Though it’s possible to walk from one side of Amalfi to the other in less than twenty minutes, it’s the pretty little plazas and the tiny beach that continues to attract visitors, from around the world, who rave about the views. Amalfi once boasted a population of over 70,000 when it was a major power on the high seas, but the locals today number barely 5,000. That doesn’t mean the streets are quiet, during the summer months coach-loads of tourists arrive to fill the cafés, restaurants and souvenir shops.
In AD 1343 a horrific earthquake caused the historic buildings and much of the townsfolk to literally slide into the ocean. Most visitors are day-trippers who want to check Amalfi off their personal ‘bucket list’, and those who want to swim often choose to hire a private boat to take them to nearby Grotto dello Smeraldo, where the emerald green water in a cave coaxes visitors into the water.
KAPOORS ON THE ROAD
The 17km between Positano and Amalfi seemed to fly by in no time at all. We made several quick stops along the way, but we wanted to get to Amalfi and find a place to park so that we could arrive at the cathedral in plenty of time to see the procession.
Simona, the chef at our hotel who cooks the most exquisite cakes every day, told us that we were heading to Amalfi on a very lucky day. Her husband had called that morning to tell her that it was an anniversary of some sort, and that the statue of the saint was going to be carried from the cathedral, up the mountain, starting at noon.
We pulled into a parking area beside the marina and managed to get the last available parking spot. We couldn’t believe our eyes when we noticed it at the very front of the lot. I imagine that the locals would balk at paying 3€ for only one hour, but that’s really all the time we had and it was just a short walk to the cathedral. We had arrived at 11:30am and it would be all over by 12:30pm, perfect timing. Kapoor luck strikes again.
We walked to the base of the cathedral’s steps and could see that people were beginning to gather and that there were uniformed men lining up on the steps. We spotted a lovely café just opposite and ordered a couple of lattés. The café was a couple of steps up off the piazza so we had a great view of the coming events.
There was a real feeling of excitement in the air, and I noticed several vendors passing through the crowd with huge bunches of helium balloons for sale for the children. Just as things started to get underway at the top of the cathedral stairs a family came and stood directly in front of us with two huge balloons. Now and then a breeze would blow them out of the way, but when it was still, they completely blocked my view.
The crowd at the door of the café was squeezed in pretty tightly now and it was impossible for me to move in order to take some photos. At the last minute, I decided to recruit the help of a young woman next to me. She called out to the family and they begrudgingly lowered the balloons for a couple of minutes for me to take a photo, but nothing much was happening at that point.
Just as the priest descended the stairs and the statue, carried by a large group of men, began to make its way down the steps, the balloons shot up into the air again. To my surprise, several of the women around me started berating the family with the balloons and they finally handed them off to a young girl who took them right out of the crowd. I was thrilled, and so was everyone around me.
The procession came down the steps and made a sharp turn at the bottom and then all I could see was the statue moving slowly above the heads of the people in the crowd. It was pretty much over for us, but someone let off a small round of fireworks. We couldn’t see them explode in the afternoon sunlight, but they were loud and festive.
It had certainly been a delight to see the procession but we headed quickly back to our car before the crowds had an opportunity to clog the marina and we headed out of Amalfi and on to Ravello. We had been told not to miss Ravello, a small town perched 7km directly above Amalfi. The road was described as ‘straight up’ and I was looking forward to the challenge.