As previously mentioned, Fran successfully lobbied to do the Amalfi coast as a day trip instead of part of the transition (with all our baggage) from Castellamare di Stabia to Salerno. I'm so glad he did! It was a busy and wonderful trip, and baggage would really have bogged us down. Kim decided to go to Pompeii for the day, so we were on our own. We set off early again to make sure we would get a good seat on the bus. We took the local train to Sorrento and bought our bus tickets in the downstairs coffee shop in the station. They were also selling the bus tickets next to the bus too, so I'm sure that would have been an option. We didn't realize that, though, and insisted on buying them in the coffee shop. We asked where the bus left from, and he indicated to the right. Darned if we didn't wander all the way around the large parking area before finally locating the bus. Luckily, there were still two seats on the "good" side at the very back of the bus, which were elevated, making the seats even better. Since the bus was heading south from Sorrento to Amalfi, the "good side" was the right side towards the sea as we faced forwards on the bus. Believe it! By the time our bus left, there was a huge line waiting for the next one.
So was it worth it? Again the photos absolutely speak for themselves. The trip was incredible, the views stunning. There's nothing like it anywhere that I've ever been. The bus stops at some of the little towns along the way, but by that point it was so crowded that noone could get on. So I would not recommend trying to get on it after Sorrento, especially if you hope to see anything. People who sat on the other side of the bus could not see through the people in the aisle. We were so happy that we got our good seats! We decided that the best way to get back to Sorrento was to take a ferry, so that we could see the coastline from a different perspective (and not have to scrum for potentially standing room only on the bus). We immediately bought our ferry tickets once we got to Amalfi and had several hours to explore.
The little town of Amalfi was such an added bonus. It is a beautiful little town with a surprising amount of things to do. I was particularly excited about the paper museum, housed in a 700 year old (14th century) building. Apparently Amalfi was one of the first and major paper suppliers in Europe at that time. Not only does the museum have the old tools used to make paper, but they actually run some of the huge machines to show how they work! They also had willing visitors participate in the process of making paper by dipping a screen into a vat of pulp. I love this kind of crafty thing so of course, I eagerly volunteered to learn the trade. The paper mill was a real highlight of our visit so I'd encourage all visitors to see it. The tourist office gave a great map and useful information on how to get to the mill, up the main street of the town. We even passed some lovely buildings and fountains with little minature scenes along the way, and zipped down tiny alleyways too. Please do it!
Like most people, we did the obligatory visit to the cathedral and its museum (note the photo of the tomb where centuries ago, a family defaced it by writing their name on the side in hopes of laying claim to it). However, another very festive way to get a good view is to travel up the hill to the cemetery. From the harbor, one can see a long, narrow nondescript tan structure with a series of circular windows overlooking the town. That's the cemetery. Visitors enter a long, somewhat spooky, underground tunnel near the tourist office, and take the FREE elevator up the hill. It's interesting in itself to wander around the crypts, examining the photos advertising the presence of the deceased occupants, but the best part about the visit is the stunning views over the harbor. We really enjoyed this little adventure.
Exhausted from all of our explorations, Fran wanted to try the highly prized lemoncello. We followed signs advertising a distillery, but were disappointed that they did not allow any photos inside. They also were decidedly unfriendly when we asked for a free sample (as per the sign). Their attitudes certainly did not make us at all interested in buying some of the lemoncello. Instead, we headed for a bar on the water with a friendly waiter (note the trend). Fran tried his first Italian spritz while I had a campari and soda. Gotta love the strong, bitter flavors that these Italians embrace in their spirits! We even got a free tapa (pizza) that matched the color of our drinks. What a great way to end the day and truly set the stage for soaking up the views from the ferry back to Sorrento. Even the long slog up the hill from the Sorrento port to the train station (and on back to Castellamare) did not dampen our spirits. Salute!