Amalfi Coast

Start with beautiful clear gray water, sparkling with gentle accents from the sun running in diamond currents just beneath its surface… Marry that water to a rocky shore made up of cliffs dropping into the sea; put some random terraces on those cliffs, and line those terraces with lemon trees extending along the cliffs. Wait, that’s not quite enough– yes there are lots of blank rocky spaces on the cliffs, but on the ledges and terraces, add many more lemon trees, aligned like citrus-bearing soldiers laden with yellow ammunition! Put rows of them on every terrace, every available scrap of earth on the mountainsides, broken up only by residences perched precariously on the cliffs, just off the two lane highway that hairpins over and around from Positano to Amalfi. As you negotiate this road, winding along the coast, you will pass through small villages, clusters of homes, and businesses and hotels. See the colorful stucco walls, the various shades of tile, the cliffs rising not only above you, but falling beneath you as well, either covered in lush green vegetation or providing rock formations that make for interesting interpretations as they interrupt your view of the sea. Occasional boats dot the water, although traffic is light since it is very early in the season… Every so often there will be an extension of rock out from the shoreline, creating a small peninsula and an advantageous viewing position. On these such vantage points, very old castles or forts still stand, attempting now to look like a restaurant or a residence, but failing because their shape and scale and massive gray stonework will never permit them to be anything but a castle or fort. At one time, hundreds of years ago, they enabled someone to control this coastline with some well-placed artillery, but today they are part of the scenery. The road along the Amalfi coast connects them, but not always efficiently. Two narrow lanes, hairpin turns, Italian drivers, unconcerned pedestrians, and scores of different sized and shaped vehicles make this road an adventure to drive. Nothing is guaranteed, and tourist schedules are reconfigured to Italian time, tempered by the realities of Amalfi traffic. Cars (small cars, mini Coopers, Smart cars), motorcycles, scooters and trucks of every shape and size grind to a halt. We are on a downhill space, overlooking a “T” intersection coming into the hairpin turn below us.Nothing from our lane is moving, and a 20-something man is blocking our bus’s path with a legal-looking hand signal that must mean stop! His presence is the only indication that something might be amiss with traffic flow. The scooters and motorcycles all zip around us and head down towards Amalfi, as do several small cars. After they pass, numerous vehicles coming up hill are allowed to zoom on past us, and still we sit, waiting for a signal to go… Trucks come by, other busses rumble past, and still we sit. Cars coming into our lane from the “T” are getting stacked up. Cars behind us are also deadlocked now. Finally, after about 30-40 minutes, a female Carbinieri arrives on a scooter from around the downhill bend, and begins to talk to the easy going young construction worker. Their hands fly, mouths move, and he talks to someone on his radio. She gestures and talks on HER radio. Some others nearby them join in, adding to the discussion. There is a big empty flatbed truck wedged comfortably into a space very few people in the US would have even considered trying to park such a truck, and they point to it, then point back down the mountain. Everyone seems somewhat frustrated, perhaps confused, but mostly are wearing their “what-are-you-gonna-be-able-to-do-about-it? look…He shrugs, they disperse, and she putt-putts back downhill around the corner. In awhile (10 minutes? Who knows?) she returns, leading a large vehicle obviously designed for road grading or material sifting, which crawls up the road slowly, large extended conveyor out over its cab, treads bringing it laboriously uphill towards the truck. Two guys in hard hats ride in it, guiding its ponderous structure along the narrow, twisted turns. It parks in its lane, looking wide enough from where we sit to block everything. “Ahhh!” we think, they will load this vehicle onto the flatbed, and clear some space, and THEN we can resume our journey. But no, there is another discussion, more gestures, more pointing… If this were opera it could not be more confusing! The carabinieri directs some cars this way, clears some from the “T”, motorcycles opportunistically race forward, cutting in and around other vehicles, and MORE traffic is allowed to come past us again from down the hill, then we are held up while some smaller cars come around us from behind us? The big road machine stays parked, the flatbed semi stays parked, and finally, for no apparent reason, our bus is allowed to move. We squeeze by the machine with about 2 inches to spare, and continue around the corner. There we find the source of this hour and a half delay, the reason that dozens of cars, trucks and busses on the Amalfi road were dead-locked and brought to a stand-still. Around another turn we encounter construction signs, one lane is closed and there are 3-4 workers with a bucket of cement and some bricks, repairing the guard rail. That’s it. “Aaaah! we think, “this is Italy!”

4 thoughts on “Amalfi Coast

  1. Thank you Bo, as we enjoy your trip with you guys. Your art with words amazes us. What a talent. We did this same trip in 1981 but only now remember the things we saw and heard. By the way, are you getting older like we are?

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