the amalfi coast was everything and more i imagined it would be - high cliffs overlooking a never-ending ocean, quaint fishing villages perched on top of the steep cliffs, panoramic views from every turn in the road, lush greenery, lemon trees everywhere and simple italian food to die for.
after sailing all night from olbia, our ship docked at salerno port half an hour earlier than expected at about 9:30 in the morning. we looked for a taxi to take us to hertz car rental in the center of town but were told that the only way to get a taxi was to book in advance. mon dieu, we were going to be stranded in the very unglamourous port of salerno - so close, yet so far away from where we wanted to be!
luckily, the guard at the gates of the port - whose main job was to permit access to the big, commercial trucks carrying loads of food for export - took pity on us obviously clueless foreigners. he gave me a number to call for a taxi. i dialled the number on my cellphone and immediately gave it back to him since i wasn't in a mood to use even some basic italian. believe it or not - within ten minutes a taxi showed up and we were on our way to salerno centro via a boulevard along a sea front that was paved with palm trees. thank god for the goodness of human nature.
we had heard that the amalfi coast was packed with tourists but driving through salerno didn't feel touristy at all. the locals were going about their day to day lives - buying vegetables from street vendors, sipping dopios at cafes, ziping around in vespas and taking life as leisurely as you can imagine. what's so enchanting aboout these small towns in italy is the absolute delicious pace at which italians live their lives. no honking, no screeching, no aggression. even the polive give you a broad smile when you are going down a one-way, the wrong way!
after picking up our car at hertz, we left salerno and followed the coastal road called costa amalfitana. breathtaking views were to be taken in every second of the way. our first stop was the rustic town of ravello, famous for attracting many writers and poets including d.h.lawrence who is supposed to have written most of lady chatterly's love in ravello.
this perfect italian gem of a town is endlessly charming. situated right on the top of the cliffs, we had to drive uphill for about 5 km from sea level to get to ravello. no matter where in town you go, yet another dramatic view of the amalfi coast is yours to enjoy. you don't even have to think too carefully about which restaurant or cafe to select because they all offer spectacular views of the ocean, english style gardens, or vineyards being cultivated on the cliffs.
we had read a lot about villa cimbrone so made our way to the hotel and adjoining gardens as soon we had parked as close as we could to the centre of town from which point onwards there is pedestrian access only. it was five euros each to enter the garden even though we planned to lunch at the lovely, luxurious and supremely elegant restaurant at villa cimbrone which has a very inviting swimming pool.
at ravello, i had one of the most memorable lunches of my life. the food was quite delicious, the white wine was produced from grapes growing in the garden itself but the ambience was the show stopper, being absolutely to die for as you will see for yourself from the photo below. i don't think it gets any better than this, anywhere in the world. time literaaly stopped still for me and i wondered in the awe at the visuak feast i was being treated to. i've been so spoilt by the fantastic views that you get in the amalfi coast that the phrase "sea view" is really going to take on a new meaning for the bar has been set very high now!
after lunch we had a lesiurely stroll around the gardens and ended up at a belvedere studded with marble busts from where you could see the hills on one side and the amalfi coast spread out below. i wanted to spend all afternoon in ravello but we were getting quite tired so decided to drive straight to the sorrento peninsula where we were staying at an agriturismo farm.