Day 91 & 92 - Not Naples and the Amalfi Coast
12 & 13 March 2022
The plan was Naples. Plans change. People tell us Naples is stunning. Must see. When Shell tells me she is not interested in the hectic pace of the city, I am happy. We grab some breakfast and discuss alternate plans. We are on the same page, mountains.
“Cities, like dreams, are made of desires and fears, even if the thread of their discourse is secret, their rules are absurd, their perspectives deceitful, and everything conceals something else.” ― Italo Calvino
There is a lake on Monti del Matese. Lago del Matese. We can see the snow on its peak from our villa. Decision made. A snow-capped mountain with a lake at the summit. Perfect.
We drive up. And up. Winding roads that barely fit two cars. Views on every turn. After a while, there is snow on the side of the road. A few minutes later it is waist-high. The road levels out and we soon hit the lake.
Snow is everywhere. The lake sits on a hollow. I would guess this was a volcano and the lake has filled the crater. Snow melts into the lake and then flows down the streams.
We find a park and jump out. 17 C at our villa, 2 C here. I find a puddle. It is frozen. I spend the next five minutes breaking the ice. I insist Shell watches. She gets bored quickly and moves on. I am like a child. I can’t get enough of an iced-over puddle.
“Well, I know now. I know a little more how much a simple thing like a snowfall can mean to a person” ― Sylvia Plath
We drive down the mountain and grab a coffee in a mountainside village. There is a butcher. We grab some sausages to make a pasta sauce for lunch. Head home and cook lunch. We eat it at the front of the villa in the sunshine while Shell books us in for dinner at a popular pizza place.
We play Monopoly in the afternoon. It is in a different language. We work it out. Shell is giving me a hiding but gets bored so we wrap it up. I don’t mind. I am not the best loser.
“I have no sense of humor about losing” ― Rafael Nadal
We head off for dinner. Apparently, this place is world-famous. People travel from all over Italy and the world to eat this pizza. Reservations are hard to get. Somehow we have one.
We arrive at the car park. As car parks go, this is top shelf. Ancient steps. Alleyways and mountain views. Our reservation is for opening time, 6.30 pm. We arrive right on time and there is a line of about fifteen people. Maybe it is famous?
Seated and order with help from the staff. A bottle of Barbera d’Alba. We start with a couple of cones. Fried pizza base filled with topping. Delicious. Heart attack material. The pizza is brilliant. The bases make them. Best pizza I have had. Pepe in Grani; is worth the hype.
“Let the stoics say what they please, we do not eat for the good of living, but because the meat is savory and the appetite is keen.” - Ralph Waldo Emmerson
Head home and go to bed. Naples a distant memory. Amalfi Coast tomorrow.
Up early. Shell skips breakfast. We pack and organise to meet our host to return the keys. She wants to buy us coffee. Not for the first time over the last few days she has wanted to catch up. I think she is lonely.
We meet at a cafe and grab some coffee. She is beyond lonely. Her story is tragic. From the UK her parents moved to Italy in 1982 when she was a young teen. She married a local. Her parents passed. She lost her husband six years ago. She was diagnosed with breast cancer three years ago. And then COVID. She is here, with no one. Alone. Chemo, mastectomy looming. Alone.
“The loneliest moment in someone’s life is when they are watching their whole world fall apart, and all they can do is stare blankly.” ― F. Scott Fitzgerald
We head off. Take a long way and avoid tolls. More for the scenic route than cost savings. Our destination is Salerno and then follow the coast road through Amalfi to Sorrento where we are staying. Sounds like a good idea.
The scenic route tacks us well off track. The roads are goat tracks that climb hillsides. The situation is getting ridiculous. I finally turn around when the GPS takes us up a road so steep the wheels are tearing forward and the car is sliding backward. I was terrible at physics, but this seems unworkable.
“Physics requires above average intelligence and above average commitment. Grant displays neither” - Peter Went (My Year 11 report card for Physics. Not joking)
We stick to some main roads until the GPS becomes reasonable. We hit Salerno and start the coast drive. This is a stunning drive. Sheer cliffs drop into a beautiful ocean. Buildings cling to impossibly steep cliff faces. The road is tight, but not bad. It is busy. A cloudless Sunday in Spring, who would have thought it would be busy?
We attempt a few restaurants for lunch. The places are packed. Sports cars are everywhere. So much botox. It seems to be the place to be seen. Sipping Prosecco wearing Fucci while taking a selfie with the ‘Amalfi’ filter. We push on.
I take a wrong turn and suddenly start climbing the cliff face. The GPS takes us all the way to the clouds before it drops back down on the coast road. It is up here we find a restaurant for lunch. A couple of locals recommend we eat off-menu. Octopus and cuttlefish salad. Vongole in a white wine sauce. Fried squid. The wine comes in a 1 litre carafe. Perfect.
We sit in this surreal place. Seafood, wine, ocean, Italy. I wonder if the police will fine us for not taking a selfie? There is a puppy labrador under the table next to us. Shell looks stunning in the sunshine. A Wanderess. Is this real?
“What is a Wanderess? Bound by no boundaries, contained by no countries, tamed by no time, she is the force of nature’s course.” ― Roman Payne
We head off. My driving is much improved after the wine. We listen to an Australian playlist. Paul Kelly, Cold Chisel, and so on. Sentimental. It is a fun drive. At one point Shell wants a photo. We pull over. She jumps out of the car without shoes and runs down the road. How can you not love her?
We hit Sorrento and our accommodation. Views over the ocean. Our host invites us for a coffee. The entire family is there. We end up with a bottle of wine and some cannoli she has made. She runs a cooking school out of this enormous kitchen that overlooks the water. Lemon trees in front, olive trees out the back.
We chat. COVID has been tough for her. No guests. She sends us off with our half-finished bottle to continue lunch with her family. It is 5.00 pm. You don’t get Sunday lunches in Australia like these very often.
It has been a long day. I don’t feel like dinner. Type the blog. Read a book. Finish the wine. Bed.