Thursday, January 19, 2012

Vicopisano, day seven; Amalfi, day one

Moving day. There is no need to recount how this goes. We have done this many times and it is never good. But we are better at it now than we were. And a car always helps.
We went down to our host’s shop earlier – did our usual internet thing – and I bought one of his plates. Beautiful thing it is too.
We headed out. The sky was closing in for rain as we left; we are beginning to think that for this trip we are some kind of weather gods. But was we drove south, the weather opened into sun and bright skies. We pretty much drove non stop to Amalfi; only having lunch at a chain restaurant on the motorway called Autogrill. This is Italy’s answer to the roadside café that were attached to petrol station when we were kids. Sometimes we would stop there (they were called The Golden Fleece from memory). Now they are all fast food. In Italy, service stations have preserved the good old road side café. Here, there are stations and there are dishes of the day. The boys had hamburgers from the grill station, and we had pasta and rice from the pasta and rice station. It wasn’t disgraceful by any measure. And the people at the next table were wearing elaborate fur coats, so perhaps this is where the jet set eat.
We sailed through Naples in the late afternoon and felt no pangs that we were not spending any time there. Big and sprawling and utterly filthy with rubbish absolutely everywhere. We were driving up into the hills and through some tunnels into the other world of the Amalfi coast. We were meeting our hosts in Agerola, just at the beginning of the Amalfi coast and they were going to escort us to our house.
If we had thought that the Cinque Terre was hair-raising in the car driving stakes, we were utterly speechless at the roads that now confronted us; this was roller coaster stuff. And meeting a bus coming the other way made it an extreme sport. It wasn’t too far to our place, however, just through the tiny town of Furore (which was to be our local spot), and then down some more narrow and precipitous roads and finally to our little house at the end of this most narrow street.
Our host showed us some things – the thousand steps we could take down to the only fjord in Italy – the Fjord of Furore – where many films had been filmed (as she said). And the steps up would take us to the village of Furore and sustenance. We have had a talent for finding places with savage stairs. Perhaps we are always looking for a view. Perhaps. Now we are wiser – and will know what to look for, and what to ask for (few stairs, wifi, a washing machine, good heating). Up the stairs (Paris again looked grim at the prospect of carrying up suitcases), and into the house. The view from the terraces (yes, we have two, and a garden with banana lounges, and lemon and orange trees all around that are somehow grown across and over frames that you could happily sit under; like the most romantic pergola (but there are hundreds across the face of these hills).
Inside, the house was COLD. We have had long discussions about the coldest place we have experienced. Myles is adamant it is Yorkshire (the house was cold, but not freezing), but then Tuscany was cold to, until we managed to heat the house up. But this was so incredibly cold that I seriously wondered how we might survive it. We cranked up the heaters (not the wonderfully efficient wall heaters that we have become attached to, but those blow heaters that are mounted high in the wall) but we were still in our puffy jackets when we were preparing to go to bed. I raided every cupboard I could find for extra blankets and ended up piling tablecloths on each bed for warmth. I was in bed in my hoodie (with the hood up) and desperately trying to get my feet warm. It was looking grim.
Myles seriously considered sleeping in his puffy.
Finally, huddled in bed, we put the puffy jackets over us like blankets. I found a book on Pompeii (a fictional account by Robert Harris) and read it longingly. Not because I’m desperate to experience a terrible volcano eruption, but because the eruption happened during a long hot summer and description of the heat was making me quite faint.
At length, we warmed up and fell into a sleep. What would the morning bring?

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