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Saturday, November 14, 2015

Switzerland and Italy: A Voyage of Vistas 2015

 My husband and I decided to celebrate a significant anniversary with a trip to Sicily, Calabria and the Amalfi Coast of Italy.  As the planning progressed the trip grew to include a visit with a friend in Switzerland who lives close to the Italian border, in an area known as the Ticino. To top it all off, we ended up with four romantic days in Paris.  Come along and enjoy the journey. You may learn something new and also understand,  from our photos, why we called it "A Voyage of Vistas."

First Stop:  Locarno, Switzerland

We arrived plane-weary in the Swiss city of Zurich, where we took the train to visit an old friend, an American, who lives in the mountains above Locarno. Our European adventure was about to begin.

Our friend, has lived in Switzerland for many years and was anxious to show us her new house in the mountains above Lago Maggiore. We imagined a "Heidi-type" village and were excited to see both her and her new environment.  Our train sped past gorgeous landscapes of high and verdant mountains dotted with small hamlets, which portended what was to come.

After a three hour train trip we arrived in beautiful Locarno on the edge of the Lago Maggiore.  Our friend, Jan, met us and hustled us onto a bus which we took up the mountain to her village of Brione, an upscale, picturesque version of a Swiss mountain village, with its vacation condos and the charming remains of the once truly "Heidi-like" houses of stone with slate roofs.  Jan lives in one of those "rusticos," as she called them. We followed her up a narrow old cobbled street to her front door.
We followed Jan up to her cute "rustico"
Jan greeted us at her door
This charming fountain sat right by the  street we took to her house. Jan loves cats and perched on top of the post was a sculpture of a cat. How fitting! 
When we saw this sign we knew we indeed were
in Jan's village of Brione 
Looking down over Lago Maggiore and the small city of Locarno 
The views from Jan's village were spectacular. After a tour of the town, we enjoyed celebrating our reunion by drinking a sparkling Proseco (an Italian aperitif) at a local cafe overlooking the lake below.

The next four days, we hiked in the mountains near Jan's house, met and shared meals with her friends and even had lunch one day, over the border in Italy, at another beautiful lakeside restaurant.
Gary and Jan sitting at a cafe above Lake Como
Another theme for our voyage began to emerge when we started noticing an abundance of bronze sculptures in Brione and Locarno. We were to see many more in Italy,the Italian Renaissances's legacy of artistic sensibility and talent. Of course, I loved photographing these as they were inspiration for future sculptures in clay I hope to do in the studio in San Miguel. It was soon time to say good-bye to Jan after our wonderful visit with her in her beautiful slice of Switzerland. We took the train to Lake Como, Italy where we were to continue our adventures.
Speaking of sculptures we were at first startled and then delighted
to see these three Swiss leaning over the wall to say hi
to Jan. They were the work of a local sculptor, we think. 
View from the village of Brione of the Lago
Maggiore
Next Stop:  Lake Como in Italy and Bellagio

Remember that song "Stormy Weather"---I know, it's an "oldy!" The melody kept  running through my head the first night in Bellagio. But let me back up to our arrival  at the ferry in Como where we had a perfect welcome, open hands, a sculpture of course!  

We arrived in Belagio by Ferry and, discovering we were a bit earlier than we had arranged with our host to pick us up and  hungry, we decided to have our first real Italian meal. The Hotel du Lac right across the street from the ferry landing looked like a good spot. We toasted to the beginning of our Italian odyssey.  Needless to say, it was yummy and to his delight,  Gary learned they had GF pasta. The waiter ran in to get the package to prove it to him. Our worries that he would have nothing to eat in Italy were dashed. 



Here we are at the hotel cafe across from the Ferry landing eating our
first Italian meal.
More  sculptures, on display at the Ferry landing, by an Italian contemporary
 sculptor whose name I failed to write down
Our Airbnb in Bellagio. It was stunning and comfortable.

The couch facing our magnificent deck with a view of the mountains and lake,
folded down at night into a comfy bed. 

Our view, with foreboding clouds of the storm to come

Our first night in Belagio, our hosts, Marco and his lovely wife made us feel very welcome. We had a beautiful 3 room studio apartment with a full deck and view to die for, looking out to a panorama of the Swiss alps and the huge lake of Como in the foreground.  On the table was a huge basket of fresh fruit and a homemade chocolate tart. The fridge was stocked with water and two bottles of wine. But as soon as our hosts had left, we began to see a foreboding weather pattern. We gazed out the floor-to-ceiling windows of our  apartment to darkening skies and heard thunder that seemed to shake our second story apartment; flashes of lightening added to the drama. 

The following morning we awoke to a gorgeous view of the first light over snow-covered mountains in the distance and the lake glowing below. What a sight to behold. Our hosts were kind to bring us warm jackets and we bundled up to go into the town.  We were in the small village of Civenna, above Belagio. A bus came by twice a day.  We were not deterred by the cold weather and took advantage of our host, Marco's offer to drive us down to Belaggio to pick up some food supplies (we planned on cooking some  meals while there; restaurants in Switzerland are expensive). We also wanted to get our first peek at this picturesque spot on Lake Como. 
We loved the colourful streets of Bellagio,  winding up narrow steps and alleys from the main harbor, lined with small shops, galleries, cafes and ristorantes. Everywhere our eyes fell there was beauty, from broad panoramas of the lake and mountains to  the sweeping green hillsides of the Sebolloni estate, an historical Villa,  covered with pines, magnolias, palms, cedars,  maples and oaks and rhododendrons. 
one of the streets of Bellagio 

View from the Serbelloni 

More views of the other side of Lake Como 

Beautiful Belaggio Church Steeple 

Looking down at the harbor

Again sculptures seemed to play a big part of the local scenery. There was an exhibition at the Villa Serbelloni, now called the Grand Hotel Villa Serbelloni, and situated at the end of the main street along the docks. It was once a part of the still famous large piece of property and main house now run by the Rockefeller Foundation as Peace Center and retreat.  It was an amazing coincidence, before we left on our travels,  that a friend mentioned her Grandmother's cousin, Ella Walker, once owned the Villa Serbelloni. I've copied and pasted some information from the internet on her: 

 The Princess Della Torre e Tasso, born Ella Walker in Detroit in 1875, acquired the Villa Serbelloni on the shores of Lake Como in Bellagio, Italy, in 1930. The granddaughter of the distiller Hiram Walker, she lived most of her adult life in Europe.  In 1958, worried about the ultimate disposition of the Bellagio property as her health declined, she asked the American ambassador to Italy, James D. Zellerbach, to make inquiries about donating the estate to an American foundation or university, including the Carnegie Endowment, Ford Foundation, and Rockefeller Foundation. 
http://rockefeller100.org/exhibits/show/evolution-of-a-foundation/1928-1963/bellagio-center

We enjoyed a three hour guided tour (in English) of the huge property with its formal and informal gardens and panoramic views. One is not able to visit the main house as it is used for the people who are there studying or for conferences. 




This ideal little village of Bellagio was our entrance into Italy and we were ecstatic to discover the flora, the vistas and art everywhere. I must add the next ten days were to present a much wilder, less refined Italy, the rugged and wild beauty of Sicily and Calabria. 

After three days and nights in Bellagio, Marco took us to the train station.  We took the train to the Milan airport and arrived in time for our 1:30 flight to Sicily.  It was a quick hop down to the island and we landed in Palermo an hour and a half later.  Our friends were arriving at 9:30 that night so we picked up our rental car and started, what we thought was a short drive to our VRBO accommodations in a small seaside village east of Palermo, called o Flavia. At the last moment, we realised that our hostess had not sent us the exact directions to her house,  and since our international sim card wasn't doing what it was supposed to do, and we couldn't call her, we had quite a time finding the  village 50 km.from the airport. On the way, we passed the outskirts of the big city of Palermo in the direction of Messina. Our first impressions of Sicily were mixed. The highway was good, but the traffic awful and what we saw were big tower blocks of apartments and not so pretty scenery. In the distance, we did see some huge rocky protuberances and then the sea, which promised better sights to come.  

We finally arrived at 6:00 PM  where we were to stay for the next four nights with our friends, Rosalie and Jack. The Romantic Villa, as it was called turned out to be smaller than expected but quite charming with it's own patio for outside dining, a very tiny, poorly equipped kitchen (Rosalie and I had planned to cook some dinners knowing we would be tired after our long days of sightseeing. We also hoped to  economise so we could splurge other times---that presented quite a challenge but we did it).  

Our two-story, two-bedroom apartment with its one bathroom downstairs was another challenge, but since we two couples have traveled well together in the past, we adjusted. We just had to keep our flashlights handy to descend the steep narrow staircase at night for those times when we needed to use the WC. That first night we had just enough time to drop our suitcases and race back to the airport about an hour and a half away to pick up our friends. After much fun, hoopla and a toast with a  bottle of wine, we all collapsed in our beds by 11:00 that night, excited to start discovering Sicily the next day.

There's a lot of wonderful things to say about Sicily, a land apart from the mainland of Italy, geographically, and in every other way. It's history is rich with a past marked by a host of conquerers dating back to BC: The Greeks, the Romans, the Saracens, the Normans, and the Arabs. Each culture left its mark on this island and the Sicilians are a strong people, small in stature generally, but big of heart who have all the aforementioned influences in their blood. The symbol of their island, at the center of their flag and portrayed everywhere, in their pottery and other items, says a lot about them. 
The head in the center is the face of Medusa from the Greeks, with the snakes representing good and evil; the three legs represent the idea that the Sicilians always end up on their feet, and the three points of the island. The wheat symbolizes that they survive as farmers. 

After a quick shopping trip into the small town of Flavia for some breakfast goodies, we ate on our patio and plotted out our first day. Rosalie and I had communicated for months and both of us took our cues from the Lonely Planet's guide to Sicily, which we highly recommend. Since we were staying on the northwest side of the island we decided to start by seeing the Far West area, but first, we wanted to explore a bit of the city of Palermo. So back we went along the busy highway arriving in the city about noon. A half day in Palermo turned out to be perfect. Much of it is made up of crowded rubbish-strewn streets and decrepit infrastructure from the bombings during WWII. But one quickly forgets that when they come to the Quattro Canti, where the two main boulevards intercept and where we saw the baroque façades of two churches cascading with white marble sculptures. An added attraction was a wedding which was just starting as we arrived. It was fun to get caught up in the excitement, which the Sicilians readily displayed, as the flower girl had their ribbons and dresses adjusted and beautifully decked out women mounted the stairs in their high heels to the entrance of a church.  Just as fun as watching a wedding in our adopted city of San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. 


The Quatro Canti 

More magnificent sculptures leading up to central fountain
Prepping for the wedding 

Loved the marketplaces in Palermo 
Palermo's mass of Byzantine, Arab and Norman masterpieces of architecture is enough to fill a day and we just managed to see a few of the best examples before we were exhausted and ready for a cappuchino break. "Capuchies" as the Italians call their coffee with frothy milk, hit the spot and we were ready to explore the casbah-like market place with its array of strange vegetables such as long snake-like zucchini, strange Eastern fruits, and herbs.
Some pretty cauliflowers


We had fun helping the guys pick out hats on one
streets, too. Handsome dudes!
 
Those long zucchinis--great for GF zucchini Lasagne! 

The two guys looked dapper in their new hats. 


Speaking of food, Rosalie and I were delighted to discover the well-known fast food specialty of Palermo, known as Arancina, a sphere of rice with saffron, filled with a meat sauce or with butter, mozzarella and ham, or veggies and mushrooms.  We found an abundance of Arancini shops lining the pedestrian streets that run from Teatro Massimo to Quattro Canti.  

We concluded the best way to see Palermo and its citizens was to stroll the streets, listening to the cacophony of sounds and observing the daily activities that surrounded us. One thing we had noticed when we first arrived were lights strung like Christmas decorations throughout the central streets; as those colorful lights came on and we went in search of a good restaurant, we felt we had seen the best of Palermo. It will take many more visits to see all its treasures.





 Western Sicily: Segesta and Erice

Then we headed northwest to see the town of Segesta, one of Sicily's most magical spots and not far from Trapani. The drive was not long and we soon found ourselves on an isolated hillside where the Elymians, an ancient civilization whose peoples claimed descent from the Trojans settled in Sicily in the Bronze Age. The Greeks later conquered them and created a perfect Doric temple on the spot. But, before we could start our walk up the long hill to the temple, we had to stop in the parking lot where a number of vintage European cars were on display. Our imaginations went wild and soon we were picking out the one we each wanted.


This old French Peugeot sure brought back memories of my
days in France in the 1960's 

This cute convertibe wasn't bad!

My pick: the red porche. Almost jumped in and took it for a spin. 

There was far more to see in Segesta than automobiles. It was a beautiful day and we loved climbing amongst the ruins, some in pretty amazing shape. Impressive when you consider the years they were built! Ancient history abounds in Sicily.
The Doric Temple of Sagesta








You can see the scale of the enormous temple next to us


Here's the ancient amphitheatre and we enjoyed climbing the steps---good exercise, though a bit hot in the sun. 

Rosalie and I perched ourselves on the top while
Gary and Jack did more exploring

A jewel of a Doric Temple. This is the real thing, not a model!


From Segesta we travel southwestt to another magical spot, Erice, not far from Marsala. Erice is known for its Norman castle. Perched on a a spectacular hilltop high above the Tyrrhenian Sea on the far west tip of Sicily, Erice is an ancient citadel made up of narrow streets winding up and down,  where one could wander for hours. We had our picnic lunch there on the steps of an ancient bellower just opposite one of the most beautiful church interiors (all white with lace like cutouts in stone) I've ever seen. It was fun watching people stroll by as we enjoyed our fruits, cheeses, olives, etc. before going off through the ancient streets in search of the famous castle, which sad to say was closed by the time we found it. But we took photos of the exterior and headed back to our "Romantic Villa" in Flavia.
Beautiful views on the west coast of Sicily

The church in Erice

The unusual Rose Window of the Erice Church

The unusual and beautiful interior of the Church in
Erice 
We climbed to the top of the bell tower of the Erice church


A pre-cursor of high Gothic 
We spotted a rainbow from the high mountains near Erice---a good luck sign for the rest of our journey


Castles are everywhere in Sicily


















Tired of ruins, castles and churches yet?  Well we saw a lot more but won't bore you, just
encourage to go and see for yourself. You can tell they fit into a very rugged landscape
which is beautiful. 
We got back in time to cook a great dinner together (Rosalie and I always have to be conscience that both Gary and Jack are Gluten free and we were surprised at how easy it was to accommodate their diet). The guys tried to help but in our tiny space but  we had to shoo them away. We could barely fit ourselves into the small kitchen.

On our third day we made a long trip to Arigigento to see more archeological ruins and as we drove the long three hour trip back, through some rain and horrible traffic, we decided we could have skipped that one, but fortunately, we still had our good sense of humour and enjoyed our laughs over the Italian drivers and the long waits to pass  through hundreds of tunnels. Oh, no, not another tunnel!  
Sorry, tunnels don't make for good photos!

Our last day on this northern side of the island we headed for a famous medieval village by the sea known as Cefalu. Film director, Giussepe Tornatore chose to set parts of his film Cinema Paradiso there. It didn't take us long to understand why. The honey-hued stone buildings, and mosaic adorned cathedral make this a mecca for tourists and Italians alike. LP encourages the visitor to not miss climbing "La Rocca," a huge craggy  mass above the small port.  It seems to burst out from the coast right where Cefalu sits. Though good hikers, Rosalie and Jack opted out of the hike and we arranged to meet later at a nearby cafe. Gary and I proceeded up the well groomed trailed at a fast pace, stopping now and then to partake of the amazing vistas and catch our breaths as we gained altitude. It was well worth the hike up. Even though we didn't make it to the ultimate tip, the Temple of Diana (time being a problem as we knew we had a long drive ahead to get to the other side of the island by nightfall), we enjoyed seeing the  ancient site where the Arabs once built their citadel, occupying it until the Norman conquest in 1061 forced them down from the mountain to the port below. We saw where they built a small church and a communal oven. Even had our photo taken there. There were excellent signs explaining the history. When we joined Rosalie and Jack they were sitting in one of the main piazzas sipping cappuchinos and enjoying the local scenery: tourists gathering in the piaza, the produce truck loaded with fruits and veggies stopping on the side street calling out his offerings to residents and passers-by alike, and the beautiful church which crowned the piazza. 
Sitting in an old bread oven on top of La Rocca in Cefalú
Eating our delicious and more than abundant meal at the mountaintop restaurant owned by
Fernando, a delightful man with a story to tell. 
Though we appreciated the architecture and decoration of the Churches (especially the many mosaics and beautiful paintings dating back to pre-Renaissance time), we soon tired of them  and concentrated on the natural wonders of Sicily: its huge rocky mountains, villages hewn out of rough land and rock, beautiful and varied flora from Pines to more mediterranean plants, such as cactus. It's coasts are gorgeous and are dotted with beach resorts and stunning  and ancient castles built high above them.One of our favorite days was the one when we left Cefalu and headed across the island by a series of rugged one lane roads towards Taormina for our last four days together in Sicily. 
View of Cefalú from La Rocca 

 As we drove the winding roads with its many hairpin turns ascending and descending, we notice the darkening clouds and worried about being caught in a storm in the mountains. At the same time our stomachs were growling and we hoped we would find a small village where we might have a light dinner before going on. Just as we had about given up finding a place to eat, we pulled off the road to take a photo and low and behold there was a ristorante. The owner was standing outside with a big smile and invited us in. The name of his place was Tratoria con Maneggio in Baracca du Rizzu, right next to the National Park of Nebrodi. The restaurant was started by his grandfather way back in 1947 and our host proudly displayed a photoof his grandfather and family. By the end of our delicious meal of local delicacies like fresh cubes of local ricotta cheese as a starter, a big loaf of home baked bread, olives, lots of fresh veggies, and ample portions of each served with pitchers of the local wine, we were satisfied and thoroughly taken with our host. We learned that his wife lived in Taormina, but he came to the restaurant every week to continue the traditions of his grandfather. We left feeling full and having avoided the rain. We easily made our way to Taormina at our appointed time of 7:00. 

Tired after a long day, we were glad to find that our second VRBO in Sicily was a large, spacious apartment with a beautiful terrace looking out on the old town high above the sea---again magnificent vistas. The only drawback were the five stories we had to climb each day. The woman who helped the absent owner explained the elevator wasn't working. Great! We sighed and accepted our fate with "oh, well, it's great exercise." I could have called this blog "High Places and Many Steps, " as you will shortly see from my descriptions of the Amafi Coast. 

Taormina is the jewel of the Ionian Coast of Sicily, near the base of  Mt Etna, the island's highest Volcano, and perched on a clifftop. We decided to spend the next four days seeing as much as we could of this town and others along the coast. Much different than the other towns we had visited, Taormina has an air of European sophistication  and exclusiveness. It's a favourite holiday spot for VIP's and celebs from the movie industry, not the type of place we usually seek out. A French girlfriend and her husband said we shouldn't miss it and it did prove to be a great spot from which to take off on various explorations each day along the Ionian Coast, like Catania, Savoca and Mt. Etna. (See photos below) 
Entrance into the historical center of Taormina 

View of a yacht off the coast

Eating at a local Taormina Ristorante
A sign outside one of the many wine bars in Taormina

One of our enjoyable jaunts: a visit to the local botanical garden 

In the park we were surprised to see displayed 
remnants of WWII. Here was one of the first torpedo, man powered and shot off to bomb an allied ship. Of course, the Italian sailor died and became a hero. 

A view from our terrace overlooking Taormina 


A stature of Florence Treelyan
We explored  the beautiful gardens built by  Florence Trevelyan, an extraordinary woman from Northumberland, England who married an Italian doctor, built a villa on Isola Bella with a private, shaded pleasure, garden from which there are views of both the sea and Mt. Etna. She imported non-native plants. Later she established the Municipal park where she again imported non-native plants but most noteworthy are the extraordinary buildings constructed from different kinds of stone, cloth, brick, pipes and other architectural salvage.
website:https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Florence_Trevelyan

The Beach near Isola Bella 


On the beach, not swimming weather 
Clouds were threatening rain and we were on our way to Catania to the famous fish market to buy some fresh swordfish for dinner that night.

Rosalie called these the"potheads" of Taormina. Everywhere we saw these charming pots,some
quite large and others small, all portraying the noble people from legends from the past, and always
pairs of men and women..

View of Isola Bella, a small island attached to Taormina by an isthmus

The Island of Isola Bella, famous for Katherine Trevilin, an English writer who built a
villa there



 This is the Catania Fish market, known as La Pecharia. Our enjoyable stop at the beach at the Isola Bella had delayed our arrival in the big city of Catania, where we got lost trying to find the market. Luckily, we arrived just as they were closing down for the day and this charming fisherman was happy to sell us a beautiful slab of fresh swordfish for our dinner that night.

We stopped at an Osteria, a small cafe which is usually less expensive than a  ristorante, for a yummy lunch. Rosalie and I had our first Sicilian Pizza and Gary and Jack ordered GF pasta. With our usual red wine, we were all quite content.

We never got to Corleone, "home" of the famous Mafia, but we did have an interesting stop at a Cafe in the small town north of Taormina, Savoca, where we discovered photos of great interest. Yes, evidently, Marlon Brandon had been there
while filming the Godfather.

Another fascinating part of Savoca was the church where we visited the mummies. Rosalie's, father, who's English had once visited there and encouraged us to go. We found it fascinating, and not at all morbid. Some of them dated back to the 17th century and their antiquated clothing, though tattered and rotting was very interesting.
Gary stepping into the side room to meet with the Mafia
That's the man!

Lunch on our 5th floor terrace in Taormina 
















.
View of the hilltop city of Taormina above the sea 
One of the "potheads"---si, isn't he handsome?
We celebrated our last night together on the island of Sicily with a toast of Lemoncella and dinner out at a charming Taormina ristorante not far from our B and B.

After eight great days on the island of Sicily, it was time to say good-bye to our friends and take the ferry at Mesina to the Italian mainland. It was a 25 minute ride. We picked up our rental car and headed up the West coast of Calabria, winding along coastal roads over mountains and through small towns. Hungry, we decided to stop in a seaside town called Pizzo, not Piza, for lunch and a look-around. It proved to be a great spot to stop. Pizzo is not only picturesque but has an historical castle, a beautiful main piaza and good restaurants with friendly waiters. After a delicious lunch and an enjoyable talk with our waiter, we visited the Castle Murat and learned some interesting history. 
Murat Castle in Pizzo 



Pizzo, looking down at the harbor and beach from the main Piaza above. 

Looking down over Pizzo 
One of the many beautiful murals of Diamant 
Town with the Chilis in the mountains above Diamant 
Town with chilis everywhere: regrettably we can't
remember the name of it. 
 On we went to our Airbnb just outside another picturesque town further up the coastland, Diamante. We arrived about 6 pm, tired and hungry. We settled in at our rural accommodation with its farm-like setting. on another high hill--we seemed destined to stay in high places.We drove down into the small village outside of Diamante to look for a restaurant. There was only one and it was reserved that night for a big party. We  decided to pick up a few groceries and go back to our place on the hill, which had a communal kitchen, to  cook our own light dinner. Our host spent much time telling us about the area and suggesting places to visit for the two days we would be there. We had a couple of fun days, which included a visit to a beautiful beach, to a small town in the mountains with river running through it and chilis (equally as popular here as in Mexico) hanging in front of almost every shop and house in the town. One large two-story residence had hundreds of bright red chili clusters hanging over the whole façade. We stopped for a gelato there in a local cafe, half-way expecting to have "chili ice cream." That night we ate in a very pleasant restaurant on the piaza in Diamante and were delighted to find out something our host had not shared. This is a city of murals. There must have been a hundred of them painted on the walls that lined the narrow streets, around the main pizzas and everywhere we looked we saw these mostly beautiful examples of human creativity. There was even one of President Obama, high up on a building near a main thoroughfare.  Many were done by an American visiting artist, who came, fell in love with the town and stayed to paint several murals as his gift to the people of Diamante. Others were done by local professional, as well as amateur, artists. Diamante was an unexpected and delightful find for us.
Mural of Obama in Diamant

The third day we checked out of our B&B, and headed north to the Amalfi coast. On the way, we stopped at Paestum to see this ancient archeological site, famous for its Greek Temples and the once existent community. 

Paestum 

We barely survived the harrowing drive along the Amalfi coast  just missing the big tour buses as we rounded one  hairpin turn after another, or a motorcyclist heading around the curves at breakneck speeds, and finally pulled up to our last stop on this Italian odyssey, a charming hillside Airbnb accommodation,  more like a luxurious small, privately owned hotel, called "Holiday House Le Palme."It was situated on the steep hillside 500 steps up from the town of Amalfi and 700 steps down from the Excelsior Hotel where our host told us to park.  Teresa, the assistant to the host and a warm and helpful greeter, quickly dispelled our worries of how we were going to get ourselves plus two suitcases down the hill.  At the top landing of the long fight of stairs, there was a small box mounted on a post. Teresa just pushed a button and up came what I called our "robot elevator," a mechanical lift which we boarded to descend the mountain. We had to stop in the middle of our descent, disembark, walk down a twisting path under arbors of lemon trees and then reboard the second lift to reach the charming entrance of Le Palme. As we descended we passed a  beautifully lit turquoise pool high above the equally jewel-like mediterranean sea. By the time we got there lights in the town below were beginning to come on and a large white yacht was anchoring just off the coast. The scene was like a picture postcard.
View of Amalfi 

Walking down the 500 steps to the town of Amalfi

Anyone know what this flower is? 
Gardens at Villa Rufolo 
We spent three nights and two days in Amalfi. The only thing we resented was giving up one of those days to take a ferry to Sorrento and Positano, both which were so overrun with tourists and shops catering to them, we were greatly disappointed. We returned to the small and charming town of Amalfi, glad we were staying there and could profit from local explorations on our last day in Italy. We visited the beautiful town near Amalfi, Ravello, with two of our most favourite sites, the gardens of Villa Cimbrone and Villa Rufolo.  


Villa Rufolo 

View from Le Palme of Amalfi and the coast 

Yes, more sculpture, on the terrace of our BandB 
Again, we looked out from every direction to amazing vistas from gardens decorated with abundant sculptures. We ended our stay with dinner back in Amalfi at the restaurant owned by our host at Le Palme. He sent a driver to pick us up. Gary was greatly relieved he didn't have to drive the winding coastal road at night. After a delicious meal we were brought back by a delightfully, friendly Italian, the father of the Restaurant owner and our host at Le Palme. Our conversation with him was filled with laughter, as we struggled with our Italian and he with his English. We slipped into bed that night wishing we could stay longer in this Italian paradise, but the next day we were to be up early to drive to the Naples airport, turn in our rental car, and fly to Paris for our last four days in Europe. All good things must come to an end. 


Read my next Blog:  Four Days in Paris 


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