The second part of my Italian adventure beckoned. I finally arrived on the Amalfi Coast, after a train from Naples to Sorrento and then the local bus along the breathtakingly beautiful and just a tiny bit scary coastal roads to Amalfi. This was my first time visiting the Amalfi Coast and although I thought I had a good picture of how beautiful this region was, nothing could prepare me for the breathtaking beauty of this coastline (new camera memory had to be purchased on the first day!).
I was here, as with Tuscany, to meet our local agent, visit the hotels which we use, and of course walk in this beautiful region… oh and sample the fabulous local food! My base for the first two nights was the stunning ancient maritime town of Amalfi, which is bursting with tourists and locals, all going about their business in the myriad of narrow streets crammed with shops and restaurants. It’s a great place just to wander or to sit in the Piazza Duomo overlooking the impressive Cathedral, which is a top spot for watching the ever trendy Italians!
The next few days were spent walking in and around the wonderful Amalfi Coast, starting with the Valley of the Ancient Mills which is the most delightful, tranquil walk. I hardly saw a soul until Ravello, it was mostly just me and the most amazing views, total bliss! I walked through endless fragrant lemon groves, up and down the ancient stairways and paths, leading first to the village of Pontone then finally to my destination of Ravello. This is a very beautiful little town, with fabulous ceramic shops and some seriously good restaurants which I was told are often the haunt of the rich and famous. I however, made do with a delicious Panini from one of the many cafes! Here you can visit the gardens of the stunning 13th century Villa Ruffalo, or from magnificent views visit the Villa Climbrone where the views are said to be the best on the Amalfi coast.
The following day I met with our Agent Marcello and his assistant Anna and together we took the bus to Agerola, a village in the high valley above the coast. This was to be our starting point to walk a section of the “Footpath of the Gods”. We started from the little village of Bomerano and got down to the most important task of the day… buying lunch! Marcello and Anna are typical Italians who love food (Anna had frequent pleas from her mother bang on 12 pm to come home for pasta!). Marcello directed us to a great little deli selling mostly organic produce made in the area and who make the best Panini! We had hunks of the local mozzarella, fat juicy olives and a bag of biscuits to see us through our walk! We started walking along a high coastal path which was teeming with butterflies and the scent of wild fennel, and peppermint. The scenery was breathtakingly beautiful along the cliff path and at one of the most amazing viewpoints, Marcello requested we stopped for lunch (ok it was only 10:30 but the thought of the Panini’s were driving us crazy!) We had a meeting here to discuss the new trips that we are looking at developing in this area. After a very productive meeting, we all agreed it must have had the most scenic meeting table in the entire world, with the azure sea spread in front of us and brightly coloured butterflies dancing around us! Feeling full and connected we continued along this amazing path and after descending many stairs arrived at the uber chic and beautiful town of Positano. Here it was time to stop and have a gelato sitting by the beach people watching in this uber chic little town.
This combination of spectacular walking on the high cliff path, gazing at the pastel coloured towns perched on the hillside overlooking the azure sea, made me want to tell everyone to come to Amalfi and experience the beauty!
One of the highlights for me was not only the amazing walking and scenery, but meeting with Marcello and the lovely and super efficient Anna. They were both highly knowledgeable on the walking in the area and had a great reputation with the local hoteliers who greeted them with open arms on our hotel visits. I could tell they were highly regarded by the hoteliers and passionate about providing a great service which is exactly what we aim to achieve at Macs Adventure. They not only taught me about the local area and history of the region but also the culture in this part of Italy and had a good chuckle at my tea consumption, which they laughingly told me is only drunk in Italy if you are ill! The hotels we visited were all of a really good standard and again all mostly family owned by people who take great pride in their hotels and in the people they have staying with them. The kindness and hospitality of the people is what makes Italy so special. On one evening while staying at the Hotel Rigorgemento in Agerola and while dining alone, I was invited into the kitchen to practice making pizza which the chef, although a bit daunted at first and not just by the cheering table of fellow walkers looking on, I managed after much dough spinning managed to make a bellisimo pizza!
Aside from the walking, this part of Italy is rich in archaeology, with the ancient Roman city of Pompeii situated a short distance away under the brooding Mount Vesuvius. I visited both Mount Vesuvius and Pompeii, which were spectacular and really thought provoking as to what was like during these times. On the day I was due to visit Capri, with a clear blue sky and relatively calm sea, the weather was deemed too bad to operate the boat from Amalfi to Capri, so the trip was off. Instead I opted to visit the ancient Archaeological site of Paestum, which although it is not as well known as Pompeii is an absolutely fascinating site and the home to the best preserved Greek Temples in the world. The site is unbelievably tranquil (or would have been if my newly found friend had not kept popping from behind ruins asking if I wanted my picture taken!) with tiny lizards scurrying over the ruins, the whole area has a slightly overgrown feel which really adds to the charm. And also not to be missed is the excellent museum beautifully set out and housing some fantastic relics found on the site.
The time had come for me to head back to Scotland and leave this beautiful country much to my dismay. Marcello and Anna had some lovely gifts for me as a memento of my visit and had arranged for one of the local ceramic shops to paint the Macs Adventure logo on a beautiful ceramic tile, I was so touched as were the Macs team on my return! It was however quite a challenge to fit the gifts in my now ready to explode bag, but with three of us squashing and pulling we eventually got it closed
Although sad to leave, I was bursting with tales and excitement from the trip which I couldn’t wait to share with friends, colleagues and family. The people I met and the unforgettable scenery made this trip one I am unlikely to forget and has made me desperate to get back to Italy, the next time I have promised to take my husband though! The biggest problem for me will be deciding where to go, as I love something about each place I visited, I may have to flip a coin!