Off to Italy – the first day

It was a long one. I suppose it began with pizza with friends the night before. Drank too much and stayed out longer than what we had planned so our early departure was always going to be tough.

I was up at four and couldn’t get back to sleep. We were packed and almost organised when Susan arrived at seven to take us to Landsborough to catch the 7:41 to Brunswick St where Sara was to pick us up. We said our goodbyes, walked on to the platform and waited only a few minutes. This was to be typical of the next thirty hours- as far as our timing everything went smoothly.

Sara picked us up as planned and we went to the New Farm Deli for breakfast. She had been sick and decided not to join us but go home and have a shower and pretend she felt human so that her parents wouldn’t feel worried and concerned for her. It didn’t work.

After a leisurely breakfast, Sara drove us to the airport and we waited for our flight. Eight hours twenty minutes to Bangkok with Thai Airlines. The food was good the seating was awful and John was in the middle which greatly displeased him.

At Bangkok airport we checked that we had aisle seats for the next leg and then found Mr Chang’s foot massage where we both got a full body massage for about $80 for two. What a bargain! We got to have our shower and a massage as well. Both of us were a little surprised at how tough the ladies hands were and confided that we winced on quite a number of occasions as the masseuse dug deep into the muscles. John ended up with visible signs of the abuse!!  However we felt really good as we boarded for the next stage of our journey.

We were given a late supper and then I was determined to sleep and had a little assistance from a couple of little pills. I think I probably slept for four or five hours and I was happy enough with that. Our arrival was estimated at six and they woke every one two hours before landing so breakfast was served at about four in the morning. We were in for a very long day, again.

Zurich was a flash. I had to have a coffee and croissant. It was delicious. John went exploring and was disappointed that he didn’t have days and days to explore the Zurich airport but he also thought the same about Bangkok. The final flight to Roma (FCO) was only an hour and a half and we had the EXIT seats so twice as much room as usual. We coped.

Roma and we found a kiosk where a delightful young man of probably Sudanese background spoke perfect English and organised our journey firstly to Roma and then on to Salerno. The termini at Roma was very interesting while parts looked seriously decrepit other parts were decidedly upmarket. Totally Italian. A complete conundrum.

We had time to catch a bite to eat and pay a euro each to use the toilets which were partially in good order and partially clean. I am not quite certain about Italy. Parts I am totally enamoured with and others I find horrific. An amazing drift of emotions which happen in nano seconds and consequently mess with my mind resulting in my distrust of all things Italian.

Railed to Salerno and found our way to the port by asking. One person was Canadian and had just arrived himself so he was not particularly helpful. I thought he had a nerve looking so Italian but I held my counsel. We could see the sea so we guessed correctly that the port would be in that general vicinity. We could see a jetty and a ferry looking boat and so struggled with our luggage along the dock until we came to a bar and kiosk where they sold tickets for the ferry to Positano. John knew that the ferry left at two ten. It was already two twelve. Had we made it? John enquired paid the fare and encouraged me to hurry along and board the boat. Neither of us could believe our luck. We had caught the two ten ferry after arriving at the station at five past two. Small things like this overwhelm us and tiredness vanished as we immersed ourselves in our exquisite surroundings. Our photos would not do justice to the picture that presented itself. The haze enveloped our images and distorted our vistas.

Amalfi and another amazing moment. John had specifically chosen Amalfi as a result of research. We got off the ferry only a few stairs from the bus station. Had we gone on to Positano it would have been a 400m journey, by foot, uphill. In 33 degrees, that is definitely not a wonderful travel experience. Amalfi was the perfect choice. My John is a genius. We had time for a beer and a wonder around before catching the bus to Praiano. In the meantime we were entertained by drivers reverse parking their buses in spaces designed for Smart Cars. These guys were seriously good. Later we got to see how good. Seriously, they negotiated passing cars with millimetres to spare. We were gobsmacked. The view along the Amalfi Coast to Praiano is sensational.

We had asked the bus driver to drop us off at the church at Praiano. John kept on about there being two churches. Anyhow we got out at San Genaro. Wrong church!!! It was 1000 degrees centigrade and it was Sunday. There was a local bus service in Praiano but did it run on Sundays? Where was the bus stop? Where did we need to get tickets? These were the questions that soldiered through our heads in the heat of the day. We approached a woman and attempted to convey our dilemma. Of course I attempted my feeble Italian. “I speak English” was her immediate response. She was from Sydney. Unfortunately she could not help us but that became irrelevant as she narrated her story and entertained me while John searched for answers.

Accidently, and fortuitously, as far as we were concerned, the local bus arrived and we didn’t have to walk to St Luca church. I am eternally grateful that that bus turned up because I was seriously contemplating walking to St Luca. Once I had taken the bus ride I completely understood the man who said to John that it would definitely not be advisable to walk, especially at that time of day. By my reckoning it had to be 33 degrees plus. Once I had taken the bus I completely understood. There were no footpaths. The road was steep. It was about two kilometres. It was at a gradient of about 35 degrees and it was ridiculously hot.

The orange/yellow bus arrived. I think it was a case of language vocab. Actually we had only been there for five or ten minutes. In the sun, it always feels so much longer. We clambered aboard no knowing how much or where we needed to stow our luggage. The bus driver was very accommodating and we were off to the square at St Luka with only a smidgen of an idea of what to expect.

John had called Paola from Amalfi and she was expecting us but we really were not expecting her to be sitting on the bus bench at St Luca waiting for us. We were delighted. She led us to St Luca square and turned down an almost invisible set of stairs. We would never have spotted them had she not been with us. Sixty three steps down and we were welcomed into our home for the next five days. Our view was spectacular and our apartment was delightful. It consisted of three rooms and an L shaped terrace. We had a bedroom, bathroom/toilet and a kitchen/dining/lounge area. Outside our bedroom was a generous terrace 3×6 metres with a lemon tree growing just outside our bedroom door. Added to this was the other end of the L shaped terrace which was very similar in dimensions. It was so quiet and private. We had everything that we would need for our stay over the next five days.

Paula had told us that there was a mini market just a hundred metres from the church but she was not sure if was open on a Sunday. It wasn’t. We asked about Restaurant Mama’s because John had read about it on the internet and she gave us directions. I decided to check it out and it turned out to be a Logis and there was a restaurant and so we decided that that was the best option. From Casa Chicca, our residence, to Piazza St Lucca is sixty-three steps. A hundred metres along and we come to the steps leading to the road and the Hotel Margherita and Ma’ma’s restaurant. There are one hundred and fifty steps to the road. My logic was- eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we diet.

The setting was spectacular. The air was soft and warm and the light was clouded with pastels. We ate and drank both wine and ambience with gusto. An absolutely divine conclusion to such a momentous day.

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