Paradise in Southern Italy – Marilyn and Alf – Best Blogs Series

Italiano: Dintorni di Palinuro.

Italiano: Dintorni di Palinuro. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One of the gems of our seven week trip will always be our unplanned visit to Palinuro, which is two hours by road South of the World famous resorts on the Amalfi Coast in Southern Italy. Palinuro is totally different to the sophisticated and highly commercialized resorts of Amalfi, Positano andRavello, however, equally as beautiful in its own right. It does not have the expensive small shops, nor does it have the five-star hotels, instead it does have lots of shops selling affordable merchandise and some excellent four star hotels. The restaurants are catering for Italians and the menu in most of them is not translated, so if you don’t speak the language that’s tough but a lot of fun. English is not widely spoken here and it is so nice to spend time away from the hoards of Germans, Americans, Brits and in fact, tourists from all over the world.

To bring you up to date, we received news that our cargo-cruise to Cyprus, taking both ourselves and our car, would be delayed ten days because of schedule changes. After a moment’s irritation, we decided that we must accept the fact that this is Italy and time keeping is not their forte in life, and after all, where could there be a nicer place to get stranded than in Italy, so we took this as an opportunity to explore the Southern Amalfi Coast further.

By chance, we landed in Palinuro, on a stunning bay overlooking the sea, and spent a wonderful week in one of the most beautiful and relaxing parts of Italy. Palinuro is a simple resort, full of friendly, helpful people and critically is in the Cliento and Vallo di Diano National Park which became a UNESCO Heritage Site in 1997. The national park is one of the most sparsely populated parts of Italy. Palinuro is a popular resort for people of the Italian region of Campania, including Naples and Salerno. It also gets some visitors from Rome but it remains largely off the international tourist map even though you do get the occasional American or German.

We found a wonderful, inexpensive and friendly boutique hotel, with a room facing the sea where at night we listened to the sea breaking on the rocks twenty feet below. In the days, we explored the national park, swam in the almost transparent deep blue sea and sampled the local fresh fish caught that day, washing it down with excellent local wine, of course.

Yesterday we took a boat trip around the cape to explore the World famous grottos:

  • The Blue grotto owes its name to the extraordinary effect produced by the sunlight which filters inside from an underground passage at a depth of about eighteen metres, providing a spectacular play of light and colours
  • The Blood grotto is characterized by striking blood-red markings winding up the walls, reflecting onto the sea and giving an amazing reddish colouring
  • The Monks grotto is rich in stalagmite formations which resemble friars in monks habit

Palinuro has been a lovely find and we should definitely like to return soon. For now though, we are focussed on the next and final stage of our journey by ship from Italy to Cyprus which is due to sail on the 12th. and, fingers crossed, this time to schedule! Hopefully, on our six-day boat trip to Cyprus, we shall have some time to edit our hundreds of photos and post them on the web soon, so watch this space!

Amazing Amalfi Coast Italy – Best Blogs Series

Looking back to Positano, Amalfi Coast, Italy.

Looking back to Positano, Amalfi Coast, Italy. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

English: location of Campania region in Italy

English: location of Campania region in Italy (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

English: Cetara on the Amalfi coast, Italy

English: Cetara on the Amalfi coast, Italy (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

View from Ravello, Italy, down into the bay.

View from Ravello, Italy, down into the bay. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Amalfi Coast Italy 5

Amalfi Coast Italy 5 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Amalfi, an important port during the Norman Ki...

Amalfi, an important port during the Norman Kingdom. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We left the Northern part of the Sorrento peninsular, rounded the point, and arrived on the Southern coastline, which is known as the Amalfi Coast and is the international star attraction of the Campania region of Italy. The drive and the views are absolutely amazing and stunning, with words hard to find to capture the beauty of the breathtaking scenery. The towns of the Amalfi Coast have become global tourist meccas, towns like Positano, Amalfi and Ravello. The Amalfi Coast is rightly described as one of the most beautiful coastlines in the World by millions of visitors each year, with each visitor probably taking many hundreds of photos.

Personally, we spent two nights in Maiori, a delightful resort on the Eastern part of the Amalfi Coast, right on the sea, popular with Italians but relatively unknown with international tourists. We found a very comfortable hotel, set back on a side street that was remarkably good value and a fraction of the cost of the glamour resorts. It took us nearly two hours to manage the coastal drive to Maiori of about twenty miles. The first day after getting settled in Maori, we went back up the coastal road and headed inland for the famous hillside resort of Ravello, with stunning views and exclusive five-star luxury hotels. For our part, we managed a couple of Coca Colas in the main square, listening to the brass band. There were, of course, amazing shops, all targeted to the customers in the hotels – Ravello seemed indifferent to the custom of passing tourists like ourselves.

Our first night in Maiori, on the busy main street facing the sea, we found an excellent, inexpensive restaurant for some fresh fish and like most “ristorantes” these days was also a popular “pizzeria“. It was noticeable this trip,  that traditional Italian restaurant categories had caught up with fast food and many restaurants carried multiple labels including: pizzeria, osteria, trattoria, ristorante, with the faster end of the market including spaghetterie, pizza a metro, pizza a taglio or even rosticceria for takeaway roasted chicken.

The second day on the Amalfi Coast we spent the day in Positano. Alf had become slightly more comfortable driving on the roads but was glad to park up for the day and explore Positano on foot. We parked quite high on the hill and descended the single road down to the sea on foot. The views were spectacular, with lots of little bars, eateries and boutique type accommodation. We heard tourists from all over the World, often joking about the costs. As we reached the pedestrian only narrow shopping alleys, the range of merchandise was just amazing but prices were generally pretty high and most people were just looking. We eventually reached the beach and explored in both directions. We escaped the crowds and took a coastal path (to the right facing the sea). We discovered some secluded beaches and a wonderful pizzeria, set high up over the bay where we sampled a simple and surprisingly inexpensive lunch – it was nice to escape the crowds for a bit. Late afternoon, we climbed back up the hill, found the car and returned to Maiori along the incredibly narrow road and hairpins pins, with Alf feeling quite at home honking the car’s horn as every bend approached!

Sadly, the narrow roads are incredibly dangerous too, and Italian drivers, especially on scooters and motor bikes were often impatient with a right-hand drive, UK registered car. On the other hand, the drivers of the huge buses that plough up and down the Amalfi Coast every day were true gentlemen of the road, and wonderfully patient and skillful. On these roads, Alf often struggled to keep up with the buses.

Strictly, the famous Amafi Coast is the Northern Amalfi Coast, North of the busy port city of Salerno.  Salerno has been our destination for picking up a ship to Cyprus but that’s another story and another blog, as is our exploration of the Southern Amalfi Coast which is largely off the tourist map…