Week Three

As we enter our third week, we leave Sicily and drive up to the Amalfi Coast.

Getting into Amalfi is always a draining experience. The coast highway is very narrow and at many of the curves, if a bus appears, traffic must stop and sometimes cars back up to make room.


Amalfi, located some 62 kilometers from Naples, is a coastal town with great history.

The Amalfi Coast has the reputation of being the most beautiful stretch of the Italian Coast. I don't think we would challenge that claim.

Indeed, most who return from travels along this coast confirm this claim. If anything, the only negative comment relates to the number of tourists in the summer and the incredibly high prices. On prizes you can be the judge.

I use the gelato as the Italian barometer of prices. Buy a gelato in an Italian town anywhere other than along the Amalfi Coast, and then get one in Amalfi. Case closed.

Amalfi actually at one time had a population of over 80,000 people. It was the major port along the coaste.

As I look up at the hills I have always wondered where did they all live? In reading more about the town, it seems that most of the old town was lost in1343, during a storm and earthquake. A large part of the town just slide away into the sea.

The Amalfitian Republic dates back to the 6th Century and by the 9th Century it was one of the most important ports in all of Italy. It was strong and very independent and became a model for other towns in Italy.

AmalfiOn this trip to Amalfi, we stayed at the Hotel La Bussola, located just outside the main piazza of Amalfi

On previous trips we have always stayed at the San Michele (See Great Places to Stay) so this was to be a different experience, staying in the town centre.

Walk through the small roadway and the centre Amalfi is the Piazza dei Duomo.

Here you can enjoy the Amalfi Experience. In 2005 we returned, holding the Amalfi Event, where a group of friends all met in Rome, traveled to Amalfi and spend a wonderful week along the coast.

AmalfiWhile we enjoyed La Bussola, and the staff at the hotel were most helpful when we stayed there, we have found that ongoing communications with the hotel to be difficult.

Either they have the flakiest e-mail protocol or they just don't get back to people. Connecting up with the hotel can be a challenge.

The roof-top patio of the hotel, pictured on the left, is great to enjoy the sun, and order of a bottle of Prosecco. The view our of our room, pictured on the right, was just great.

But back to being in Amalfi. See the cathedral. Walk up the steep steps to see one of the best cathedrals in Southern Italy. It dates from the 9th and 12th centuries.

You will see the Arab-Norman architecture, as the lace-like open arches on the porch of the cathedral, while common in Muslim Spain, are unique here.

The bronze doors of the cathedral are a treasure in their own. They were made in Constantinople in 1066, cast with scenes from the scriptures.

The inside of the cathedral was restored in the 18th century and depending on your perspective, this was a good a bad choice. But there is inlaid coloured marble and plenty of details to keep your eyes busy.

AmalfiOne of the oldest sections of the cathedral is the Chiostro del Paradiso, the cloisters. The white-washed arches have a different feel from the gothic type cloisters seen in other areas.

For our friends, Chris and Carmen, this was their first trip to Amalfi. We were sure they would be returning!



Okay, I confess, I have had a long-time fear of going to Napoli.

I guess I had been taken in by the accounts of street robberies and muggings and have built up an image of a very dangerous city.

These fears have been supported by many tourist books that are geared for North American tourists spend more text warning the reader about Napoli than talking about the things you can see.

Well, I am not sure that I would want to drive a car in Napoli -- despite Nicola at the San Michele telling me how easy it is to drive to the Statione Centrale, park the car and visit the city -- sure thing!

We decided to take one of the jet boats from Amalfi to Napoli, tour the city for the day and then return by train.

Kind of a safe way to edge into being there. The boat leaves Amalfi early in the morning and despite the speed it takes almost three hours to get to Napoli. As long as you view the boat trip as part of the experience, fine, otherwise, take a train.

It would so enjoyable that I would return on my own in 2005.

When you arrive in the port, the impressive Castel Nuovo greets you. This castel was built by Charles of Anjou in 1279 and for some 700 years had stood to protect the port. Between the two round towers is the impressive Alfonso's Triumphal Arch. This is considered to be a masterpiece of Renaissance sculpture.

NapoliYou literally most go to Napoli. Not only are their museums and sights to see, but just being on the streets is the way to experience the city. At the Piazza Garibaldi, for example, everything is going on there. Bancarella is the Italian word for market stand. And these are a way of life here. There are street vendors selling clothes, food and kitchen appliances!

NapoliAlthough, take care, as I have found, the few blocks around the Stazione Centrale are some of the least desirable in Napoli. The Piazza is clogged with cars. The hotels around the Piazza Garibaldi are not the ones you would want. If you must walk in this area, do so quickly and with purpose.

There are colours in Napoli. Deep rich colours hit you as you walk the streets.

To get a real view, take the Funicalare di Montesanto up to the Castel S. Elmo and walk around, look down on the city below: reds, yellows and ochres. It is a sight.

There are actually three funicolari that will take you up to the upper part of the city. The longest, in fact the longest in the world, is the Funicolare Centrale. You get it on Via Toledo, located just behind the Galleria. It takes you up to Via Cimarosa. The Funicolare di Chiaia also ends up almost in the same location, but starts at the Piazza Amedeo. The Funicolare di Montesanto leaves from the Montesanto Station where the suburban Circumflegea and Cumana rail lines can be connected up with.

NapoliThe Galleria Umberto I (pictured on the left) was one of the reasons I just had to get to Naples. I have seen this Galleria featured in many movies. This is a grand place the and take the plunge and have a drink in one of the cafes. Sit, enjoy a drink and watch the people. Ah, being in Italy.

I was also impressed with the "other galleria" the Galleria Principale that basically sits vacant. Evidently it was a business failure from the day it opened but there is an erie feeling walking through the galleria. Great place for lovers to meet!

On this trip we missed seeing the Museo Archeologico Nazionale.. Chris and Carmen worked it into their schedule and gave it rave reviews. Ah, a reason to go back.

This museum holds the most important collection of Roman-era art and antiquities in the world. It houses the works owned by the Farnese Family - a collection that family built up over a 300 year period.

I came back to Napoli in 2005 specifically to see this museum and it was worth it.

The first floor has countless rooms filled with ancient sculptures. The size of the statues will hit you as you walk through the collection. The next floor up has Roman mosaics from Pompeii and Herculaneum. I am told the only better collection of Roman Mosaics is in Antalya, Turkey.

NapoliThe churches of Napoli are rich in architecture. They are locked up during the off hours of the day (from noon to 4:30, and some only open at specific times.

The Santa Chiara (take via Toledo up to via scura and then over to via Chiara) dates back to the 14th century. Impact by bombs during the war the interior is not like as it was, but the Cloister of the Clarisse, next to it, is one of the most peaceful spots in Napoli.



On our way up from Amalfi, back to Rome, we stopped in at Montecassino to see the Monastery. I highly recommend this, and even if it means a slight detour for you, it is well worth your time.

MonticassinoThe monastery sits high on a hill overlooking the Garigliano Valley. The monastery has been destroyed five times. Built in 529, it was destroyed by the Lombards some sixty years after that. Then the Saracesn and Normans destroyed it again in the 9th and 11th centuries. In 1348 an earthquake wrecked the place and in 1944, during World War II, bombs were dropped to destroy the monastery as it was a bastion for the Germans.

MonticassinoThe Benedictines have rebuilt it once again and although impressive, evidently it is nothing like it was.

There is no feeling of poverty in this Abbey and if you visit be sure to take in the museum. It is very well done with everything from jewelry to clothing to religious artifacts. You will certainly come away with the feeling of the great wealth that had been accumulated over the years.



GaetaIf there is one name that gets us all laughing it is Gaeta. It was the desire to visit Gaeta that started the talk about going to Southern Italy in 2003. Carmen saw it the town featured on a TV cooking show. After a couple of planning dinner parties it was settled. We were going to Gaeta and the literary would work around that.

We had arrived at noon, so we only had lunch and then headed to the town of Sperlonga, which is 15 km down the road. We could not find suitable accommodations in Gaeta.

The lunch was great. We all had some of the best pasta dishes of the trip. The decor was a little strange but, we are after the food.

GaetaWe all shook our heads at the though of the military taking over the impressive castle and using it as their administrative centre not open to the public. Luckily we all found ourselves returning to our meeting place early. We packed it in and headed back to Sperlonga for what turned out to be a very good dinner.


Sperlonga is a pleasant resort along the Tyrrhenian Coast between Rome and Naples. The medieval part of the town is on a steep promontory and is very interesting. A collection of white houses connected with narrow alley ways and stairs.

Below the town is a truly great beach - the Angolo.


Sperlunga Sperlunga
Narrow alley ways of Sperlonga. Lots of stairs to explore the old town.
Sperlunga Italian
A beach to enjoy. The took of Sperlonga
There is just a great feel about this small town.  




We arrived back in Rome for a day to just enjoy the city before we head back to Vancouver.

While Rome is exhausting on your first visit because there is so much to see and you just try to see it all, on a return visit, you are most selective in how you use your time. It makes it all the most enjoyable.

What is Rome? Colour comes to mind immediately. The colours of Rome are something that just hit you. A little sun and the colours of Rome just take over.

RomaWhat is Rome? For us great experiences. From walking the streets, to enjoying the good life having a drink in a cafe. Rome is an experience. Yes many a drink!


Chris of course still has things to see from the "100 Things to See in Rome" article. A number had been accomplished on the way in, but there were still places to see.

One of the "Things" was to visit a noted store that sells ties. Well we searched and searched and finally gave up. Opting for a lunch and we selected the restaurant Passetto, located just north of the Piazza Navonna.

The Piazza Navonna, well we won't count the number of times we have enjoyed walking through this piazza and we know there will be many more. In fact, it became to planned meeting place for our Amalfi Event Tour that would take place in 2005. The plan was for each couple to enter the piazza from a different entrance and meet at the centre fountain.

PassetoWe had a great lunch there. It was an sunny day and we were able to get a table in the outside patio area.

Not only did we have a great meal there, but according to the restaurant, so have politicians, and Queen Elizabeth, Charlie Chaplin, Arthur Rubistein, Prince Ranieri of Monaco and Grace Kelly, Salvador Dalì, Ava Gardner, Gary Cooper, Tyron Power, Clark Gable, Elizabeth Taylor. The restaurant has been in operation for over 100 years. It took worked its way into the 2005 Amalfi Event.

Well, it was one of those lunches to remember. Way too much food and way too much to drink. What better way to spend the lunch period? As Karen says, you know when they bring out a complimentary bottle of Lemoncello to drink after dessert that you have in essence already paid for it!

RomaSo as we stumbled out of the restaurant, to our surprise the tie store was two doors down. Never, never go into an expensive tie store after drinking the better part of a bottle of lemoncello.

Antonio was great and showing me ties. Chris had remarking strength while I just gave in and purchased a couple of ties. Large, bold, expensive, and as I found when I returned to Vancouver, really don't go with any suit I own!


There are so many churches in Rome it impossible to prepare a list. We have found that to just walk around and stop in the churches to be a visual treat.
Roma Roma
Roma Roma
Roma Glenn
  In the words of Arnold: "I'll be back..."






Walking along the waterfront in Amalfi


View from the Hotel Bussola in Amalfi


Streets in Napoli are very interesting.

Napoli - think scooters

In Napoli the scooter is they way of getting around.


Life in Napoli is simply great.


Interior of the church in Monticassino.


Church in Gaeta

Chris Grant - Sperlong ice cream cone

Chris took the challenge in Sperlonga and got the largest cone they made.


Piazza Novana in Rome is one of our regular places to see.