The Ascents: The Positano Summit and The Ravello Rollercoaster

Of course daybreak came brighter, mostly blue and without a trace of wind. Of course. Though I had not inquired yet, I knew that the Blue Grotto would be open. Of course it would be.

I had to make a decision. Go to the Grotto in the morning and push our arrival to Amalfi to late afternoon. But that would probably mean giving up on visiting Ravello later in the day. Decisions…

On the plus side, maybe we could take the direct ferry to Amalfi in the afternoon, instead of going first to Positano. But at this time of the year there was a single direct ferry and it was at 5:00PM. And that timeframe would really complicate the rest of the day…

The deciding factor was ultimately the B&B’s location. If it had been easier to leave our luggage there and retrieve it after the Grotto, I would probably have chosen to do the tour. Starting to look at baggage storage did not seem very appealing at the moment.

So I let it go.

Was it worth it going to Capri without getting to do the #1 activity on my list? YES. It was. Count me in among the surprised at this statement. I really liked Capri. But would I go back? Maybe if we were in the general area, but I would not make a trip just to revisit.

We lingered a bit over breakfast. Rolled our luggage all the way down to Capri town and then further down on the funiculare. C bought our tickets and we proceeded to have the most outrageously priced drinks in the history of ever: €14 for a small bottle of mineral water and a lemon soda. Yes, it was ‘frontside’ by the dock, but wow.

Wonder what the going price for coffee is at Piazza San Marco in Venice.

This time we were early enough that we could sit on the open top of the ferry and admire the views as we sailed. Picture perfect! Deep blue sea, ragged coast, and endless sky. So beautiful.

Though the weather did not make for great pictures, the arrival in Positano by boat was equally breathtaking!

I will admit that part of failures of execution that are soon to follow, stem from my lack of (verbal) communication skills.

Many times things are so clear in my mind that I forget that the people on the outside are not magically picking up my thoughts. I do not verbalize enough. You can ask my husband and former co-workers, they will wholeheartedly agree.

There was a Plan A and a Plan B. In the first option, planets would align and we would dock at 12:00 and make it on time to board the 12:05 ferry to Amalfi, where we would be spending the next two days. In Plan B, we missed that small window of opportunity, plunked ourselves in a nice but overpriced café in Positano and waited for the next ferry at 1:30pm.

But there was also a Plan C, taking the bus to Amalfi. I know I mentioned this in passing to C, but –in my mind- Plans A and B were so good, that the later was not even worth considering. Or that is what I thought. Or maybe his wallet was still smarting from the overpriced drinks…

We get to the port and disembark. I actually see that the Amalfi ferry is still docked and not fully loaded, I also spot a little kiosk selling the tickets. Score! I thought. Except that C had taken out like a bat out of hell because he absolutely despises crowds.

I’m screaming my head off, but C does not hear well… By the time I catch up with him it looked like it was too late. The last stragglers were boarding the Amalfi ferry.

But as I’m explaining all this to him in the midst of the crowd, the only part he selectively hears is ‘we are not making the boat.’ And he takes off again trying to get away from the pier as soon as possible.

I’m caught unaware because I’m trying to pull out The Supporting Documentation that goes along with The Spreadsheet to confirm the departure time for the next boat to Amalfi. So for the second time, I’m struggling to catch up with him without running people over (he is much less concerned about this than I am so he always advances a lot quicker than me.). Uuuggh!

– ‘Where are you going!?!?!’

– ‘To the bus station’

– ‘Why!?!?! What about the next ferry?’

– ‘I don’t want to wait that long with those crowds. The bus will be quicker.’

– ‘Fine.’

Yeap, I said ‘FINE.’ And I said it in THAT tone.

Anyone that has been to Positano might have a feeling of where this is going…. Up. Because the bus station as at the very top of this almost vertical town. And it was long way up. With luggage.

We travel light but this was a 7 week trip… we each had a backpack and a rolling suitcase (C’s carryon size and mine the next size up). Laptops, Maps and Travel Guides…

I was not a happy camper… Though I’m fit and strong, I knew he was going to get to the top out of sheer stubbornness and would then suffer for a day or two. And I had plans for the next day which I then knew he would not be enthusiastic about after this climb. Because it was a climb.

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His saving grace and the major contributing factor to his staying of the doghouse, was that he had the presence of mind to buy the two bus tickets at a tabacchi store where he went in to ask where the bus stop was. Because once I said ‘fine’ he was on his own to find us a way to Amalfi.

So we find the SITA bus stop. Almost roadside and under the full sun along with maybe 15 other persons. We wait about 10 minutes and the bus shows up. Packed to gills. Everyone scrambles in and by the time we manage to get to the front entrance (we had a slight chance to get in through the middle door but we did not seize it; stupid) the driver sees our bags and tells us that we cannot get in, that we need to wait for the next bus. Ten minutes wait, he said.

What!?!?!?

So we wait, and wait. Ten minutes. Fifteen. A hop on / hop off shows up and some of the people queueing behind us bail out and board. Fifteen minutes more.  Another bus finally shows up. We may or may not have been on the aggressive side of getting in. We made it.

But a lot of people got told they could not board because the driver was not selling tickets! I was absolutely convinced that we could have bought the ticket on the bus. If C had not purchased the tickets beforehand we would have been refused and well on our way to divorce court.

But we made it to Amalfi: sweaty, hot, sticky, cranky, and stinky. And just time to see the 1:30pm ferry from Positano leave the dock. I kept my mouth shut because 99.99% of the time I really like my husband.

Time to find the hotel, Antica Republica Amalfi. We walked across a few streets, piazze (?) and alleys. Including some restaurant terraces with people eating awesome looking and deliciously smelling food. Seafood. Good food. Mussels in particular. And pretty. Very pretty. And I wanted them. For dinner, maybe?

We find the door locked but after ringing the bell a few times a housekeeper opened for us and told us wait while she called the manager. Ten minutes later the guy appears, He had stepped out to cook his lunch and left his spaghetti in the hot water while he came check us in. He was adorably enthusiastic and gave us a ton of information. His pasta was probably inedible by the time he was done with us.

The room was nice, with a kinda weird bathroom setup as the shower was separate and opening directly to the bedroom. We are shameless people and walk around naked, this was not a problem for us. But some might be uncomfortable.

We dropped everything, freshened up a bit, and went out to seek nourishment to replenish all the calories consumed on the Positano Summit. (Reverse?) Carbo loading opportunity not to be missed!

We barely made it into the restaurant the hotel guy recommended before they closed for the afternoon break. Having said that, they did not rush us at all. Surprising seeing how many people they had to turn away. The pizzas were really good and the price was decent.

 

Given the –ahem!- strenuous exercise of the morning, we were ready to collapse into carb-induced coma after that meal. But though tired, the window of opportunity to visit Ravello was closing. We had to keep going. C was not thrilled but now he was determined to stick to the plan. Compensating for the goof up, I’m sure.

So we found the tabbacchi store bought our tickets. The wait was around 15 minutes and what followed was one of the most interesting drives in the history of EVER.

 

I have a mantra that has helped me get through public transportation experiences: ‘this is a very nice and expensive boat/taxi/car/bus/whatever, if the guy was not capable of the handling it without damages, the owner would not let him drive it’.

There is an obvious flaw to this logic; what if this is the driver’s first week on the job? But I try not to go there. The driver on this bus was a master-world-class driver. Level: Ninja. Amalfi Coast bus drivers are the Chuck Norris of the motor world. Maybe the guys in those remote Burman or Peruvian roads would also be in competition but they most likely don’t have to deal with traffic density such as this!

I don’t know how many switchbacks are on the road between Amalfi and Ravello. But there are a lot. There are also very narrow stretches in the more urban clusters.

Throw in a whole bunch of inexperienced drivers in rental cars which they barely know how to drive, aggressive vespa drivers, clueless pedestrians, cyclists resolutely claiming their right to be on the street, a small truck or two, dozens of tour buses including some foreign ones with less experienced drivers, and the occasional double decker bus.

Chaos.

It was even funny in a ‘not my circus, not my monkeys’ kind of way. The woman sitting behind me was on the verge of a nervous breakdown. At least no one got sick.

 

 

Ravello. I had dreamed of Ravello for a long time. And it was just as beautiful as described, except that we were tired and perhaps a little cranky from the Positano Ascent. I was not in love.

My only must-do in Ravello given our short time, was to go to Villa Cimbrone. An 11th century palazzo and convent which have been extensively modified over time and has one of the most incredible terraced garden in the world. The view from the belvedere, the famed Terrazzo dell’lnfinito is jaw-dropping gorgeous.The kind of place that makes you comprehend how far away from the upper 10% one. This is how the other 1% lives and plays. This was worth giving up the Blue Grotto in Capri for.

Then we were done, completely beat we had a drink by the beautiful piazza and watched the kids play while a couple was trying to get their professional wedding pictures. The town of Ravello seems to be ground-zero for high-end destination weddings.

The downward trip was much less exciting and a lot faster.

Back in Amalfi we found ourselves in a situation that turned out to be rather common throughout our trip but never really got less annoying: You have a hotel breakfast, go sightseeing or traveling in the morning, have lunch at ‘Italian’ hours, and then you are still stuffed at dinner time. Yes, I know that you are then supposed to go around 10:00pm but we have never managed to do this. After doing things the whole day long we want to go to bed early. If we are not eating by 9:00pm at the very latest, then we are more sleepy than hungry and dining is no longer fun.

I wanted to go back to the places we had walked by earlier and have some of those awesome looking plates of seafood, but every restaurant was PACKED. No mussels for me.

C ‘got’ to choose another restaurant, La Taverna di Massamielo. I was ready to hate it just because I was still cranky about the Positano Ascent and it wasn’t the one with the pretty mussels on the outside terrace (weather was warm enough for to sit outside for lunch but not really for dinner unless you bundled up a bit and sat under the heaters). But it turned out to be pretty good. Even in my cranky mood.

We initially ordered just two primi: a fried calamari for C and Scialatielli ai frutti di Mare – the local long pasta-  for me. The pasta was perfectly cooked and the sauce was divine. C enjoyed his so much that we ordered another calamari but this time grilled. Even better.  The price was even decent, we were obviously not in Capri anymore.

As we came out, the weather had taken a turn for the worse. Though it was not really raining, it was nasty wind, ominous clouds and temperatures in the upper forties. The forecast was not great either for the grand day I had planned for tomorrow… hiking the Path of the Gods.

But we were tired enough to sleep well during our first night in Amalfi.

Notes from Day 6: Wednesday, May 3rd


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