LIZ has been on a white knuckle ride recently when she visited the Amalfi coast, Italy. Travelling on a bus along one of the most precipitous roads in Europe isn’t my idea of fun but there has to be a downside to the tedious job of travel photographer.
The Neapolitan Riviera
One of the most spectacular scenic drives in the world hugs the coastline of the Neapolitan Riviera. The landscape combines mountains and sea, alongside charming resort towns such as Sorrento, Positano, Amalfi and Ravello. The narrow road twists and turns through the lush stone terraces of lemon trees, vineyards, olive groves and vividly coloured trailing Bougainvillea.
On a recent trip I stayed just outside the town of Sorrento, the hotel nestled into the mountain side and offered spectacular views across the Bay of Naples and towering Mount Vesuvius, the only active Volcano in mainland Europe. Sheltered by the surrounding hills, Sorrento has been a favourite resort since Romans times; it stands on a terrace which rises steeply above the sea. As a result there is no true sea promenade, though there are picturesque bays, a harbour and also plenty of bathing platforms reached by stone steps.
The historic centre is the ideal place for shopping for local crafts and Limoncello the famous yellow liqueur produced in this region. Warm summer evenings are ideal for dining alfresco in one of many restaurants along the Piazza Tasso which serve traditional pasta dishes, pizza and locally caught seafood.
Just a short walk away from town is the Marina Grande, a charming fishing village of pastel painted houses that overlook the beach, where fishermen moor their brightly painted boats after a day at sea and sit on-board mending their nets. There are traditional beach restaurants set on stilts over the sea where you can sit and soak up the atmosphere.
Sorrento offers an ideal base with easy transport links to explore the surrounding area. From Marina Piccola, ferries, hydrofoils and catamarans depart to Capri, Ischia, Amalfi, Naples and Positano.
Alternatively you can catch the Sita bus that leaves from the central station in Sorrento and enjoy the experience of the Amalfi drive (connecting Sorrento to Amalfi). Around every bend another spectacular panorama unfolds as the road threads along the high cliffs, with its sheer precipices plunging to the azure Tyrrhenian Sea.
A seat on the right hand side of the bus will guarantee breath taking views of the rugged coastline, though be warned this is not for the faint hearted. On more than one occasion I closed my eyes and held my breath. On one hair-pin bend our driver had to reverse the bus as another attempted to squeeze past – all of a sudden we seemed to be hanging precariously over the edge.
Arriving in Amalfi I was glad to put my feet on solid ground and spend a couple of hours wandering through the jumble of streets that rise above the small harbour. The Cathedral of St Andrew dominates the Piazza Duomo and is an architectural gem with a steep flight of stairs leading up to its dramatic location. Inside, the interior is Romanesque-Baroque; the Crypt of St. Andrew is beautifully decorated with frescoes.
Afterwards I hopped on a local bus up to Ravello, a cliff top town perched 350 metres above sea level whose position offers a wonderful view of the Amalfi coast. There are two Villas that are worth visiting, Rufulo which is a concert venue during the summer months and Climborne. Both have cliff edge gardens and dramatic landscapes that attract many artists, writers and musicians to this tiny town.
The other notable town of the area is Positano. Once a fishing village, it clings to the steep ledges of the Lattari Mountains, with pink and yellow houses cascading down the mountainside like tiers of a wedding cake. Positano has far more steps than streets, with a vast array of boutiques and shops selling leather sandals and colourful ceramics which line the maze of alleyways that lead down to the beach. From the water’s edge you can see the islets of Li Galli, known also as the “Sirenuse”. These three islets, Gallo Lungo, Castellucco and the Rotonda, are said to have been inhabited by the mythical Sirens who lured sailors with their enchanting music to shipwreck on nearby rocks.
There is still a spell over the area today, one that draws visitors back to this enchanting coastline time after time. I will come back to the area in a future issue and tell you about my visit to Pompeii and Herculaneum.
Flights from Bristol Airport to Naples Airport www.bristolairport.co.uk
Thomson Holidays offer package holidays to his area. www.thomson.co.uk
Hotel La Vue D’Or Sorrento www.lavuedor.com
Transport information www.friendsofsorrento.co.uk