There are three ways for commoners to experience the Amalfi Coast—boat, bus, and car. The boats have vantage, but cannot help the traveler reach the high towns, like Ravello; the bus takes control of the pace away from the individual; and the car requires a competent driver. We unwisely chose the third, with terrible results.
The famous drive is along a south-facing wall of rock where outstanding engineers have scratched east-west roads into the surface. It is a two-dimensional world where each town is an inescapable node. We escaped twice.
The first was a spelling error when my navigator entered “Revella” for “Ravello.” The GPS spitefully sent us up 30 km of monkey intestine before the road narrowed to a coarse grind of right fender and left mirror between roak wall and stone building.
The second was again the fault of the GPS when a critical left turn was acerbically acknowledged after the fact by an exasperated voice, saying “recalculating.” Turning around on these roads, using a many pointed forward-reverse would certainly block a hundred horn-loving Italians, and might still fail. Our bodiless GPS companion then turned the drive back to our hotel into a 4-hour odyssey, landing us in Sorrento, after dark, when the main drag, the only drag, was closed for a weekly party. Ahhhhh
Misadventures not withstanding, we enjoyed the towns of Postino, Amalfi, and Ravello, eventually. Amalfi sports a parking lot with the orderly inspiration of sitting in line for Trader Joe’s one-out, one-in system. We queued at a swing-arm gate awaiting a token first deposited by someone leaving. Within each token is a computer chip that has the arrival time encoded. Cool.
Amalfi is positioned at a fissure, allowing a footpath to worm its way a thousand meters or more from the sea. We stopped for a short lunch, chosen for its boast of a/c more than the food, but neither satisfied.
Rod paused before a cathedral that could have been Led Zeppelin’s inspiration for Stairway to Heaven.
Typical of fine construction in igneous Europe, homes emerge from the stone.
The ocean views exceed most of California’s, largely because the ancient towns cling to impossibly precarious niches. At various points, the road narrows to a single lane, alternating directions. Tour bus drivers pass each other with barely 6″ to spare—and I know what 6″ looks like.
The town of Ravello, where Gore Vidal lived for more than 25 years and Greta Garbo was able to be alone, is the direct opposite of Postiano. It sits high above the sea, showing only a tease to the passing yachts, while Postano spreads her inviting charms at the water’s edge. Each has its allure. One flirts with every passing admirer, the other is cool and discrete. Odd that Vidal would have chosen the latter, but opposites are said to attract.
Our driving ordeal was set aside with a fine meal in Sorrento’s central square. I was tempted to trying the Boston scallops to judge their authenticity. Rod erased the glutinous memory of the lunchtime gnocchi by trying his luck with a splendid evening plate of the dumplings served with sea bass in a white cream sauce.
For secondi, I had spaghetti pomodoro, while Rod got duck breast that failed to find tummy space atop the fully consumed starter.
And for dessert, Rod has a repulsive conversation with an English [bleach] blonde airhead who just loves Donald Trump. We departed amicably, just shy of bulimic bout, while I found her older, rich companion a better conversationalist than sommelier of fine women, corkscrew or not.