Early Morning on the Arno River

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Second morning in Florence, with Julie still sound asleep I dressed in the dark and crept out of the silent hotel. We over looked the Arno river. the largest of Tuscany’s rivers, which features many bridge crossings. The history of these bridges, often destroyed by flood or war is told nicely in this blog post.

http://cuore-scalzo.blogspot.com.au/2012/06/arno-river-and-bridges-of-florence.html

The following pictures were taken on my hours walk as the sun rose and the traffic increased for another busy day in Florence.

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Amalfi – a good place to ride a bike, maybe?

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This is a group of images from the Amalfi region, where we stayed for three night, that did not fit into any other posts but are still worthy of publishing.

The first three are just an indicator of the driving difficulties along the coast. Houses often open directly to the road, people walk and jog on the road, not to mention lead donkey’s laden with building materials. Then there are the scooters!

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Of course the Gyro d’Italia, the local equivalent of the Tour de France did come racing through those same roads while we were staying. The race leader wears the Pink Jersey and was from Assisi, the town of origin of our Tour Director, Barbara, who was very excited at the possibility of me getting an image of a local hero.


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The remaining images come from our visit to the town of Amalfi. After a walk with our local guide we had an hour to wander the streets and check out the Duomo Di Amalfi, a 9th century Cathedral dedicated to the Apostle St Andrew

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Of course the streets are narrow with steep alleys only a person wide running off to the side.

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The lemons were the biggest I have seen and used to produce Italy’s most famous liqueur Limoncello

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It is still a Fishing region.

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Julie stands outside a Trattoria named after Gemma, our daughter in law.




 

 

 

 

If John Steinbeck Revisited Positano

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In my last post I included a link to the article that novelist John Steinbeck wrote for Harper’s Bazar magazine in 1953,  about his visit to Positano. In case you missed it here is another link to the same article. http://www.jackthedriver.com/positano-by-john-steinbeck.asp.

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While the  writing is amazing and his physical description remains accurate 60 years later, I believe that Steinbeck has proved to be a better writer than prophet. Following are some of his predictions about this place.

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Nearly always when you find a place as beautiful as Positano, your impulse is to conceal it. You think, “If I tell, it will be crowded with tourists and they will ruin it, turn it into a honky-tonk and then the local people will get touristy and there’s your lovely place gone to hell”. There isn’t the slightest chance of this in Positano. In the first place there is no room. There are about two thousand inhabitants in Positano and there is room for about five hundred visitors, no more. The cliffs are all taken. Except for the half ruinous houses very high up, all space is utilized. And the Positanese invariably refuse to sell.

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Positano’s permanent population is now just under 4000 but I suspect that in the holiday season there would be double or triple that number of day visitors like us. They have to risk the same roads that the writer recalled “Flaming like a meteor we hit the coast, a road, high, high above the blue sea, that hooked and corkscrewed on the edge of nothing, a road carefully designed to be a little narrower than two cars side by side. And on this road, the buses, the trucks, the motor scooters and the assorted livestock. We didn’t see much of the road. In the back seat my wife and I lay clutched in each other’s arms, weeping hysterically.” Like Steinbeck and us, they generally arrive safely.

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Steinbeck’s prediction was the inhabitants would never sell out. Economics  changed that. Most of the Villas are now owned by wealthy international absentees, who could afford the renovations and the workers commute  from elsewhere.

Steinbeck loved the “characters” he found in the village. This was his description of the mayor. “The mayor of Positano is an archaeologist, a philosopher and an administrator. The mayor wanders about the town upstairs and downstairs. He dresses in tired slacks, a sweat shirt and sandals. He holds court anywhere he is, sitting on a stonewall overlooking the sea, leaning against the edge of a bar, swimming in the sea or curled up on the beach. Very little business gets done in the City Hall.”

Not so today I fear. The shopkeepers, gelato sellers and beach artists are only “characters” if it helps make a sale.

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“Again, Positano is never likely to attract the organdie-and-white linen tourist. It would be impossible to dress as a languid tourist-lady-crisp, cool white dress, sandals as white and light as little clouds, picture hat of arrogant nonsense, and one red rose held in a listless white gloved pinky. I dare any dame to dress like this and climb the Positano stairs for a cocktail. She will arrive looking like a washcloth at a boys’ camp.”

My dear wife Julie, posing beside the lucky lion between the town and the beach might not be dresses as described by Steinbeck, but she had just replaced an a Japanese wedding party dressed  more formally than the writer could have imagined, and they, like everyone else had trekked down the narrow paths. In Italy, where the environment has been moulded by man for thousands of years it is still foolish to expect that nothing will change,

Positano – The Town that Steinbeck made Famous

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Positano was a prosperous port in the Amalfi the first established of the Italian Maritime Republics, heavily involved in the Crusades. Larger ships meant it was no longer useful as a port and it became dependent on its fishing fleet. By the middle of the last century the decline of the fishing industry meant that more than half the population had emigrated, mainly to Australia.

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Then in 1953 John Steinbeck arrived in Positano, escaping from Rome’s summer heat. He was already a well established novelist, later to win the Pulitzer Prize, but then working as a columnist for Harper’s Bazar magazine . Below is a link to what he wrote about Positano, early setting the tone with this amazing statement.

“Positano bites deep. It is a dream place that isn’t quite real when you are there and becomes beckoningly real after you have gone.”

If you love good writing follow the link to this his description of this village in 1953 and consider my recent images.

http://www.sirenuse.it/fileUpload/downloads/1/Steinbeck.pdf

ImageWe were told it was worth making our way down to the beach because we would find the world’s best gelato – it was good but so was the view back up the hill towards the town best described by Steinbeck.

“Its houses climb a hill so steep it would be a cliff except that stairs are cut in it……. The small curving bay of unbelievable blue and green water laps gently on a beach of small pebbles. There is only one narrow street and it does not come down to the water. Everything else is stairs, some of them as steep as ladders. You do not walk to visit a friend, you either climb or slide.”

ImageOn the way down we passed The Church of St Maria Assunta, famous for its mediaeval art. However a wedding was just about to start so we couldn’t get in. Next best thing for a storyteller however, was the arrival of the bride. She walked up, all smiles, gave us a pirouette,  raised the flowers in salute that was a YES of triumph. I captured the her later, with new husband smiling for the video and  walking the narrow, main path through the shops to the beachImage

ImageThis is an eternal bride, walked past by 10,000 people a day, but she doesn’t get to go home at night. No wonder she doesn’t smile.

Capri – Escape from Reality from Roman Times until Now

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The view from the Villa San Michelle in the comune of Anacapri on the western heights of Capri

Our day trip to Capri did not start well. The arrival of the Giro D’Italia in the region meant that our bus could not use the roads and our Tour Director, the amazing Barbara had to organise four hire cars at almost no notice to get us to the port to catch the boat to the Island.  Aside from the fact that I again got seasick (yes, even in the Mediterranean) the day was beautiful for a photographer. From the Ferry we first had a great view of the Port, then of the coastline and finally of the approach to the Island.

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 Many of the large Villas along the coastline have no road access so building materials are delivered by donkeys or helicopters

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Old fortifications have been reinvented as restaurants  and houses with great water views

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Space is at a premium and very expensive. Many of these villas are owned by very rich internationals who fly in for a week or two.

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Capri in the background above and the approach to the harbour below

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These Images are taken from the gardens a walk away from the town of Capri itself. We later took minibuses to the Comune of Anacapri high in the Hills to the west.

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Our local guide and Trafalgar tour director, Barbara got us unto the launch that circumnavigated the Island giving us a close up look at the Grotto (its real colour, not enhanced) , the craggy limestone of the Island and a different view from the sea of the settlements.

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Capri has had human settlements since neolithic times, with Greek colonies before the Romans really developed the Island. Among the ruins still visible is the Villa Jovis from which the Emperor Tiberius ruled for  10 years from 27 to 37 AD. More recently Capri has become a centre for Art, Literature and Celebrities as well as a major tourist destination.

 

Ravello – Looking Down on the Amalfi Coast

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One of our Days trips while staying in Maiori on the Amalfi Coast was a half day optional excursion to Ravello. It was an extremely foggy morning which made the trip in a large coach up the winding narrow mountain road more exciting than entertaining. The town itself is a Unesco listed World Heritage site with a beautiful church,  quaint streets and shops and the wonderful Villa Rufolfo with amazing gardens and views of the coast.

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