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Report 104: Navigating with Bob & Ed in Southern Italy--Two Weeks in Sicily and Puglia
By Bob the Navigator from FL, Spring 2000
Page 3 of 5: Trip Highlights
POSITANO: What can I say about the Amalfi coast--perhaps the most stunning scenery in all of Italy. We had stayed at Ravello and Sorrento years ago but wanted to experience the unique ambiance of Positano and were not disappointed. The Casa Albertina was an excellent choice. Lorenzo Cinque and his brother are superb hosts and both speak near perfect English.
Our view was magnificent but I would not recommend any hotel up the hill in Positano if you do not want to test your legs. We drove the entire coast without incident and spent Sunday in beautiful Ravello.
Our nites were spent hanging with the other tourists at the mandatory Chez Black ristorante on the beach. It seems the whole town filters down here at nite and " Mr. Black" makes it a point to greet all of the patrons---the man has a virtual gold mine.
It was amazing to me how much time you can save if you do not stop at every ceramica shop on the Amalfi coast. However, in deference to my Susan we did spend an hour shopping in the rain at Vietra sul Mare for six place settings of that perfect pattern---we failed miserably.
MARATEA: We took the coast road south from Salerno past Paestum but did not stop since it was raining and most of the Greek temples were under scaffolding.
We did make it a point to stop at the fishing villages of Agropoli and Palinuro since that seemed to be consistent with our trip objectives.
The entire coast line from Sapri south for the next 100 miles is simply stunning. The water is emerald green and the coast is dotted with tiny coves and broad sand beaches. It reminded me of the Big Sur coast of California, only more isolated.
We spent the nite in Acquafredda at the charming Villa Cheta Elite. It was our most expensive hotel but well worth it. This part of the Italian coast is not well known to tourists but the Italians see it as a major summer beach resort destination. We were just passing through, but loved it.
TAORMINA: We stayed on the coast for about 2 hours the next morning finally connecting with the A-3 Autostrada near the airport in Calabria. Another hour put us at the ferry to take us across the straits of Messina to Sicily.
Once we landed and fought our way through the Messina traffic, we found ourselves awe struck by Taormina perched high on the cliff above the sea. What a setting, made even more magnificent as Mt. Etna came into full view behind the city. We expected Taormina to be special, but did not expect it to be in the same class as Positano, Santorini, or Capri as Mediterranean havens. We were wrong.
We spent three nites here and found it to be captivating. It may have been our favorite destination of the trip. The view from our balcony at the Villa Belevedere was partially obscured by the magenta bougainvillea, but we could still clearly see the breaking waves some 2000 feet below and a small plume of smoke rising from the 10,000 foot volcano some thirty miles behind the city.
Taormina has it all. The Greeks were here many centuries ago and left a magnificent open theater on the highest point in town. It is the most popular tourist attraction in town, but the only tour busses today were school children from other parts of Sicily on a spring field trip.
They were fascinated by the "Americani" tourists and felt compelled to practice their English on us. The teacher took a photo of us with some of the kids and promised to send it to us. If you ever make it to Taormina be sure to bring your camera and lots of film.
That nite we had a nice dinner and sat in the town square with two teachers from Boston and watched an orange-red lava flow cascade down the north side of Mt. Etna. That is when we decided to drive completely around Etna the next day and to drive as near the top as we could.
It took most of the day to negotiate a square route on back roads, stopping in several small villages and enjoying a terrific lunch of carbonara in Adrano The final leg was an ascent up to about 8000 feet . The wind was so intense that we decided not to take the cable car to the actual summit, but the moon scape appearance left no doubt where we were.
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