Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Amalfi Coast and then inland

At breakfast I heard a French guest at the hotel telling the proprietor that it had taken him and his wife all day to drive the 45 km to Amalfi and back to the hotel the previous day, because of the density of the traffic and stops to take photos and eat and drink. Our plan for today was to head towards Sorrento, take the mountain road south across the peninsula and the ride the Amalfi  Coast and then head into the interior of Italy.
By setting out just before 8.00 am we manage to beat most of the tourist buses for the first hour or two and had a reasonably clear run. The Amalfi Coast Road what not what we expected. We thought it would be near sea level but it is half way up the immense cliffs and is several hundred metres above the ocean with magnificent views up and down the coast and down to the seaside towns. We were able to stop the bike several times to take photos, which would not have been possible if we had been travelling by car. In fact many of the best views would have been totally impossible to see from a car because the stone walls at the edge of the road would have obscured them.
Looking back where we have ridden.
You can see the road running horizontally nearly half way up.

Just after Amalfi we turned into the mountains and headed for the cliff top town of Ravello where we stopped for coffee. On the way up we passed a flock of goats wandering along the side of the road guarded by a scruffy looking maremma dog which attempted a token chase after the bike. According to the guide books Ravello is one of the most scenic towns in Italy. We wandered around the old town a bit and had a coffee in the piazza. It had taken us 3 hours to travel the 48 km to here, most of it in 2nd gear.

When we topped the mountain range and saw the vista on the other side we couldn’t believe our eyes. The area in front of us which ranged from the outskirts of Naples to the outskirts of Salerno is totally built up; just one huge mass of humanity, traffic and chaos. We descended into the middle of what seemed to us to be busier, dirtier and noisier than Delhi in India. How people can voluntarily live in a place like this amazes me. After getting lost and twice asking our way we eventually found the autostrada and got the hell out of there.

The other side of Salerno we stopped at a services area and bought sandwiches for lunch and continued east along the autostrada until we struck north at Contura into beautiful mountainous country that was very similar to parts of the Alps. Much of the first 25 km was on an elevated roadway that spanned across valley and gorges and must have cost a fortune to construct. The traffic was so light when we got on to the minor roads that the solitude was a bit un-nerving after the congestion of the past few days. Now we were up in what the road signs said is snow chain country in winter.

Found our way to the town of Melfi where after asking directions to a hotel we found a room in the hotel next to the railway station. Walked through the alleyways of the old part of town and visited the cathedral and the 11th century castle which has been ruined by recent renovations using EU money that has included the installation of modern windows and doors and white internal wall plaster and conversion to a regional museum. What a sad loss. But thinking about it, a plaque on the wall said it was Norman castle which means it was built by French invaders from Normandy, so perhaps that's why the Itaians didn't think it was worth preserving.

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