Amalfi mayhem

We boarded the ferry to Amalfi and were greeted with stunning views of Positano, other towns and the road that hugs the side of the coastline. We could see Montepertuso way up near the clouds and couldn’t believe we walked all that way down.  Arriving into Amalfi was like sailing across the Narrow Sea and arriving in King’s Landing.  There was a medieval, mythical feel to it.  Once we ventured into town, though, it was more of the same: trattorias, pizzerias and a plethora of gift shops peddling the Amalfi Coast’s primary attraction—lemon.  It’s no wonder Italians loving kissing each other, their lips are permanently puckered from all the lemon candies, lemon drinks, lemon gelato and limoncellos they consume.

We walked around town for a bit then tucked into a small back alley restaurant for pizzas, forgetting their size.  We wanted to walk off our doughy distended bellies, but Amalfi was pretty small.  We saw the impressive church that somehow survived the earthquake and I got a tremendous religious buzz standing on the steps.  The image of Jesus above the front door looked remarkably like Tom Skerritt, with beard and robes.  I could only guess he was urging people to stay away from Poltergeist III.

After two hours we decided to take the bus back to Positano, thinking it was the quickest option.  This was a poor decision.  The bus was packed and, being the friendly Canadians, we didn’t push on so thus wound up near the back of the line, then stood in a crush of people for the first half of the journey.  Thankfully, two seats opened up right beside us so we quickly ducked into them before the other vultures could pounce.  Ha, take that grandma!

The bus plodded along the serpentine road frequently stopping at bottlenecks.  One such delay occurred at a bridge, where a large red tour bus traveling the opposite way was trying to ford the roadway already stuffed with vehicles.  To make matters worse, cars park everywhere along the side of the road forcing single vehicles to pass various pinch points in turn.  Further amplifying this mayhem was the fact of Easter Sunday, when every Italian comes to the Amalfi Coast for vacation or family gatherings.  The bus ride took close to an hour but this time we made sure to get out at the correct unidentified spot on the road.  Finally we were starting to understand the crazy transportation system in Italy, or so we thought.  We waited 45 minutes for the bus to Montepertuso, the sun was going down and the weather was getting cool.  All we had were our matching green jackets so we shivered on the curb.  Had we gotten off at the other stop, we would have caught the bus sooner and perhaps got a seat instead of standing all the way to Montepertuso.

That night we had a few snacks and turned in early, then were awoken by rain at 8:00 am.  Okay, today was a good day to research what and where we were to go next.  Our only other plan was a trip to the village to buy supplies (liquor) for a relaxing day in.  Down at the store we bought ingredients for what has become a new personal recipe for me: the Positano special.  The secret is pasta, olive oil, pesto, fresh tomatoes and buffalo mozzarella, a delicious meal made with love from my own hand.  (Julia boiled the water).  After spending the day reading, researching and napping we decided on a plan: Matera.  The problem was how to get there and bus company webpages are impossible to understand.  We decided to venture back into Positano the next day and seek help for our travel plans.

We took the bus down to Positano and looked around the various shops but were unenthused.  Everything we could have bought in Amalfi was available in Positano: lemon this, lemon that, lemon, lemon and more lemon.  Our real reason was to find a travel shop to help us navigate the bus schedules so we popped into a fancy hotel on the strip called Le Sirenuse to ask for directions.  We spoke to the front desk clerk and explained our dilemma.

“Let me see what I can do for you.” he said in surprisingly good English.  “Yes, I see your problem, these schedules are not clear.  By the way, where are you from?”

“Canada.” we said in unison, like dorky Canadians.

“I see, do you like Trudeau?” he said.

“Ah, yeah.” I responded, not entirely sure how he knew about Trudeau.

“Do you know about Canada?”  Julia asked.

“Do I know about Canada?  Do I know about Canada?  Hey!” he called out to the other desk clerk.  “Do I know about Canada?”

We were a little confused about where this conversation was heading, but he eventually smirked and said:

“I married a Canadian girl from, get ready for this, Saskatoon; every Christmas I go to Saskatoon for vacation.  They pick us up at the airport but I have yet to go outside.  I’m too scared.”

What a stroke of luck for us, not only was this desk clerk willing to help, but he also had a special affinity for Canadians and was a member of the Sacred Fraternity of Former Saskatonians (SFOFS).  Time to turn on the charm offensive once again!

As we spoke with him, a young British couple came to check in.  The other clerk spoke to them.

“That will be 583 Euro per night, would you like a newspaper?”

I was aghast at the price and thought for 583 Euro I would expect Dan Rather, in robe and slippers, to read me the paper at my bedside.

After about an hour, and several phone calls, he made arrangements for us to take a ferry from Positano to Salerno, then a bus from Salerno to Matera with a short stop in Ferandina.  Everything worked out, except for one thing; although we paid for two bus tickets, we were only able to print one.

“You should be okay,” he said ominously, “but just in case I will write a note for you in Italian so you can show the driver.  Also, I will print up your credit statement so you can show him you paid for two tickets.  Like I said, you should be okay.”

Great!  We thanked him and offered to buy him a coffee, which he graciously turned down.  Our purpose for the day was complete.  All we had to do was get to Salerno.  What could possibly go wrong?