Today was been the pinnacle of our driving terrors to date. As it happens, it is also the day that Howard has run out of clean underpants, but he wants to stress that this bears no relation to the former statement. I beg to differ. If ever there was going to be a test of his driving skills, it was today. For some reason, we thought it would be a fine idea to drive along the Amalfi Coast. Rather than take the routes described by both Natasha and Boris, Howard felt it would be a shame to miss out on the coast looking out over the Bay of Naples, partly because yesterday Mount Vesuvius was completely obliterated by cloud, and this should give us the opportunity to at least see it from afar. So we drove to a place called Castellammare di Stabia, and wound our way down to the shore. We pulled over and duly admired Mount Vesuvius, but rather than take notice of either satnavs, which seemed to be sending us back in the direction from whence we had come, we drove into the little seaside town, and found ourselves in ever decreasing sized streets. We came into a square, with only one exit. A concerned Italian driving in the opposite direction stopped, gesticulated intensely, pointed up the only street available to us, shouted one kilometre, sucked his teeth, gesticulated some more, and then seemed to wish us luck. We thanked him (!) and then turned Oscar into the narrowest street you can imagine, with metal bollards on the right, and scaffolding along the sides of the buildings on the left. The street was cobbled, and on an incline of about 1 in 3. We had precisely 2 inches either side of the van (no exaggeration). We both drew breath. I was so terrified I couldn’t even whimper. Howard seemed to brace himself momentarily, and then just went for it. Once past the bit with scaffolding, we then had an extra 18 inches to play with, but at this point the road, still cobbled, became even steeper, and turned into a series of hairpin bends. How we got to the top of the road I have no idea. We were both speechless. It was another ten minutes before Howard muttered anything intelligible. By far, the scariest moment of out trip, but true testament both to Howard’s driving, and to the abilities of the California.
The next part of our drive, which our guidebook suggested ‘required nerves of steel’ to drive, the famous ‘Blue Ribbon’ route along the Amalfi Coast, was frankly a doddle compared with our earlier experience. Granted the road twisted and turned along the precipitous coastline, and we still had to contend with the mad Italian drivers, along with pelotons of cyclists, and Sunday morning motorcyclists – but in truth, the road had an occasional line painted in the middle of it, and the only point where we felt vaguely threatened was when we met a coach coming in the other direction, and had to back up to allow it to pass.
We were planning on staying in a B & B in Positano (having declined the ‘prostitute campsite’), but on the first drive through, we could see absolutely nowhere to park, so opted to drive on to Amalfi, whilst the weather was still clement. It was a soft light all day, with the sun barely peeking out through the haze, so we weren’t seeing the lovely azure blue hues that you often see in photos, but at least it wasn’t raining as had been forecast. In Amalfi, a policeman in a very snazzy outfit directed us along by the harbour, where a local popped out of nowhere and showed us to his special parking slot, and promised to look after our van whilst we were away, for a small fee!
We had a pleasant coffee and piece of Capresi cake in the square, and it was then that I realised that Howard still wasn’t really talking. In fact, he looked shell shocked. I think he was still recovering from our drive up the alleyway in Castellammare!
We wound our way back to Positano, and by this time, there was much less traffic on the coastal road. We had phoned ahead to our B & B owner, who assured us of a secure parking spot. We dropped off our bags, and left Oscar a few bends further down the road in a tiny car park with a gate – the man has insisted on keeping the keys. Howard thinks this is OK, whilst I’m having visions of the mafia. Let’s hope Howard is right!
The rest of the afternoon was gorgeous. We walked down the hill into the centre of Positano and the sea. It is a truly charming town, hugging the steep hillside, with a collection of pretty coloured houses and shops. It has the feel of a vibrant, well heeled and thriving place. It’s claim to fame seems to be Limoncello, and shops appear to sell everything conceivable to do with lemons – lemon sweets, lemon perfume, lemon candles, and of course lemons. We stopped and bought some Limoncello ‘hand-made’ in Positano, from a lady dressed all in lemon! Howard, by now speaking again, revived himself with a glass of wine. We sat next to a Korean family, a son, his wife and his mother. The son, who spoke impeccable English, was on the phone to his insurance company. He was explaining to them a tale of woe about a hiring a car from Naples which now had a flat tyre, discovering there was no spare, the unhelpfulness of the Italian car recovery service, being stuck on the Amalfi Coast, and the inevitably that they would miss their flight home. The whole story was indeed terrible, but for some inexplicable reason, Howard and I couldn’t help but smile. Our scary day no longer seemed so bad!
So tonight we have had a lovely supper in Positano, but sadly WiFi problems, so no ‘Call the Midwife’, and only a few photos (can’t download the road one, amongst others!) – I will try the rest in morning.
Tomorrow we head across to the other side of Italy and revert to camping. But first we have to negotiate what is the one way system out of Positano.