Saturday, March 05, 2016

Sentiero degli dei

We walk down into Minori. After yesterday’s stair extravaganza my knees are trembling and my calves are screaming but it gets better as the muscles warm up a bit. While we wait for the bus to Amalfi, Henri and I kick the ball around on the pavement until the local crazy comes to shout & gesticulate in Henri’s face about playing so near a caffè. Some of the other residents try to talk him down. I get the distinct feeling this isn’t the first time this has happened. The bus takes us into Amalfi where we catch another bus to Bomerano. Amalfi is a zoo compared to sleepy Minory but it is beautiful. The bus ride is all switchback away from the coast into the mountains. We’re happy but dopey from the gravol.

There are three other couples of tourists on the bus. All of us worry about missing the stop. Aside from the bus stops on the main road the indications of where the bus will let you off are little panels that read Fermata but which can’t really be seen until you stand in front of it. Not very helpful when you’re on the road and the bus driver sits under a sign that reads “Don’t talk to the driver”. I finally pluck up the courage to go sit up beside him to ask where we should get off and he answers me before I get a word out. This bus must be overrun by the likes of me in the summer. He tells me where the stop is and which road to turn up to get where we want to go. When everyone gets off, they all kind of loiter around waiting for us to lead the way. Imagine the confusion when we head into a caffè instead of hitting the trail.

The sentiero is just beautiful. Much more groomed and well-travelled than the one we were on yesterday. The views are stupendous in all directions. On the left, the mediterranean stretches out beneath us, a pale clear aqua for a few metres off the shore and blurring into gorgeous greeny-blue beyond. We can see the white peaks of the Sicilian mountains across the water. The Sorrento peninsula juts out into the sea ahead of us and the terraced lemon groves slice the hillside into tidy little parcels behind us. We have to share the trail with a few other groups but we’re mostly on our own except for a goatherd with his flock and trusty dog.

Frances woke up with a killer cold so our intention had been to take it easy and end the walk in Nocelle with a bus ride into Positano but we must have taken a wrong turn because we ended up missing the actual town and found ourselves on another endless chain of stone steps down, down, down. How many hundreds of steps down… into Arienzo where we waited less than a minute for a bus back to Amalfi. The bus ride was incredible. Houses notched into the mountainside above, homes that looked literally carved out of the rock in the grottoes and inlets below.

Again, the fun is in watching the bus navigate the wicked curves and oncoming traffic. We got in a couple of classic jams today, one with someone who didn’t stop far enough back from the curve for the bus to get around. The driver of the oncoming car first tried to pull alongside us but there wasn’t nearly enough room and there were too many cars behind him to get them all to reverse so he backed into the space in front of us (almost squishing a local woman who warned him off by banging the hell out of his car) and reversed up and around a corner until he was at the back of the pile and we could get around him. I pity the tourists who try to take on this road in the height of the summer season and end up suffering the wrath of the locals. The bus drivers are unbelievably good at backing around curves, sending messages to one another with honks. They are not, on the other hand, a very forgiving bunch, sending expletives flying at cyclists, tourists and inept drivers.

An older guy with a cane got on the bus and almost fell over trying to get onto the seat beside me. The road is so windy that if your bum isn’t fully cupped by the curve of the bottom of the seat you find yourself in the aisle pretty quickly. I ended hooking my arm in his and hauling him up beside me before we went into a curve. We chatted for a while but his toothless dialect was a challenge for me. He very sweetly took the time to turn and shake my hand as he was getting off. I’ve seen a few stroke survivors and people with crutches trying to navigate the rough cobblestones, the slopes and the endless, uneven steps. This is not an easy place for the disabled.

Back to Minori. It’s funny how getting to know the rhythm of a place, the times of the church bells, the bus schedules, the drivers, the shortcuts, can make you feel so quickly at home in a place so far from home.

Sitting on the terrace in the setting sun, drinking a glass of fresh-squeezed lemonade. Our last night in Minori and it’s sad.

Maria has made us dunderi (little pillows like gnocchi but made of ricotta, 00 flour and fresh water). It is phenomenally good but filling. Her secondi is a plate of fish with potatoes and a spear of boiled cauliflower from the garden. So good but SO full… Then homemade lemon cake, lemon-flavoured mascarpone dotted with black raspberries.

There was another family in the diningroom tonight. A couple with a five year old girl and a five-month old baby. We admired the adorable baby and the dad very sweetly came over so we could get a better look at her. We dodged the five-year-old’s very pointed questions about why we didn’t speak better Italian. Very adorable. I told the husband that we were excited to go see Napoli play the following night and his eyes lit up. He started describing Napoli’s star players and pulled out his phone to show us a picture of Higuaín. The five-year-old ran over and started swiping the screen, revealing an endless chain of photos of the player as her dad sheepishly looked on.

Forza Napoli!

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