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On Oct 24th we travelled by train to Sorrento, and then by car to Positano – three separate train rides – Venice to Rome, Rome to Naples and Naples to Sorrento.

In Naples we changed trains, and train services, to one of the local Italian companies, Circumversuviana. No more fancy Eurostar trains. We found our way to Circumvesuviana, bought our tickets, and found the platform for the train to Sorrento. I asked a woman on the platform about the next train, but she said the one for Sorrento was the one after that. Good thing I asked. Somehow I seem to find enough Italian words to get by, and most people we’ve encountered speak at least a little English so we always seem to manage.

Coming down onto the platform for the train to Sorrento we entered a whole new world. It was crowded with people on their way home at the end of the day, and the train we caught was a rush hour commuter train that had 33 stations between Naples and Sorrento. And it stopped at 29 of them. Fortunately we managed to find a space for us and our cases in between carriages, and then about a quarter way through the journey we both got seats, and a little later got seats together. After about 1½ hours we arrived at Sorrento to be met by a driver with a Mercedes! It was then a forty-minute drive to our hotel in Positano. It was a long day, but not arduous, and everything went smoothly. We both love train travel, and it’s a great time to catch up on writing and photo editing.

On our first day in Positano it was absolute heaven to be back in summer again, and back in summer clothes again, especially after the cold of Venice. Positano is beautiful, a vertical town built up a cliff.

Positano from the sea

Our hotel is about a third of the way up. We booked a “room with a partial sea view” because it was the less expensive option, but were upgraded to a room with a full sea view presumably because it’s the end of the season and the room was not booked. Anyway the view is spectacular through the double glass doors leading onto the little balcony.

We walked a lot just exploring the town, up and down the roads and the maze of stairways, bought yummy sandwiches and ate them sitting near the beach, went for a walk in the sea, ate gelato, and came home for an afternoon nap for Don, and photo editing for me.

It’s beautiful here, and I’m glad to be here at the end of the season when there are fewer people around. We went to dinner at a restaurant way high up the cliff side, and were picked up from, and taken back to, our hotel by the restaurant shuttle service. I can see why they have the shuttle service. The restaurant is in a fabulous location with absolutely spectacular views, but they would have no customers if people had to walk to it.

Day two in Positano and it is raining raining raining as predicted. A good day to take a day off from all the sightseeing and exploring. I remind myself this is our life now, this life on the road, and bit by bit we find ways to “normalize” it. Most hotels in Europe provide breakfast, sometimes a buffet with meats, cheeses, eggs, a variety of cereals and pastries etc. Some provide just a continental breakfast. The best place for breakfast so far has been the hotel in Cinque Terre, the worst so far is this one in Positano. The only cereal is cornflakes, and then there’s jam filled croissants, and bread and jam, and flavored yogurt. Lots of white flour, sugar, and empty calories. Two days of that was enough, so today we bought some granola and fruit and plain yogurt and will make our own breakfast from now on. Also we don’t want to eat out every night. It’s expensive, and sometimes it’s nice just to be able to stay in, and eat at home. We always travel with a couple of plastic sandwich tubs. In Venice we found a buffet style restaurant where you could put together your own salad. We went there a couple of nights and made up, and paid for our salads, and then transferred them to our plastic tubs. One night we added a slice of pizza, another night quiche, and took it all back to eat at home, borrowing cutlery and plates from the hotel. It helps makes life feel more “normal”, and cosy.

In Positano we’ve eaten out the past 2 nights, and will eat out again tonight, but today we discovered a deli where we could get some good things for dinner at home.

I find I am happy almost all the time. Blissful would be more like it. Living the life my heart truly wants to live. I’m grateful every day, and feel astonishingly lucky and blessed. I take nothing for granted. None of it is personal. It feels like I won the lottery. Somehow someway we got to live our dream and every day feel blessed by it. Yes we made the choice, and then made it happen, but really the truth is more like it’s something that happened to us, something we were compelled to do, and there’s nothing personal about it at all. Drowning in horseshoes.

We did a two-hour hike up the hill behind town to reach a small farming community at the top. Just dying for a cup of tea but there was nothing to be had in such a small place, and it was freezing up there in the wind and clouds, so we came down a ways, ate our sandwiches for lunch, and then headed back to town. Good to get some real exercise.

The bus trip to the town of Amalfi, along the famed Amalfi Coast road was stimulating. It’s a very narrow winding cliff-hanger of a road with spectacular views. Don was completely relaxed. I was a bit tense. It reminded me somewhat of a time in Vietnam. We’d been hiking through the mountains all day and got a ride on the back of motorbikes back to the town we were staying in. I was handed a helmet that had no inner lining, was way too big, and the strap couldn’t be adjusted. It was like having a metal bowl sitting on my head. Very narrow roads full of ruts and potholes. Crazy traffic. I sat on the back of that bike and handed my life over to the gods. The Amalfi coast was quite tame really after that, but it didn’t stop me tensing a little every time the bus went round a blind curve. Which was often. And we got the very front seats in the bus so could see everything. Including all the blind curves. Fabulous!

Amalfi is a charming coastal town climbing up the cliff side, with a beautiful cathedral and a very intriguing fountain.

We went to the Isle of Capri. How fabulous is that? Capri was never on our bucket lists, but there it was, only a boat ride away, so off we went. I suppose it has a kind of mystique about it, being one of the haunts of the rich and famous for so long – way back to the days of the Emperor Tiberius apparently. He had a villa there, and used the island as a place of first defense to protect the Bay of Naples, which was the main shipping port of the Roman Empire, or so we were told by the lovely Aussie girl who was our tour guide.

On the way to Capri

Capri is certainly an obviously wealthy place, with designer shops and expensive coffee, and it has a certain charm.

We stayed away from the main tourist shopping area, not being shoppers, and got the bus to the town of Anacapri and there rode the chair lift to the highest point on the island for spectacular views.

The boat circumnavigated the island, and took us to some of the grottos in the base of the cliffs.

At one point I saw something moving on the cliff, and thought it looked like goats. Given the movement of the boat, and the distance away I was amazed that I actually managed to get a picture of them.

Apparently there are many wild mountain goats on the island. They were originally brought there by the ancient Greeks, and are the source of the island’s name. One of the Greek words for goat is capra. Presumably it is also the source word for astrology’s goat sign Capricorn.

Returning from Capri

For our final day in Positano we hiked again, this time to Montepertuso, a small town way up behind Positano and close to a huge hole in the mountain, from which the town gets it’s name. We hiked up to the hole as well, right past a farmer’s front door, and barking dogs, but we had confirmed with a lovely man who spoke English that that was the way to go. He also told us about the wild cyclamen.

The hole in the cliff from across the valley, which we saw on our first hike.

The hole from the other side.

Wild cyclamen everywhere. Carpets of them!

Montepertuso from above

We’d originally planned on leaving Positano November 1st, then thought we’d stay an extra 3 days cutting our time in Rome shorter. Then my computer had a hissy fit and completely froze up. We started researching Apple stores in Rome, and made the decision to go to Rome on the 1st as originally planned so we could hopefully get it fixed. Coupled with that there was a minor rockslide on the road out of Positano that closed half the road so buses were cancelled. This meant that short of paying 100 Euros for a taxi we couldn’t get to the town of Meta to get the train to Pompeii. As a result we missed Pompeii and Mount Vesuvius, and we missed going back to Amalfi and up to the town of Ravello. Instead we booked a hotel in Rome and had a taxi drive us all the way to Naples for the train to Rome, for 90 Euros.

Don discovered that although the screen was black, my computer was still on. He held the on/off button down for a long time, and pressed escape and it turned off. A couple of hours later I turned it on and it has worked fine ever since. But the whole incident did serve to get us moving out of Positano and on to Rome, for whatever reason.

And that’s the next post – The Eternal City

All words and images by Alison Louise Armstrong unless otherwise noted.
© Alison Louise Armstrong and Adventures in Wonderland – a pilgrimage of the heart, 2010-2015.