Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Making sharp turns along the Amalfi Coast

Taking a break on a quiet side street in Naples
It was nighttime in Naples as I leaned against a stone wall outside the pizzeria waiting for, you guessed it, a pizza. Across the street I watched as a fat rat appeared from a crack in a building. It stared at me for a moment, then quickly pinched its large belly back into the crack.

I smiled, having spent the last several days touring some of the most famous/beautiful/touristic coastline in the world the raw and gritty feel of Naples was refreshing. The city has a scruffy charm. You get hard looks here you dont get anywhere else in Italy. Riding the streets by bike I could sense how little people care about human powered transit in a city that is famous for its "anything goes" approach to driving.

A quick lap (by boat) around the island of Capri had me remembering the last time I was on this island shortly after 9/11. It was a weekend trip with the Gonzaga study abroad program. A large group of us hiked to the top of the island and set up camp. I selected a place far from the others on the flat roof of an old monastery. At dawn gunshots rang out all around me. Taking cover as best I could I was certain that terrorists were targeting our (American) program. After a few very tense moments alone on the rooftop I began to wonder why no one else was panicked. I shouted over to another student who informed me the terrorists were bird hunters.

Lyudmila and I took the challenge of riding the crazy roads along the Amalfi coast. Blind corners, narrow streets, dark tunnels, and blazing heat were only justified by unbelievable views, breezy descents, and beautiful little towns. I could recap what it was like to spend a few days in Positano or I could pass you to John Steinbeck, who wrote a great piece about his time in Positano in 1953.

If the Amalfi coast is a playground then Mount Vesuvius, with its destructive personality, is the school bully. It's hard to imagine Vesuvius blowing its top in 79 AD. Walking around what remains of Pompeii is a powerful experience. Seeing the plaster casts of victims from the eruption, their arms forever frozen over their mouths, searching for breath in the toxic fumes from the volcano.

As luck would have it I found myself pedaling along side my friend Paul if only for a few days. We traded the yellow jersey up steep climbs and down curvy descents, taking a break for Granita every chance we could get. Now Lyudmila and I find ourselves taking on the unknown again with an all night ferry from Naples to Cagliari. Arriving on the (Italian) island of Sardinia, we will start from the south, pedaling up and around the coast.Editor's note: Guido stopped pedaling after we left the island of Elba, returning to Torino to continue his work as an architect. His problem solving skills and loud laugh will be missed in Sardinia.


Alexandra said...

Great history lesson! Accompanied by amazing photos of awesome places. You're making me want to give Italy and its southern coast another try. Have a blast in Sardinia!

Alexandra said...

check this guy out, he lives in Hope ID. watch the youtube on this page if you can. http://www.marketwire.com/press-release/one-life-one-flag-one-mile-introducing-project-america-run-part-ii-1691315.htm

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