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Sunday, 31 August 2014

The Spiaggia di Remese (or Remmese) - Positano

Several weeks ago, whilst walking along the main road towards Positano, we were looking down towards the sea and saw far below a deserted beach with a few sun umbrellas and a small building. It looked very enticing.
We asked if it was accessible on foot and were told that you could only go by boat unless you were staying at the Hotel Le Agavi whose  beach establishment was what we could see from above.
Ironically, and certainly fortuitously, a couple of weeks later Giovanni Visetti posted on his Facebook page "Camminate" a couple of articles regarding this very beach, including a detailed itinerary with photos.You can find these at the following link:
So this morning we thought we would give it a try and we are so glad we did! Being a bit of a wimp, I was a little anxious about the point where you need to go up a metre or two with the aid of some ropes, (memories of Anginola on Capri, but that is another story). It really was quite simple and the ropes help more for balance than anything else. That is the only tricky bit, if you can call it that.
Once down at beach level you have to walk right through the beach bar and sun terraces of the hotel. However this was no problem at all and we made our way past the few deck chairs on the beach itself picking our spot on some very comfortable shingle. This made a pleasant change to the highly uncomfortable bottom-numbing pebbles you find elsewhere.
The water was crystal clear. There was no one else at all. It was bliss.
Now a confession... on the way back we took a water-taxi. This was not really cheating since we still had to walk all the way up from the main beach in Positano to the main road beyond the belvedere of the Madonnina. 
More photos at this link: 
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Thursday, 28 August 2014

The Ape 50

Sorry to say, here is another of my pet hates: the Ape (pronounced "ahpay"), viz the little three-wheeler trucks that infest the roads around here.
“Ape” literally means bee, probably because they make a buzzing sound as they go along. Or at least, some of them do. Most of them seem to have some kind of problem with their exhaust, so actually make an awful racket.
The drivers of these vehicles have various traits in common.
They tend to drive very slowly where  it is impossible to overtake them and then suddenly acquire an abnormal velocity on the straighter stretches.
They tend to look everywhere but at the road ahead. This means that they often zig-zag and as you are overtaking (if you are lucky enough to be able to do so), you will find them veering towards you.
They  tend to take their wives/friends/children/grandchildren/dog(s) along for the ride, squeezing them into the already tiny cabin. Now for any of you that are not conversant with an Ape’s interior, the steering wheel is not actually a wheel, but more like the handlebar of a bike. It is also not to the right or to the left, but central.  So obviously when the driver is not sitting in the middle, but squashed to one side, the chance of it being driven in a straight line is even less.
I am always very wary when I have an Ape in front of me. You never know if they are going to turn, stop dead or even topple over. The use of indicators is a rarity, (but that is normal here), and on the bends they tend to decelerate all of a sudden, risking a pile up from behind.
“Ape”s are always on the road when I am going to work, coming home from work, or in a hurry. They smell, they smoke, they are toxic.
I so wish they would only be allowed out at night!

Monday, 25 August 2014

WHEN NOT WALKING..

Although I generally much prefer walking, living quite a long way from anywhere, including the office, I do need transport.
My very first vehicle was a moped, a Ciao, a very used, rusty (literally) pink model, that you had to pedal fast to get started. I used this, would you believe it, in Naples, “whizzing” down from the hillside Vomero district to the centre of the city. I was much younger then and not particularly intimidated by the Italian driving, quite capable of holding my own at the junctions and weaving in and out of the rush-hour traffic. It is surprisingly how quickly you learn. It was the pre-crash-helmet era too and no, I didn’t wear one either.
From then I progressed to a Guzzi with gears. It was low and blue and much trickier 
to manoeuvre than the faithful Ciao. I never really liked it. By then I had moved from Naples to the village of Nerano, so gone were the narrow, cobbled streets and in their place I now had bends, lots of them.
Along came a child and a shop and  I eventully acquired a car of my own: a Fiat 500 with a difference. It was a kind of orange colour, with an open-top roof and it was a hatchback. The model was officially a “giardiniera” which translated means “carryall” and in fact it did carry all: children, dog, cartons of cigarettes and boxes of merchandise for the shop. It was already old when I got it, but it didn’t matter. It had character, it was the perfect size for these roads, it could be parked in the smallest of spaces and it rarely let me down.
My present car is a Fiat 600. I snatched it up for a bargain 500 euros several years ago when my Fiat of the time (a Fiat Uno) was severely rammed on a bend in wet weather and never recovered. It has stood me well, even though the back bumper fell off one morning driving in to work, trailing behind me like a very noisy dog on a leash down the main road into Sorrento. The mechanic screwed it back on, with bit of wire added, just to make sure. And of course I always have a bottle of water in the car to clean the windscreen, since the automatic sprinkler has never produced more than a sorry whining sound.
However this one too is beginning to show signs of old-age. So the hunt is on. This time I quite fancy a Fiat Panda...but not a new one of course!

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

NO TWO HIKES ARE EVER THE SAME

Whilst it is always stimulating to follow new routes and discover new paths, I can safely say that no two hikes are ever the same. I very often walk the same trails time and time again. However I never tire of them since there are so many different elements that contribute to making each hike unique: the season, the weather, the time of day, the company (or lack of it). The list could go on ad infinitum.
I personally love springtime when the flowers are in full bloom, the wild orchids appear and everything is fresh and green. However this does not detract from the enjoyment of the winter, where one day you will have startling bright, clear skies and a chill wind and another, a swirling, unworldly mist. Nor does it make the autumn with its russets and yellows, or the summer with parched fields and an azure sea any less enjoyable. 
You never know what you may find along the way. I once came upon a snake, so intent on trying to swallow the lizard in its mouth that it didn’t even bother to slither away. 
Just last weekend at the top of a steep hill I found a winter glove placed by someone onto a solitary cane, looking out to sea!  
There is always something going on, something worth looking at, and very often also something worth eating. 
 










Monday, 18 August 2014

‘E Pummarole’ (or tomatoes to us)

It is tomato season. It has been for a while, but now they are beginning to come out of our ears. At the beginning of the summer we so look forward to them ripening, monitoring their transformation from delicate yellow flower, to tiny green globe to half red, half green and finally to full juicy, red ripeness.
How we delight in tucking in to a delicious Caprese salad with fresh cheese and basil, but weeks down the line, we start flagging, and absurdly wishing they would go away.
For the locals it is now tomato bottling time. 

Families who haven’t enough of their own will order crates of them from the local suppliers. This is a ritual, serious business, and at daybreak you can hear the clinking of glass as the neighbours get down to washing, squashing (although there is a fancy machine that does that now), bottling and boiling. It is an early morning job before it gets too hot, as large cauldrons of water over powerful gas burners or wood stoked fires are brought to the boil in order to sterilise the jars and bottles and then boil them again once filled.
It can take several early mornings to complete the task. It is a combined effort, a well-oiled family production line, each with their own task. The shelves in the storerooms and pantries quickly fill up with rows and rows of jars ,all ready for the winter sauces. And another job is done.


Friday, 15 August 2014

FERRAGOSTO WITH A DIFFERENCE




Ferragosto – 15th August - Italian Bank Holiday and day of madness, the sun-seekers hurtling down to the beaches in their cars, like lemmings jumping off cliffs.
However not all of us are on holiday (in fact an awful lot of people work here on Ferragosto), so I thought I would combine the useful and the enjoyable, (l’utile e il dilettevole), as they say here, by walking part of the way to the office rather than battling the traffic.
I left the car in Massa Lubrense and set off along the narrow road from behind the Post Office direction Sorrento. It took me an hour, and in all that time I met just 2 cars and a couple of mopeds. No one on foot. There was quite a bit more steep uphill than I remembered, but it didn’t matter since I was mainly in the shade, walking between the high tuff stone walls. It was very peaceful, not too hot, and although for the most part of this route the views are not spectacular, it was most enjoyable.
Not too many flowers around now, since the recent heat has quickly dried everything out, but the bougainvillea resist, lending a splash of colour here and there. Lemon groves alternated with olive groves and as the lane dropped steeply down, the view opened up before me: Vesuvius, Marina Grande, Sorrento perched on its cliff stretching into the distance, the ridge of Faito providing the backdrop with Monte Comune and Monte Vico Alvano with its iron cross to the right.
Hours later, I returned to Massa Lubrense following the same route, a cool breeze accompanying me all the way. I got back to my car refreshed, almost as if I too had been on holiday today.  
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Thursday, 14 August 2014

A SAD DAY FOR THE VILLAGE




Yesterday morning, seven o’clock, and the village church bell started tolling. It was not the cheerful festive ringing of Sundays and feast days, but a slow rhythmic peel announcing death. It filled the air and echoed from the rocky crags of Monte San Costanzo. A more melancholy sound is difficult to imagine.
We all knew who had passed away. It was not a surprise and there was no guessing. The end of a long illness and another of the village icons was on his way.
The dead are buried quickly here, 48 hours maximum. Black and white posters with the funeral arrangements soon appear on the village notice boards, on strategic walls and even on lamp posts along the roads, the name in bold standing out. There is not enough time for a newspaper insert and relatives living further afield will often be unable to get home in time. 
Meantime the body, clad in its Sunday best, lies in bed surrounded by friends and relatives paying their respects. The women sit at the bedside, their rosary beads clicking, murmuring a litany of prayers. The men stand by the door, or just outside, reminiscing in hushed tones of times gone by.
The coffin is delivered, the body placed inside and the lid closed. From outside you can hear the hammering, and the sobbing of the ones left behind. The priest arrives and a procession forms heading for the church. The bells start tolling.
The shops’ shutters are lowered. The village falls silent.
Again the bells. Mass is over. The police stop the traffic, as the pall-bearers carefully negotiate the steps up into the village square and onto the main road before heading out of the village. A long, long procession of people follows behind. Some carry wreaths of flowers, others just walk, heads bowed, ready to say their final “arrivederci” before the coffin is placed in the hearse for the last stage of its journey up to the cemetery at Santa Maria della Neve.
The shops’ shutters rattle back up, the traffic begins to move, mopeds weave in and out, the SITA bus gets stuck, horns start blowing and life quickly reverts to normal.

Sunday, 10 August 2014

THE NIGHT OF SAN LORENZO

Tonight is the night of shooting stars and midnight swims. It is a clear, balmy night with a full moon, cloudless and wind free. There are stars, lots of them, but none moving, or at least not whilst I am looking. Nothing new there.
How many times have we walked to our favourite look out point high above the Bay of Jeranto beyond the pine woods of Monte San Costanzo. We would sit on the hill side, eating olives and sipping wine, staring upwards, cricking our necks, in the hope of seeing at least one star shooting across the sky.
Sometimes we were lucky, and a wish was expressed, often we were not. Some of us (not me) were more lucky than others, or just more concentrated, and a shout would go up and we would all stare a little harder.
And then we would make our way back through the pines, trying not to trip over the roots in the dark (torch use was discouraged), before walking back down the hill into the village of Termini where a bowl of pasta would be waiting for us at the local trattoria.
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