Continued from the previous post “Onward to Amalfi”
The start of a leisurely stay was dinner in the hotel restaurant where I was served a freshly caught Sea Bass grilled in the most perfect way by the head chef of the
restaurant – The 85 year old lady who was the founder of this hotel nearly 60 years ago still continues to oversee the kitchen operations and her older husband runs the food stall on the Marina. – no retirement ! A common feature across most of the cities we visited in Italy. I did not get a picture of the dish as I was engrossed discussing the nuances on Limoncello with Marco the restaurant manager – the local alcohol made from the Amalfi lemons . Amalfi lemons(limonis) are larger than most lemons and are grown in abundance on the higher reaches of the hills off the coast . Limoncello is a sweet drink often imbibed as an after dinner liqueur and served in two ounce shot glasses considered very potent. I was served a second drink only after being cautioned on the potency of Limoncello .
The next day saw us headed out to Positano , a short ride from the hotel .We stopped by one of numerous ceramic showrooms and then climbed down the steep hillside through Positano town to make our way to the beach level.It was a steep descent through narrow lanes and markets past the Church of Santa Maria Assunta. where we made an unscheduled stop to rest our aching legs .What we saw was something we beyond our imagination . The magnificent dome and the gold and white interior with a painted ceiling in the styles of Italian masters was truly a sight for the eyes .The structures dates back to the 10 Century AD and has been extensively refurbished in the 1800s. Every settlement in the Amalfi region has at least one church to visit , each one more exquisite than the other and dating back to the 10- 12 century AD mostly dedicated to Santa Maria.We made our way to a beach side restaurant known as the La Cambusa(check out my review on Tripadvisor) which afforded us unhindered view of the beach away from the crowds.I had the Nastra Azzuro which is an expensive beer with lesser alcohol content than its partner Perroni the other most popular brand in Italy. I had a baked chicken Italian style and Malati had an aubergine salad. It is only outside India that the Aubergine gets culinary respect as a main course dish delight !It is also not a great idea to have chicken in Italy when one has so many seafood options.After a lazy and leisurely lunch we strolled around the market with its local handicrafts and headed to the jetty . Chinese products have made their appearance her as well
At the Positano jetty, is the much talked about Gelateria (I forget the name) serving the local lemon Gelato which is Tangy lemony gelato made from the local lemons and served in huge shell of the fruit .It was one of the few eating places in Italy where we saw a waiting line .Don’t miss the size of the Limonis
We then got seabound from Positano and after a pleasant and breezy afternoon on the sea we disembarked at Amalfi Jetty. Amalfi and Positano are the major tourist areas of the region and are very well connected even by the sea route and there are options of private launches , motorboats, water taxis and passenger ferries connecting to all parts of the coast and even Naples.
Amalfi is smallish town and can be covered in a short time.We stopped by at the Amalfi town square which is the bus , taxi and ferry hub.In the center of the square is a statue of and surrounded by sidewalk restaurants on three sides.We stopped by at the central square of Amalfi called the Piazza Del Duomo of Amalfi and got a grand view of the Amalfi Cathedral. This cathedral too has a history dating back to the 8 century and is believed to house the relics of St Andrew the apostle of Jesus Christ.We sat in the cafe studded Piazza del Duomo, opposite the cathedral and sampled one of Italy’s famous Dolces(sweets) the Cannoli- A sweet dish comprising of a hardened tube shaped casing filled with a sweet mixture of Ricotta cheese and cream.Our hotel too provided us with a variety of croissants and Italian bakes each day. Must mention the sfogliatelle Santa Rossa so named after the monastery where it as first made and is a native Campanian specialty. It is another Italian “dolce” similar to the cannoli though more crisp and flaky with a very short shelf life.
From Amalfi we headed back to our Hotel by the SITA Bus which runs along the coastal route A point to mention here is that tickets are not available for sale on the bus and are sold at bars , shops and tabbacci (tobacconists) .The bus drivers thus do not handle any cash and the system of a conductor on board is completely done away with .We walked the last stretch on the coastal road and observing the nice looking cars pass by our way. Amalfi is a place where one can see the latest models of the cars in the world -from the Porsches and the Lamborghini’s to the more sedate BMWs and Mercedes . The small cars , the sports cars the coupes and sedans , the grand tourers and the luxury mobiles the whole works – and of course Italy’s own Fiat . Here are two cars which caught my fancy . The one the right is a Fiat 500 of the 1950s vintage and the other one is—- For car enthusiasts i recommend walking through Amalfi square parking lot -It is like walking through a sponsored collection of the latest models of the day
Two SITA buses away from the hotel and just a few km away from Amalfi at an altitude of 1000 ft above the sea level is the town of Ravello . The bus route passes Atrani, another small beach not as crowded as Amalfi . With astounding views of the sea from the town center , the key attraction of Ravello is the Villa Rudolfo , a former Italian nobleman’s villa set amidst a large garden and of course the cathedral or El Duomo. The Villa depicts life in the early periods. The villa was closed when we got there and we had to be content with a walk in the well laid out gardens.Ravello hosts periodic music concerts for upcoming artists and the festival features prominently in the Art and Culture calendar of Italy -A stroll in the
village square Piazza Vescovado followed by a walk through the by-alleys of the market place and we were back to the hotel in a matter of a couple of hours.The market place had nothing much to offer beyond what we saw at Amalfi. The hills around Ravello offer nature walks around the country side which include visits to lemon farms but that would have meant staying for a much longer period in Ravello
The last evening saw us again in our now favourite spot on the marina with a bottle of proseco and chips . We took a walk along the hill path to Praiano town a few hundred yards away through private villas and olive groves . Praiano town too is known for its cathedrals of St Luca and San Giovanni – San Giovanni cathedral is known for its local ceramic tiled flooring manufactured in the 12 century and a time tested testimony to their quality.We savored the town and took the road back to the hotel after a short stop at the Roman fortification by the sea Below is one of the few photos of both of us taken by a fellow tourist on our walk to Praiano.
Rounded the evening off with a home style dinner of Sphagetti Bolognese and two Bellinis .A Bellini we were informed is an Italian cocktail of Prosecco and Blood orange juice ( you could add any other juice as well)Till then I thought there was only one kind of orange juice.As Marco informed us this is less acidic than the Valencia orange juice which is the more prominent version.
With this visit to Praiano we would have visited nine of the 13 Municipalities on the Amalfi coast and was now time to head to our next Italian destination .We had thought that five days was adequate to savour the Amalfi coast but was clearly was not enough. We could have spent more time on the sea , we missed out the island of Capri , couldn’t make it to the hills or visit lemon farms or get quality photographs . Maybe always a next time .My photographs do not capture the beauty of the Coast line and I recommend to those interested to get onto You -Tube for a more exotic display of photography .There is a lot available.
And then we set off early the next day to board the train from Naples Centrale Railway Station onward to our next destination Florence . We boarded the train with some regret at not having spent some time in Naples.
Continued in my next post- Florence