Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Travels with Shirley (Part III)

View of the Amalfi Coast.

If there is a theme to our visit to the Amalfi Coast, it would have to be "piano, piano." I have studied Italian a little, but I had not heard that phrase before. It was our driver, Inna (pronounced Ee-nuh), who acquainted us with the saying. Although piano means floor in Italian, in this instance it's more like the musical term pianissimo (very softly) to mean take it softly, slowly, or bit by bit. (Or in the American vernacular "chill out," but it's a kinder term than that!)

We hired Inna to give us a tour of the Amalfi Coast and then drop us at our rented apartment in the small town of Praiano. Kevin and I had recently received a reimbursement from our insurance company for overcharging us, so we decided to spend our small windfall on the tour. It was a great decision!

Inna, who was born in Russia, remarked that when she first moved to Sorrento, "I heard 'piano, piano' a lot, because I'm Russian, and I'm excitable." In any case, we quickly adopted the theme and used it to remind ourselves to sit back and relax. 

Inna was a perfect driver for the twisting road along the Amalfi Coast. Although she is short in stature, she does not tolerate any nonsense from the male taxi drivers (in spite of "piano, piano") and we liked that! She's used to negotiating situations like this one:

Along the way, there were views of towns, like Positano, that tumble down the hills, the houses like cascades, where streets are steps that often end in a maze of passageways, and shops spill out their wares for the tourists.

We visited Ravello, high above the sea, where Inna reserved a place for us at a restaurant with (of course) a view.

 The food was picturesque and good too! (Just a sampling here.)

One thing happened in Ravello that I didn't record with a camera, but it will stay in my mind. We were walking along in the square in front of the church, when suddenly, I noticed that everyone had stopped.  I looked up and saw a hearse. I have no idea whether the person who died was young or old, rich or poor. But as the pallbearers carried the casket up the steps, the crowd fell silent. Both the locals and the tourists stood and honored the moment. Not one person made a sound. I thought that was extraordinary.

Later, Inna delivered us to a spot near our apartment in the village of Praiano. We had to walk up the street to get to our lodging, because we were on a pedestrian-only street (though motorcycles could use it). The apartment must have belonged to the owner's grandmother. It seemed like a Nonna's apartment, and I loved it!

The terrace provided a relaxing spot for coffee and limoncello...

With a view of the sea.

From Praiano, we made excursions by bus to Positano and Amalfi. In Positano, we visited one of the "leading hotels of the world," Le Sirenuse," because Shirley's niece, who works in public relations, had written an article about the hotel that was very well received. It is a beautiful hotel, if a bit above our budget.

We stayed on to watch the sunset and the lights come on in Positano.

We explored Amalfi, too, buying some of their famous paper.  Kevin and Shirley also visited the church, which sadly, I missed because my leg was bothering me, and I just couldn't make myself walk up another set of steps! They said the interior was impressive.

There is much more I could say about our visit--about poking around the towns, savoring the meals, and finding delightful little places to sit and observe the scene.  But mostly, when it comes to the Amalfi Coast, it's sharing the experience with Kevin and Shirley and taking in the stunning views that I will recall. Along perhaps, with Inna and "piano, piano."

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