After checking out of Maison Tofani in Sorrento Thursday morning, I made the short walk up the hill to rent a car. When I walked through the office door, the young lady at the front desk asked “Mr. Triggiani?” I was surprised, but then considered this is the off-season, so it’s likely I’m the only customer for the day, or maybe even for the week.
We did the paperwork and checked out the car. It had the usual scrapes and abrasions you see on all the cars in this area. Both mirrors were marred, which is easy to understand when you see how narrow the roads are. It was supposed to be an Alfa Romeo, but they gave me a Renault Modus in the same class. It’s one step up from the tiny, Smart-sized class. I wouldn’t want to try to navigate anything larger around these parts.
I decided to take the Amalfi Coast road. The whole coast is very well populated. If you go inland a few miles, it becomes more rural, but the coast highway is a rolling scene of villages, towns, and tons of small hotels hanging over the cliffs. The homes, businesses, ceramic factories and orchards are literally perched on the edges of the cliffs.
The road is very picturesque and very narrow as it winds around the rugged cliffs. It’s hard to drive a small car around some of these curves; I can’t imagine how the guys driving the buses manage it. It’s not uncommon to have to stop for oncoming traffic because of tight hairpin curves and cars that are parked in such a way as to crowd the lanes. Most of the time people just whiz by with an inch or two clearance on either side.
Stopping occasionally to take photos along the route, it took me all afternoon to wind my way along. It was a cloudy day, and there were a few sprinkles on the windshield, but I’m used to that sort of weather. I drove past Positano, not turning down the hill to visit the colorful village on this pass.
The turn-off to Ravello came and went past pretty quickly, so I had to go up the road a bit to find a spot wide enough to turn around. Ravello is a small village that sits atop a long ridge. The road up to Ravello is a series of steep switch-backs carved into the side of the cliff. There’s a stretch of road that is so narrow, it’s light-controlled. Still, there’s a lot less traffic than the last time I was here. The up-side of coming in February is that the region isn’t swarmed with tourists. The down-side is that many of the restaurants are closed for the off-season. The locals are telling me the tourist trade has dropped significantly in the last few years, due to the recession.
Switch-backs kept confusing my GPS, since it has a hard time sensing which level of the switch-backs I’m on. After arriving at the Hotel Parsifal around 2 or 3 pm, I spent the afternoon there, took some photos of the hotel, and then went for a short walk to the town center.
The hotel is in what was an old convent, with walls and floors of thick concrete. The views are stunning. Breakfast is included with my hotel lodging, so I’ll eat dinners there as well. Turns out the food is pretty good. I was the only guest Thursday night, so I got a lot of attention. It was cold the first night, most likely because of the altitude in it’s proximity to the sea.
As I started to walk down the long winding stair paths to Altrani and the town of Amalfi Friday morning, the sprinkles came, and it seemed like it was going to rain. My instincts were right. I’m glad I didn’t push on and make that walk, as it rained pretty hard in the afternoon. Instead, I went back to the hotel and got the car. I drove inland through a very rugged, rural countryside before coming back onto the coast road to loop back to the town of Amalfi. I had lunch and decided that the day was going to be a write-off, so I went back up to the hotel and spent the afternoon drinking strong coffee, playing on the internet, and enjoying a spectacular view.
The weather was decent on Saturday and, after a short walk up to the village center, I decided this would be the best day to drive back the way I had come, and visit the beach community of Positano. This isn’t beach season, so there wasn’t much activity in town. It’s completely different than the last time I was here. I parked the car and walked down the road to the beach.
Positano is comprised of tightly-stacked hotels, restaurants, ceramic shops, and some tourist traps. After having a pizza at a cafe on the beach, I walked out on the beach to take photos of the town hanging onto the cliffs like a so many madronas. Standing in the sand with my back to the sea, I wanted to back up a little to get a better angle on the photos I was taking. I checked over my shoulder to make sure I had room to edge back, composed my shot, and snapped it. The tide must have been coming in because, a few seconds later, a wave came in and I was up to my ankles in sea water.
It was going to be a long walk in sloshing shoes back up to where I had parked the car. I took my time getting back to the hotel in Ravello, stopping to take photos along the way.
I had plenty of sun on Sunday, and took some photos at Villa Cimbrone.
On Monday morning I left Ravello, and went south to Paestum.