Il Sud, pt.II: Simba non si è fermata a Eboli

July 18, 2014 § 4 Comments

Continuing my spontaneous travels that began with a weekend full of opera and world championships and lots of skeletons in Napoli, I woke up on Monday to grey clouds and a generous drizzle.  Which did not do much in helping to inspire me to linger in southern Italy, instead of getting on a train back to Ancona.

Still unresolved, but ready to leave the city, I put on my backpack and started walking to the train station.  About halfway there, the skies cleared out, and I took advantage of the momentary glimpse of blue to make my decision: maybe I could take a little detour around the Amalfi coast before coming back to Napoli in the evening and taking a night bus back to Ancona.  That sounded like a good compromise, so I bought a ticket to the endpoint of Napoli’s circumvesuviana, outwitted a pair of gypsies that wanted to steal my bag of change and cookies, and emerged in Sorrento an hour later:

Sorrento2

Since I had already been there, however briefly, years ago and the place was swarming with tourists, I didn’t linger long, but instead bought a giornaliero, a 24-hour ticket valid for the entire stretch of the Amalfi Coast.  The first bus ride was spent talking to a boy from just outside of my former town of Monza; hah, had he gone to the other liceo in the town, I would have been his teacher.  After 45 minutes of chatting and weaving around cliffside roads, I jumped off at Positano:

Postiano8

Yes, it’s touristic and fancy and clichè … but for good reason.  It’s one of those places that seems surreal until you leave, and then it seems more real than the road you are walking on.

I did not know that the entire town is nestled in a steep valley, so I had a fun hike down zig-zag roads for an hour before a brief hop on the beach and another hour of zig-zagging back up stairs with my red backpack on.  When I reached the beach level, the black skies that had been holding off let loose and drowned all of the tourists out, so that was nice (though made for a slippery trek back up).

PositanoFramed

At the top of the next hill, I squeezed myself on a passing bus and got off at the next clichè -but-breathtaking stop: Amalfi:

AmalfiRain2

First thing’s first: the mandatory stroll around the harbor:

AmalfiBoats2

And romantic gazing at boats off on the horizon:

AmalfiBoats

The next two hours were spent seeking refuge in a restaurant on the sea as the skies let down another attack of rain.  This forced restaurant arrest was very much approved, as I ordered the best seafood pasta dish of my life, had a large glass of Vesuvian wine, and enjoyed an open view of the town with winds that blew and blew and blew and made it all seem a bit more real:

AmalfiGate

When the rain stopped, I put my backpack on again and continued walking along the coast for a couple of hours, falling under the spell of practically every corner and building:

AmalfiControSole

But, how can you not, when you are walking on the edge of these cliffy shores?

AmalfiCoast

After a couple of hours, it was time to stop the stroll and hop on another bus that took me to Salerno.  There, I accepted the fact that I was not going back to le Marche today, so I checked into a B&B, and then headed out to look for a granita al limone.  I found it, as well as a pretty atmospheric sunset over the harbor (and got caught in another downpour at the end of the pier, of course):

SalernoBeforeTheStorm

Early the next morning, I took a bus from Salerno, through Eboli, to Potenza, deciding to go back home a different route.  From Potenza, public transportation seemed to be non-existent and I felt restless anyways, so I started walking out of town with a cardboard sign that said MATERA on it; my next destination.  Within a few minutes, an old man pulled up and offered me a lift.  I get in, without any real idea of where he was taking me (as much I love the south, I still have a hard time understanding old southern grandpas sometimes).  I still am not sure where he took me, as he dropped me off in a place that could very well be described as the middle of nowhere in the Basilicata:

Basilicata

Without very much traffic.  But, hey, pretty views!  I was still amazed at how mountainous and green this region was.  After a while, a mechanic drives by and I pretty much throw myself into his truck, desperate to get to anywhere but there.  We stopped by his work to change cars and then he offered to take me to a larger intersection… a short drive during which we established a good friendship, so he ended up taking me on a detour to show me the diga naturale di San Gulliano and then brought me all the way to the Matera city center, which as an hour away and in the opposite direction of where he was going.  After buying me a cappuccino, he waved and parted ways, and I turned to the next stop of my day’s itinerary: Matera:

MateraSky

Another city that completely took my breath away; a huge hill of stone houses and caves carved into the side of the mountain:

MateraMountainCaves

So, I walked around for a while and poked my head into all of the little alleys:

And admired the architecture:

MateraDoor

And went into the old cave houses:

MateraInsideCave

And smelled the cacti:

MateraCactsFlowers

From Matera, I took a kinda sketchy rail system from underneath the biglietteria to Bari.  Before getting on the night train back to Ancona, I managed to squeeze in one more adventure: sunset at Pulignano a Mare, a very quaint little town perched on drastic cliffs, about thirty minutes south of Bari:

PolignanoAMare

It’s hard to think that this is the same coastline that Ancona is on, five hours to the north.  Completely different!

PolignanoAMare2

Then, a juice dinner from the main piazza, which was decorated and had a full-scale brass band performing some sort of symphony in it.

PolignanoPiazza

And then, back to Bari, train switch to an InterCityNotte, and back to my little town that drives me crazy, but yet I somehow love so much.

I can’t believe that I had only explored north of Ancona so far…  it’s like two different worlds, the north and the south.  I was absolutely charmed by all of the colors and the people, and am full of inspiration to go back and thoroughly explore.  Can’t believe that it took me so long to tread foot there, as it’s been on my Travel List for a while now.   I cannot wait for the next jaunt down yonder!

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