Part III | The Amalfi Coast
"Dawn broke and I assumed my new morning ritual - cherries on the terrace. What a life we live! Aren't bedroom terraces just grand? Breakfast was the same and just as lovely except rushed in order to sprint to the bus stop for our adventure to Amalfi.
We boarded and squeezed into tight seats but soon were distracted by the incredible views and funny anecdotes from our tour guide. Winding roads and village after village hugging cliffs - it is so sublime here. An hour into our drive, we were given freedom at our first stop - the city of Amalfi. Our two hours of leisure began at the beginning, following cobblestone streets lined with dozens of shops. Mini bridges stretched above us, clotheslines peppered with drying clothes created a makeshift canopy of sorts.
On our list of places to see - or rather eat - was a cafe and we happened to chance upon it on our walk. Pasticceria Pansa was perfection, echoing the grandeur of the Belle Epoque, conjuring old-world charm via linen tabletops strewn about the plaza. A peach-toned facade in golden lettering announced its presence. Glass windows gave a glimpse of the delicacies inside. Confections in every flavor and shape filled the coffers. The mack daddy of espresso machines gleamed on the counter. Servers in white button downs and black aprons busily went about their tasks. Shelves filled with sparkling glasses winked merrily. A golden chandelier in exquisitely baroque detailing anchored the room. Packages of pretty little things like dainty boxed teas, cellophane bags of chocolate-dipped oranges, lemon products of all sorts. It was darling and alluring and perfect, and we decided to finish our sightseeing and leave it for last, the cherry on top.
But as it was, we had only just begun. I spied beautifully crafted leather sandals and proceeded to try on multiple pairs until I had my Cinderella moment. Most were too narrow but I finally donned a pair that were an adjustable gladiator-style in buttery cognac and promptly fell in love. I had to make them mine. I'm so fastidious over footwear and hadn't bought a pair in over five years. But real Italian leather from the spot in Italy...!!! It was meant to be.
From there we visited a paper shop with a funny gentleman inside who kept having to talk to his mom on the phone. I found two beautiful packs of stationary and a princess birthday card for Alice. But the object of my desire was a 70E leather-bound book full of page after perfect page of the most exquisite paper I've ever felt. The edges were unfinished and the grain was sensual. All the potential sketchings, scribbles, and notes filled my head and it's something I'll probably always wish I had bought. But I was contented enough with my sandals and from there we wandered into a hardware store to claim a tiny espresso maker (it is SO CUTE!). Just had to come home with us. We wandered a bit more and finally came to Duomo di Sant' Andrea.
A flight of seemingly unending stairs brought us to a terraced archway full of Moorish design and tourists. The view commanded our attention and then we entered in to see the relics of religious art, colonnades, chandeliers, mosaics, and gilded frescoes galore. To be honest, I became a little numb to the splendor and we exited in favor of the promise of coffee and treats. I had had my fill of surfaces decorated to the nth degree...the only thing I really wanted to see was a cappuccino and a croissant in front of me.
We seated ourselves at an airy table and ordered the milkiest, foamiest cappuccinos there ever were paired with a flaky lobster tail filled with rum cherry and a pastry square filled with coffee cream, slightly reminiscent of baklava. We sipped and savored and made our way back to the bus where we climbed the steep mountains to Scala to dine at a darling hotel restaurant in the mist for cheap, delicious eats. If we go back to Italy, I will come back to this place. Salad coated in just the right amount of vinaigrette, pasta with fat, homemade spaghetti noodles lounging in a red sauce, buttered bread and a lemon cake all washed down with the mellowest red wine you ever could dream up. Being buzzed at noon is easy to do here. If we hadn't had to return to a bus for more tour time I would have ate and drank the day away at that spot. Our dinner guests were a fun trio from England - Jonathan, Lisa, and Bruce - and we exchanged stories and politics (e.g. the British exit and how on earth is Trump a candidate??? Are Rey and Kylo Ren siblings or cousins? We couldn't solve a thing.)
I walked tipsily back to the bus accompanied by my love and felt ON TOP OF THE WORLD! Partially because I actually was. And partially because Italy's finest nectar bolstered my spirits tremendously.
We journeyed over to nearby Ravello to stroll the Via Ruffalo and gardens over-looking the sea for some beautiful vistas, but couldn't do much else for lack of euros which we had unfortunately run out of. But ni importa, sitting on bench under the palms was free and that's all we really needed.
The bus ride back was high and green and shrouded in clouds, and I dozed, sleeping off the bottle from lunch and imagining I was in Scotland here and there (I think a tiny piece of my soul is still in the highlands somewhere).
As of now, I'm lounging on our bed, writing and recollecting. I can hear birds whistling, silverware tinkling, local kids cheering across the street at a boisterous soccer match, pleasantries exchanged with typical Italian passion. Music somewhere wafts to our open windows, adding to the enchantment of Sorrento. So far Italy smells like cigarettes, exhaust and citrus - a combination reminiscent of the city. In Scala we were so high and remote you could breathe deeply and easily, the air clean and crisp and refreshing. So very different.
Italy is a dichotomy of old and new. Everywhere you look, the walls are in some stage of decay. Green grows in every crack and crevice, sprouting to add to the charm. Old men gather to smoke or play cards, the youth clamber about in packs, laughing. Such a collision of life at all stages. It just seems right."