So, we’re off on our first European Adventure! We’ve planned 7 legs in 7 different cities, and our first stop was at the east end of the Amalfi Coast in a city called Salerno. We chose it because we heard that it’s less busy and crowded than other stops on the coast, and also close to some temples we wanted to see further south. In trying to summarize my thoughts on this first part of the trip, I noticed an alphabetical theme, so I ran with it. This is what stood out to me about Leg One:
Pizza. Seriously. I mean, I knew there would be pizza here, but it’s over the top. Every third store is a pizzeria. And you can get a huge piece for 1 euro. Our kids had that for dinner, something like 4 of the 5 nights we were in Salerno.
Prego. A jack-of-all trades sort of word meaning “you’re welcome,” “how can I help you?” “by all means, help yourself,” “of course.” Basically, if you’re not sure what to say, say prego. We have been picking up some key Italian phrases on this first leg of the trip, like please, thank you, hello and goodbye. And most importantly, when the heat and humidity make it feel like 40 degrees every day, “quattro acqua.”
Path of the gods. This was the day I was most looking forward to. A ferry ride to Amalfi, a ride up the mountain to Bomerano, a 7 km hike high above the sea, a descent into Positano, and a ferry ride back to Salerno. It proved to be a deep breath of fresh air to my desert-parched soul, but also an excruciating experience for my house-bound legs. The hike itself was quite easy, although it was 35 degrees, so there was more than a little bit of sweating going on. But it was manageable and breathtaking and unforgettable. When you finish the path in Nocelle, you have to descend 1700 steps to the town of Positano below. When I read this online before we left, it really didn’t register in my mind that this could be quite challenging. But, the fact is, we’d just finished a hot, 3 hour hike, and hadn’t done anything this physically challenging in a year, so our bodies were less than prepared for what we asked of them. There were a couple of times on the way down where I seriously considered laying down on a step and finishing the next day. I didn’t think we could go on. All 4 of us stopped at various times, considering new positions our bodies could assume to get down a step. And then, to add insult to injury, when we staggered off the last of the 1700 steps, we still had to walk 2kms into the town of Positano! I’m pretty sure I looked like Gumby, stumbling along that narrow, windy road, desperate for a cold drink. We did finally reach a gorgeous little cafe overlooking the sea and city below.
Positano. After enjoying/enduring the hike of our lives, we were rewarded with what turned out to be one of the prettiest lunchtime views we’d ever seen. It’s the kind of place you can’t believe you’re seeing in person. I soaked that moment up like nobody’s business. We finished our much-deserved lunch, and stumbled through the town to get down to the ferry dock. This region is famous for it’s lemons, which are generally the size of cantaloupes, so I couldn’t resist a fresh lemon slush as we walked through town. We had an hour and a half to wait for our boat, so the kids jumped in the water and played in the waves. The beach was packed and rocky, but when it’s that hot, all that matters is that the water is wet and cool. And the view looking back up is almost as stunning as the view from the top looking down.
Pain. The price we paid for that gorgeous experience was days of pain. And when you’ve planned a vacation that is centered around walking every single day, the pain is no joke. I literally could not walk down stairs. Or hills. Or slight downward inclines. Uphill wasn’t great either. Or moving forward or backward in any way. Basically any movement at all led to wincing and pain. So, you can imagine how nice that made our next couple of days of walking. I had a whole new appreciation for people who walk with pain every day.
Paestum. We took a bus south from Salerno to the town of Paestum, where there are beautifully preserved Greek temples and a beautiful sandy beach to boot. This was a super impressive experience, except that there was so much walking…
Pompeii. This blew my mind. Haunting images of Pompeii are stuck in my mind from grade 7 social studies, and I’ve always wanted to go and see it in person. But I assumed this would be more fallen down ruins with some fascinating alabaster human remains. I guess my expectations were low, but they were blown out of the water. This city is unbelievably well preserved. Entire buildings still in tact and even paintings on the walls inside of homes. And the surroundings are so lush and inspiring. The view of the mountains and the water, trees and flowering shrubs everywhere, courtyards and fountains. You can literally imagine people walking the streets and living their regular lives almost 2000 years ago in this bustling beach city. It was really moving. Although, there was a lot of walking…