After we explored the sites of Rome, we hopped in the car and drove 3 hours down to the Amalfi Coast. For those of you that have been, you'll know that the rest of this post will be a feeble account of the wonder, beauty and magnificence of this area.
As we pulled off the motorway onto the slope towards the coastal road, the skies opened and we were greeted by a pretty viscous thunderstorm. A little bit of rain isn't usually something that phases us Northern Irish natives. Rain is our default. There's no such thing as bad weather here in NI - just bad choices of clothing. But it wasn't the rain that had us slightly apprehensive. To say the coastal road is a narrow and nerve-wracking would be a huge ginormous understatement. On one side of the 8 foot wide road you have the mountain, on the other you have the cliff edge (and sometimes a barrier to prevent you from driving off). Estelle was driving (THANK GOD) and knows the road pretty well, so she just put the wipers on full tilt and used her horn on every corner. There should be awards for navigating that road in treacherous weather. Meeting a tour bus on a tight spot is a particularly special bum-clencher of a moment.
We had booked an apartment through Airbnb with a lovely couple, Senem & Gianpetro who live in a small village called Erchie. They were't around to greet us so they sent Gianps dad to meet us at the car park so he could show us to our apartment. Bless him, he stood in the torrential rain waiting for us to arrive and helped us down the 3 sets of steps with our bags to the flat.
We got settled in and took in our rainy surroundings through the kitchen doors to the tiny terrace.
Erchie is a really small stop off point on the coast, with only 83 residents. Senem told us that 80% of the village is over 80 years old, but we were really loving being out of the touristy bits and excited to see what life as a local would be like.
The apartment was above one of two pizzerias in the village and just beside one of the two local shops. The mountain river runs down the middle of the village past our apartment and onto the beach that meets the Mediterranean, only 50 meters from the front door of the flat. LOCATION LOCATION LOCATION!
The cool thing about Airbnb apartments is the real sense of living like a local and getting to know the landlords you're renting from. Although we hadn't met them yet, we could tell that Senem and Gianp were kindred spirits from all the stuff around their flat. Treasures from their travels, activist posters, musical instruments, fresh produce, homemade products, preserves and food - they even left us some homemade bread in the oven.
Guess who enjoyed the various international instruments lying around the apartment.
They have a cheese lady in the village. Why don't we have a cheese lady?
Celebrating nobody peeing themselves in the night even though there was a roaring waterfall outside our window! (Also, see the steps on the top right? More than one beach ball met it's fate being thrown from there into that little river)
During the day, the village remained really quiet. We met a handful of locals, one being Lello (below), the local artist/beach accessories seller who everyday, would set up his easel and peacefully paint. Levi made quite a few visits to the 'painter-man' and through broken english they became pals.
The local shop (very tiny but very stocked) was a treat and we got all we needed to have a tasty lunch and some snacks. Amalfi is famous for it's lemons. They are EVERYWHERE. Masses of trees growing on the side of the mountains above and below the coastal road. It really is a sight (and a smell) to behold.
Lemons the size of his head.
This is just a teeny spot of tile work that covered lots of the terraces in the village. The colours! The patterns! I hearted it BIG TIME.
We did drive along to some of the neighbouring villages and towns for the days that we were there, hitting up Vietre, Maiori and Amalfi town itself. I loved watching Dave's face as we drove to each spot. Every corner we turned revealed the most breath-taking views of the mountain villages, rustic castles and glassy blue sea.
There were rarely any moments of boredom from this guy when we went out. If we sensed any of it coming on, we were never more than 50 meters from a beach and he loved nothing more than tinkering around, getting messy and chasing the tide.
And spaghetti (yes, he did anihilate that entire plate).
Back in Erchie in the evenings we made the most of having the 150 meter beach all to ourselves, hunting for washed up tiles. The apartment had limited wifi and no TV which was kind of great. We ordered chips and beer from the pizzeria downstairs and sat at the kitchen table scoffing and chatting to finish up the day.
At the foot of river that runs from the mountain into the village there are fig trees and the fallen figs trickle down to the shore of the sea and wash up on the beach. Pretty surreal.
We wore shorts, the locals wore coats and trousers. They hardly knew we were visitors at all! I actually didn't pack anything that would cover my legs. Only dresses, skirts and shorts -how clever! It wasn't freezing but it wasn't scorching either. I ended up having to buy some emergency leggings.
The night before we left we finally got to meet Senem and Gianpetro as they called in to check on us. They ended up staying for a few hours, making us turkish tea, espressos and letting us sample their homemade lemon tirimisu! SCORE. Although we didn't have loads of time with them, it was really inspiring to hear how they live as permaculturers(ists?), working on the local farms, growing and foraging in the area (apparently we just missed the season of wild asparagus growing on the sides of the road!). They are true hippies with such a beautiful way about them. They were so sweet to Levi and he was just as enamoured.
Anywhere on the Amalfi coast is bound to be a winner, but I really fell for the sweet, quiet community that we experienced here (although we were assured it really comes alive much more in the high season). It was nice to stay off the beaten track and hear about the history of the village from the locals. I would go back to stay in Erchie in a heartbeat.
And with that, I conclude part II of III of our trip to Italy. The final instalment will feature the glorious second-hand shops and goodies we brought back.
Ciao for now.