Sunday, February 13, 2011

Driving Amalfi

Today we're taking a simple drive up the Amalfi coast. Well, not so simple. As we mentioned yesterday the drive is a continuous stream of S's that never seem to end. The road hugs the coast - sheer mountain walls on one side and sheer drop-offs to the sea on the other. The beauty is unmatched. We really don't know if we've seen a more beautiful coastline in all the world. There's no wonder the road is so packed with cars all wanting to enjoy the scenery. Unfortunately they're not always watching the road. We experienced many a close call as cars come careening around a curve, driver on the phone, coming straight for us down the middle of the road. The amazing part is the other driver never seems to care about moving out of the way and just continues speeding down the hill. We drive much further than we've ever been along this part of the coast, past Positano unto the center of the Sorrento peninsula. A one point you can see Sorrento and Naples in the distance on one side and the whole Amalfi coast spreading out in front of you on the other. We eventually turn around and head back to Positano. Positano is a favorite resort of many, but it's just a little too steep for us. In the summer when all the shops are open it might be fun to slowly amble down the tiny streets, finally making it the shoreline and the beach. This time of year most of the shops are closed and it looks a little barren. Actually a lot of businesses are closed this time of year along the coast. As it gets closer to Easter more and more shops, hotels, and restaurants begin to open until everything is in full swing by mid April. They start to close up again between early October and Christmas. Of course some places are open year-round which is a boon for slow going tourists like us. We generally prefer off season, uncrowded travel.

By early afternoon our nerves are a little shot so we decide to look for a place for lunch. Just outside Positano we pass a charming looking place. There happens to be a driveway up ahead where we can turn around. We make a quick U and find a parking space right in front. We don't have any guides with us and are just going by instinct. We walk up to the door which is immediately opened for us by a well dressed gentleman who greets us warmly. We've happened into Taverna del Leone, a beautiful but casual restaurant. The place is packed. We're lucky to get one of the few remaining tables. For us it's a prime spot - right near the glass walled kitchen where we can watch lunch being prepared. The menus arrive and we're pleased with our choice. Really unusual food. This could be a find. We order, sip our wine, and wait. First comes an amuse bouche - a house made bread with simple chopped tomato and olive oil. So delicious, with the tomato having an amazing amount of flavor for February. The first course, for Frank, is a beef carpaccio topped with a few slices of blood orange and olive oil cured with fennel. For Stephen there's a crema di zucca with Sicilian prawns and tuna roe topped with a slight drizzle of the house olive oil. For the next course Frank gets a pasta, a buffalo ricotta ravioli with a sauce of sausage and red raddicchio and Stephen has pork sauteed with pears. The bitter radicchio contrasts amazingly with the sweetness of the sausage and the creaminess of the riccotta. The pear is a not too sweet counterbalance to the pork and sauteed greens. We splurge with dessert. A chocolate torte with vanilla gelato and canoli, again with the restaurant's own ricotta, candied pistachios and fruit. An espresso to pep us up for the drive and we're off.

By the time we get back to Ravello we need to rest. The drive is just so beautiful, but you can't let your guard down for a second.

After a long walk around town we try to decide what to do for dinner. Originally we were going to go for pizza. There is supposed to be a good place on the next hill over. We really don't want to get in the car again and besides it's a little damp out tonight and the roads are a little slick. We decide to stay home and get a bite at the hotel. The owner keeps asking us to try his excellent restaurant so we give in. How bad can it be? A simple plate of pasta and a piece of fish should be simple enough. Let's just say the highlight of the evening was the grappa we had back in the room before we headed to bed.

There's a whole album of Amalfi drive photos on Stephen's facebook page.


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