Saturday, 27 March 2010
written 22nd March
Arriving just after dark, in a never-ending queue of rush hour traffic, Sorrento did not, at first, appear to be very van friendly so we pressed on the Massa Lorense, which didn't seem much better. However, a quest for petrol and an attempt at finding an aire, took us back to Sorrento where we found one but not the other, and quite by chance, the only unmetered parking bays in town. Brilliant.
And the next morning the sun was shining as we set off into tourist city in search of coffee and a bun for breakfast. even better
As the biggest and most well known of the towns on the northern side of the peninsular which bears its name, Sorrento is a tourist town and proud of it. Built right to the edge of the sheer cliffs which jut out into the bay of Naples, as well as being a destination in its own right, it is also a jump off point for the beautiful Amalfi coast and jet set Capri. And in the brightly shining saturday morning sunshine it was rather lovely.
Talking teatowels ("look at me!"),
Curiously shaped hanging cheeses (we later found, by buying some in a supermarket, that is it so you can smoke it - yummy)
Brightly coloured tourist pasta, including some of unmentionable shapes - look very closely...
The biggest lemons I have ever seen
As well as lemon soaps, lemon liqueurs, lemon sweets, lemon ceramics and anything else you can possibly imagine you can do with either a lemon or an image of a lemon
And most disturbing of all, holographic dying Jesus pictures where not only did the eyes follow you as you walked past, they also opened and closed (or winked if you stood in the right place) - just too creepy!
Having had our fill of tourist tat - lovely though it was - and deciding against a trip to Capri - would have to leave Jules behind even though it was very, very tempting to see just what the parking attendant guys would make of it... - we headed on up and out. Heading away from the usual tourist trail straight over the top to Positano, we headed back through Massa and after several sweeping curves and little villages, ended up at Termini where we spotted a sign for a Punto Panoramico - sounded just perfect for a late lunch stop. No real carpark and a suddenly narrowing road led to a 16 point turn in the road using forward and reverse gears and a nose-in-the-cliff swerve and stop parking approach (like all the other local cars!) where we left Jules, in gear, with the handbrake on and a wheel choc or two - it was that sort of road - and headed off.
Next stop planned was Positano, the start of the famous Amalfi coast drive, likened to heaven by all sorts of eminent literary figures.
We have also learnt that, whereas in france, if you ask someone how far away something is, the answer is always '5mins away', regardless of actual distance, prevailing traffic conditions or actual likely time it will take to drive there (as all their Carrefour adverts have a time in minutes on them, we have studied this phenomena, actual time can be anything from a factor of 2-5 times quoted time), if you ask in Italy, the answer is always 2km. Space and time in europe are clearly somewhat more elastic than we are used to. We have come to the conclusion that it just means 'too far to walk'.
But somehow Jules just keeps going and after a tense 20 mins of so, with Will coasting at every available opportunity - which scares me as it seems all the time like the engine is just cutting out and all is lost! - we did find the place the wizened little old man had indicated. €1.468!!! the price for entry to heaven is steep :)
the most floral of floral printed dresses - not sure wheher is is supposed to be fashion or camoflauge and if the latter, quite which tropical jungle you would be good for...
Feeling we had had the best of the coast drive, the typical cliff side streets and the weather for the day, we headed onwards once more in search of ruins, older, greek ones this time, in Pasteum.
The draw of Pasteum is the magnificent greek temples which still stand amongst the ruins of a town which was first greek and later roman. It is in our 1001 places book and more importantly, the Rough Guide says the ruins are 'the best preserved Doric temples in Europe' and the museum is 'splendid'. Some choice gems from it recently have been:
Grotto della Smeraldo: 'a mildly impressive but certainly not unmissable sight'
Salerno: 'the site of the Allied landings of September, 9th 1943, that reduced much of the city centre to rubble. The subsequent rebuilding has restored neither charm of efficiency to the town centre'
so you see 'splendid' is high praise indeed!
The Piana del Sele is a large flat expanse of largely marshland stretching from the inland hills to the sea. Over the millenia, the coastline has advanced and receeded with the thaw and freeze of the ice ages and the plains have been inhabited since man first picked up a rock with any clear intention or purpose in his tiny mind.
And thus it stayed until the advent of the Grand Touring northern europeans to the area in the early 18th century, who rediscovered the temples, still standing amidst the overgrown woodland and it was apparently their discovery of the place which led to the influence of the Doric style in neo-classical architecture throughout europe.
What is almost more amazing however, than the fact that the temples are still standing, is one of the later yet much older (paleolithic or neolithic, one of the -lithics anyway!, possibly early bronze age, can't remember) findings nearby at the Necropolis of Gaudo. When the Allies landed in 1943, the americans and british divided up the coastline for their separate landings. The British were busy building a runway, under sporadic german sniper fire from small pockets of resistance in the hills, when they discovered a burial chamber and the remains of various people and pottery items. Instead of thinking, 'well here's a war on chaps, got to get on with the job in hand' they stopped what they were doing and sent for a proper archologist type who ensured that, in the midst of the invasion chaos, the tombs were excavated and documented in accordance with the British Museum's exacting standards - something, apparently, they didn't believe the Italians would do. They found a treasure trove of pre-history stuff and went on to establish their field hospital in the ruins of the three temples - it is utterly amazing that any of it survived at all.
Arriving late sunday, after a drive down a just off-the-coast road once more lined with hookers hoping for some passing sunday afternoon trade - just loads of them! - we found we could see the temples really well from the road and that the rest of the ruins were very ruinous indeed. So we skipped that and, having had our fill of the view, settled down on the beach for the night with the sun setting on another day.
The next morning, the museum was indeed splendid. It covered the prehistory and geography of the area from the second-to-last iceage onwards and all the -lithic peoples with info panels, videos (the only hairy cave man with a beerbelly I have ever seen!) and case after case of 'finds' which just leave you in awe at what they achieved and crafted out of so little, from stone, to flint, to copper to bronze.
The most famous thing there is the Divers tomb, a stone sarcophagus decorated on the inside with greek images of knowledge sharing in the syposium (the men on couches drinking wine) on the sides and the diver on the inside of the top, reperesenting man's departure from the bounds of the known world and into a sea of greater knowledge which is death. Apparently this is the only Greek tomb found decorated on the inside like this, something etruscans had been doing for ages, an is particularly out of kilter with fashionable thought a the time which would never link the disparate images of life and death in this way. So there you go.
It seems the Lucans did decorate their tombs in a similar way, with lots of roman-esque looking images.
There was also a display which seemed to be proposals for redevelopment of the surrounding ares, which look hideous. If you want to come, come now!
I have also decided that I don't know enough about Greek or Roman Gods and mythology so have down loaded the Iliad to read - well you've got to start somewhere...
So, this is the most southerly point on this incursion into Italy and we didn't really think to be getting this far by this time. We are meeting friends for an Italian Lakes break next week and still have to go back to rome so it is time to head back to the frozen north (although it is looking more promising now!
So Carrefour detour - the first one we have actually seen in Italy and we are intrigued as to what carrefour.it will be like - then back to rome by way of St Felice Cicero - well the police have told us where to park now so we should be assured of a quiet night's sleep and no rude awakening at some ungodly hour....
With love for now from Becky, Will and Jules on Saturday, March 27, 2010