The Amalfi Coast in One Word: Terrifying?

2 Oct
Something older than us...

Something older than us…

Finally – on Day Six, my internet works. Relief or curses? I don’t know, but I DO know that I’m glad my company adopted a two-step verification process for our email, because it means I can’t access it until I’m back on US soil with a working cell phone. Now THAT is what I call vacation!

As for what the Italians call vacation (vacazione?) – I have no idea. I usually prep for any international trip by learning a bunch of phrases that I think I’ll need, but when we were dividing tasks for this trip, my sister volunteered to take on the language and be our translator, so I decided to play the part of “lazy American” and just rely on her or point at things while nodding. (Never mind that I’ve been to Italy twice before and yet somehow didn’t manage to retain any vocabulary.)

So far, the pointing and nodding is working pretty well.

Regardless, I’m sitting on balcony in Minori on the Amalfi Coast, overlooking the start of the pedestrian area lined with markets as I write this. We arrived last night from Rome by way of a stop in Pompeii.

If you’ve never visited the Amalfi Coast, let me tell you share the Truth about Ruth on a topic the guidebooks dismiss with wink and a smile: The local SITA Bus. This bus runs pretty much the full length of the coast of the Amalfi from Salerno to Positano. Along with the Pacific Coast Highway and the Cabot Trail in North America, it’s one of the most scenic drives in the world.

It is also one of the most terrifying.

Granted, I’ve only attempted it once, and that was when we arrived last night and it was dark out, so it might just be our driver that made it insane. But I’m not exaggerating when I say I thought we would die. Were I religious, I would’ve prayed to see my fortieth birthday.

The road itself would cause people with a fear of heights some anxiety, because it winds around the sides of cliffs very high over the sea. In places, there is no guardrail. In other places, the two lanes (one in each direction) collapse into a single lane and traffic must negotiate which direction will yield to the other around blind curves.

All of that, however, simply makes the road potentially scary. What made it actually terrifying was our driver.

I am pretty sure the guy fancies himself the next Mario Andretti and has an axe to grind with the Formula One racing commission for being rejected as a driver. That, or he was in a hurry to finish his shift and clock out.

Either way, the speed with which we tackled the road was unbelievable. We sung around hairpin turns so tightly that that looking down, you couldn’t even see the road – just the sheer drop to the sea. There was zero margin of error – had the brakes failed, a tire blown or even his hands slipped, we would’ve been off the road and soaring into the Mediterranean.

I kept having flashes of Grace Kelly plunging off a cliff, thinking, “Hello!! It DOES happen. I’m not being unreasonable.” 

I love the thrill of rollercoasters, so had I imagined we were hooked to rails, I think I would’ve done better. Instead, my mom and I just kept looking at each other with huge saucer-like eyes. My sister – two rows ahead of us – kept her eyes shut and her head back, resigned to whatever fate the traffic gods dealt.

Around us, the locals looked bored by the experience. Teens sitting near us softly chanted an Italian rap. The old man next to us slumped in the corner, smiling as if day dreaming. Or maybe that’s the look of peace and tranquility of someone who knows he is walking into the light.

In any case, this is how we’ll be getting to Amalfi, Ravello and pretty much every other town we want to explore this week, so I’m hoping we just had a rogue driver on our first run. But in case that’s the norm, we just did a load of laundry so we’d have an extra change of underwear for each ride. Here’s hoping we don’t need it.

 

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7 Responses to “The Amalfi Coast in One Word: Terrifying?”

  1. Lorna's Voice October 2, 2014 at 12:10 pm #

    It’s probably not the full Italian experience without thinking you’re going to die by driving off a scenic cliff. Imagine your obituary! 😉

    • pithypants October 2, 2014 at 12:57 pm #

      Fair point. And as my cousin pointed out – we DID say it was going to be an adventure!

  2. thesinglecell October 3, 2014 at 6:01 pm #

    I hear the Mediterranean is lovely this time of year…
    Shame it was at night. You could have been seeing such beautiful scenery instead of watching your life flash before your eyes.

    • pithypants October 4, 2014 at 11:22 am #

      I can’t decide if it was a blessing or a curse that it was after dark. Not sure if it raised the terror level, or if it prevented me from seeing just how close we were to dying…

  3. dianeskitchentable October 3, 2014 at 6:46 pm #

    Having experienced Italian drivers, I’m going to say yours was the norm so good move on the clean underwear. That said, if you had gone off the cliff it would have been a beautiful ride down. I’m just a little surprised though…no one on the bus with a live chicken?

    • pithypants October 4, 2014 at 11:23 am #

      Actually, the next SITA ride was much better. Still crazy turns, but our driver wasn’t going 55 mph into turns. I shit you not.

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