HAL guest George Labecki and his family sailed aboard Nieuw Amsterdam’s Mediterranean Tapestry cruise throughout Europe this past July and documented his experience in a journal. Below is the entry from his visit to Naples and the Amalfi Coast. Enjoy!
Adding Some Colors
We awoke to a site that I didn’t expect but should have: sunrise over Vesuvius. The volcano was in silhouette; there was a burst of sun just at one o’clock above her, and there was a low cloud cover just above that diffusing the sunlight over the bottoms of the clouds and bouncing back over the surface of the Mediterranean at Vesuvius’ base. It’s a pretty cool way to come in to town.
We’ve become pretty efficient with our mornings, so we were able to get ourselves together and get a hot breakfast from the Lido deck, and we still had a half hour before our tour was to gather. It was the best morning so far.
Surprisingly, our tour to Sorrento and the Amalfi Coast was one of the smaller tours, both in bus size and in the number of people. We weren’t surprised by the small bus, with the winding roads of the Amalfi Coast, there’s no way a full coach could do those roads. We were surprised by the few people who took the tour. Apparently, shopping in Naples took precedence, or perhaps everyone went to Pompeii, but the temperatures at Pompeii were projected to be 110 degrees today, and there’s no shade, so a long bus ride through beautiful villages seemed like the right tour for us.
Our first stop was Sorrento. If you can manage to get by all the crazy drivers safely and get to the center of town where they don’t allow cars or motor scooters, you’re doing great. That portion of Sorrento is filled with shops lining narrow, winding streets. The colors of the buildings are soft pastels, orange and yellow. The colors from the shops vary from the browns, blacks and reds of the leather shops to the vibrant greens, yellows and magentas of the local fruit stands. Sorrento doesn’t assault your senses; it envelops them. And we did buy some leather goods there. It was a good first stop.
After lunch, which was held in an outdoor restaurant below street level, we began the drive to the Amalfi Coast. I know this fact occurred at the end of the trip, but we tipped our driver extra: he deserved it. The road has 1,000 curves, all of them about one and a half car widths, which is interesting when a bus is coming in the other direction. Add to that the fact that the bus was surrounded by motor scooters, none of them caring about rules of the road or anything like that, and you have a recipe for a tragedy. Those little scooters throw themselves directly in front of buses and trucks just to get a bit ahead on the turn. How there are not more fatalities in this part of the world escapes me.
What didn’t escape me was the visual display on our drive. The drive itself is shockingly precipitous. The roadway seems to disappear below; the world only showing itself again in the presence of the Mediterranean, hundreds of feet below. And talk about colors. Capri may have the Blue Grotto but it gets a leg up because the Mediterranean is incredibly blue to start with. There are many grottos in this area. We were shown the Emerald Grotto near Positano, and the water was truly emerald.
Speaking of colors again, all the pastel colors were fully on display at Positano. The little village seems to defy gravity. The only way to get anywhere, whether to the shops, the beach, a pizzeria; is to climb long flights of stairs. Positano floats, boxes of Crayola, welded to the sides of the sheer coast. It hovers, visible from miles away. It’s a truly visually stunning place.
But we all found Amalfi itself to be the best stop of the day. Amalfi sits on the water; it has a dock area from where you can walk to the town. Again, pedestrians have to be alert and quick to cross the one road into town, but once there it’s the quintessential Italian village. Narrow streets, tall buildings with balconies, shops, smiling people — we could have stayed for a very long time in Amalfi.
What we did was stop in to a local restaurant so that Nick could have a real pizza, the way they’re supposed to be made. We had a Pizza Margherita and a bottle of sparkling water, all in an air-conditioned restaurant, and it wasn’t a tourist trap. The bill was nine euros. We finished up with Nick getting a gelato to-go and eating it by the sea.
From there it was supposed to be a less hectic ride home over the mountains. The only difference was that if the bus ran off the road, it would have fallen into a sheer ravine instead of the ocean. Otherwise, it was just as hair-raising.
When we finally made it back to the ship for an evening of rest and a great meal at the Pinnacle Grill, Nick made the most surprising and revealing statement of the day and it was quite welcomed. Lee Ann and I had decided that this would be our chance to see the Amalfi coast and we hoped that Nick would be okay with it. Our concerns were heightened when we were at lunch and realized that the second youngest person on the tour was Lee Ann, but there wasn’t anything that we could do at that point. To make it short, Nick turned to us and said, “Today I fell in love. I fell in love with Amalfi.”