Red Ribbon for the Blue Ribbon Drive

Friday was our last day in Italy for this trip. We lingered over another excellent breakfast and our last morning cappuccino. 20140310-053557.jpgThen we gathered up our belongings, reunited with Fiesta whom we hadn’t seen since Monday, and bid ciao to the wonderful town of Sorrento and the lovely Hotel Antiche Mura.20140310-054011.jpgThe streets were busy as we headed out of town. The motorcycle parking really tempts one to try out the domino effect. 20140310-054411.jpgThis morning we were headed up the Amalfi Coast. We were about to tackle the ‘Blue Ribbon Drive’!20140310-055454.jpgThis drive follows one of Italy’s most stunning and dramatic roads. Completed in 1853, it winds it’s way along the Amalfi Coast’s entire length, snaking around impossibly tight curves, over deep ravines and through tunnels gouged out of the sheer rock cliffs. It is a magnificent feat of civil engineering but was originally designed for horse-drawn carriages. It has been described as a ‘severe test of driving skill and courage’, ‘hair-raising’ and ‘a white-knuckled drive’. There are numerous switchbacks and plunging drops to the sea, often with only waist-high barriers between you and oblivion! Needless to say, Harvey was looking forward to checking this drive off his bucket list with great anticipation. I on the other hand was hoping it wouldn’t be the last thing off our lists!20140310-062706.jpgOf course, Harvey handled the drive magnificently, without any near misses and all the while commenting on the scenery. This is definitely the time of year to do this drive – traffic was light and there was minimal bus traffic. The thought of meeting a bus around each corner is somewhat terrifying!

The views are spectacular! Stunning scenery, towns hugging the cliffs and spilling down to the sea and the beautiful blue waters of the Mediterranean greet you around each corner! 20140310-062336.jpg20140310-062409.jpgFinishing the drive near Salerno, we hopped on to the Autostrade and headed north. We stopped for a panini lunch at an Autogrill and toured some of the countryside around Naples. Then it was time to head for the aeroporto and Budget rental car. We are proud to say we returned the car with no additional scratches, scrapes or dents – which is quite an accomplishment in Italy! 20140310-063341.jpgIt was now time to start our interesting trip home. We arrived at the Naples Airport around 6 pm – a mere 12 hours before our 6 am flight. The rental car depot closed at 8 and we didn’t want to be driving in the dark. A complicating issue to the night is that there are no hotels within a reasonable distance of the airport and we really didn’t want to be trying to catch an Italian taxi at 3 am. So we decided to be crazy and spend the night in the airport. A dozen other travellers made the same choice. The night actually went quite well – we napped a bit, snacked on the various food items we had brought along and read a lot. This fellow really didn’t help the napping, but I guess you have to replace floor tiles in a non-busy time. 20140310-064101.jpgOur journey from Naples took us to Munich, where we spent 4 hours, and from there to Toronto for another 4 hour layover. Many in-flight movies, on-time & uncrowded airplanes and airline food that was actually pretty good and we arrived in Edmonton at 9:30 pm on Saturday night. By the time we hit our beds, it was over 48 hours since we arose in Sorrento on Friday morning – with ~5-6 hours of various naps. But we were home safely and all was well at home. 20140310-064738.jpgWe had a great trip and once the jet lag has passed a bit, I will post some final reflections.

Cheers,

B&H

Over, under, through….

Monday was travel day for us – leaving Sicily is bittersweet. We very much enjoyed the small sampling of Sicily that we experienced. The sites were interesting and the people were so very friendly. But we are quite looking forward to our next and final stop on this trip, the Amalfi Coast.

To start our day – huzzah! She has emerged! We were able to finally view the summit of the looming Mount Etna! 20140304-165313.jpg We of course had to once again travel by ferry to leave the island of Sicily, but this time it was a smaller, open ferry. 20140304-165518.jpgToday, we travelled ~600km, on the Autostrade, through a wide variety of terrain – seacoast, plains, hills, valleys and mountains. You will recall I promised to count the numbers of bridges and tunnels we encountered. That may have been a mistake on my part, as it became quite tedious. But I persevered and I bring you the information that you have all been waiting for. 20140304-170021.jpg We travelled through 127 tunnels, totalling 69 km, and over 331 stretches of elevated roadway, measuring 60 km. That is over 20% of our trip. The shortest tunnel was 42 m long and the shortest bridge was 10 m. The longest were 2.4 km and 1.8 km. The tunnels are through hills and mountains and even under ancient ruins. 20140304-172935.jpgThe bridges span dips, valleys, gorges, streams and rivers. All in all, it is a feat in road building. However, as you can see in the signs, each tunnel or bridge is named and a sign is erected at each end listing the name and length. Does this seem like a make-work project to anyone else, as it does to me? I think the time and money could be better spent on the myriad of construction projects we encountered where there appeared to be no activity occurring. Just my opinion.

As we neared Sorrento, Sally led us through a maze of small, narrow, very congested (once again with both moving and parked cars, scooters and pedestrians) streets in towns that we have no idea where or what they were. We are unsure if this was the easiest way – or just the dreaded GPS ‘fastest route’.

But we made it safely to our hotel. I must commend my husband’s driving skills. I was stressed just being a passenger, while he remains calm, manoeuvring the car through the narrowest and trickiest predicaments!

Our hotel is fabulous! I am always anxious, having booked on hotels.com and relying on on-line reviews. All of our hotels on the trip have turned out to be great, but we definitely saved the best for the last. It was so nice to be greeted with smiles and information, to hand over the car keys for someone to handle the car, and to have a distinguished gent named Francesco get us settled in our room. 20140304-171955.jpg After a bit of a break in our room, we hunted down a restaurant for dinner. Our bruschetta, salad, seafood fusilli and gnocchi were good, but certainly not up to the standard of our dinner from the night before. Ah well, it was close and they did finish our meal with a shot of limoncello. 20140304-173321.jpgCheers,

B&H

PS – another note on Harv’s driving. When we were in Germany, he recorded speeds of 200 kph on the autobahn. Our 1 litre, 3 cylinder Fiesta isn’t quite up to that action, but he did get it wound up a bit today. 20140304-172453.jpg