Back on the Autostrada south, the green peaks of the Sorrento peninsula, the Lattari Mountains, were next in our sights — dead ahead. We entered a long tunnel and emerged around the bend of the northern side, on Highway 145. We began the peninsular loop — we had been warned this was scary driving, with sharp curves and precipitous drops. Well, no worries in this area.

There were nice views of the coast back to the north, across the Bay of Napoli, to Vesuvio. We skirted the mountain side; layered with the terra-cotta rooftops of homes, resorts and businesses built on and into the cliffs. The largest town on this side of the peninsula was Sorrento, quite a bustling tourist and port area. We wound through narrow streets, marveling at the driving "skills" exhibited by the Sorrentine folk. It would seem, again and again, that two vehicles could not possibly have room to pass while avoiding pedestrians and cycles along the street sides. But, physics weren't in play here ...

As the road turned south we climbed higher — we were crossing the mountains on the way to the south side. There were some low-key, enticing hotels on this route, in beautiful spots on high, with views down of Sorrento and out to Vesuvio. At one point we were looking west down the center of the peninsula and could see water on both sides. [Peninsula panoramic]

It wasn't long before we were on the Amalfi Coast, on the southern side of the peninsula. Here the curves were sharper, and many were blind, cut around and through limestone cliffs. (During our stay on the Coast, we'd get used to the constant song of the bus horns, as they sounded a warning before taking these curves.)

Scenes along Highway 163, Amalfi Coast

I kept asking (read: pleading with) Peter to stop, every thousand feet or so, the scenery was so spectacular. Not always a simple request as the road was on the cliff edge, a few feet from sheer drop-offs. Probably I'd never taken so many shots per capita as along the Amalfi Coast ... the camera was working hard, and often held one-handed out the car window. The approach to Positano lived up to all the hype — the area was breathtaking.



[More views of the Positano area]

About 7 kilometers beyond Positano was our destination: Praiano and the Hotel Onda Verde. It's easy to miss a place along Highway 163; with all the curves in the road, you're at and past a spot before you fully sight it ...then it's not easy to turn around ... so we were on high alert.

Our hotel parking "lot" was right on the highway's edge — a sharp turn and we were able to squeeze into the tiny thatch-covered area. I don't think I'd ever had to take an elevator down from street level, to get to a hotel. We descended through the rock and emerged in a tunnel that led out to the lobby, which sat cliffside, above the Mediterranean.

The rooms were spread among several villas that were staggered along the cliff. There were also private residences scattered about, so it was kind of a neighborhood. Our room was clean, modern and had (as did all the rooms) a spectacular view. The hotel was a family business, and our host was friendly and very accommodating. He mixed a limoncello for Peter, the strong, sweet liqueur made with the famous Coast lemons. It was pretty intense to a normal drinker like Peter, so when I took a sip, woo! — powerful stuff. (My lament on all fruity alcoholic beverages: this would be soooo good without the booze.)

We explored the area, very excited about our home for the next couple days. A cement path along the cliff zigzagged down to water level and a small rocky beach. There was a small cove with a few restaurants, and a colony of gatti! (cats) First we saw a couple munching on fish remains, then another, and another. We soon found there were too many to count. Peter took a quick dip in the Mediterranean, but we didn't linger on the beach — the rocks didn't make for comfortable lounging.

Climbing back up, we walked beyond the hotel to the east; there was one of the many Saracen watchtowers that line the Coast. This one was the home and studio of an artist.

At the Hotel Onda Verde

We had fresh seafood and pasta for dinner (delicious giant shrimp and mussels), and shared some of the meal with the gatti, who strolled in and out of the open air room. I worried about these cats, where did they get fresh water? A few were pregnant ... but they all seemed healthy and, as we'd see the next morning, they got in on the fresh catch also.

We travelled to Capri the next day; our host had kindly arranged for a water taxi to pick us up at the beach, and take us to Positano. We had a great time on this short leg of the voyage, with two other couples. We'd strike up a friendship with Craig & Linda, living in Canada now, but native Australians who had travelled the world. Our taxi "driver" was quite entertaining ... and pointed out places of interest on the way, such as Sting's house. He apparently had a running feud with another boat captain and gestured to him with disgust as we passed. Arriving in Positano, we boarded the Positano Jet, to make the fast, windy, 40-minute trip to Capri. It was a fantastic, fun ride and a great way to see the incredible Amalfi Coast — come on along ...

Next stop: the isle of Capri ...

To Capri

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