More words than pictures today; we were mostly in transit. We checked out of our hotel just after nine, took a cab to the central station. Seat belts are optional in Naples (they constrain the body, which must be free to wildly disrespect all other drivers), scooters and motorbikes rule, nudging bumpers is the order of the day, cars wedge three lanes into two, scooters make it four, honking is obligatory, gesticulating while swerving between lanes de rigeur, and pedestrians are to be avoided, but not at all cost. We arrived at the car rental a few minutes early and, wait for it, the clerk sent us away for a coffee. We returned in 15 minutes to find the staff overwhelmed. They had stanchions in the corridor (it seemed running late and ragged was the norm). After some to do, we got our car.
Here’s the thing: I wanted an automatic. There are four levels of rentals in standard before you even hit automatic. So the base level automatic was very nice, an Audi Q2. I don’t believe they sell the Q2 in Canada, they don’t sell the tiny A1, but the Q2 is basically a small SUV in North America yet a tank in southern Italy; we felt grand and self important. Sweet drive for us, missing some of the bells and whistles of the Audi back home, but it came with GPS.
Getting out of Naples. Hmmm. Chaotic, terrifying, manic, confusing, and a few other words which would take the blog past PG13. Yes we missed a few turns and had to puzzle our way back; thank you Will Shortz for years of puzzling preparation. Yes we had to butt our way past obstreperous scooters and mindless bikers as if superior and entitled, but lets face it, we were in an Audi, not a Fiat Panda, and there is a pecking order to the roundabout nudge.
The GPS has an English accent not unlike Lady Penelope of the Thunderbirds. Oh sweet dear Penelope. She failed us once, but we held no grudge; she is a calculating, and re-calculating bitch, and although she is sometimes halting in her Italian pronunciation, reminiscent of Elizabeth May stepping down, she is also brutally honest. When she tells us hard right, trust me, it’s going to be a right that will be very, very hard. Brexit hard.
Our adventure off the autostrada and onto the coast road was at times harrowing but always unpredictable, and more than once we thought of Hitchcock as we careened around another hairpin, James Dean dying in his Porsche as yet another dented Renault floated from lane to lane, and even Dorothy Malone in Written on the Wind when a driver showed no restraint in speed, oncoming traffic or depth perception. We seldom knew what the cautionary signs meant, the alerts that dotted the landscape like a pox, but suffice to say we assumed they were all Catholic and assigned some adoration (a guard rail, bless us), contrition (I knew not that a double solid line meant no passing), petition (please let there be a shoulder) and thanksgiving (pavement, on the road, and the width of the road to boot, hallelujah).
Despite the anxiety, our destination has all the qualities of the Amalfi coast with none of the glitz, glam, history or cost. Pisciotta (don’t try saying it, your Anglicized version will cause the locals to blush as it comes awfully close to another PG13 word), sits cliff edge near a national park, surrounded by olive groves, quiet, serene, blissful, remote (relatively speaking; there are no moose or grizzlies).
I’m very easy to please when it comes to accommodation: A spacious room, a spectacular deck with obscenely beautiful views, a good restaurant on site to save the drive, and a tariff under 100 Euros a night; quadruple check.
After check in we took a lazy, basic lunch on site at Per Bacco of fresh anchovies in pasta, then drove down to the marina and spent a good long time floating aimlessly in the sea where it was both free (most southern Italian beaches come at a cost, the umbrella, the chairs, etc.) to swim and to park. One car and two scooters went down the lido during our visit; it made Naples seem like a Dario Argento nightmare. There are heated pools in Vancouver colder than the sea here.
A hairpin turn “decorated” by a local. A home where the pots and plants have supplanted three dozen cats. A spectacular villa in disrepair, the area in a nutshell.
In the late afternoon we lolled in the evening sun sipping Campari, then took the sixty-seven steps to south to dinner. For a starter, one of our southern Italian favorites: fresh anchovies marinated in lemon juice and oil. It’s a hard life.