First Summer Swim in Amalfi

Amalfi Coast Best Beaches Harbor

Summer has arrived on the Amalfi Coast! The first half of June has been unusually warm, which has the beaches busy and sunbathers happy. Dig out the flip flops, swimsuits and towels. It’s time for the beach! I didn’t make it to the beach until last weekend, a tad behind many of the locals and a lot of the tourists. But there’s a right time for everything, and that time was last Sunday. The sky was clear, the sun was hot and there was a slight breeze from the sea – the perfect beach day!

Mesmerizing Blue Sea in Amalfi

Since we hadn’t been in the sun much yet we just wanted to take a quick swim and get that first sun without burning. (Well, me burning. My husband tans in about 32 seconds and doesn’t burn.) We had planned to go to the larger Marina Grande beach, but were stopped in our tracks by the clear, tranquil water at the port. There weren’t very many people either. We found a spot for our towels right by the edge of the water and the view was lovely. The mast of one sailboat soared above all the other boats moored in the harbor.

Sailboat on the Amalfi Coast

Since the temperatures just warmed up a couple of weeks ago the sea is still pretty chilly. I was able to wade in quite a bit, but chose not to make the full plunge. The little girl that ran into the water with a big splash only to pop up a moment later and scream, “Aaaaaah it’s freezing save meeeeeee” wasn’t particularly encouraging either.

Beautiful Rocky Beach on the Amalfi Coast

So I attended to my normal beach activity of watching the waves rush through the rocks, enjoying the sun sparkling on the sea and taking photos. While I’m not an overly cautious person, I do appreciate the fact that to date no one has had to save me from any of those activities.

Ciao Amalfi Coast Travel Beach Amalfi Flag

That was followed by a particularly noble attempt to lay in the sunshine and do nothing. I’m way out of practice there, so that lasted about 5 minutes before I remembered I had grabbed a magazine on the way out of the house. Yes, Elizabeth Gilbert to the rescue! This is a magazine that I bought in America last November. I guess I’m a little behind on my pleasure reading, but I enjoyed the interview. The cover matched my towel and swimsuit. That’s how I accessorize for the beach, yes siree!

Ciao Amalfi Coast Travel Summer Beach Reading

The small beach where we stopped in Amalfi is right in the port and is a free beach, which means you can just throw your towel down. It’s a popular beach with families, especially with very young kids or babies, since the access to the beach is down a gentle slop, the water is calm and the swimming area is small. Now that school is out for most kids this beach will be pretty crazy soon. But last weekend it was perfect for our first swim of the summer!

Family Friendly Beach on the Amalfi Coast

 

Alba Gonzales | Ravello

Amalfi Coast Art Exhibit Ravello Alba Gonzales

Overlooking the sea from the Auditorium Oscar Niemeyer

Following a twisty, narrow road down from the center of Ravello, you’ll find the striking Auditorium Oscar Niemeyer. I enjoy its gleaming white curves and especially the piazzale with a sweeping view of the Amalfi Coast. It’s the perfect spot to display large sculptural artwork, and I’m pleased to see another exhibition installed after the Igor Mitoraj show in 2012 and the memorable Mimmo Paladino show last summer.

Amalfi Coast Art Alba Gonzales

“Lei vede, non vede o altrove guarda,” by Alba Gonzales

This spring the work of the contemporary Italian artist Alba Gonzales is on display at the Auditorium Oscar Nieymeyer and Villa Rufolo for the exhibit “Amor Maris – I Miti Scolpiti.” The exhibit brings together 32 works in bronze and marble surrounding the theme of modern mythology told through universal themes like love, death, justice and liberty.

Amalfi Coast Travel Auditorum Niemeyer Ravello Gonzales3

A sculpture you must walk around many times to begin to see

Strolling around the piazzale at the Auditorium Oscar Niemeyer, I was reminded how much I enjoy photographing sculptures. I found the large bronze pieces by Gonzales particularly intriguing since they all had multiple sides, scenes and stories to tell.

Amalfi Coast Travel Auditorum Niemeyer Ravello Gonzales4

 

Amalfi Coast Travel Auditorum Niemeyer Ravello Gonzales5

 

Amalfi Coast Travel Auditorum Niemeyer Ravello Gonzales

 

Amalfi Coast Travel Auditorum Niemeyer Ravello Gonzales8

 

Amalfi Coast Travel Auditorum Niemeyer Ravello Gonzales9

Amor Maris – I Miti Scolpiti is on display only until May 18th, so do take a scroll down to the Auditorium Oscar Niemeyer this month if you’re visiting the Amalfi Coast. To find out more about Alba Gonzales, visit www.albagonzales.it.

 

Bends, Curves and Checks in Ravello

Amalfi Coast Travel Ravello Walk

Peeking through to the Annunziata church in Ravello

There is a staircase I follow often to visit family that leads from the main piazza of Ravello, through and under the Villa Rufulo and past two churches. The first church is the much photographed Chiesa della SS. Annunziata. But my favorite view of it is the one you see above, which is so nicely framed by an arched walkway going down this staircase. Around a few more corners and you’ll spot the undulating roof and bell tower of Santa Maria delle Grazie.

Amalfi Coast Travel Ravello Architecture

Looking down on Santa Maria delle Grazie

Last week the curves of the roof and the bends in the staircase as it twisted and turned down the mountainside caught my attention more than usual. Maybe it was because the sun was mostly hiding and the light was a bit odd. (That view can be particularly distracting when the sun is shining!)

Amalfi Coast Travel Ravello Churches

Curvy lines and beautiful views

I love the curves of the roof and especially the part above the little window with criss cross bars. It’s hard to know just where to look with the steps leading one way and the lines of the building so smoothly rolling up and down. The eye doesn’t come to rest easily in one place.

Amalfi Coast Travel Ravello Staircases and Churches

Feels like walking through an M.C. Escher drawing!

Vertiginous moments like these make it easy to understand why an artist like M.C. Escher fell in love with the Amalfi Coast. (Take a look at some of Escher’s drawings from the Amalfi Coast here.)

Amalfi Coast Travel Ravello Santa Maria delle Grazie

Once colorful and beautifully detailed churches

There are also little architectural details that shed some light on how brilliant and colorful these churches must have appeared when they were built. (Although it’s hard to just how much has been retouched with restorations.) The border around the window above is on the side of Santa Maria delle Grazie. Walking up and down the steps and stopping to enjoy little details like this is what life — and travel — is all about for me.

A View to Vesuvius

Amalfi Coast Travel Vesuvius Naples

A view of Mt. Vesuvius from Chiunzi Pass

From the Amalfi Coast there are a few ways to reach Naples, but from Amalfi the quickest and easiest is via the Valico di Chiunzi, a pass across the Lattari mountains connecting the Amalfi Coast to Naples and the surrounding area. From Ravello, the road climbs higher and deeper into the mountains until you glimpse down and across the valley where Tramonti sits divided into a handful of different frazioni, or hamlets, decorating the mountainside. Once you reach the top of the pass and find a round about, giving one final glimpse down toward Tramonti and the Amalfi Coast, a few curves more and you catch the first glimpse of Mt. Vesuvius.

Amalfi Coast Travel Chiunzi Pass

Walk this way …

This massive volcano strikes me as small when seen from the top of Chiunzi Pass. Such a different impression than what you get driving along the autostrada from Salerno to Naples and you come around a curve and see Vesuvius looming in the distance. Here it seems so very peaceful and bucolic. Oh, how looks can be deceiving!

Return to the Sea

Amalfi Coast Travel History

Amalfi and the sea as depicted in a hand-painted ceramic scene on the Ristorante Lido Azzurro in Amalfi

The people of Amalfi have always had a strong connection to the sea. Not just because of the town’s geographic setting, but because of something that seems to run deep in the blood. This is the something that led those Amalfitani in the Middle Ages to head out across the sea to other parts of the world, to sail those same seas home again and then turn around and do it all over again. And we’re not talking a day trip to Capri here. Try Africa, Byzantium and Jerusalem.

Amalfi Coast Travel Fishing Boats

Preparing the fishing nets for the spring

Over the centuries, the sea has meant livelihood in many different ways for Amalfi. While trading and fishing aren’t the center of life as they one were, the sea is still a livelihood for many people in Amalfi – from the remaining fishermen to the companies that rent boats to tourists in the summer and the workers on the ferries that do make those day trips to Capri. More than work, however, it’s the sea itself that rejuvenates the soul. I can’t even say at this point how many times I’ve heard Amalfitans that now live elsewhere return home and comment on how they miss the sea, the expanse of it and its salty scent. It’s just not the same anywhere else.

Amalfi Coast Travel Sea

Setting off in the springtime sunshine

By the end of February you can feel a bit of anxiousness in the air. When the sun glimmers across the sea and the weather gives those first signs of spring, it’s hard to keep the people of Amalfi away from the sea. It’s time.

Amalfi Coast Travel Amalfi Harbor

Sitting by the sea

While there are those few and brave who swim pretty much year round and fish throughout the winter, the majority of Amalfitans wait for the weather to indicate that it’s springtime again. In the meantime, life still takes place near the sea – from conversations with friends, to afternoon walks and kids kicking the soccer balls around and learning to ride their bikes.

Amalfi Coast Travel Winter Walk

An early springtime walk in Amalfi

I love this time of year in Amalfi watching all the little changes — in the town and the people — as the seasons change and spring arrives. Over the years I’ve absorbed some of that connection with the sea, but it will never be quite like the people who were born here. It’s tradition, it’s history and it’s love.

Amalfi Coast Travel Christmas Nativity Fountain

A charming fishing boat (and tickets to Capri & Positano!) in a fountain Christmas nativity in Amalfi