A day Trip to Amalfi
Day Trip in Amalfi 21st of March 2012
From Naples to Amalfi
The common idea about Naples and Southern Italy in general is that people don’t really work that much, so one would have thought that in the morning there wouldn’t have been that many people rushing to work in the streets of the city centre of Naples. Wrong! The streets of the city centre of Naples on Wednesday morning at 8.30 are the most crowded I have ever seen them, and to get to the Porta Immacolatella bus stop to catch the SITA bus to Amalfi, I had to really weave in and out from the crowds of people on the streets, and I really thought that I wouldn’t have made it, which would have been a real shame, as the morning SITA h:9.00 coach goes directly to Amalfi, in only two hours, which is a much more practical solution to getting there by train. This second option indeed implies stopping in Salerno which is a 1 hour journey to then catch a SITA coach from Salerno to Amalfi which takes about 1h.15 min.
If you manage to get there in time the NAPOLI-AMALFI direct coach is really the best solution...
...and you can continue to nap, on the way there without worrying about where to get down. The bus driver will shout loud enough for you to understand when you have reached Amalfi.
Even though in Naples no one seems to know where the Porta Immacolatella stop is, it’s very simple, it is immediately after the main gate to the main port in Naples. From the city centre, once you reach Piazza San Domenico, just walk down all the way via Mezzocannone, cross via Umberto I and just continue going straight until you see the Port entrance on Via Marina. There are many coaches waiting around so it is not at all difficult to spot. Tickets can be purchased inside the port, just at the back of the coach station, or in any station or tabacchi. From Naples, to reach any town on the Amalfi Coast you will need the U5 ticket, which costs 4 Euros single journey or 12 Euros for the whole day. The same ticket works, for any transport solution from Naples, Coach or Regional Train (for IC and AV trains, from Naples to Salerno different process apply- Trenitalia).
I had heard terrible stories about the many bends on the road from Salerno to Amalfi, but actually it was not at all an unpleasant journey,
also because from Nocera onwards, the landscape changes so dramatically that all your attention will be completely distracted from your stomach. Indeed from Naples morning traffic jams, almost suddenly you will be surrounded by Nocera’s mountains, and village atmosphere, to then be suddenly shocked by Vietri sul Mare’s sea, that at one point without any warning opens wide in between the Nocera’s mountains.
From Vietri sul Mare to Amalfi, my memory is quite confused, as I kept jumping from one side of the bus to the other to spot the views, the majolica cupolas, the sea, the towers, that rapidly follow one another.
And then finally Amalfi!
The coach stops in Piazza Flavio Gioia by the sea side, where when I went everyone was trying to catch the first spring sun, just sitting around on the benches or even going down to the beach, which is literally a few steps away from where the coach leaves you.
Although the closest attraction to the coach station is the Compass Museum in the Ancient Arsenals which is right there by the seaside, almost inevitably I had to take a quick stroll in Piazza Duomo, to catch a first glimpse of the world-famous Duomo di Amalfi. Walking to Piazza Duomo, you really get a sense of how small Amalfi is, and how such short distances apply to the whole Coast, which has this very intimate feeling along all the 60 Km. Indeed Piazza Duomo and the Cathedral can be found just by crossing the road behind Piazza Flavio Gioia, walking under an arch, and there you are! .
The Cathedral looks exactly like what you will have seen on photos and postcards, and the square too has that kind of “I have already seen this!” feeling!.
I did not spend to long here, I just had a quick stroll trying to spot where I could have had a bite later on, but then I realized that there is so much choice, and lots of hidden alleyways that really deserve some proper scouting to fully appreciate them, that I decided to give some structure to my day and went back to Piazza Flavio Gioaia to the Compass Museum, in the Ancient Arsenal .
The visit in the Museum takes about 30-40 min depending on how thoroughly you look through the exhibits, which span from Roman ruins, formerly kept in the Civic Museum, to a complete history on the development of Compass technology from Ancient China to the NASA. Then there are lots of documents and maps telling of the glorious period of the Republic of Amalfi, some religious paintings and elements linked to the cult of Sant’Andrea, to finish off with drawings, props and costumes of the historical parades from the 1950s.
Currently in the second aisle of the Arsenal there is a photo exhibit which compares Amalfi with the Japanese town of Seto, in an interesting arrangement of photos and images, which mix Japanese atmospheres and colours with those of the Mediterranean.
When you come out of the Museum, where lights are dimmed, and the air is moist like it must have been 500 years ago, Amalfi too will look different, as if through the Arsenal you access a gateway to the real Amalfi.
With such enthusiasm I immediately went to visit the Cathedral. Obviously indulging quite a while on the staircase that from Piazza Duomo leads to the porch. It is both very fun and very relaxing to look at the square from this height, spotting locals and tourists busy in the their so different chores for the day.
After a few minutes of people watching I made my way to buy the ticket to visit the Paradise Cloister, the Basilica del SS. Crocifisso , the Crypt and finally the Cathedral.
The 3 euro ticket can be purchased at a ticket office which is located on the left of the Cathedral’s porch, by the Paradise Cloisetr and the Basilica del SS Crocifisso.
This visit takes quite a lot longer than the former one, as there is so much to see in all 4 locations, so it really depends on your taste and how long you will spend in each one. All venues are extraordinarily beautiful in their specific way.
Personally I was very amazed by the exhibits in the Basilica, and by the fresco paintings on its walls. I must admit that all the silver, the diamonds, the intense colours of the religious ornaments really did draw my attention for quite a while.
Plus I was very lucky to have very kind guide, explain to me what the most important exhibits where, their history and their symbolism, which is truly impressive. The crypt too is very beautiful especially for the games of light that the sun makes on the statues and the paintings, which make the already rich baroque decorations seem even more glowing and grand. Obviously the Cloister and the Cathedral are beautiful too, but I kind of expected them to be so, therefore I was less astonished. Yet still very impressed.
After this very long visit I took a break from touring museums, and had a quick bite, walking around the main Corso, looking at the colourful ceramic shops, at the pretty views on the Monti Lattari above Amalfi, and slowly almost without noticing it, I really did get quite close to the beginning of the Mills Valley, where unfortunately I would not have had the time to go. Although the famous Paper Museum is very well signalled on the way up Amalfi, and there are plenty of mill wheels giving hints that the Mills Valley is probably very close, the real element that tells you that you are approaching the mountains, the Mills, thus another part of Amalfi’s history, is the roaring noise of the Canneto river.
Suddenly you start hearing this noise , which sort of clashes with the sea atmosphere where you are coming from, and the air gets a bit fresher, the water stars to come out in all sorts of fountains and reproductions of mills, and then almost inevitably you will end up at the Paper Museum.
The decadence of the paper industry, which has been one of Amalfi’s pride, can be immediately perceived by the fact, that such well-known museum has only one person working for it, who sells you tickets, souvenirs and takes you onto the tour...leaving the front shop empty and closed. So it is very likely that to enter the museum, you will have to wait for him to return from the previous tour which is only about 15-20 minutes, so on holiday not that big a deal, but still, very telling of the decadence of this business...
Once you finally manage to get inside the museum, the tour is fun and interesting, and it really gives a clear idea, of how precious Amalfi’s paper must have been, and in fact still is, and how for this reason, our fast-disposable era, really does not have space for it. It’s a shame, because Amalfi’s paper really feels incredible, and it is so beautiful.
The best thing is to purchase some souvenir in the shop, and surprise your friends with elegant letter paper, or even very posh printer paper!
Now I really had had my share of Museums for the day, so I decide to spend the rest of the afternoon strolling around town, following the maze of chalk white alleyways, that connect and intertwine in incredible combinations, and slowly made my way back to Piazza Duomo.
I had a delicious ice-cream at a small corner counter, then I looked at some shops in the lower part of Piazza Duomo, going onto the smaller square of Amalfi Piazza Duomo, where the feeling is much less touristy and more authentic. Around Piazza dei Dogi there is an incredible limoncello brewery, showing huge jars of spirit with lemon peel, as well as selling all sorts of lemon related products and a large variety of local spirits.
It was time to go back, but I wanted to get a close look at the sea before heading back home.
So I went back to Piazza Flavio Gioaia, checked the coaches timetable at the bar right in front the coach station, to discover that on the way back there is no alternative but to catch a bus from Amalfi to Salerno and then a train back to Naples.
To give by best regards to Amalfi, and to prepare psychologically for the journey ahead I took a nice walk on the peer out to the sea, where local and foreign couples were starting to retreat, as the sun was starting to set, painting Amalfi’s sky with beautiful red tints.
With these colours and filled of the breeze of the sea, I hopped on the coach, and made my way back to Naples, not too long but trains tend to get quite empty from Salerno to Naples in the evenings, so I really wouldn’t advise to go back too late, especially if travelling alone, especially if single women.