By: Karen Wilson
Part 1 of the follow to up to “Italy Calls”
Seeing farmland dotted with sheep as we were approaching the runway in Rome’s Leonardo da Vinci’s Airport was the first of many beautiful and surprising images of Italy. Our two week journey in southern and central Italy had just begun fulfilling a dream and sparking a passionate appreciation of this land, people and culture.
Here’s a reflection of the first stage of this adventure along with the ups and downs of planning your own trip and driving over 1200 miles in a foreign country finding secluded airbnb’s far from the luxuries of hotels and organized trips:
Following a red eye to Rome with a four hour drive south past Naples and Pompei was a stretch, but the adrenaline was flowing strong along with the espresso! Our silver Fiat Panda and a hard copy map in hand with a few tips from our airbnb host miraculously brought us to the town Centro of the small village of Agerola that sits high on the cliffs overlooking the Almafi coast. Driving on the autostrada was an adjustment from I91 in Vermont! I think Italian drivers all have race car driver’s blood with a fierce determination to pass anyone in their way. Staying alive and keeping the rental car in one piece became a priority. Figuring out the automated toll system was a fun hurtle too, but the icing on the cake was when we hit the last stretch of narrow (and I mean narrow) hair pin turns taking us up to the cliff towns and Eric’s slalom turning skills kicked in. As the passenger, that’s when my breathing froze and my stomach turned. I couldn’t help but think this is why people take trains or guided tours with vans. We left our car peacefully parked for our two day visit here and at our next one in Ostuni.
Juan Carlos, our host in Agerola walked us along the amazing vistas and introduced us to Pasquale who arranged our first Italian dinner in his home restaurant. Most of the food and wine including his amazing limoncello came from his farm and kitchen. His teen-age daughter served us while his wife cooked and in the middle of this delicious four course meal Pasquale came in with two glasses of warm goat’s milk fresh from the udder. It was hard to tell if I was in a dream or if this was all real. Later Pasquale took us down to his cellar where he had his meats curing, wine aging and jars of homemade preserves stored. Then he proudly shared a painting of four generations of his family painted on the stone wall of the cellar like a modern day fresco.These are just some of the results of traveling off the beaten track and searching out stellar hosts in magical places.
Our first full day in Italy took us along the cliffs of the Almafi coast on “The Path of the Gods” . The views were unbelievable! The terraced gardens, small inns, and simple dwellings with the backdrop of the Tyrrhenian Sea brought us down to the seaside town of Positano which was swarming with tourists. After lunch we took a boat north to the town of Almafi where we had a swim and a gelato and caught a bus back up to Agerola. It was an incredible loop that Juan Carlos suggested. Getting a seat on the bus was shear luck as the weekend crowds didn’t want to miss the last ride up the long, very narrow twisty road that only a seasoned Italian driver could maneuver. Oh, and who would know that bus tickets are often sold out of the tobacco shop. Just some little details in adventurous, independent expeditions! That night the meal and wine tasted extra good or “molto bene”. Planning the next road trip for the following day involved a technology growth spurt that I’ll share later….
Stay tuned for Part II’s follow up to “Italy Calls” when we drive across the country to the east coast in Puglia….