Shortly before he died, Gore Vidal left Ravello, a small town 365 meters above the Tyrrhenian Sea by Italy’s Amalfi Coast, where he lived for years and years. He called it his “” for observing the US. With cliffside gardens and majestic blue waters, we stayed just down the road, just two k from Amalfi. We’ve been staying nearby for three days.
Swimming all day, jumping between the pool and dips in the Tyrrhenian Sea, the small waterfall, making our way back to sleep on beach chairs and then back to the pool and the sea, reading, thinking and floating, eating with the light of the moon, witching between Elena Ferrante and William Styron novels, cheering on the activists in the US, from our perch on the Amalfi.
Rather than drive, we got a ride to the small resort of Amalfi, once capital of its own maritime republic.
Michaelangelo, our amicable guide, walked us through the town telling stories of disasters and Tsunami which ripped through the place. In 1343, an earthquake sent water roaring, along a Southwest gale over the coast from Naples to Amalfi, destroying ships and ports along the coast. I will never forget the January 1987 wave which ripped across the coast, tearing everything in its sight, noted Michaelangelo.
I wanted you to see the other Amalfi, the other face behind the tourist facade, the Cathedral and the Paradise Cloisters.
Some of the guide books recall Hercules and a Nymph he was chasing that formed the name for the city. But its nothing. The town was founded by the Romans, subject to pirates, 6th century barbarian invasions. Its people moved up into the hills, with steps, separating them from the invading pirates, with many steps, At Malfi, is Amalfi.
Michaelangelo walked us up and around the town, showing us tiles, on our way through the Arabic Quarter, the Amalfi Casbah, an alley where women led pirates to chase them to the end, escaping as the pirates were doused with boiling water.
Still the trade port expanded with trade with the Orient, Maghreb, and the Mediterranean.
Toward the Cathedral, he told us about a small river where the town left sewage, which was finally covered up and turned into the square in front of the ancient cemetery, first built between 1266 and 88. This became the sight for the Cathedral. The Arabic and Byzantine influence can be felt looking at the Paradise Cloister and inside.
Finishing dinner, we made our way back to the sea, the sun setting into the distance. A crazy bus ride careening toward home.
A quiet day ahead before we made our way across the island for the final stretch of the trip.