The Amalfi coast; crystal blue sea, high mountains and green lush valleys, rich hotels and posh restaurants and a grand prix style curving coast road. All these things I found when I visited the area several years ago on a holiday with my family.
It is a lovely, interesting and amazing place. We stayed in a hotel in Maiori and arrived at Naples airport in torrential rain in mid-september but managed to find our simple hotel buried in a side street near a school.
For the next fortnight we ventured all over the Amalfi coast, visited Capri, Sorrento, Vesuvius, Pompeii and ventured into Naples.
To do our exploring we hired a car, which we always do and no surprise the locals like to drive like they really are on the Monaco Gran Prix. Although I must say the Italians are possibly the most wild drivers I’ve seen, and meeting them on those tight roads was a real experience. Basically the rule of thumb is they have complete right of way, whether coming towards you or up your bum, and if they toot it means they’re coming through.
It became a task of the passengers to visually scout ahead and warn the driver of any approaching buses, as they take precedence over everyone else, and as they take the bends in the middle of the road, it’s better to know when they’re going to creep up on you. Luckily my husband is a good driver, and used to the rural roads of our home county and dealt with each incident with ease. I think by the end of the two weeks, we had all joined the natives and often hollered and waved our hands when we got cut up.
My top tip would be to drive early in the morning or at siesta time as the roads appeared to be quieter then.
My worst driving experience whilst there was when we attempted to drive through Naples. As the navigator I got us utterly lost and ended up in a blubbering mess. They came at you from every direction, like bumper cars, and not something you want in a hire car. If they weren’t edging in or cutting you up you ended up at a stand-still with some chap trying to wash your windows or sell you something. My stress levels were so high, I barely noticed when we passed the popular landmarks of the city. How we made it out of their alive and with an unscathed car, I’ve no clue. It certainly wasn’t by my navigational skills.
Another unexpected trip was our visit to Pompei, which I’d highly recommend, and we were lucky to go on a day our entry was free. The ruins are amazing, and the city is vast. I doubt we saw every inch of it and I think they were still uncovering more parts. You really can walk down the cobbles and imagine how amazing it once was.
My tip would be to arrive early and beat the hoards of coaches traipsing the large group around.
What I didn’t expect was for it to be the home to stray dogs. Pompeii appears to be their playground. I do believe the pooches are cared for by the site staff and also you can take one home if you want to, or at least you could back then.
When I first entered the ruins, I felt a little concerned by them jumping around and following us, as often they’d get into a scrap with a companion and become raucous and get under your feet. But then me and my husband were joined by a black dog that became our loyal companion throughout the compound. Often sticking right by my side or following my husband. He really was a sweetie, and if ever I’d have a pet, I think that canine would be ours. Obviously we couldn’t fit him in our suitcase and I was quite sad that we lost his company when walking down a main street in Pompeii and he got scared away by a golden retriever a visitor had brought into the site with them.
Exploring and visiting all the world has to offer is a great way to learn, and it always amazes me what unexpected memories you bring home. Whether good, bad or unusual. I certainly didn’t expect Pompeii to be full of pooches or for Capri to feel more like a theme-park (I’ll go into that another time.) When you research your holidays, read your guides and look excitedly at pictures, there’s always something that seeing it for yourself a book, or picture can’t quite capture.
Feature photo: Amalfi Church by April Hicks.
All other photos by April Hicks.