The road was bending in front of us like a lazy snake, barely woken up from the night sleep, warming part of his body in the morning sun. Amalfi Drive was already busy with motorinos and cars alike. The people that decided to go on foot didn’t help the overall picture. Now, the bus driver (who was entertained by some Italian “cougar”, maybe in her 50’s), had to squeeze between the mountain and the cars on the other side of the road, while trying not to hit the pedestrians that were sometimes pinned down between cars and the mountain or the railing to the sea.
FACT: When standing on a crowded bus, on a very bendy road, don’t take the stairs. There will be nothing but you and your prayers to God to hold the door shut, in order to separate you from being on the bus and being thrown outside.
Is it “sweet-sweet” or “Amalfi-sweet”?
I’m a sucker for cannoli. I discovered this dessert in Romania, something like 3-4 years ago, in a restaurant I presented over here. We barely got off the bus dropping us in Amalfi City and I, being the elder in this group, decided that I need to eat something sweet while drinking a coffee. Say this in a sage’s voice, low pitch, in your head. It’s not like I didn’t have a coffee 45 minutes before, in the hotel, when I had breakfast but my tastes were craving like a pregnant woman.
In front of the Sant Andrea Apostolo Cathedral, I saw it. It was standing on top of a plate, half eaten, looking like the damn Asian guy that was at the table didn’t like it. Eat it, motherfucker! It’s a damn Amalfitano Cannolo for fuck’s sake. You can’t just let it there, in the 11 o’clock sun, laying and drying itself out and you, moving your small nose like there’s something bothering you.
Sacrilege! I had to correct that wrongdoing.
So we took our time to taste the cannoli and enjoy the Italian espresso while checking out the crowd in front of the Cathedral. My fair conclusion was that we are too many on the planet and this reflects as well in tourism. Way too many beings are allowed to roam the world while some of them shouldn’t really be allowed to leave their neighbourhood, that’s how bad they are behaving. And the sheer number of people on that small, central street really takes away the pleasure of visiting. I know, I know… Amalfi is a crowded place by itself and its inhabitants but it wasn’t that kind of crowdedness. It was more like the type of crowd that Barcelona is already trying to push out and discourage it to come to visit. That type of crowd that will get everything “sporco” around, the type of crowd that will drop the ice cream and just look at it like its some kind of dog shit, so god forbid that they would clean after themselves.
What are the chances that you will be requested to take a photograph by your own people, in the English language, while you are visiting a foreign country? Pretty much slim, but Italy is full of Romanians so it can happen. A pack of 2-3 families came towards me, (as I’m maybe looking like a professional with all the equipment I’m carrying with me – but I’m not!) as I was trying to get the whole cathedral in the frame, asking if I could take their picture. As soon as I said “yes!” they started talking in Romanian to themselves. I opened up and I introduced myself as a Romanian also, though I don’t use to do that while I’m abroad. That’s why I leave home many of the times I do it: to get away, at least for a while, from my fellows Romanians.
Narrow Streets, Wide crowds
We pushed on from the square, on this central road that was taking us (and the crowd), between the mountains and through the heart of Amalfi City, leaving the coast behind.
A little bit higher, up the road, another small square was opening up and giving space to 2-3 cafes to open their stalls and also make their typical Italian terraces: 2 – 3 tables, each with 4 chairs, with the “carta” on top of each table, costing you 5 euro, in the best case scenario. Mostly Italian folks are joining there. It was quite a scene taken out from some surreal theatre, where the audience is moving in the middle of the theatre, up a road while the acts and the scenes are evolving all around them:
- to my right, I had the old guys, somehow aligned, still living that “dolce vita” of the 60’s, reading the newspaper
- to my left, I had the kinky Italian saleswoman, trying to sell to you, from her coloured shop, the red hot chilli peppers (not the band) that are supposed to be treating erectile dysfunctions (at least as far as the advertisement on them said)
- high above, there were things happening too: people were having a conversation over the street, from their balconies, were reading a book or just enjoying the crowd beneath them; over here, there was another layer of shops and services parlours like coiffeurs and beauty salons;
The buildings are starting to disappear as one may continue the hike. At a certain point in time, we found ourselves to be quite alone on the street, compared to the ambush we had before. The reason is simple: there is nothing more to see if you continue climbing, maybe only some small, pedestrian alley, rolling up to the mountains. On the left and on the right of the street, the road had to support one of the most difficult parking spaces I ever saw. A parking space there must be more expensive than the apartment. Good thing I didn’t rent or I’d leave the amounts dedicated to the special Italian flavours in the dish, for the parking space, wherever I could find it.
We took another way down. On streets more narrow than the one we climbed up. By the way… that street was for vehicles also. They were giving access in an alternative way, a special combination between a traffic light and a policeman dressed up in such a way that for sure our slick, typical Romanian guy, would not even listen to.
Going back to the port and to the bus station that was supposed to take us to Ravello (another time, another story), through the alleys that we took, shops were mostly blocking the way. If you happen (and you happen!) to meet another couple coming from the opposite way, well, it’s an issue. I almost felt the desire to act “the blinking light” in some situations, realising later that I’m on foot not behind the wheel.
That lemon thing is everywhere here and we are not in Sorrento… yet. But this yellow thing is around you everywhere, it’s their life, it’s their motto, it’s their everything. All the reality here revolves around the lemon. Everything is lemon. I’m not complaining, I like the fruit. It’s useful, not the kind of fruit you get to appreciate as soon as you are born or after your first taste but still, later in life, you get to understand its importance in the commercial chain and in the pleasure chain.
Oh, and don’t forget about those cosy restaurants, between 3-4 stories buildings. You practically pass through them, so eating here may be a contradiction in itself if it’s romance you are looking for. On one side, yes, it is romantic; I expect these restaurants (which are not extremely pricey) to be very sentimental during the evenings, especially because they are set in a certain, social sharing space. On the other hand, don’t get too romantic lad, get your tongue out of her mouth and watch out because there’s a group of old, Australian ladies coming by and you wouldn’t want them staring at you two, hissing between them “how shameful that is”.
After all, I enjoyed the cigarette I had on the docks, while waiting for the bus. The beauty of Amalfi can’t be denied but we were there in August, full capacity. I like my intimacy even if it means that I can walk alone on the streets and check out every detail. You can’t do that when you are being constantly pushed by hundreds of people flowing around you like a mighty river. At moments it felt like those times when you are in a tight line at the stadium and they open the gates for entrance.