Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Ravello to Atrani on foot 11.27.06

It's 6am and the sun has not yet risen. I couldn't sleep anymore so I thought I'd just get up and get some thoughts down. I just heard someone going down the stairs in our building and out the door. Must be Piero, gone out to fish. The time is going by so quickly it's hard to keep track of things. I just read on the Internet how the dollar has hit a 20 month low against the euro. Not good news for us. Means we have to live even cheaper and that's a bit worrisome. We still plan to be here until the first of April and it means our dollar won't go as far. We live pretty simply as it is so if it continues to go down, well, let's just say, hopefully it won't make it difficult for us to remain. And the report said it was expected to drop even further. Fortunately down here it seems like things don't cost as much as in the north and our driving distances are not as great. Unless we decide to take a trip to Puglia or something but we don't plan on doing that for a while. Just tooling around the coast area and up into the mountains inland. We traveled pretty far and wide when we were living in Verona and filled our tank a lot. We aren't doing that so much here.

There are all these lovely little towns along the Amalfi Coast and around the Sorrento peninsula. One of the things we've enjoyed about living here is being able to return to places like Ravello. Our friend Dora, who is from Naples and is currently living in Baltimore, in the U.S., suggested a walk from Ravello to the Torre dell Zirro. We arrived in Ravello around 10 a.m. on Sunday and lots of families were there. We even ran into Rosaria, our next-door neighbor who gave us a warm greeting. We went to the Villa Rufolo to see the gardens since we hadn't taken the time on our last visit. It was well worth the 5 euros it cost since the views were spectacular over the coast, and the gardens, while not the best season for them, were still lovely. I especially enjoyed the red vines dripping from the old stone walls in the inner courtyards and bits of sparkly colored autumn leaves strewn about and adding color to the fountain and the steps that cascade up and down and around this really lovely space. The villa was built in the 11th century, a temporary home for Charles of Anjou and used by a bunch of other Norman kings and assorted other royals and popes. Wagner liked it so much, he used it as a setting for one of his operas.

We discovered the classic Ravello view from the terrace that we have seen in all the guidebooks and postcards but weren't able to find before. You look out towards the east and over the tops of the two towers framed by a huge umbrella pine. Spectacular! Even with the hazy sky (a lot of burning goes on here and on this particular day it created a layer of haze across the horizon), the views were wonderful.

We never did find the right trail to arrive at the Tower! On instructions from the tourist office, we drove down a short way from the center of Ravello and parked our car near the turn-off for Pontone and started walking. Now you should know, if you have never been to this part of the Amalfi Coast, that Ravello sits very high above the sea. The views from this mountain top perch are spectacular and the cliffs fall at a pretty steep angle down to Atrani, on the sea below. In between, are the water mills that provided power here before the advent of electricity, now abandoned. We ended up walking all the way down to Atrani! It took all of about 40 minutes to arrive at this tiny seaside community that seems even more vertical than Positano, just smaller, and kept walking down, down, down, first the road, then stone pathways through little courtyards, tiny turn-offs, steep steps, cascading down to the beach and the cute little centro where the Coast road winds through the town, on its way to Amalfi and Positano and the tip of the peninsula. It’s worth a stop if you are driving by for a coffee and a little look around.

We had planned to take the bus back up to our car and that proved to be a good idea, since the climb back up would surely have done us in! It was incredibly steep and we were certain we would feel it in our legs the next morning (which we did!). We saw an artist painting on the beach surrounded by a couple of geese, some families enjoying their Sunday, a couple of little kids tossing big rocks into the sea, a young couple smooching nearby, and some German tourists. We ended up waiting about 40 minutes for the bus since we had just missed one. No big deal. Better than walking up! Our car was sitting nicely waiting for us when we got off the bus at the turn-off and walked the very short distance up the hill to where we had left it, unmolested.

We were quite exhausted by the time we got back to Vietri but it was worth it. We do plan to go back again and try to find the trail to the Tower. Next time we will start walking in Ravello and follow a different trail outlined on the tourist info. We'll keep you posted.

Today we are off to Paestum to see the Greek Temples. The sun is now fully up and there is a pink glow to everything. Looks like it is going to be another beautiful day so we're taking advantage. Making hay while the sun shines.

Ci vediamo,
Rosemary e Robert

Friday, November 24, 2006

Views in Positano

We arrived just before sunset which did not allow much time to take many good photos.

Orange Boat

This guy is apparently a local favorite you can even see him at work on a postcard.

Clouds and boat

Father and son fishing. We never saw one fisherman catch anything.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Pumpkin Pie Disaster

Not that we didn't eat it. It tasted fine regardless of its looks.

Happy Thanksgiving November 23 2006

It's Thanksgiving morning. The sun is shining again after two straight days of rain. We put the laundry outside and we're making coffee. I plan to make a roasted chicken. Not that I couldn't get a turkey, but we just thought it would be too much just for the two of us. Cranberries? Forget it.

I made a pie last night that was a disaster. I didn't buy the right stuff for the pie crust (I have no rolling pin or desire to make it from scratch!!) and instead of the pasta frolla (essentially pie crust) I should have bought (that I used for the pie I made for Laura and Giorgio in Verona), I got instead, pasta sfoglia (flalky puff pastry). Those of you who bake will understand the difference and know why it just didn't work! I don't have a blender either or a mixer to make my pumpkin smooth so it was kind of lumpy and my oven doesn't have a gauge to select a temperature so it's kind of a guessing game as to how hot it really is. The thermometer on the outside definitely is not accurate so after 40 minutes the pie was still soupy. My crinkly piecrust edges had fallen into the soup and all I could do was turn the temperature knob up a little higher and wait a little longer. Fifty minutes into baking the puff pastry began to puff! From all sides - even from the middle!!! It was like Vesuvius erupting! I finally had to take it out for fear of burning the pastry but unsure the pie had set. We let it cool and then decided we should try a piece. Maybe we should let it cool some more. It's in the fridge now and we are hoping for the best later, after our turkey/chicken dinner. We'll keep you posted.

I'm planning to talk Bob into watching The Wizard of Oz with me later. It's always been a tradition for me - but usually I would get up early in the morning on Thanksgiving, get the turkey preparations started with the Thanksgiving Day parade on the TV. When the parade is over, I watch the movie. Bob sleeps through all of this normally. In Arizona, the parade festivities begin around 6am, broadcast live from New York and I love it. When I was a kid my Dad and my Uncle Fred would take us into the city to watch the parade while my Mom and Aunt Celeste did the cooking. A huge feast that always started with a big tray of lasagna and all the meats: meatballs, bracioli (thin-sliced beef, rolled up with spices and tied, pieces of pork, maybe a few sausages thrown in. That would be followed by the turkey. Which no one ate. Imagine. My mother would always say, "no one likes turkey." Which in later years would just crack us up! Of course we didn't eat the turkey! We were too stuffed ourselves from all the lasagna! We did however always like the turkey leftovers. Instead of the typical dressing, they made a meat stuffing we absolutely loved. Browned ground beef, with bits of salami or pepperoni, bits of hardboiled egg, all the spices they would normally put into a meatball mixture. The flavor that resulted from roasting it inside the turkey has to be tasted to be believed. They were terrible at the bread stuffing part and I never liked it until I tasted Bob's Mom's version. Which is what I make to this day. She really knew how to do bread stuffing. In fact the first Thanksgiving of our married life (37 years ago!) I was on the phone to her for help with the yams, the stuffing, how to put it all together. Hers seemed the most "American" to me and I wanted to do it the most traditional way. I think she started answering the phone "Turkey Hotline" but I may just be remembering the first time my sister made Thanksgiving Dinner and I imparted my mother-in-law's knowledge to her.

I'm feeling a bit homesick I think. Maybe it's being in a new place and still finding our way around. Because of the way we found this apartment, through an agent, we are still trying to meet out landlord, a busy guy who not only owns this apartment, but also a hotel and a ceramics shop and who knows what else, so we don't have that sense of someone looking out for us like we did with Rita and Sergio in Perugia, Elio and Giovanna in Marina di Ragusa in Sicily and most recently, with Laura and Giorgio in Verona. I'm grateful for Martine and Piero upstairs and I know if we need help with anything, that they will try their best. Maybe it's finally catching up to me since we have been away more than a year and a half now. Maybe it's the holiday season approaching. I am excited to see how they do it here, looking forward to seeing all the little cities decorated and lit up as they do with such abandon. But I am also missing my family, my friends and the familiar. I won't miss all the advertising, the shopping, the craziness. Just the people. I'm thrilled that my sister and my nieces will be here with us for Christmas. I can't wait to see them!!

So, while you are eating your big turkey dinner today I hope you will think of us. Maybe we will be out on the beach, maybe putting our feet in the sea. Or maybe taking a drive looking out over the coast. And we'll be thinking of you and wishing you all good things and the happiest of holidays.

Rosemary and Bob

Sorrento morning

The Christmas Tree in the Main Piazza, Sorrento

An example of "Intarsia" – the beautiful Italian marquetry this area is famous for

Images around Vesuvius & Sorrento

The "Leap" at "Luster's Lane" near Sant'Agata sui due Golfi

From the little fishing village of Marina della Lobra

TheTower at Marina della Lobra, near Massa Lubrense

Sorrento and Positano 11.20.06

A morning in Sorrento

On Monday, we set out for Sorrento, taking the northerly route, on the freeway, the road that leads to Naples and then headed down towards the Sorrentine coast. Sorrento sits above the Bay of Naples and commands an excellent view, with Mt. Vesuvius and Capri just across the bay. We remembered it as a hectic city when we visited last filled with motor scooters and tourists, with buses packed to capacity carting people up and down the Amalfi Coast. I always wonder if I am just in the wrong place and not the city sung of so lovingly, as I hum "Torna Sorriento" walking down the maze of streets filled with souvenir shops. There are some very beautiful and exclusive hotels and villas perched on the cliffs there that I am sure afford their guests incomparable luxury and breathtaking views across the bay. We stayed in the Hotel Lorely several years ago and our views were truly amazing and the prices affordable for us at that time (thanks, Rick Steves).

Holiday decorations have been strung and they were putting the finishing touches on a giant tree in the main piazza so we will have to "Return to Sorrento" just to see it lit up for Christmas. We stopped in the "Museo Bottega della Tarsialegnea" the museum that displays local woodcraftwork, particularly the marquetry work that Sorrento is famous for. The furniture and art objects on display were truly worth seeing and we especially enjoyed the extensive collection of prints and photographs from an earlier age, albeit romanticized by the artists, but lovely nevertheless.

We bought some paninis at one of the local groceries and looked out over the bay while we ate, then continued on our way, towards Positano.

We drove up high above the coast, on a road that leads to Sant'Agata Sui Due Golfi (there is a point where you can see the two gulfs, Naples and Salerno and it is pretty spectacular). At another panoramic viewpoint, which we refer to now as "Luster's Lane" due to the remnants of indescribable "litter" we saw in the bushes around us. Yikes. A bit creeped out, we did manage to take some photos of the sea view, which truly was gorgeous, and made a hasty retreat back to the car.

We stopped in the tiny, and absolutely charming, fishing village of Marina Lobra, near Massa Lubrense. Tranquil and pretty, we stopped long enough to appreciate its beauty and take a few photos, then continued on our drive towards Positano.

Lovely Positano 11.20.06

We arrived as the sun was making its descent. It is fabulous. It starts out high on the cliff then spills down to the sea in all its pastel-colored glory as one would expect of a city with its reputation. Our guidebook discouraged us from driving down but we disregarded it and opted to see if we could find a place to park closer to the sea. Around 4pm, it was perhaps a good time to arrive as there weren't many people and we easily found a spot in one of the parking garages. It is very off-season now but the shops were still open and a few tourists loitered about looking at the paintings for sale on the seafront. There was just one artist painting and selling his work (probably an institution since he is also depicted on one of the city's postcards). They were nicely done, beautiful contemporary oils in all the colors of the city they captured so well. One of the American tourists bought the one I had looked at a few minutes before, admiring its verticality and simplicity of design.

The light on the city at sunset was beautiful. The locals arrived at dusk with their fishing poles. A few men were using the technique we have seen before - simply throwing out a length of fishing line and lure, without using a pole. The entire time we sat there they didn't catch anything, but they seemed to enjoy the process of winding and unwinding the line and tossing it out.

We wandered around, the streets are a delightful maze of steps and everything feels lovingly cared for and well tended. The beach was larger than I expected, but still small. It's also traffic free, which makes it seem all the more tranquil and relaxing. The American family was trying in vain to get their teenage son to leave the sea, but he clung tight and ignored their pleas. We heard "Connor!" many times before he finally turned away. We know how he felt! It was hard to leave this little paradise and we know we will come back.

Pizza and Rain

Back in Vietri, we parked our car, dropped our things and walked over to Marina di Vietri to find a pizza! We found one restaurant open (Monday night is not the best night to eat out as many of the restaurants close) and were treated to a dish of bruschetta and ordered a bottle of wine and a couple of margherita pizzas. The rain started to fall during our dinner so in an effort to stretch things out, hoping it would quit, we ordered the biscotti with vin santo that was really excellent. A huge basket of cookies arrived on our table, which we managed to make a pretty good dent in! They were both yummy.

Luckily there was a little bus in the piazza near the pizzeria and we were able to take it the short drive back to our apartment, keeping dry and out of the rain, since we had neglected to bring an umbrella with us!

I started writing this post this morning and I'm just finishing now. It did rain today. We stayed home most of the day, and only went out for a short walk when it let up for a bit, watching the rain clouds swirling and a big dark one envelope the little town of Raito, above us.

Thanksgiving, Christmas and family times

I cooked up some pumpkin (zucca) to make some pumpkin pies. We think we'll do a modified Thanksgiving Dinner on Thursday, see if we can buy some turkey. We haven't seen anything like yams so we are wondering if they grow in Italy. We have seen something called "potato dolce" and maybe they will work, but they are white and not the bright orange color we are used to. No matter, it will just be the two of us. Our American friend Shelly invited us to come to her place in Umbria, but we don't really want to make the long drive. It would take us around 4 or 5 hours to get there. It would have been nice to have the company on this American holiday but we think it will be OK.

My sister Suzanne and my adorable, beautiful, and brilliant nieces Samantha and Madison will be with us next month so we'll have a family Christmas. We are really looking forward to that.

Jessica spent a week with Chris and Kyla in Richmond and we got some great new photos of all of them. She is working on a show over Thanksgiving so she couldn't be there for the holiday. Our son and his daughter look so happy to have had Aunt Jessica with them again for a brief visit. Kyla is getting so big. I will have to post a new photo of her in her new pink coat and hat! What a cutie!

We've been kind of frustrated at our poor internet coverage. It seems like our connections are slower than they were in other places and we aren't sure why. We are using the same TIM system we had in Sicily and in Verona, using our cell phone as the modem, but it is painfully slow some days, just trying to get connected to email.

That's it for the moment. We have plans to go to Napoli and visit that city. It has so much to offer.

Tonight we will just stay dry and cozy in our little apartment. We hope all of you have a wonderful Thanksgiving and we send you our love and good wishes.

Rosemary e Robert

Vesuvius, Sorrento and Positano 11.20.06

Mt. Vesuvius, Naples 11.19.06

The sun is shining now through the dark clouds. It rained last night after a beautiful couple of days. On Sunday after a lazy morning at home we drove around Vesuvius to see how far up we could get. Since it was already afternoon, we didn't expect the Observation Center to be open and didn't follow the directions our guidebook gave us, instead, looking at the map we tried to figure out an alternate way to get there. Not the best move, since the road we took went past some of the least attractive, downright unpleasant looking little places.

The only shining moment was finding a wonderful little Salumeria (like a delicatessen) whose name, also a surprise "Alfonso Living Food" - that could easily fit in some of the more upscale towns - was there in a place called San Giuseppe Vesuviano, within the Parco Nationale Vesuvio. The owners were delightful, friendly people. We asked them to make a couple of panini for us and tasted the delicious rice balls, everything made fresh on the premises. The shelves are well stocked with wonderful wines, fat prosciutto hams hang above the counters, the deli case a treasure trove of local delicacies. We were offered a taste of the prosciutto and a glass of wine as their young son played nearby and friends talked and laughed together, sampling the goodies and we presume, taking some home. Since 1918, there has been a shop here, run by the same family.

If you find yourself in this area, please stop and say hello, and by all means, eat! Alfonso's wife speaks very good English, having family in New York. Alfonso Living Food, Via Carbonari, n. 12, 80047 San Giuseppe Vesuviano, Naples.

We drove away from there with such a good feeling but within a short distance, the area of the Parco, on the east side of the volcano, left a lot to be desired. Piles of garbage bags surrounded all the bins, which were overflowing, trash littered the sides of the streets and an overall atmosphere of neglect and squalor took us by surprise. According to the guidebook, Mt. Vesuvius is one of the most visited places in Italy, and one would expect the area around it to be a little more cared for. I hate to be so judgmental about it, but our overall impression of this area was that we weren't in any hurry to go back, except to visit Alfonso's!

The higher up the side of the volcano we drove, the nicer the surrounding area, as the yucky stuff gave way to olive groves and some vineyards and a few homes scattered here and there. Eventually we arrived at a point where, if you wanted to hike further on, you could park your car, but the road ended. We were not in a position to do that as it was getting late and we didn't want to leave our car unattended in this somewhat remote location. Perhaps another day, we'll do as the guidebook suggests and visit the Observatory and learn more about the volcano. But on this particular day, we simply got back in our car and headed back to Vietri, a little disappointed, a little tired, but that's the way it goes.

(to be continued: Sorrento and Positano 11.20.06)

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Sunrise over the Bay of Salerno from Vietri

Sunrise images in Vietri

This is the promenade along the beach, looking towards Raito

There is a bar at one end of the promenade with a wonderful view

Raito at sunrise, from Marina di Vietri

Simple Pleasures 11.19.06

This past week has been a busy one. By Friday evening, coming home from another trip to Amalfi, we were wiped out! Yesterday we decided we had better have a day of rest and stay close to home. I went to bed really early - around 9pm so by daybreak, I was awake. Not wanting to disturb Bob who was still sound asleep I quietly got up, dressed and went out to watch the sunrise. We have a nice view from our terrace, but not the point where the sun comes up over the horizon and so I took my journal and walked down the road a short distance to the little panorama viewpoint and sat on one of the benches there. The sky was already a pale shade of blue, the sun had already risen but had not yet cleared the mountains to the east and a golden glow was emanating from that point. Pink streaks spread across the sky. The sea was dotted with small fishing boats and one of the large transport ships was slowly making its way out of the harbor at Salerno. It was peaceful and quiet with only an occasional car zooming past and a little honey colored cat and its kitten purring nearby. A few birds flapped their wings overhead and a steady, but gentle morning breeze was blowing. I could hear the water slap against the rocks below.

I walked further down for a sunrise view of Raito, the little town to the west of us, high above the Marina, with its lovely view of the Bay. It was lit with the morning light. Martine told us the other day about a devastating flood in this area around 50 years ago. We knew about the damage it had done to Maiori, further up the coast, but did not know that it had affected Vietri and the Marina as well. She suggested we look up the local priest in the church here and ask him to show us photos of what the area looked like prior to the flood and we hope to do that. Apparently there had been very heavy rains and the river overflowed its banks and many people died and houses were washed into the sea. One of the drawbacks to living in a coastal area like this I suppose. And I wonder what it must feel like to become accustomed to disaster - and if one ever does - floods, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, invading hoards of barbarians (most recently the guidebook carrying kind!) Does it make them appreciate every day and not give too much importance to little inconveniences; to drive fast and eat slowly; to love passionately and take the time to savor life?

I wandered home in search of coffee and put up a pot to brew. Bob got up and we shared another and a little breakfast out on the terrace. The pink sky was starting to look a bit threatening, but nothing seemed imminent and we decided to walk up the hill to Vietri and see if we could find the markets up there to pick up some groceries. We have been going to the little shops on the Marina but we have noticed our neighbors coming from the other direction with grocery bags and thought we should check it out.

Sure enough, in Vietri sul Mare, as we got away from the street with all the ceramics shops, we found them! Grocery stores, fruit and vegetables, meat and fish markets etc etc, even a hairdresser! We have passed this street, but at the wrong time of day when everything was closed and with all the metal doors down it doesn't look like anything is there at all. But when they are open it's alive and vibrant! And all the locals were out buying groceries, visiting with neighbors, picking up kids from the school (they attend school on Saturdays in Italy) and out enjoying all of it. We passed a young father and his little toddler and heard a strange "Good morning" from him! We looked around surprised and he asked if we didn't live down across from the hotel and told us he lived in the same building and had seen us. Of course we recognized him then! He and his wife live above Carmela and Anna and I had seen their little baby on the terrace with his mother.

We're not sure what we want to do today. I've been reading about Naples and have received advice on places to go and things to see there. Bob is out reading on the terrace and my coffee cup is empty. Time to go take a shower and get dressed. Then we'll see what comes next. The sun is shining and it looks clear and pretty. I'm just taking it as it comes.

Ci vediamo,
Rosemary e Robert

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Amalfi, castles and sunsets

The lights of Amalfi from the coast

Amalfi at sunset

A tower above Amalfi (Dora, who was born in Naples, told us that this is called Torre dello Ziro. She said we could reach it from Ravello by way of a walking trail labeled "climbing site" and that if we went on a Sunday we would likely see rock climbers.We will have to try to do just that. Thanks Dora!)

Friday, November 17, 2006


Friends in the main square in the center of the town.

Some colorful fishing boats on the beach.


Boats on the beach with an ancient tower in the background.

The Dome of the main church.


The skyline of Cetara from across the harbor

Geatano: I found Rosemary with that look on her face again. I knew she had found something cool. When we entered his flower shop we found him playing his mandolin. He stopped and talked with us for a while. We gave him our phone number so he can call us the next time he is playing with his gorup, nearby. We will go to listen.

Cetara color

Beautiful green doors and window with fishing nets of another type.

The harbor is just a riot of colors.


This guy sat next to this boat for hours.

All along the pier there were small mountains of fishing nets of all colors and sizes.

Images of Cetara

These are the donkeys (asino) that were carrying the building materials up the stairs. The one being loaded is the one that fell just minutes before.

Oar power is still utilized here by many fishermen (pescatore) not only the oldtimers like him.

Red in Cetara

When I looked at these I thought they were tomatoes but when I looked at the sign I discovered that they are a variety of pepperoncini, spicy hot peppers.

When Rosemary saw this photo she said it looks like a cup and saucer. It is an unusual design. Does anyone know why?

Thursday, November 16, 2006

All along the pier were huge piles of commercial fishing nets of different colors and styles.

Pescatore setting out his nets for the days catch, hopefully.

The beautiful city of Cetara

Repairing his nets

It seems like the work of a pescatore is never finished. Shortly after this photo was taken he began reloading all of his nets back onto the boat. He was very friendly and even stopped a bit to talk with me until he realized I do not understand the local dialect. He switched to Standard Italian but only for a short time then went back to work.

Amalfi and Cetara 11.16.06

It's a beautiful warm and sunny day here in Vietri on the Amalfi Coast but there are clouds forming to the west of us and the sky is a pale blue with puffs of whitish gray clouds overhead. The sea is a silvery blue with streaks of bright white where the sun reflects on its surface. There are some little fishing boats and big ships passing back and forth.

Making Friends in Vietri

We walked over to Marina di Vietri this morning, the seaside village next to the beaches below Vietri sul Mare to have coffee at Martine's coffee bar. Martine and Piero live upstairs from us with their son and his wife who are expecting a baby soon and their dog, Cesare. Martine is French and, we learned this morning, she was born in Paris and met Piero in London 37 years ago. She has the most gorgeous dark brown eyes and warm smile. They have been so kind and welcoming, we look forward to getting to know them. They both speak English too, which is also a help when we can't figure out how to say things in Italian, it makes it easier to know we can resort to our native tongue and be understood! And I think Martine is happy for the opportunity to practice using her English. They own a little coffee bar in the shady piazza there and invited us to come down and have a coffee. Meeting the people has been one of the most rewarding parts of this adventure.

Night view of Amalfi

On Monday evening, after my morning in Vietri we took a drive to Amalfi. We remembered the Duomo di Sant'Andrea in the main piazza from our trip here several years ago and it is just as beautiful now with its long flight of stairs and Arabic-like interlaced arches and multi-colored stone stripes. The sun was going down and the light was not the best but we enjoyed wandering around, located the paper museum and made a note to return. We also found a marble sculptor who said he could repair our broken pestle and so tomorrow if the weather is good, we'll go back.

The view of Amalfi at night from the coastal road that leads back to Vietri was spectacular. What a treat it was to be there to see it!

Delightful Cetara

On Tuesday I fell in love with Cetara. Cetara is a tiny fishing village about 10 minutes away from Vietri in the direction of Amalfi. We took some photos last week as we passed by and promised to come back for further exploration. We got up early and planned to have our coffee in the piazza there on the seaside. It gets barely a nod from our guidebooks but it is so charming I wanted to pack up our belongings and move there! With a population of about 2500 it was the least touristy place we have seen along this coast so far with locals doing their shopping, having coffee in the bars and going about their daily business. It was full of energy and life. Once again, walking through this little town I heard the sound of music and found Gaetano in his flower shop stumming his mandolin. We had a nice conversation with him and learned that he plays in a 3-piece band. We gave him our phone number and he promised to call when he had a gig where we could hear them play.

Laundry hung from clotheslines (not really an uncommon site in Italy!) Cetara sits in a kind of a bowl, in a sandy bay. The city, once a Saracen stronghold, jumbles and tumbles down to the sea with its Duomo right in the center and visible from many vantage points. We enjoyed wandering up and down little flights of steps to lots of little view points and walking through the one main shopping street, buying some fresh fruit and vegetables and another picnic lunch that we ate sitting on a bench by the seaside. They recently expanded their fishing port to include a pier with a promenade that allows you to walk out across from the town for a lovely view of it from the sea.

As we were gazing towards the city from this vantage point we heard a loud crash bang noise and looked over to where some men were restoring an old house, where stone steps spilled down to the seafront. What looked on first glance to be a wheelbarrow filled with stones was in fact a donkey! The donkey, with saddle boxes on its back, had fallen, head over heels down the stone steps and miraculously righted himself after taking quite a tumble. When Bob focused his telefoto lens we could see that there were at least 3 or 4 donkeys, beasts of burden, being used by these workers to transport stones from the construction site down the steps. The one that had fallen was among them again and his saddle box was being refilled with more big stones. It was amazing to us that he was not hurt and still more surprising to realize that with these vertical cities and tight spaces, this must simply be an efficient way of working.

Plumbing Problems

Just so you don't think everything is always rosy for us, on Tuesday evening we discovered a leak in the bathroom coming from the pipe that leads to the water tank. We put a little bowl under the leak and noticed that it was filling up every few hours. We called Nigel, our agent, and he said he would take care of it. We waited all day Wednesday with no sign of a plumber. Piero from upstairs had told us that he and the owner of our apartment were good friends and if we needed anything we should tell him. Not wanting to waste another day, we decided to talk to him about our problem and see what he could do. He immediately got on the phone and called a young friend of his, Guisseppe, who does this kind of work and arranged for him to come by this morning. Nigel called back last night and said he was expecting someone to come out later today but we decided to go with Piero's friend and hoped for the best. The young man showed up this morning right on time and did a minor repair that we hope will suffice and charged us 20 euros. Piero and Martine assured us that their friend, our landlord, is very nice man and will surely reimburse us for this amount. Even if he doesn't, which we hope will not be the case, it didn't cost very much and now we don't have to sit around waiting for it to be done. We have places to go and things to see!

We have barely scratched the surface here but so far we are "molto contento" (very happy) to be here.

Buona giornata,
Rosemary e Robert

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

My Watercolor of Vietri sul Mare

Bocconcini alla Panna and Vietri 11.12.06

Yesterday, after I wrote all about the week before, in spite of the rain we decided to take a drive down to Paestum and Agropoli, about an hour south of Salerno. The roads were flooded in many places but not so bad we couldn't pass. We went to visit Nigel and pick up some of the things he had that we still needed for our apartment, some more pots and pans and other odds and ends. He had been sick earlier in the week and we didn't stay long. It was too rainy and gray to visit Paestum and its Greek temples (some of the best preserved outside Greece and Sicily they say) but we located them and will go back on a clear day.

The best part of the day was that on the way home we passed many shops selling fresh buffalo mozzarella!! We were hungry and got some bread and cheese to eat in the car and the man at the cheese shop called "Crisci" gave us a taste of one of his freshly made bocconcini - the round, fresh, absolutely incredible balls of mozzarella this area is famous for and we had to buy a bag of them to take home! His bread was crispy and delicious too and I also bought a bag of fresh pasta. We expect to eat well here!!! Hopefully we will be walking and climbing enough so that we don't turn into big round balls ourselves.

This morning I woke up early and left Bob sleeping to go off for a walk on my own. I did a little painting, sat and drank a cappuccino at the bar with the view of the emerald sea and wandered around Vietri, looking in some of the ceramica shops and just trying to get my bearings. It's very sweet. I am happy here. The walk up the hill from our apartment to Centro affords spectacular views of the Bay of Salerno and we look down on a green area that seems to be part park, part vineyard, part orchard, kind of wild and overgrown but clearly someone tends this garden. We have shared buon giorno's with a man trimming the vines and there are gates along the road to houses deep in the green. A great view of Vietri appears suddenly as you round another corner and it is this that I chose to sketch this morning. I started out with a sweater and my quilted vest and gradually stripped off the outer layers as the sun was warm and the temperatures climbing.

In centro it is warm or cool depending on whether you are in the piazza with the view and the sun on you or you are walking inside the town through the streets that twist and turn and the sun only reaches later in the day. It's an interesting tangle though and I really do think we will enjoy exploring it further.

Ci vediamo presto!
Rosemary e Robert

Images from our Day in Ravello

The two domes of Ravello

Viewing the Blood of San Pantaleone in Ravello's cathredral

One of Ravello's classic views through umbrella pines

Looking up in Ravello

Sheep on the road near Ravello

Images in and around Ravello

Lion sculpture in Ravello

A street in Ravello with red vines overhanging a stone wall

Fancy old Palazzo with incredible views

The skyline of Ravello from Scala

Piazza Duomo, our picnic spot

More images in and around Ravello

Ravello's Duomo bell tower

A hotel in Ravello

An Amalfi Coat view from Ravello

The man loading sticks onto his mule In Minuta

Horses and rider coming up the stone steps in Minuta