The inevitable stories of passport abuse


Saturday, September 25, 2010

The Amalfi Coast

I am shamed to admit that I had honestly never heard about the Amalfi Coast of Italy before my roommate Kierra mentioned she was planning to go. I had heard of the Island of Capri only because a couple of my swimmer (Kara, Blake and Colin) wrote me a note asking if it was possible to "swim with seahorses off of Capri".  Colleen, Kierra, Elizabeth and I (along with about a million other USD people I don't know), took a weekend trip to the Amalfi Coast through a program called Florence for Fun.  FFF as it is affectionately known, is designed for American college students studying abroad, which means they provide transportation, accommodations, breakfast, dinners and other minor travel costs.  I booked this trip because all of my roommates had done so, but I was nervous.  I have found I like to travel in a different way than most of the people I am here with.  I am not looking to go to only the big name sites for cheesy tourist picture, I am not down to eat at the first restaurant we find. I actually enjoy getting lost in the streets of a new city, using my (very) limited Italian to ask locals where the best place in town to eat is, and I laugh  when a car drives by me on a rainy day and the typical movie scene moment of getting sprayed with dirty rain water (yes, actually happened and I loved every soggy moment of it).  But I was pleasantly surprised by our trip to the towns of Sorrento, Capri, Positano and Pompeii.

Our trip began at the train station in Florence, where 2 FFF buses were waiting for the one hundred students that invested their money in this trip. We began out 7+ hour bus ride to the beachside town of Sorrento at 7 o'clock at night, which meant we arrived at our 3-star hotel (aka a hostel) at 2:30 in the morning.  After a crappy gas station dinner of pasta with tomato sauce, and bus ride full of college students, I collapsed on the top bunk and fell straight asleep. Unfortunately our "good nights" rest that night barely counted as a nap, as we needed to be in the hotel lobby for breakfast at 7 am. Two rolls with jam later, I enjoyed a 30 minute walk down to the ferry port.  When I say I enjoyed, I mean that I and ONLY I enjoyed this walk.  Everyone was expecting a bus to drive us the 2 miles down the hill and bitched and moaned about it the entire walk, and the other two days of the trip.  However, we were walking along the edge of a cliff that looked over the town of Sorrento and the Mediterranean Sea and the view was breathtaking. (P.S. fun fact about this trip, I learned how flexible I really am/ how I enjoy being flexible.  I also learned that other people that I love to death are the complete opposite of flexible. I just hope it doesn't ruin their travel experiences in the future as it is inevitable that something will go wrong.)  We took a ferry to the Island of Capri, and then hopped straight on a smaller boat to give us a tour of the perimeter of the Island.  We saw several different grottos, including the blue grotto that I did pay the 11.50 to enter and I am so glad I did.  Venturing into the blue grotto is something that has been secretly on my bucket list since around 6th grade.  It is amazing how these men get the tiny boats through the even tinier entrance to the grotto without cracking their heads open.  Inside the blue grotto, you actually feel the blue light move through your whole body. The experience is something hard to describe, just an experience you need to feel for yourself. We also saw Sandra Bullock and Mussolini's houses on the tiny island.  Our FFF tour guides brought us up to the center of town and then walked us down a VERY steep path to a very secluded beach.  On the way we found a fabulous restaurant were we all got pizzas, and it was the best pizza I have had here in Italy.  My mouth is watering just thinking about it!  We laid on the rocky beach for about an hour before it was time to catch to ferry back to Sorrento.  Back in the hotel, since all 100 students were trying to shower before dinner the water literally didn't turn on, which made for more interesting moments of flexibility.  But we made it to dinner where were served by our rude waiters at the hotel, spaghetti and tomato sauce, salad and fruit. All of my roommates drank their boxed wine and went out to an English pub while I stayed in and started a new book (one for class that I ended up loving. If you haven't read Confessions of an Economic Hit Man by John Perkins, and are at all interested in the economic politics in America since WWII, read it!)

The next day was a beach day in the seaside town of Positano.  Our bus traveled down a very curvy mountain road, and we traversed down about 2000 steps to get to the beach, but it was worth it.  Elizabeth and I laid on the beach all day, spent a couple of hours looking through the art galleries and clothing shops of the small city, and of course, eating gelato.  Positano was the perfect relaxing day needed to recover from all of our walking! Positano is beautiful and my words are not doing it justice.  Just imagine those pictures of the beachfront grecian towns, but with buildings that are slightly more faded but with much more greenery and you have Positano.  Dinner that night was a seafood dish, so naturally I didn't eat anything besides the caprese served with it.  The next day we were off the the ancient city of Pompeii, which I had also never heard about before.  Our tour guide showed us all of the ruins of the brothels and the bodies that were molded by the ash from the Volcano explosion, something I feel very blessed to have seen. The the roommates and I decided to hike up the side of an active volcano, the one that completely destroyed the town we just saw. The hike was tough, but it was worth it! I did expect to see more than a crater at the top but it didn't matter to me. 1. I can say I have hiked up an active volcano and 2.  I accomplished another thing on my bucket list- touching the clouds.  The clouds were literally hitting us in the face as we hiked, which made for streaming eyes and a cold nose.  But this has been something I thought up in 2nd grade for my bucket list, and didn't have the heart to take it off in order to preserve the naiveté of my childhood, and I am glad that I didn't.

After such a amazing weekend and so much walking, I couldn't wait for the 7 hour bus ride to be over.  I will be revisiting the Amalfi coast sometime in my life, the views were breathtaking and there is so much there to explore.  As for my reservations traveling with such a group as FFF, they exceeded my expectations with great tour guides, free limoncello tastings and much more. From what I am seeing of Italy so far, I may never want to leave.

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