Today we leave for Positano on the Amalphi coast south of Naples, I decide to ignore the directions suggested by Google maps and got hopelessly lost trying to locate the freeway out of Rome. Thirty minutes later, we are on the right road (A1) out of town and do great until we leave the freeway south of Napoli. We need to exit because we have missed our exit somehow and are now rushing toward Salerno which is to the south of where we really want to end up. As we exit I consult with the toll collector and he gives me a long string of directions which escape me beyond the first left turn somewhere up ahead. So, we are lost all over again but basically, we need to go west since we are south of Naples and I know that the Amalfii coast is only slightly south of Naples too. We head past the signs to Pompeii and travel down a thin road through an old town that goes on and on. Eventually I feel the need to ask for directions at a gas station. I’m told that the freeway to Sorrento (near Positano) is only a few hundred meters ahead, just go right and then left. Well we go right and drive down a road that appears to be a main road, go around a corner and it dead ends. We turn around and examine a barrier that appears to be where the road used to go but doesn’t anymore. So I return up the hill the way we came and ask at another gas station. He tells me to take a left at the alley down the road. Sure enough there is a freeway sign pointing into this alley that is only 8’ wide. We go through the alley and come out the other end as it dead ends into a street. No freeway sign. We go left and pretty soon we are on our way to the Adriatic. This is not good, we want to be heading toward New York and instead we are heading toward Istanbul. We turn around again, return to the alley and this time continue the other direction. Success! Down, around a couple more obstacles and soon we are on the freeway which is where we are supposed to be on the road to Sorrento, we are actually back on the Google Maps directions again.
We had great fun once we are following the coast. This is one very thin road, barely as wide a one freeway lane with traffic going two ways above 500’ of vertical cliffs. On the way down, we are on the cliff side and giant tourist buses are going the other way. Naturally, they take the whole road and don’t really care much about the oncoming traffic. Good thing we have a car that is only six feet long and 4’ wide. Anyway, with careful navigation and luck, we arrive at the outskirts of Positano. There aren’t really any outskirts, but you do know you are almost there because this road that has been built out of the face of the cliff is now strung out with lots and lots of parked cars. Men in business suits are walking long distances down the highway toward town from their cars, very curious, we don’t understand why….. Well, according to Google Maps I could get to our Hotel called Copa D’Oro by taking the first right as we approached Positano. Note, this was not the main road and it really wasn’t apparent if I was looking for a paved road or a dirt road. Well, it was one way and that way was down. We wanted to travel slowly so that we could take in the sites and perhaps actually spot the hotel as we snaked downward toward the blue Mediterranean water below. I realized as this road went on and on down the hill that if we missed the hotel the first time, we would have to go to the bottom and then all the way back up to the top and then down again to find our hotel. Italians are always in a hurry and it took no time at all for someone to be riding my tail. As soon as possible, I pulled over and let the traffic pass by. As time went on and for the next few days that we were on the Amalfi Coast I became very adept at locating small niches in the road wide enough for me to pull over in so that someone could pass me. The roads of Positano make Lombard Street in San Francisco look like a freeway. It really isn’t safe to drive faster than 15 miles per hour but the Italians want to drive at 50 if they can and I won’t even mention the Vespas. Vespa drivers are the true daredevils of Italy. They are always going full throttle and don’t hesitate to pass a car or even a bus around a blind hairpin turn. At first I was wondering why everyone was in such a hurry on these thin dangerous roads but eventually I figured it out. It took a long time to travel very few miles between one town and the next along the Amalfi coast and up to Ravello. In fact, it would seem that a lot of the infrastructure in Italy was built by the ancient Romans when a road only needed to be wide enough for an oxen cart and a pedestrian. The roads have been widened slightly since then but aren’t any straighter now. If Italians only traveled at safe speeds, it would take forever to get around, thus the necessity is to drive like a maniac and to take your life into your hands at every turn. Dad, I now understand why you used to drive the way you did. You lived too long in Italy and absorbed their driving habits.
So anyway, down and down we go. It seems that we have come down the slope hundreds of feet as the road winds back and forth across this enormous cliff. The switch backs are incredibly tight and instant U-turns. The Micra handles the road like it was made for it but it wasn’t the first time that I wondered how I ever would have gotten around if I had been driving my truck. When I did internet searches for a place to stay in Positano, there had been perhaps twenty search results. Now that we are there, it appears that there may actually be hundreds of places to stay. When booking a room I was worried about finding a place with a view. Now I saw that it would be nearly impossible to build a house in Positano that doesn’t have a view. The buildings are practically built on top of the roofs of the houses below them. I did actually find a place on the internet that had some rooms with no windows at all so I guess it was possible to not have a view but just not very easy. We went around another corner where the cliffs hung out over our heads. There was a small scale replica village built into the base of the cliff and there in front of us, Donna spotted a sign that said parking for the Copa D’Oro. Wow, we had found our hotel. We pulled in, got out, were greeted by the parking lot attendant and as we opened up the back of the car, a very worried look came over his face. He said that there were a lot of steps leading up to the hotel. Then he emphasized that there really were a lot of steps leading up to the hotel. Then he got on the phone to the hotel and talked to the desk there. He told them that they needed to send someone down to get the bags but they did not have anyone so we were stuck. We took off toward the hotel, the first part was easy. Roll the suitcases behind us down the street to the corner and make a right down a step onto a cobblestone paved path leading away from the road. Ahead a sign indicated that the hotel was to the right. This is when things started to get tough. We should have repacked and condensed what we really needed for our three day jaunt down the coast of Italy, instead and because we had the car, we took everything with us. One largish suitcase for me, one smaller suitcase for Donna, my backpack with the laptop computer and another small roll behind for Donna plus jackets. Well, now I needed to carry all of this stuff up a vertical staircase. I have no doubt that by the time I was finished, and the luggage was in the lobby of the hotel, I had raised all of it up at least six stories worth of staircases twice. For each set of stairs that I climbed, I had to go back down to get the other half of the luggage and climb it again. To say that I was wiped out would put it mildly but I can’t complain too much since I really did need the exercise. I do wonder though how many guests have heart attacks trying to get up to the lobby of that hotel. The lady in the lobby welcomed us and said that we should have called up to the hotel and have them send down someone for the luggage. Yeah right. It was obvious that she was the only one there. She checked us in and we took an elevator to our room one more flight up from the lobby. She told us to leave the luggage and she would have it brought up. Guess what, she brought it herself. After all, she did have an elevator to use.
The hotel advertises a modest pool on the roof. When we checked in, the lady suggested that we would want to check it out. Naturally, Donna was disappointed that we hadn’t brought our bathing suits but never the less wanted to go check out the pool. I was a little skeptical because I had seen a photo on the web site and it only showed a small corner of it. Well, we get up there, and we find a Jacuzzi sitting on the deck. I experiment, push a few buttons and get the jets going but the water is cold. Donna wants to use the Jacuzzi so we go back to the desk to ask them to heat it and they tell us that it is only warm between 9:00 and 10:30 each morning. I think, yeah right 9:00 and 10:30 of alternating Sundays on leap years is more like it. So much for the pool/spa, whatever. The weather was perfect but this is the end of October after all.
The hotel was great, the view was stupendous! I had survived getting to the hotel, we showered and smiled as we sat out on the balcony and took in the view. Wow, Positano really is one of those very special places on the planet. It had been so long that I had forgotten how incredible this village truly was. So after a little rest, we put ourselves together and headed out. In Positano, there really is only one way to go and that way is downhill. The car was parked and the weather was great, and so we set out walking. As far as we had come downhill to our hotel, it seemed that we were still closer to the top than we were to the bottom. No matter, on the way down we did some window shopping, Donna looked at the clothes and eventually bought something at one of the places. I took lots of photos of alleys, the view of the town and the water; architectural details and this incredible cloud that was bit by bit enveloping the top of the cliffs above our heads. Eventually, we found ourselves on the beach at the bottom of the hill town just as it was getting dark. We found a restaurant right on the sand and had a long lazy dinner with a carafe of Vino Rosso. The restaurant had someone playing music and it really was quite idyllic. After dinner with a Gelato in hand we set off toward our hotel. No hurry, stop in the stores, check out an art gallery, after all, it is up hill all of the way, stop and admire the view, check out the wedding party in one of the restaurants along the way, and still, it is up all of the way. It had seemed a long way down, amazingly it was even further on the way back up and then, the stairs to the hotel. Well, they were terrible but after what I had gone through earlier in the day with the luggage, they were a breeze. We left the restaurant slightly inebriated and very full. When we were back in our room, we were sober and I have no doubt that we had burned off every calorie that we had taken in while getting back to the hotel but it was fun!