Amalfi coast 8/09

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Italy's towns perched on Mediterranean cliffs...

Overlooking Sorrento south of Pompeii

Our day trip south included two elements, Pompeii and the Amalfi coast. Pompeii offers a unique snapshot of ancient times - a large city that didn't experience normal rise and decay because it was frozen in time for almost two millenniums after Vesuvius' massive eruption buried it in 79AD. The Amalfi coast offers stunning scenery punctuated by hill-climbing towns with deep blue harbors. Tiny roads carved into the sides of mountains jammed with too-big cars and buses make the journey from Sorrento to the city of Amalfi memorable.

Tuesday August 18th

Heading south from Rome, we passed by Naples (on the advice of almost everyone). From the freeway at least, that seemed like good advice - Naples looked like a sprawling slum. 30 minutes south of Naples we pulled in to Pompeii. The area around the ruins entrances was tourist trap heaven, with junk shops, pushy tour guides and busloads of elderly tour groups. Not mentioned in travel books, there are two entrances to the ruins, and we picked the wrong one, waiting 30 minutes in line for tickets because only one window was open. That entrance also put us at the end of the ruins instead of at the beginning.

"Heart" of the Almafi coast drive - Positano

The day was very hot and Pompeii offers little shade. The city is bigger than we anticipated and because we started at the wrong end, we walked essentially every mile. The first picture above shows the main road, Via Vesuvio, that we started off on with Vesuvius looming in the the background. A mile or so in we finally got our bearings and did the walking tour in reverse. The second picture above is the Pompeii Forum near the end of our tour shot in panorama. Leaving Pompeii just after noon, we got caught in an hour-long traffic jam coming through the many tunnels into Sorrento. Once we made the turn onto the coast in Sorrento (third picture above and large picture top of page left) the traffic subsided. There are several small towns along the drive, but Positano stands out, even from a distance (fourth picture above and first picture below).

Positano's bright white and tile buildings form the shape of an upside-down heart (large picture top of page right), perched on the cliff above its deep blue harbor. We spent an hour in Positano, walking the steep streets (second picture above) and grabbing a late lunch at La Zagara a few blocks above the Duomo (interior third picture above). Leaving Positano, we stopped at one of many viewpoints along the road and snapped the fourth picture above. Continuing east on a road that must have been cut right into the side of the mountain, we passed more small towns (first and second pictures below) before the town of Amalfi came into view (third picture below).

The city of Amalfi is quaint with a busy harbor area and a town square flanked by its imposing Duomo (fourth picture above). Amalfi's Duomo has a one-way walking circuit through four distinct areas: The Cloister of Paradise, the Basilica of the Crucifix, the Crypt of St. Andrew (first picture below) and the Cathedral itself (second picture below). We left Amalfi in the late afternoon heading north through Ravello to beat the "one hour before sunset closing" of Mt. Vesuvius' hike to its peak. As things turned out, they decided to close that day two hours before sunset, so we missed hiking the summit pathway by 10 minutes. The third shot below is an early evening view from the base of the summit pathway in Vesuvius' inner cone showing Naples and its semi-circular harbor in the distance.


Back in Rome, I took one last nighttime view from our hotel room window of the Aurelian Wall using my 10mm wide angle lens with the Tiffen North Star filter. Wednesday morning we went to the airport and boarded our plane to Zurich.

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