Thursday, March 22, 2007

The Snows of Vesuvius




Raining again, so time for writing and a visit to the MADRE: Museo d'Arte Contemporanea DonnaREgina Napoli. Some modern art would be a tonic after weeks of Etrusco-Greco-Roman-PalaeoChristian-Gothic-Renaissance imagry. Can't say I was impressed. Don't be fooled by the leaflet showing the minor pieces of Warhol, Mapplethorpe, Koons and Gilbert & George. The sparse collection, spread over many floors, rooms and many many stairs slipped from memory almost as quickly as moving to the next room. In fact I re-entered some rooms by accident and didn't realise I had visited them already until I passed into subsequent slightly more memorable rooms. I think staff out-numbered objects on display, padding a few steps behind me as if I was in a prison, or would stand in a fashion to obscure the tiny waist-level descriptions of items. One floor I wandered out into what seemed a large installation, and was pondering the contents and then realised that I was looking at items stacked in a service entrance to the museum. The only visitors at the same time were a class of students, chattering loudly in one room, sizing each other up rather than the (yawn) on display. Can't say I blamed them.







Clouds parting on a lower peak of Vesuvius






The sun started to re-emerge so I thought we should make a break for the coast. Braving the traffic again, I got out onto the autostrada, and seeing the clouds were really dissipating decided to first head up the slopes of Vesuvius and let Bondi enjoy the previous days' snowfall. I don't know how close to the summit we got, but we got as far as possible without tyre-chains, congregating in a pullout with a few other vehicles. Lucky Bondi got his fourth visit to the snow this year, after London's February fall, and our stops in France and Switzerland earlier this month. This is the first volcano we've been up since Mt Rainier in Washington state.
Back down again and south, past Ercolana and Pompeii for the turn-off to Ravello. Coming off the A3 at Angri, we had to get through some rundown commercial areas, and then we got started driving up into mountainous territory again. Quite unusually it was snowing up here, right next to the coast ( a rare event according to Antonio ) and the views back towards Vesuvius and north to Naples were incredible. Over the top ridge, the late afternoon sun was adding some golden light to contrast the snow dusting the peaks. I caught my first views of the sea, with peeks at coastal villages Minori, Amalfi etc.

Ravello was several inches deep in snow. The sun had gone again, but it seemed nothing could spoil this afternoon. We walked around there for an hour or so, surprised that no one else had thought to bring an appropriate dog for this weather.

A steep descent to Amalfi where we had the last of the day's light. Although busy, "low season" mentality prevailed and many places were closed so I thought we'd try our luck for dinner further along at Positano or Sorrento.

Positano is 20km and 20000000 hairpin bends away along the coast, with the road often not wide enough to accommodate more than one vehicle. That of course doesn't deter some drivers from trying to overtake you (flashing lights, horns etc) when you have a bus in front of you, nowhere to pull in and visibility is highly restricted due to absence of street lights and every turn is blind. Many are unable to modify their driving or parking for the peninsula's narrow switchbacks.

Central Positano has one street, one way going down forever and ever and ever and then finally rising back to the road from Amalfi, so that you repeat 400000 hairpin bends to continue on towards Sorrento. By the time I reached the turnoff to Sorrento, I was so tired from the driving and the other "drivers" that I just continued on to the B&B in Naples, where Antonio & Massimo kindly fed me in exchange for some brief software tuition.




Looking down from Ravello




Amalfi

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