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

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