tuftears: Thoughtful Lynx (Thoughtful)
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Quoting from the paper we were given: Amalfi is a charming, peaceful resort town on the scenic Amalfi Coast of Italy. The town lies at the mouth of a deep ravine, surrounded by dramatic cliffs and coastal scenery. Narrow alleyways wind through the town up the slopes between the sea and mountains.

Amalfi was one of the first Italian cities to emerge from the dark ages and by the ninth century was the most important port in southern Italy. It's the oldest of the four great Maritine Republics (including Genoa, Pisa, and Venice) that lasted through the twelfth century. Its maritime code, known as the Tavole Amalfitane, was recognized in the Mediterranean until 1570. ...

Once again assisted by a sleeping pill to gain sweet Morpheus's embrace, I woke more or less ready to face the world at 6:30 AM-ish. Dracosphynx, up as well, clambered up to go see where we were going to make dock.

Here's Dracosphynx looking all dramatic as he faces the waves!

Breakfast is a couple of pancakes with BACON! and eggs.

Dracosphynx snapped this picture of me nomming breakfast while trying to get a signal on the phone. The ship's internet was pretty temperamental.

The ship is still making its way to dock; we won't be departing until somewhat later, so we flop in our cabin for a while. You can get an idea just how dinky the cabins were here. Barely enough room between the beds for us to get out of them. Behind Dracosphynx is the porthole to the outside world.

Fun fact(tm): the TVs had a small selection of channels (accessed by the ship's limited internet capacity, I assume) and selected movies; the rotation changed each day. Today's movie selections, according to the flyer, were 'Roman Holiday' and Rome- Engineering an Empire' (the latter being a History Channel documentary)

These were taken from the same place on the side of the ship, once the Le Ponant had weighed anchor. We would come in the rest of the way on Zodiacs.

At the bottom right of this picture, you can see the Zodiacs being prepared for ferrying us to port. The Le Ponant has three of these.

Unlike the other time we came in on Zodiacs, it seemed like there was a lot of traffic this time, and thus contention for pier space. I took this picture while we were waiting to be able to disembark!

There was a loose raft in the water, though I didn't get a picture. It drifted about hither and thither, no one in it.

Anyway, is that a great-looking port or what?

Looking a bit left, and then later on, a bit right, here we are walking up the port to where we'll meet the tour guide.

Welcome to Porta Della Marina! I'm thinking that's a historical map of the Mediterranean coast. Amalfi remembers when it was one of the rulers of the waves.

An odd four-headed statue, outside an art gallery sort of store.

Amalfi is built into the mountainside, and has accumulated people here for centuries. That means people started stacking their buildings and when that happens, well... You get twisty mazes of buildings, stairs, tiny courtyards barely lit by the sun, and a very car-unfriendly sort of town.

Our tour group wandered around a bit more. This isn't quite great architecture but there's a definite Italian flavor to how the buildings are arranged, from balconies to windows and roof details. In San Francisco, buildings would be much more regular and rectangular and of course, laid out on an exact grid, heedless of the curves of the landscape.

A very Italian street: narrow, overlooked by balconies, and full of character.

I snapped this picture of a shop built into the side of a tunnel passing below where two buildings met one another. Later, I came back to get a proper view of the critters being sold; I'd thought for a bit that a kirin or unicorn might have been among the figures. Not so much, it turns out, but I suppose that the idea is that if you're going to get around a mountainous climate, the historic Italians would have used donkeys; the modern Italians use scooters.

Views of the local church from what seemed like the main town center. Lots of shops and restaurants were about. We were given a little free time to look around; I suppose in theory we could have gone to check out the church, but to be honest, I suspect both Dracosphynx and I were a bit 'churched out'.

A fountain right in the middle of the town square. Must be Baroque period! And oh my, that's a little daring for a public adornment, isn't that?

Here's Dracosphynx in front of another view of buildings stacked on top of one another! Imagine if in San Francisco, the builders decided that there just wasn't enough land, so to make room, they'd just join the buildings to each other, leaving a tunnel underneath for cars and pedestrians?

More random streets!

I gather from the Yelp reviews that this is a pretty bad restaurant, but I love the logo.

See all those lemons? Limoncello, a lemon-based liqueur, is one of this town's major exports. Then there's this apparently non-pizza-related mosaic, just lounging around in front of this pizzeria like there's no need for him to justify his existence.

This is the other major export of Amalfi: paper. The explanation might be hard to decipher, so here it is:

The Paper of Amalfi


An ancient tradition narrates that this paper was invented in about the 1st century B.C. along the banks of the rivers of magnificent China. It must have then travelled along the caravan routes to the Muslim centres of Persia and to the Syrian-Palestinian coast, from where it then spread ot the Arabian countries of Spain and North Africa.

The first historical testimony of its existence and use in the Mediterranean is a letter written on this paper by the countess of Sicily in the first years of the twelfth century. This is certain evidence that the paper was already diffused in the island at the time of the Norman conquest and that it was produced in workshops along the African coast and in Spain.

The Amalfi people who were present in Sicily and in the main harbour and trade centres of the Arabic caliphates of Africa such as Alexandria, Cairo, Kairuan, El Medhia since the tenth century, were certainly the last to learn the manufacturing techniques of this paper. ...

Purple flowers, that's what you'd be thinking, right? Actually evidently these are bougainvillea, the leaves are purple, and there are small yellow flowers in the middle.

We met up with the rest at the prearranged spot (thanks to Dracosphynx, I'd be totally lost otherwise) and hopped on the tour buses! Away we went.


And still going. Yeah, it was kind of a long trip. But, we had a lot of mountainside to climb to get to Ravello, a mountaintop village.

I snapped both of these from the bus, because all the beautiful terraced landscape we were passing was just too pretty and interesting to ignore.

They passed around lemons, both small ones and *BIG* ones. Looking around websites, I'm guessing they were "Ovale di Sorrento" and "Sfusato Costa di Amalfi".

The view from Ravello! Quoting from the paper we got:

Ravello is a town situated above the Amalfi Coast and has approximately 2,500 inhabitants. It is a popular tourist destination. The town has served historically as a destination for artists, musicians, and writers, including Richard Wagner, Truman Capote, and Tennessee Williams. Every year in the summer months, the "Ravello Festival" takes place. It began in 1953 in honor of Richard Wagner.

The main road is just wide enough for the tour bus to get there, circle around, and go back. There's a tunnel that goes through the mountainside from the main road to the center square of Ravello, and on the side of the tunnel, there was a diorama about the festival, showing pictures from previous years. Sadly, I didn't get any pictures of that.

The main square of Ravello! We did go into the church here, but I'll get to that. First...


Ancient bronze doors to the Duomo. They're from the 12th century. You can just barely see Dracosphynx taking picture of the other door.

Not as bling-covered as many of the churches we've seen, but I like the honesty and clean-ness of the style.

Hmm, what is this strange-looking object?

Huh! It's got spiral columns supported by... Lions?

According to the website, "The second item of special note is the pulpit, which is supported by six spiraled columns sitting atop marble lions."

I'm not certain what this is. Maybe Dracosphynx will fill that in for me.

Our next stop was an ancient villa that was still in use as the home for the Ravello festival, the Villa Rufolo.

These are both from the same place, just inside the entrance. From the pamphlets we received: The tour of the Villa begins from the entrance gateway, Torre d'ingresso, which has always been purely decorative. It is surmounded by a dome with umbrella ribbing, decorated with interlocking arches and supported by small terracotta columns. The Gothic gateway with its pointed arch is adorned with bands of yellow and grey tuff. Together with the terracotta columns, they create the same polychrome effect that has come to light elsewhere in the Villa, above all wherever the fabric was protected from the elements. Originally all the stone surfaces were covered with a coloured limestone wash to heighten the decorative effect. In the dome of the entrance tower this highlighting was made all the more striking by the use of a transparent straw colour pigment, possibly made from finely ground ceramic enamel. At each corner stands a statue of a human figure representing the four seasons.

A view of the lower part of the Villa from the upper terrace.

Looking from the upper part of the courtyard down to the lower. This is the 'Cortile', or 'Moorish Courtyard'; from the guide, in the lower tier there are three pointed arches on each side, surmounted by a loggia with twin columns decorated with interlocking foliate arches. The upper tier, featuring three oculi on each side, is adorned with a frieze of coupled tortile miniature columns made of terracotta.

The flowers definitely add a nice touch of nature to the indoors, brightening it up.

Exiting into the sunlight and climbing a set of stairs.

Looking down, I notice a solitary stone doghouse. Evidently they didn't keep a lot of dogs here, or they'd have had kennels. On the other paw, I have to think building a doghouse from stone is a bit of overkill.

A strange stone structure, and the Torre-Museo rising behind it!

A closer look at the strange stone structure reveals it's actually something like a gazebo, except carved from what I assume is sandstone.

A nice panorama of Ravello from the upper patio of the Villa.

After that, we had free time to poke around a bit before we went to the 'Million Dollar View' restaurant! (actually it was named the Garden Restaurant)

I have no idea what this is, but it's certainly interestingly shaped.

There was lots of evidence that there was a strong artistic community in Ravello, from the cameo shop (which made cameos) to, well, this-- one of a number of ceramic studios we saw.

There's Dracosphynx as well.

I believe this was a vineyard for the nearby monastery. We didn't actually get to go in but I snapped this picture through the gaps of the gate which barred access.

Dracosphynx noticed this lion decoration. *snap*

An arched tunnel, featuring shops built into the side.

After a fair chunk of walking up and down, we headed back and met up at the Garden Restaurant. This is why I call it the 'Million Dollar View'.

This was something like an enclosed porch, if you discount that it's just over a thousand-feet plummet. I tried very hard not to think about the drop just over the railing.

Dracosphynx took this picture of me evidently concentrating on not being next to the precipitous drop.

Lunch was served buffet-style. There wasn't really a lot of choice. Let me see... From six o' clock on the plate: a giant marinara-covered meatball, ravioli, potatoes gratin, green beans and a salad, and a potato-filled croquette.

They were pretty decent but also not really very stand-out.

Dessert! I'm given to understand these were 'sfogliatelle frolla', a shortbread-based pastry filled with a mix of semolina, ricotta, eggs, sugar, candied citrus, and a bit of cinnamon. They were pretty decent.

After another long drive back down, we had a little free time before we had to catch a zodiac back, so Dracosphynx visited the paper store to pick up some paper for a friend. This display case was packed with a variety of interesting things. I'm not sure how to explain the chess pieces on a typewriter keyboard though.

We had dessert! Dracosphynx got double-chocolate gelato; since I had some Euros for a change, I pointed at a cake and got this tasty thing.

Back on the ship, which had actually moved on a little further away from Amalfi! This is kind of the other side of Amalfi, accordingly, from where we first saw it.

From the afternoon tea, a glass of orange juice and a tasty little strawberry tart.

Dracosphynx took a picture of me with said tart. Here you can see the Hawaiian shirt that I started using because it was getting a bit too warm for my lightweight black jacket.

I'm not actually sure when this was taken, but I'm guessing it was around the afternoon, when I hadn't changed to my black vest and short-sleeved yellow shirt for dinner.

There was a 'last day on the ship' (not actually the very last hours, but certainly the last evening) celebration where the Captain and the crew received our accolades.

Dracosphynx at the back of the ship, as we set sail for Naples.

Dinner! ... Okay, they didn't do this on any previous night, but now we have napkins that have been cunningly folded into candle-shapes.

The menu. Not too many choices this time.

Pretty good soup; like the other soups, it was mostly potato soup, except pesto-flavored this time.

I was not wild about these "smoked herring millefeuilles." I sampled some of it but didn't finish the plate.

Not listed on the menu but I believe this was a scallop. I took a bite in the spirit of adventurous eating, but didn't care for it.

The beef tenderloin! With a 'potato choux bun' and 'confits onions'. It was pretty decent.

Valrhona Manjari royal cake. It was more of a mousse than cake, but it was tasty!

Shortly thereafter, the ship approached Naples where it would dock for the night.

Quite a change from the mountainous Amalfi Coast, isn't it? It's pretty flat, with obvious signs of manufacturing and industry. Not exactly the first thing that comes to mind when one says 'Naples, Italy.'

Sunset with Dracosphynx.
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tuftears: Lynx Wynx (Default)
Conrad "Lynx" Wong

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