I haven’t posted anything in the Italian Scrapbook for a while now. It didn’t seem right to extol the splendors of Italy when the country was experiencing such a bad time. They still exist, though, Italy’s beauties. We longed to visit them again. Since Italy had opened for travel, we decided to go for Thanksgiving.
We rented an apartment in Marina Grande, a fishing village below Sorrento. Here we could look out at the fleet (and also Vesuvius and the Bay of Naples).
November can be a melancholy time in Campania, the region in southern Italy that contains Naples, the Sorrentine Peninsula and the Amalfi Coast. It is cold and rainy. Nevertheless, we were optimistic. Summer lasts a long time in this part of the world.
In the past, we had always gone in October. At that time of year, we could still swim. It’s too cold for our friends in Sorrento who are used to the Mediterranean. For us, accustomed to the Atlantic, the water is fine. In October we could still hike the mule trails that run through mountains of the interior. of the peninsula.
However, things can change suddenly. A couple years ago, on the last day of October, we finished our excursion and ended up at the International Bar near Positano. The sun and light breeze had granted us a perfect hiking day. All at once wind and rain blew in from the sea. In the aftermath, the storm left damp red dust over everything. Our friends said this was the scirocco coming from Africa. The turn in the weather signals the change of seasons. There is no autumn in Campania. Summer stops. Winter begins.
But it didn’t seem to have begun yet in our fishing village when we decided to go to Amalfi. The day before we had walked in sunshine through a Roman ruin nearby. It was only drizzling lightly the morning we climbed from the beach up, up, up to the Sorrento center.
So, like the good Campanian peasants our forebears were, we prepared for the worst. We took proper gear for hiking in the rain. In the town square, the aroma of coffee, caught in the damp air near the Bar Ercolano, seduced us. We paused for an americano. Like good Campanian peasants, we also hoped for the best. And sure enough, by the time we were ready to go, the rain had stopped. We boarded the bus to Amalfi.
The bus meandered up the mountain. Beyond the serpentine road lay our favorite hiking trail, Il sentiero degli dei – The Path of the Gods. In the prolonged summer, the woods had been a brilliant green.
Now, hazy in the mist of returning drizzle, they appeared verdigris. Whichever ancient gods live here, were now somber, preparing for the harsh winter that was approaching. We arrived at Amalfi in the rain. The beach, so enticing in the summer, echoed the gloomy mood of the countryside. The sea was dull, cloudy, no longer turquoise and scintillating. Waves smashed on the seawall, warning us to stand back.
We found a very good restaurant and by the time we finished lunch, the rain had stopped, and sun seemed to be poking through the mist.
Encouraged by the break in clouds, we risked the short walk along the coast to the next town, Atrani. We arrived at the town square in a hailstorm.
There is a road to Amalfi that tunnels through the mountains. It protected us from the hail. This road doesn’t seem like a road. At first, I thought I was entering the courtyard of one of the buildings that surround the square. But no, it is a real street that led us back.
By the time we emerged from the “tunnel”, the hail had turned into mist. We were graced with a hazy view of the pathway from Atrani to Amalfi.
By four o’clock we were back in Amalfi. It was already getting dark. We took the next bus back to Sorrento and hit rush hour traffic.
You might consider our excursion a failure. Bad weather. Glum mood. A tedious journey with no glorious outcome. But everything doesn’t have to be exciting to be enjoyable. The colors and disposition of winter have their particular beauty.
As the bus pulled into the station in Sorrento, the rain stopped. The air was crystal – sharp and clear. It was the night of the lighting on the tree in the square. There were costumed dancers. The crowd joined in singing traditional songs.
Perhaps this is magic of this part of the world – the worst and best all at once.