Thursday, November 16, 2006

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

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