Travelling to Italy's Amalfi Coast
Sometimes one just needs to unwind in a foreign land
So we chose Italy
Amalfi was on our bucket list
My husband and I met and lived in Italy during the time he was stationed in northern Italy with the US Air Force. We had become very accustomed to the culture in the north of the country, but had never been further down than Rome, and we heard that the south of Italy was very different to the north in terms of food and culture and obviously geographical location.
After a few years we moved to Switzerland from northern Italy (during that time we visited Tuscany, Venice and other quaint Italian towns and cities), thereafter we moved down to South Africa (my home country) because of my work - but I always missed Italy. For some strange, inexplicable reason, my heart always longed for Italy - it still does and probably always will. I couldn't explain it then and I still can't explain it now. The place has a strange hold on me and my mom teases me that I may have been Italian in a past life! Anyway, after three (agonizing) years out of Italy we booked our flights and settled on a long vacation in the south of the country, an area that was definitely on our bucket list.
We discovered that while being contrast to the quiet, more affluent north, the south of Italy was poor but bustling with warm, friendly people and also very beautiful.
You may have the universe if I may have Italy.
- Giuseppe Verdi
The Winding Roads
We knew we would need a car, because although there were many taxis whizzing along the roads, we wanted to be able to tour the area wherever we wanted (without the fear of our lives... just kidding, seriously though, Italian drivers are on another level of driving), anyway, we rented a car, and my American hubby drove very cautiously along the winding roads to our hotel which was situated literally on a cliff side.
Our hotel in Praiano was called "Tramonto D'oro" which meant "Golden Sunset", and I found it rather fitting since we had the most amazing views of the sunset over the vast, calm, blue ocean. It was magnificent.
The entrance to our Hotel
Room With A View
View From our Hotel Terrace
View of Positano from our hotel at night
Most people go to the Amalfi coast and immediately think "Positano", after all the place is featured in romantic movies such as "Under the Tuscan Sun" and "Only You" etc., but we wanted to be different (as we always are), and stayed in Praiano, the neighboring town of Positano. It was a bit quieter, less traffic (and noise), and equally beautiful.
The town's name derives from the praia, or beach, from the Latin word pelagium , meaning "open sea."
Praiano, Amalfi Coast
The Church Tower (San Luca Evangelista)
San Luca Evangelista
Our hotel was right next to a beautiful, historic church called San Luca Evangelista.
The church of San Luca Evangelista is dedicated to St Luke, the patron saint of Praiano, dating back to the year 1202. The church holds precious artworks: the marble balustrade and the marble altars, paintings by Lama and Montorio (1500 and 1600), and paintings by the famous artist Gigante (1831), as well as several statues.
The church bells rang at 6 o' clock every day. We loved it, standing on our balcony (or as Italians and South Africans say 'veranda') at sunset and listening to the soothing sound of the bells ringing; and children's laughter as they played friendly games of football in the church square; the sound of dogs barking in the distance; the fresh scent of the sea... troubles seemed to trail away onto the vast ocean... along with all each ring. A glass of delicious Italian wine in one hand and a view of the sea in front of me was all I needed for a perfect end to the day.
Legend Has It...
Luminaria di San Domenico
One of the main things I love about travelling and 'infusing' myself into another culture is learning about the local legends; and the church right next to us had a fantastic, very spiritual legend that made a lifetime impression on us.
Every August, the community of Praiano commemorates a 'miracle' related to local Saint 'Domenico'. Legend has it that his mother had a dream while pregnant with him about a dog who kept a torch burning, symbolizing that her son would keep the fires of religious faith burning in a time when the faithful [church] had been in a period of despair. The festival takes place in the piazza in front of the cathedral overlooking the sea, with thousands of candles illuminating the outline of the mosaic in the square.
Each evening of the 3-day event, fire-themed entertainment and music is held in the piazza. At sunset, local residents of the town light up all of the terraces and line the streets with oil lamps and votives.
On the third night, following a religious ceremony reenacting the miracle of Saint Domenico, “fire balloons” are released into the air, which float dreamily out to sea.
Saint Domenic Festival of Lights
The Beaches Along The Amalfi Coast
The beaches were to be quite honest, not the sort of beaches that I expected - I am South African and we have the most beautiful beaches in the world (most people don't know this), but our sand is soft, our sun is almost always out, plus we have cafes, pools and restaurants littered among the beach promenade (and easy access to the beaches as well). This was not the case in the Amalfi - granted the entire place was built on cliffs so one would expect a long walk down, but this was honestly the only thing that I was a little disappointed with because there weren't many clear signs pointing to the touristy beaches, so we just had to kind of walk around the coastline street for a good thirty minutes or so until we found a little sign that had an arrow pointing downwards that said "Mare" which meant 'beach'. We had to walk down the long winded, steep steps (I counted at least 300 at one of the beaches), and once we got to the bottom, there wasn't much of a 'beach' at all, just a few teenagers sunbathing on a cement slab. Not fun at all. So we trekked back up the 300 steps and decided to check out another beach. After about another thirty minutes of walking along the winding road with taxis, cars and buses rattling dangerously by (seriously, were they not afraid to go hurtling over the cliff-side? I guess not), we decided to go back to our hotel and continue the search for a 'proper' beach later that day.
Descending the Cliffs to one of the Beaches in Praiano
The Beach in Praiano
Marina Grande Beach in Amalfi
This is the largest beach in the Amalfi region, and was a few towns further down the Amalfi coast from Praiano. It was a 30 minute drive away. The town itself was called Amalfi.
According to Positano.com "Only very rarely will a tourist leave the Amalfi Coast without having first paid a visit to Amalfi, the ancient Maritime Republic to which this legendary stretch of the Italian coastline owes its name. Amalfi's largest beach, situated directly opposite the town's picturesque historic center, is also its most popular. Marina Grande has a number of glamorous bathing establishments as well as a small section of 'free' beach."
The sand was hard and grainy. Not fun for my feet at all. The water was cold but we enjoyed just being out in the sunlight. After a bit of splashing about in the cold water (solely for Facebook photo ops) we consoled ourselves with some delicious gelato, did a bit of souvenir shopping and decided to call it a day and go grab some supper.
We tried to eat as little as possible at our own hotel, because we love to get the traditional experience when it comes to food - we prefer going into the tiny 'ristorantes' or 'trattorias' in order to find a good, authentic meal. This is exactly what we found on our very first night at a little, unassuming restaurant close to our hotel. There were no signs or anything, we just walked alongside the street and followed the other people who seemed as if they were going out to dinner. We watched them descend slightly to a place that was lit up next to the church square. We took the tiny little ramp that led down to the restaurant and we were warmly welcomed by smiling staff and taken to our table. The food was delicious. We ordered pasta 'frutti di mare' which meant 'seafood pasta'. At the end of the meal as we paid our bill, we were treated to free 'digestivo' shooters (traditional Italian after-dinner drink) which was great!
Fresh Frutti di Mare pasta
We were here
Well Worth A Visit
All in all, I can honestly say that I immensely enjoyed this vacation. Work troubles melted away for the entire time I was there and I was able to relax and immerse myself into the Italian culture of the south, eat the delicious food, attend beautiful festivals, mainly the Luminari di San Domenico, drink the delicious wines and listen to the blissful sounds of the ocean and church bells.
The history of the area was fascinating, and there are many more places to visit in this region that we just did not have the time to go and see.
I enjoyed my time at the Amalfi coast so much that I even wrote a more in-depth exciting fictional book about it, called Candles of Revujenescence—in honor of the annual candle-lighting ceremony that takes place in the San Luca church Square.
Luminaria di San Domenica,Praiano
Have you visited Italy's Gorgeous Amalfi Coast yet?
© 2018 From The Heart