On the Road Home

Autumn drive to the Amalfi Coast

On the road from Naples to the Amalfi Coast

Earlier this week I arrived back home in Italy at Naples’ Capodichino airport, the closest airport to the Amalfi Coast. Anyone who has driven on the autostrada through Naples knows that the stress of  international travel is nothing compared to simply surviving the short drive from the airport to the exit for the Costiera Amalfitana. Jet lag does help to keep one calm though. I always breath a sigh of relief when we reach the exit at Angri, because I know that shortly the road will start winding its way slowly up the the mountains toward the Chiunzi pass leading to the Amalfi Coast. My fiancé said I was in for a surprise, because the autumn colors were still beautiful up in the mountains. Boy was he right!

Autumn drive on the Amalfi Coast

Autumn colors on the drive home

Around every curve in the road there was another beautiful view of the autumn colors up close or covering the mountainsides.

Autumn mountains Amalfi Coast

Autumn colors on the mountains near Naples

As we reached the top of the pass and started over toward Tramonti, the colors reached their peak. I didn’t get any good shots, but you can enjoy the colors from an autumn drive to Tramonti from a couple of years back.

Autumn on the Amalfi Coast Tramonti

Autumn in the mountains of the Amalfi Coast

I never expected to find such gorgeous colors still around Ravello and Scala at the end of November. It was really a joy not to have missed this splendid show!

Autumn in Ravello on the Amalfi Coast

Autumn colors around Ravello

Ravello in the autumn

Ravello surrounded by autumn's colors

Autumn colors on the Amalfi Coast

Autumn colors in Scala on the Amalfi Coast

While hauling (and occasionally dropping) my suitcases down the approximately 60 steps to the house, the gorgeous colors were much appreciated. After much experience with it, I can safely say that 50 pound plus suitcases and ancient stone staircases don’t go well toegther. I stopped often under this terrace of bright red grape vines. What a sight!

Autumn grape vines on the Amalfi Coast

A gorgeous sight while resting

While the autumn colors are more striking up in the mountains on the Amalfi Coast, I did find this stunning bit of color in Amalfi’s Piazza Duomo.

Autumn in Amalfi

Autumn reds near the Duomo of Amalfi

Ciao Amalfi!

A Passeggiata in Amalfi

Walking in Amalfi

The passeggiata—a leisurely walk or stroll—is one of those wonderful Italian traditions that you can enjoy across Italy. This is a time for families and friends to spend together catching up on the day’s news, for kids to play together and to just enjoy a healthy bit of fresh air. On the Amalfi Coast, where horizontal space is decidedly challenged, the passeggiata often takes on a meandering form through town. In Amalfi, however, locals take advantage of the relatively wide port with three piers for the traditional passeggiata. It can be a short and quick walk down one of the piers, or a longer walk to the end of the port to the little red lighthouse that marks the tip of Amalfi’s largest pier. Can you spot it in the photo above? I invite you to come along with me on a walk to the port in Amalfi on a beautiful October morning.

Amalfi Harbor

From the center of Amalfi, follow the small street leading to the long pier the defines the end of the town’s harbor. You’ll pass the smaller pier where the ferries depart for Capri, Positano and Salerno. You’ll leave behind you the crowds of tourists arriving or waiting for the next departure as you head toward a quieter part of town.

Traditional Architecture in Amalfi

Don’t forget to look up along the way to see how the buildings of Amalfi have been built right into the side of the mountain. It’s an amazing sight!

Walking Along the Amalfi Harbor

Along the way you’ll pass some benches that are popular year round for enjoying the sun and chatting. I was out early in the morning, so there were still plenty of spaces open. Toward the end of the port you’ll pass through a larger part of the sidewalk with benches and a beautiful view looking back toward Amalfi. During the summer, and just about every evening of the year, this is where families gather in Amalfi, and you’ll have to dodge soccer balls and kids learning how to ride their bicyles as you stroll through.

Walking Along the Port in Amalfi

The beautiful Sirene beach is located behind the port, and it’s a great spot for swimming in the summer when Amalfi’s Marina Grande beach in the center of town is crowded.

Sirene Beach on the Amalfi Coast

Climb up the small flight of stairs to walk along the top of the pier. The view is outstanding! If you want to know where locals exercise, this is the spot. Friends walk up and down the pier and talk about lunch plans and shopping while getting a bit of exercise. The morning I was out taking these photos, the harbor was busy with two cruise ships. Such an inspiring view while walking!

The Perfect Walk in Amalfi

Locals sometimes walk along the lower part of the pier as well, which is also a nice walk near the boats. On a nice day, however, I can’t resist the views from up above!

Boats in the Amalfi Harbor

There are tile covered benches along the way if you want to stop for a rest or simply enjoy the sunshine and panorama of Amalfi. Now we’ve reached the red lighthouse at the end of the pier. Are you ready for the view?

Walking to the Lighthouse in Amalfi

While it doesn’t seem like you’ve walked very far, the perspective looking back toward Amalfi is spectacular from the end of the port. It is equally stunning at night with the golden lights from town stretching across the harbor.

View of Amalfi from Port

I hope you’ll join in with the locals and enjoy this passeggiata in Amalfi on your next visit to the Amalfi Coast!

La Marinella Beach in Amalfi

Spiaggia La Marinella in Amalfi

Amalfi has two larger beaches on either end of the town, the long and pebbly Marina Grande beach and the rocky Le Sirene beach behind the port. If I’m looking for a lively beach atmosphere, I head to the popular Marina Grande. For a bit more seclusion and quiet sun bathing, I go to Le Sirene. In between these two beaches along the port of Amalfi, you’ll find three other small beaches where few tourists stop. My favorite spot for swimming in Amalfi is the tiny La Marinella beach, located next to the restaurant with the same name and not far from where the boats to Positano, Capri and Salerno depart. This tiny beach is very popular with the Amalfitans, who stop to lament every spring during the evening passeggiata that the pebbly beach is getting smaller and smaller. In recent years they have been building a deck over the top of the beach to provide more sunning area, which has been a big success.

Beautiful sea at La Marinella Beach

The allure of La Marinella is the calm, crystal clear water – just like a pool as the locals say! The way it sparkles in the sunshine is incredibly tempting on a hot summer day. Since the beach is small and quiet, this is a popular spot for families with young kids, who tend to come first thing in the morning when the sun isn’t so instense. As a result, it can get a bit crowded and noisy during the summer months. My favorite time to swim at La Marinella is in May and late September when school is in session. Last Saturday morning we went there for a swim and were among the first to arrive.

Small beach in center of Amalfi

As the port of Amalfi hummed with boats coming in and going out, buses loading and unloading tourists for the day and the shops opening, we enjoyed a moment of absolute calm at La Marinella.

September morning in Amalfi

If you’re traveling to Amalfi with young kids, this is a lovely spot for a relaxing swim. The stones on the beach are small, which means it’s a little easier on the feet compared to Marina Grande. Or, if you happen to stroll by on an early morning, when there’s no one about yet, it’s one of the most peaceful places to spend the morning in Amalfi!

At the La Marinella beach in Amalfi

Enjoying the sunshine in Amalfi

My trips to the beach have been few and far between so far this summer. When I do find time to go, however, I enjoy every moment! Last week on the beach in Amalfi I was able to get some sun at last on a very pretty afternoon. The bright colors of the beach umbrellas were striking against the blue sky, and I couldn’t resist taking a few photos to share a bit of the Amalfi sunshine with all of my readers!

Marina Grande Beach in Amalfi

Marina Grande Spiaggia Amalfi

Hotel Luna Amalfi

Happy summer from the Amalfi Coast!

Finding Home on the Amalfi Coast

Home on the Amalfi CoastIt doesn’t take long to feel at home on the Amalfi Coast. I imagine many travelers experience the same feeling of familiarity and comfort when they first arrive, just as I did in February 2007 when I first visited Amalfi. There’s a warmth, openness and curiosity for foreigners in many of the locals on the Amalfi Coast, which is an undeniable part of that welcoming feeling so many people find here.

Speaking only a few words of Italy, it was certainly very welcome to me when I started spending more time on the Amalfi Coast! With a smile and a few words scribbled down in Italian on a piece of paper, shopping soon became a little less scary as the lady in the shop nicely corrected my pronunciation of “CI-polla” to “ci-POlla” when I needed onions. I didn’t understand anything anyone said to me, but slowly I began to learn a few words.

It was hard, however, not to feel like an outsider when I didn’t know how to do simple things that I’ve never had to put much thought into before, like interpreting the bus schedule or buying herbs at the market. Every expat goes through these feelings, I believe, and I imagine everyone deals with them in different ways as well. I chose to focus on the little victories – the first time I got up the nerve to go into the butcher on my own, the first time I carried out a transaction at the post office in Italian, the first time I felt confident enough to start up a conversation with a stranger, actually being able to figure out that blasted bus schedule. With each success, I felt a little more at home.

I’ve been reflecting a lot lately on that very feeling. What is it that makes a person feel at home? It’s a familiarity that comes only with time, but it’s something much more than simply living in a place for a certain period of time. For me, it has more to do with the way a place resonates within you through its sights, sounds and scents. Whether it’s the “invisible scent of lingering lilacs,” as it was for Proust, or simply the comforting view of the street where you grew up playing and laughing as a child, its those very personal experiences and memories that define home.

But, more than anything, I’m starting to realize that home is where you’re happy. Yesterday evening I was out running some errands on the motorino before coming home. As I was riding along a beautiful road in Ravello overlooking the Amalfi coastline, I saw very clearly how, without even realizing it, my life has become interwoven into the panorama of daily life here. That even though I’m still a foreigner, I have started nevertheless to find my place. I smiled as a swerved around a vigilessa (a local policewoman in charge of traffic and city regulations) who had stopped in the middle of the road to take a picture of a nicely dressed couple with the stunning backdrop of the Amalfi Coast behind them. I smiled and beeped the horn as I passed Gaetano, who sells the sweetest peaches I’ve ever tasted. Around the next corner came a tilting Piaggio Ape, one of those tiny three-wheeled Italian vehicles, loaded at least twice its width and three times its  height with bales of hay. I laughed out load hoping that he would make it to wherever he was going with all that hay.

This is it, I thought. It doesn’t have to be complicated or philosophical or romantic or any of the thoughts that have been going around and around in my mind lately. Although I read Michelle Fabio’s words back in February this year, they suddenly clicked. “It really is the simple, stupid,” I thought. As I parked the motorino and walked down the steps to home, I smiled realizing that I had already found my home on the Amalfi Coast without really even knowing it.