Napoli: Under the Volcano

In Naples, it took me a long time to learn how the lock on the main door of our apartment block worked. The key turned, but I would use all my strength and the lock still wouldn’t give. The trick was to grab a firm hold of the bars on the caged door, thrust the entire door forcefully up as the key turned, and hey presto. When I was still struggling, there was sometimes a North African concierge hanging around, or the permanent residents were quite happy to assist; you got there in the end. It sums Naples up, for I thought this was a great city. It’s a rickety mess where everything appears on the point of collapse, yet somehow it all manages to work. It is as if Naples remembered about health & safety halfway through, and thought “Nah, I’ll just wing it”, which fits my temperament perfectly.

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Amalfi: Round the Hairpin

The most interesting thing about visiting the Amalfi coast is the drive. The bus drivers are -by necessity- kamikaze pilots, achieving great speeds on a road which has an entirely blind corner every 20 seconds or so. They simply hoot their horn to advertise their presence. From Salerno, the zig-zags are at least relatively flat; but to Sorrento you can add to this merry hell a continual climbing and descending of steep hills, and woe betide the fool who boards the bus on a full stomach (this fool had a rum-soused cream cake with his breakfast cappuccino, and barely lived to tell the tale). It’s very narrow too, and many a car was compelled to reverse back by our bus. The only time we had to reverse was for a lorry. At one point, it took us half an hour to travel half a mile because men in a pickup truck were pruning the branches on the vertical cliffs, and this section of the coast road was made one-way for the afternoon. The road is very popular with cyclists. People around here must be mad.

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