Germany is cold. That is why Germans have a lot of outdoor jackets even though we just go from our heated and insulated homes to our heated and insulated work places in heated trains. Well, only heated when the heating is not needed.
This year, we did not embrace the coldness and escaped to Italy for a weekend.
Italy was not our only choice. In the overlap of the venn diagram for warm, close and affordable, a flight to Naples won over one to Malaga. I do know Naples however, and therefore know that it’s not a great stay (sorry Naple’ists). Eleven or so years ago our Latin class went to Sorrento however, which is really close to Naples and also was the only good thing about Latin class. All my Latin nowadays is summed up in Marcus gladiator est and it sounds as exciting as it is. I don’t know how I passed 4 years of Latin but I do know one thing I learned: the region around Sorrento is great.
So we booked a room in a guy’s house and forgot about the trip until we had to leave. On a cold morning with 1 °C we boarded a crowded flight and left it to 15 °C in Naples. With sun and everything. We booked a car and left the airport. We were greeted with the opposite of a relaxed beginning to a short holiday. Italian roads barely deserve the name, and that in a country that pretty much invented roads. I guess they just didn’t do much to repair them since Roman times. And then the road signs. Pretty optimistic, with their optimal distances between cars and 70 speed limit. Google said we needed 90 minutes from the airport to Sorrento, we needed almost twice that. Tired and stressed we arrived in the dark in Sorrento.
Keep in mind, we’re doing this in November when sun sets at 5. While it was pitch black we still craved some food and headed down some steep stairs to explore Sorrento and find food.
On these stairs we made our first Italian friend. A small cat decided to join after it deemed our petting worthy and didn’t leave our side for a good 20 minutes. Only when we arrived in town it didn’t want to join us but meowed sadly in the distance while we abandoned it. We were heartbroken.
When I thought about the Amalfi coast, I thought coast and then flat, because coast is sea and sea is flat. I was wrong. The Amalfi region is very mountainous and settlements exist more on a vertical than horizontal level. That means that a car has to go on narrow roads in serpentines up a mountain and so do people. Our room overlooked Sorrento and the region but in the darkness of our arrival we didn’t see any of it.
The next morning we woke up to this:
I want to lose a few words on our hosts. While the contact through airBnB went through a guy named Antonio, we didn’t get to see him. He coordinated via WhatsApp and we were welcomed warmly by his parents. They were a lovely couple, making sure we didn’t lack anything. On the first night we were surprised by heavy rain down in Sorrento and the way back turned into a waterfall. We sighed and started climbing the wet stairs with a sense of despair when my phone chimed and our hosts asked us if we needed a pickup from the town. We gladly agreed and not 15 minutes later a tiny old green fiat panda came to pick us up and race back up the hills. And all that happened without us speaking proper Italian or them speaking English. We still managed and enjoyed their hospitality. We got along so well that we rewarded in the end with a recipe for an orange cake that the mother had baked for our breakfast. It is a delicious cake.
Well, the next morning our jackets had dried and we headed out for our first hike for the weekend. The amalfi coast is home to a trail often referred to as the most beautiful hiking trail in Italy. While I am in no position to confirm or deny that, it is true that the sentiero degli dei offers some spectacular sights.
Every path we took led us past our favourite things. Lemon trees, olive trees, views on the countryside and cats. So many, fluffy, young, playful cats. Berlin is objectively perfect, but it lacks cats at every corner.
A short bus ride brought us to Praiano where we embarked on a hike to Positano some 12 km in the west. Did I mention how steep the paths in the area are?
We had to climb way too many steps to get to the top of the hills. My phone says we did about 400 m vertically in about an hour and a bit. Up there we were rewarded by crazy beautiful views on the gulf of Amalfi with a clear view up to Capri. And once we had reached the top, the rest of path led us more or less downhill. A very pleasant way to spend a day.
Just now, when I edited the RAW files, I was again overcome by the amazement of reliving the spectacular views. Every turn offers a new, amazing look on the gulf, the villages and the mountains. While I can’t compare the trail to others in Italy, I can say that is damn beautiful. If you have a chance of getting there, do it.
The next day we took the car to Termini and then began a hike to Punta Campanella. This little edge of the peninsula is the west-most point of the region and offers a direct look to Capri. The path follows downwards along a well established walkway that partly dates back to Roman time, opens up to a light house and then steadily climbs the mountain on its crest. We were exhausted from the day before and almost hesitated to begin the hike but were quickly convinced that it was a good idea to climb another mountain. You get it: the views were fantastic.
The beautiful thing about this second day of hiking was that had a almost 360 degree view on both the gulf of Naples and the gulf of Amalfi. We saw the volcano Vesuvio in the distance, Capri behind us and the Amalfi coast on the other side. It was a very warm day, especially by Berlin standards, and so we ended up climbing a mountain in Italy in November in T-shirts.
Even the panorama function of my iPhone 7 can only capture an idea of how beautiful the coast line is. On the picture above we climbed the mountain crest on the left until we reached the top. We then passed a small forest of lightning struck trees and finally settled on a second mountain top overlooking the area.
Italy is great. At least when it comes to landscape, food and people. Maybe not so much if you care about politics and economy, but we were on holiday. We specifically decided to leave the horror of current and past political events behind us. Even when we had a delicious meal of linguine with clams and got the coffee served with a sugar pack featuring a picture of Il Duce, Mr Benito Mussolini. When he was around, life was much sweeter. Well.
I repeat myself when I say: if you have the chance to visit the Amalfi coast, do it. I would even suggest to skip the tourist hot spots of the area, Napoli, Vesuvio, Pompei, and head straight for Sorrento, Amalfi or any other small town in the area. Sorrento is a nice but fairly touristic area, if you can find one of the many BnBs hosted by friendly people, consider staying in a smaller town. And maybe follow our lead and come in winter. The off-season is still warm, the restaurants are open but empty and everyone is very welcoming.
Oh, and did I mention the cats?