Thursday, May 16, 2019

Grand Tour of Italy: The Amalfi Coast and Amalfi

You knew I would get to the Amalfi Coast, of course, because who can resist it...especially once you have seen it with your own eyes.

The Amalfi Coast is a 50-kilometer stretch of coastline along the southern edge of Italy's 
Sorrentine Peninsula, in the Campania region. It's a popular holiday destination, with sheer cliffs
 and a rugged shoreline dotted with small beaches and pastel-colored fishing villages. --Google

Technically it begins at Punta Campanella (west) and ends at Vietri sul Mare (east),
(red dots, left to right, and then the red arrow at Amalfi, where we stopped to visit)
but for me it started shortly after passing Naples going south.
[Reid's Italy map]

Don't know exactly where this was but it began my looking both up and down!

See what I mean?
And of course this was almost all from a moving bus, catching what I could.
It helped that the road was very winding, which meant it was slow-going...

...and often allowed looking back over my shoulder to catch the views behind us.

One of my favorite spots was in this area...

...where we spotted a tiny boat cove while stopping for a scenic overview.
I still have no idea how they get in and out, apart from the sea!

A roadside stand welcomed us on our stop.

Remember what I said about looking up and down?
It really was so  high in some places that the clouds covered the mountain cliffs and crags.
One church would be perched up high with another nestled far down below.

Yes, we saw all of this with our own eyes!

Between Positano and Amalfi, we stopped for lunch and a chance to buy goodies.

For Astrid and me the "goodies" were our cappuccinos following the meal,
overlooking the Mediterranean Sea while others shopped!

Then it was 2 hours of free time in the town of Amalfi.

Just to have free time was enough, Amalfi?!?!  We were in heaven.

After first checking out the beach, we then walked along the coastal road
to look back on the town and get more of a feel for the place.
The Maltese cross is the flag of Amalfi and goes back to the 11th century.

Saving the best for the last, we waked to the town square to visit the Amalfi Cathedral,
dedicated to the Apostle Saint Andrew, from the 10th century.

No matter where you are in town, you see it.

Can you imagine climbing those steps every Sunday for a church service!

It was closed while we were there but we climbed the steps and roamed the cloisters.

Walking back down the steps we crossed the square to St. Andrew's fountain.
(And yes, water is coming out of her boobs!)

  As with all European main squares, life bustles all around, whether you buy its wares or not.
In this case, it's Limoncello, the drink we saw everywhere while in south Italy.

After Amalfi, we continued east towards Vietri sul Mare
and at some point turned off the coastal road back towards the Naples area.

So, there you have it, one of the wonders of the Italian world.
Did I mention that it's also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, since 1997!

Thursday, May 09, 2019

Grand Tour of Italy: San Gimignano

There probably won't be any rhyme or reason to what I pick-n-choose for posting on our Italy tour apart from what I already have, so just go with the flow, if you don't mind.

It so happens that San Gimignano was surely my biggest surprise of the trip, so it actually does make sense to start there.

It was the same day as our Siena visit (Saturday, 6 April), just 42 km apart, and because both are UNESCO World Heritage Sites, I suppose it made sense to include both.  And good thing it did because I had not recalled hearing of it before.

San Gimignano is a small, walled Medieval town with ca. 8K people.
It's known not only for it's architecture but for its well-preserved 14 towers, never destroyed by war.

Upon entering the main portal, you feel immediately taken back to another time.

It doesn't take long before you see tower after tower all around you.

It's magical.

Layer upon layer of history before your very eyes...

...even without towers in view.

And because such a place caters to tourists, wares are out all along the way.

Store fronts stand wide open...

...while some products are even outside, hanging on the wall for sale.

Two ice cream stores in city center vie for honors as being the best in the world.
We had the "best" before realizing the "champion" was what we should have had,
according to celebrities who frequent the place. 
But did we care?  Of course not.

It was nice to have free time to wander the town on our own.

We weren't the only ones!

A side alley took us to a scenic view, overlooking the Tuscan landscape (top-left).

Who can resist that!

Looking down over the wall, life goes on for the inhabitants.

Inside the walls, too.

Once we returned home we wanted to see Tea with Mussolini again, from 1999.
To our great surprise, we both had forgotten that San Gimignano was in the movie,
even though set in Florence, 57 km away, in the beginning.

If you haven't seen it, I recommend it.

THIS is San Gimignano, as seen from afar.

See what I mean?  It's almost too good to be true!

Thursday, May 02, 2019

Grand Tour of Italy: My "Collections"

You know me and how I love to "collect" things via photography, right?  So, as I've been trolling through all my images, each in their separate files, I've come up with the following categories to group together as collections of this Grand Tour.

Where to start!

Let's start with TUSCANY, since that area of Italy happened in the first 2-4 days after arriving in Italy, right after Turin (days 4-6 of the trip).

We're talking about the area around Lucca, Pisa, Florence, San Gimignano and Siena.
The olive trees and poplars were everywhere, as well as the vineyards in their early growth.
No wonder everyone loves Tuscany! 

Aster Tuscany we spent 2 days in Rome, the capital of Italy.
SPQR quickly became collectible.
It's Latin for Senatus Populusque Romanus = The Roman Senate and People.
It refers to the government of the ancient Roman Republic.

And since we're talking about Rome, remember ROMULUS and REMUS from Roman mythology?
Lillian Geiger, my high school Latin teacher, would be so proud of me.  HA!

It's probably strange to collect MANHOLE COVERS, but I do, if they have city names on them:
Roma, Firenze (2), Napoli (in Pompeii), Amalfi, Sirmione (at Lake Garda), Alberobello and Verona.

And WEATHERVANES, of course, even though all were on churches/public buildings.

Then there were the buildings we saw from the bus while going from here to there... CASTLES and CHURCHES, usually from afar on the horizon.
My zoom was often at 1200 mm, which made focus difficult, but you get the gist.  
Because these were in passing, I have no clue what/where they are.

Sprawling CITIES dotted the landscape, like Naples (top-right) which we only passed.
The middle image is Cassino, looking down from the mount above (Montecassino).

Do these HOUSES look like Italy to you?

How about these:  APARTMENTS, FARMS.
Sometimes an "unfinished" building looks abandoned but isn't, we were told.
One small area of the house is lived in without having to pay taxes...because it's "unfinished."

But clearly some, often in ruins, are ABANDONED STRUCTURES.
They bear testament to a country facing bankruptcy and a bailout from the EU.
Where is all that Mafia money when you need it!

However, it's an entirely different story when you do see the magnificent VILLAS along the seas,
the Mediterranean Sea on the western side and the Adriatic Sea on the eastern coast.
Like Tuscany, it's what we think of when most of us "see" Italy in our mind's eye.

All of the "collections" give recollections of this Grand Tour!