Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Italy Part I (and a ½) - Amalfi uncut_

OK, I really should write a bit more about my time on the Amalfi Coast... but I shall fly through so as not to bore you with too many intricate details... and let's be honest, I bet most of you are only here for the photos anyway!!

I had a pretty cruisy trip to Amalfi, and sort of ended up there by accident... I didn't anticipate that I'd make it quite far enough and expected to stop somewhere bland along the way so when I actually did end up making it at about 4pm just as the sun was making it's way down and looking stunning I was in absolute awe! And discovering in my Lonely Planet that there was a hostel just 16km away, I realised it was meant to be!

Amalfi Coast, Italy - 10


Hmmm, not so fast... turns out I read and understood my directions wrong (not the first time, I assure you) so spent the afternoon rolling up and down the coast looking for the damn hostel! Wasn't all bad though, it was pretty much the perfect afternoon for riding, and even though it was a Sunday, the road wasn't too busy... When I eventually realised my mistake a couple of hours later, it was all but dark and after I pulled over and asked a friendly hotelier where I was going, I discovered that to get to the hostel I'd have a relatively treacherous climb zig zagging my way up a steep mountain side - in the dark. Ah what the hell, you only live once!

Treacherous as it was, I made it about an hour later (to travel about 9km if that gives you an idea of the road...). Was worth it too, stayed at a cool but quiet little hostel and met some awesome girls just as I was finishing my delicious Canneloni + Vino Rossi + Tiramisu meal at the local pizzeria. I stayed up drinking and chatting with Visnja from Serbia and Trang from Vietnam until they had finished eating, and I was a little drunk!!

Amalfi Coast, Italy - 09

Amalfi Coast, Italy - 01


The next morning, hangover in tow, I was back on the bike in what was very near to perfect riding weather... almost too warm for my jacket! I stopped for some lunch in Positano, hung out there for an hour or two chatting with an older American couple - Barry and Jean, no less - from Boston. They were good fun to chat to, but they had a ferry to catch which was lucky as I am sure we would have ended up chatting for a lot longer and I had to get to Naples... not somewhere I wanted to arrive at in the dark as I would be soon to find out...

Amalfi Coast, Italy - 20


* In fact, let's test the little theory posed at the top... if you actually read this, and didn't just look at the photos, post a comment letting me know! Do you read all of my posts? Hmmm...

A rare glimpse_

As you might imagine, travelling alone I spend a lot of time well... alone. Most often I am perfectly OK with this, and when sitting still I pass a lot the time scribbling into my trusty Moleskin journal... the result you usually see is what ends up written up, edited for readability, and posted on this blog... today I thought I would post a rare glimpse of one of the pages. Don't get used to it, I don't foresee this happening often - there are things written in my journal that don't get published, and if I am to be honest, probably should never see the light of day again! In fact, just there underneath the pen in this picture is one of those such things...


Bergen, Norway - 57

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Italy Part I - Matera to Amalfi_

Like Greece, I think I best post Italy in a series... consider this part one of three...

At the port in Igoumenitsa, Greece I loaded my bike aboard, lugged my gear upstairs and found myself a corner to try and get comfortable in for the 7 hour trip. Previously I had been too self-conscious to sleep on the floor, but I was well over that so snuggled up and got a decent rest - it costs more than double to get a ticket including a room/bed... tight ass traveller does kick in sometimes believe it or not! Early on the morning of October 15, my ferry delivered me safely to Brindisi port in the South of Italy about 9 hours after departing an hour late... which made it about 3 hours later than scheduled!! No-one seemed to care though, so who was I to judge!? Plus arriving at 8am beats arriving at 5am!

About half an hour later I was back on the bike in MUCH better weather than what I left in Greece, but it was still quite a cold trip to Matera - a pretty, bustling, if not a little bit touristy town in the Southern Italian region of Basilicata. Initially I struggled to find the tourist office, but once I did was helped by a lovely lady who very kindly located and booked a hostel for me, then explained lots of details about the town that I knew nothing about and sent me on my way... charging 5 Euros on top of the already expensive hostel booking for the privilege! This was the first indicator I had noticed that Italy was going to hurt the budget. That said though, it was worth every penny! There's not much I can say about this place that photos don't do more justice... so check out a few below, and the rest (and some others from the rest of Italy) here.

Matera, Italy - 01

Matera, Italy - 03

Matera, Italy - 12

Matera, Italy - 31

Matera, Italy - 38

Matera, Italy - 45

Matera, Italy - 52


The place is absolutely gorgeous, but was so quiet, especially at night! The first night I was there I ended up wandering for an hour for something - anything - open. I finally happened across a cute little wine bar not far from where I was staying, but it was quite literally me and the owner (sorry Mum, "the owner and I".) But that's cool, I had my book, and they had wine so that was me set for the night!

Great coffee and croissants were there to greet me when I arose from an incredible deep sleep to kick off my very productive day. Shortly after breakfast I headed off to wander the town some more, and ducked into the library to check my emails for a moment... instead I wandered out some hours later having booked plane tickets to Morocco, and from there onto Holland! Oops! I do love that about the way I am travelling though, I have very few set plans so I can always be 100% flexible - the way it should be!

After a wander and an afternoon siesta in out of the rain, I met a couple of the others who were staying at the hostel and headed off for a lovely dinner in one of the sandstone caves spread throughout the town - this one in particular in the Sasso Barisano area. Was a great night, and chatting with French Geraldine and Israeli Doran in a combination of well annunciated English and very broken and somewhat hilarious French, made for a good, albeit tiring, time for all. Was too tiring for the others, but after my siesta in the afternoon I had all the energy in the world so kicked on to a very cool little cafe called Shibuya for a couple of coffees, and some writing, drawing and people watching... my favourite! A great way to spend my last night in town...

From Matera I leapt with vigour aboard my trusty steed with initial plans to backtrack a little and head to a place called Albarello... before heading north west to Naples. I don't like backtracking in my travels, especially when I am on the bike so it didn't sit well with me, and ultimately got the better of me... I decided to just start the trip toward Naples and stop somewhere along the way...

Matera, Italy - 74


That somewhere was the much anticipated, and already blogged, Amalfi Coast! It's like it was just meant to be - I had always planned to come here, but when it all happened, it just lined up so perfectly well. It was truly a special place. Words don't begin to describe... but check out my other post for a few brief words, and a handful of pics that barely begin to do justice to the place.

Amalfi Coast, Italy - 01