit was avoiding traffic on the very tight roads. When the road was built, it was for much smaller vehicles and now the road can’t be expanded without cutting into properties and making the coastline unsafe. So now huge coaches and tour buses get to try to pass each other at strategic points while motorcycles weave in and out and it’s all a bit nerve-wracking!
On the way past Atrani we decided to stop in and see the church where the wedding was due to take place. While there, we ran into the bride and groom and Nick decided to head off with them for bit while mom and I headed into Amalfi and wandered for bit. We saw the Cathedral and stumbled upon some locals playing water polo in kayaks before heading to a lovely seafood restaurant owned by the father of our host. I had homemade pasta with swordfish sauce which was incredible. I noticed a market across the street and wanted to grab some stuff for breakfast before it closed, so I left my meal and went over, only to be followed by one of the waiters who announced that the market’s owner was his cousin! The cousin was lovely and told me all the fresh produce he had available before I headed back to the restaurant with my shopping to have dessert! We met up with Nick on the bus home and had an early night so we could get a good start for our trip to Pompeii the next day!
Our day to Pompeii started early with another windy bus ride out of the Amalfi coast area. We caught a train from Salerno and walked through Pompei town to get to the ruins. We went in what amounts to the ‘back’ entrance because it was recommended as less busy, and that certainly panned out for us. We barely saw people for the first hour of our wandering. The site itself is huge, covering 67 hectares, four-fifths of which have been excavated. It’s laid out like a typical Roman city and like Paestum; the ruins were much more complex and impressive in person. The frescos in some of the houses and shop were incredibly impressive and well-preserved. It has certainly given me my best feel for what life would have been life for the people who occupied such a time and such a city. A particular highlight was the well-preserved brothel complete with illustrative frescos! The only downside of the site was the difficulty in navigation – the map wasn’t very accurate and we had no idea which sites would be open or closed, which meant we spent time wandering to the far reaches of the site only to discover the site we wanted to see was closed. It was also incredibly hot and sunny – good for a beach day but less good for wandering around ruins and I was left with an impressive sunburn!
We took the train to Sorrento after leaving Pompeii and then took the coastal bus around the other direction on the Amalfi coast – through Positano and the beautiful coastline back to Amalfi town. There we ran around town madly gathering ingredients from small groceries for dinner (clams, vegetables, bread, pasta and wine) before catching the bus back to our apartment and cooking dinner.
The next morning we were all up early – Mom went down to the market and picked up some pastries for breakfast and we all set about getting ready for the wedding. We left with Nick (who as the best man had to be there quite early) but Mom and I headed into to down and picked up some souvenirs (including some at a paper shop we’d been peering into for quite a while!) Amalfi paper is world-renowned for its quality; it’s made from just water and cotton in a tradition that dates back eight hundred years. As a lover of traditional crafts I had to have some! We also picked up some limoncello for my brother and candied citrus peel dipped in chocolate – the very best of sweets in my opinion! We headed back to the church for the wedding (an afternoon service at a beautiful Catholic church overlooking the sea) and then continued on to a local café for drinks with the small number of guests (just over twenty in total) before heading to a local restaurant for dinner. The bride decided she wanted to toss her bouquet after dinner from the steps of the main cathedral in town and, of course, with my luck, it managed to find its way to me…
After a bit too much wine we wandered back to the apartment and packed up in preparation for another early start the next morning – this time to Rome!