Monday, January 23, 2012

Amalfi, day seven

This morning we decided to go to the Grotto dello Smerelda, the Emerald Grotto that wasn’t far from our house. The day was quasi fine – not bright sun like yesterday but no rain either. The sea was amazing; it was grey but look like it had been petrified in some places – still and solid – where it ran liquid in other places. Like it was both land and sea. So endlessly interesting as a place.
We drove down to the Grotto. On our way, there were a couple of police men on the side of the road. Myles hesitated in the car; the police looked at us with some amusement and then, Myles wavered, inviting the one of the cops, the more handsome one, put up his tiny stop sign. We were caught! Who knew?
Myles wound down the window and then handed it over to me. I played dumb; no point in putting ourselves in a position of even less power with me stumbling over my terrible Italian. ‘Buon giorno,’ I beamed. ‘We don’t speak very much Italian. We are tourists.’ ‘Ah,’ said the handsome policeman. ‘Where are you from?’ ‘Australia.’ ‘Hmmm.’ He then looked in the back seat and admired the children. ‘Where are you going?’ ‘Amalfi.’ ‘Ah, that is four kilometres down the road.’ ‘Thank you.’
All very pleasant. He withdrew his tiny stop sign and on we went. What were we being stopped for? Social interaction?
But we didn’t go to Amalfi – yes, we had lied to the police about our intentions. Instead, we turned the other way and headed for the Grotto. There is a little carpark and it had a few cars there which looked promising. But the locked gates did not. So we went into a bar come ceramic workshop to see what they could tell us. The oldest woman in the world greeted us. I asked her about the Grotto. She shook her head sadly. And told us why. And we much have looked bewildered because then she rocked her hand to and fro. ‘Ah,’ I said.’ La barca.’ It turned out that it was too rough for the boat to go out on this day. We thanked her and then looked out over the side of the cliff to see these rough waves. Not so much for us. But what did we know about taking a boat out into a cave. Perhaps you need the water to be like a millpond before anything like that could happen. Oh well. It was our last day. There was no other day we could see the grotto. Next time.
Perhaps the force of the police was greater than we could have known because the next thing we did was go to Amalfi. Suddenly, the weather was high summer (who could say if this would affect the waves). It was hot. We shed clothes quickly. The kids were down to tee shirts and we weren’t far behind. In the little harbour in Amalfi, constructed from stones, there were six men playing the strangest game we have seen. They were in kayaks and had a soccer ball. The object of the game appeared to be to get the ball into a net, but the teams were not clear and they seemed to have much more fun belting one another’s boats with their oars and capsizing each other. Paris and I were laughing our heads off. I suggested that he introduce this sport to Fitzroy. He was doubtful. ‘No water.’
Amalfi was hot with sun; we sat on the waterfront and ordered lunch. And all around us, the well-dressed Sunday families having their pre-lunch drinks. It was so hot, we got sunburned sitting there. I could only imagine what summer must be like here. We were the only ones eating. Everyone else was having brightly coloured drinks with slices of oranges jammed in them. We are entirely unfashionable or unknowing about how and where you eat. Who cares? The pizza was good. The sun was shining. There are few greater joys.
We left the waterfront and walked into the town proper. There is a church here; it has the hallmarks of the striped marble we saw in Tuscany and the golden mosaics of Venice. Large steps invite us up and in. But we don’t go. It is strange. What we suddenly found was that we no longer had much curiosity. There we were, sitting on the steps below this beautiful church and none of us were in the least compelled to go inside. The kids; this was understandable. But Myles and I? Can you be cured of curiosity? Can you be so sated that you can’t find any else to see? Perhaps. Well, here, at this point, anyway. It is a very odd experience though. At the beginning, we went in everywhere. But now … shrug. It is rather wrong I feel, but you can’t chase emotions too far. They are stronger than duty or will.
We dallied around Amalfi for a bit, ate ice cream, walked the pier, saw a Japanese tourist slip over (we tried to help, she was not having any of it), watched other tourists gaze at the SITA buses parked waiting for some sign of direction or intention. And then we left to go back to our villa. It was time to settle down, so some packing, finish our reading. And there were cards to play too.

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