Mainly, what you do in Amalfi is gaze. You gaze down into thirty feet of crystal clear water the color of turquoise. You gaze up at cliffs studded with clusters of bougainvillea. You gaze at a half dozen styles of architecture, sailboats in the harbor, busy little shops.
For fifteen centuries, Amalfi has overlooked the Gulf of Salerno, as era after era came and went, each one leaving its mark. There are towers where watch was once kept for the Saracen pirates. There is the 9th-century monastery high on a cliff overlooking the bay. There are the beach-side hideaways where silent movie stars wintered in the 20s, and cottages that once housed humble fishermen, but have long since been renovated into multimillion-dollar homes.
Jennifer, Claudio, Anna, and I took a cruise along the coastline, then wandered through the market crammed with brilliantly colored ceramics and handmade papers--local industries with long histories. We strolled through the 9th-century Cathedral of St. Andrew, and the 13th-century Cloister of Paradise, with its white marble columns and pointed arches, a reminder of the influence of Arabic culture on this part of Italy.
Above the town lie the gardens of Villa Cimbrone, built by a Brtish traveller with a romance-novel name: Ernest William Becket, Lord Grimthorpe. Becket came to Amalfi hoping the natural beauty would help him recover from grief over his wife's death. Apparentlly, it worked: He loved the area so much, he built a spectacular garden there with a panoramic view of the coastline. It is lovely. Or, as the Villa Cimbrone brochure puts it, "The spectacle which this splendid, incomparable natural balcony opens to the incredulous eyes of the visitor truly comprehends something infinite, but any adjective to try and someow describe the miracle of nature is ineffective. Casting your eyes over this sparkling sea, dazed by the scent of fruit and furze, the passing of time does not matter to us, bewitched by such beauty."
Still dazed by the scent of furze, we headed home, only to get stuck in traffic for 90 sweltering, unmoving minutes. The highway sizzled in 90-degree heat. Our car had no air conditioning. Drivers were getting out of their cars and standing up through their sunroofs, trying to see if there was any end to the line of vehicles. Claudio was muttering under his breath. Jennifer and Anna were splashing their faces with water, trying not to fry. And me? I was sitting back smiling to myself, thinking, Who cares? I'm with my family. We're in Italy.
Causes Jill Jepson Supports
Humane Society of the United States, Defenders of Wildlife, Interational Society for the Protection of Burros and Mustangs, National Wildlife Federation,...