The Amalfi Coast and the Law of Attraction

This is why I wanted to go on this tour – the Amalfi Coast.  More than a decade ago a happened on an old book at Glover’s Bookery  in Lexington.   I was told that it was about 100 years old and that books like this had been popular at the time as tourist items among those on their grand tour of Europe.  I fell in love with the black and white pictures sandwiched between browning, crinkled leafs of glassine.  I hoped that I would one day make it there.

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Ann, too, fell in love with pictures from the region, and has a painting of Amalfi hanging in her office.

And then, for a few short – too short -days in early October, we were actually there.  And as amazing as pictures of the area are, they pale in comparison to actually being there.

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First glimpse of the coast from the bus

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A fishing village

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Ann

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A few shots from Sorrento.

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And a few from Amalfi.

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Amalfi Cathdral. The remains of St. Andrew supposedly lie here.

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Amalfi Cathedral

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Citrus is big here.

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Ann in a store specializing in limoncello.

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We had wanted to go to Capri and see the Blue Grotto.  But the weather was bad the day we were supposed to go to Capri, so we went to the Emerald Grotto instead.  Yeah, I know it’s blue, but I guess that name was already taken.  Basically the water glows because of an opening in the cave that is just below the surface allows in some sunlight.

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This is the boat that Ann and I had to use to row into the grotto. Not really – it was there for show. We walked into the grotto and a guy rowed a boat  loaded with tourists around the small cave. The most impressive part was probably that he gave his narrative in three or four languages during the short trip.

Okay, it doesn’t get more beautiful than this – Positano!

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A move star, I think. Sandra Bullock?

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Ann shooting a panorama with her phone.

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My panorama of Positano

Remember at the beginning – the title referencing the law of attraction and Ann’s painting in her office?  Our tour guide, Stephanie Chance, graciously took a picture of Ann and me in the same spot as the painting in Ann’s office. It’s kind of like “Where’s Waldo” – can you spot us waving in this photo?

Hi!

So, think positive thoughts!  You might end up someplace nice.

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Smokin’ Women. Gelato Eatin’ Men. And More Street Shots from Sicily/Italy

Street photography is very popular these days, although I haven’t done much of it because it is just plain hard, though being in places crowded with interesting people helps.  I haven’t seen my Canon EOS M camera recommended for such photography by anyone due to relatively slow auto-focus.  But that is what I used for most of these.  The rest were taken on an aging (but beloved) Ricoh GRD III.  And, as has always been the custom, I’ve added some grain and contrast and converted to black and white for a gritty look.  I really enjoyed taking these and need to do this type of photography more often.

We’ll start with the smokin’ women.  Cigarette smokin’ women I mean.

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Amalfi waitress

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Taormina waitress

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Toe tapper. Taormina.

Now for some gelato eatin’ men.

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Amalfi.

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Taormina

And now, other pictures taken on the streets.

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Cool cat in Taormina.

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Fiat driver, Taormina.

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Checking out the merchandise. Taormina.

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Strolling. Alberobello.

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Waiting for someone to drop something on the floor. Matera.

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Runch. Amalfi.

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A somberer ponderer. Amalfi.

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Fresh produce was everywhere. Amalfi.

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Weddings were everywhere. Amalfi.

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Shoppers were everywhere. Amalfi.

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Hangin’ with the guys and lookin’ good!

Some Time in Jerusalem. Wait, I Mean “Matera”

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At first, Matera was like other places we visited on our tour of Sicily and Italy.  Castle remains on the hill? Check.  Fashionable guide with matching shirt and glasses?  Check.

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Ann and Peggy with our Matera guide.

Colorful newstand?  Check.

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But after a fair amount of climbing uphill, we came to an overlook of the older part of town.

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This substituted for Jerusalem in the movie “The Passion of the Christ.”  And filming of a remake of “Ben Hur” recently wrapped up here.  I’m pretty sure my jaw dropped when I saw this before me.

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This area has been inhabited continuously for 11,00 years, starting in caves like the ones below.

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Early buildings were built to incorporate the caves inside of them.  There is a “new” church, Matera Cathedral, built in the 13th century in the lower left of the picture below.  The older church, built into the rock, is just above and just left of the middle of the picture.

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Matera Cathedral

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The church in the rock.

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Inside Matera Cathedral

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Stained glass windows in Matera Cathedral

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Layers

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An oasis of color

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Ann and Peggy

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Larry and Vicki

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Larry and Larry

We go to tour one of the old homes and get a glimpse of the way life used to be.

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People do actually still live in this neighborhood.

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Our guide in front of his bed and breakfast

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Modern art beside a Matera mansion

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The Trulli of Alberobello

The trulli , limestone dwellings found in the southern region of Puglia, are remarkable examples of drywall (mortarless) construction, a prehistoric building technique still in use in this region. The trulli are made of roughly worked limestone boulders collected from neighbouring fields. Characteristically, they feature pyramidal, domed or conical roofs built up of corbelled limestone slabs.

from UNESCO’s website

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As far as I could tell, everyone in Alberobello earns their living by selling things to tourists.  Which is okay.  One of things that struck me in our travels in Sicily and Italy was the general quality of the items sold to tourists, which usually tended to be practical, even when decorative.   Items for sale were based on the local history and culture.  So, not one Smurf item even though the buildings resembled their cartoon homes.

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More Taormina, Please

It was a dark and rainy morning…

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Our group assembled for a tour of the Greek theater ruins.

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Our guide for the ruins, Maria.

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A church door.

Oh, you wanted to see some color. Okay.

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The Greek ruins (with an overlay of Roman bricks)

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The tour guide, Maria, again.

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Ann borrows a Vespa.

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The view from our balcony included the mid-town medieval clock tower.

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Fiat.

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Lunch.

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There were cats…

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…and dogs.

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Talk about a couple of d**kheads!

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Gracie sold paintings by a “very talented artist.” After Ann bought one she confided that the artist was her husband.

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This text is so much more interesting than your serenade.

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Mimmo and Giusy and the Really Big Feast

One of the highlights of our trip to Sicily and Southern Italy, and one of the events that drew Ann to Stephanie Chance’s tour in the first place, was an evening eating at the home of Mimmo and Giusy.  From the warm welcome of church bells ringing (at the church on their property!), to the tour of  the vineyard and winery, to the multi-course meal they prepared for us, it was a night never to be forgotten.

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The old well (and I think that is the lower slope of Mt. Etna in the fog in the distance).

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The vineyard.

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Ann loves grapes!

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Ready to become wine.

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Aging to perfection.

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Bottle labels and glasses.

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Bruschetta with our wine samples.

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Excellent beginnings.

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Mimmo pops the champagne cork.

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There was lots of food but only one ham.

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Sweet endings

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Giusy and her son, Federico, who is studying English and whose assistance in translation was much appreciated.

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Giusy’s mom.

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Dinner included pistachio lasagna, one of the best foods I’ve ever eaten in my life!  Rich and creamy and cheesy and amazing!  Alas, my picture of it did not come close to doing it justice so I left it out. There was also a man playing an accordion throughout the evening as we ate and laughed and sang.  He was very good but my picture of him turned out unfortunately blurry.  The night was just too magical to capture it adequately in photos.

Mimmo and Giusy were gracious, generous, wonderful hosts and we will never forget them or the night they had our group over to their farm house for dinner.

Let the Eye Candy Begin

Taormina is another small town perched on the side of a mountain in Sicily.  But it is a lot more fashionable and touristy that the quieter, more spiritual Erice.  It is home to a film festival and has long been a resort for the rich and famous.  It served as “home base” on our tour for several days so these pictures will be spread out over several posts.

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The view from our balcony

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The other view from our balcony

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A rainy morning on the roof

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The shopping district

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The church next to the hotel (not to be confused with the many other churches in town)

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Rosalie in the door of a different church

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Taormina panorama (with the town of Naxos in the distance)

Agrigento and the Valley of the Temples

Just outside the modern city of Agrigento lies the Valley of the Temples, although the temples are not in a valley but on a ridge.  These Greek temples were built between 510 and 430 B.C.

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The tour started beside this old olive tree. I can’t remember if the guide said it was 600 or 800 years old. Either way, old enough to merit its own spotlight.

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The Temple of Herakles (Hercules)

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Stephanie

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The Temple of Concordia (in black and white to de-emphasize the orange plastic fencing on the left).

Of course, as with many things Greek, the Romans eventually took over.  Below is recently unearthed statute from their time in charge, which began around 210 B.C.

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Use of the area didn’t end with the Romans.  Early Christians lived in the area as well and used ancient cisterns as tombs in a necropolis that now offers views of the land beyond the ruins.

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And the ruins are still in use, for tourist and education, and for the ancient looking, but actually modern piece of art.

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Post Ruin Meal

It sure is easy to work up an appetite and a thirst looking at old ruins.