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Castles and Ceramics

Castles and Ceramics

Sunday, July 19, 2015
Maiori, Vietri-sul-Mare, Italy

Interested in a Music and Markets Tour? We’d love to hear from you!
How about celebrating Mozart in the matchless city of Bath, England in November?

After that August interlude in France with our grandaughter, let’s return to Italy, picking up where we left off on the Amalfi Coast.
On this summer Sunday, a few of us want to fit in a morning hike07191501 am hike to the Castle of San Nicola de Thoro-Plano above Maiori. In reality the old ruins cannot be considered a castle in the literal sense, but a protected area consisting of a fortress built (beginning in the 800s!) as a bulwark and refuge for the population against the frequent attacks of the outlaws from Lombardy and later the Barbary pirates.07191501 am fortress 1

The three of us are joined by a couple of playful pups,07191501 dogs and as we pause for a look at the town and sea below,07191501 paused for view they rest for the final climb.07191501 took a break Inside the fortified perimeter there were once barracks and shelters able to house a large battalion and hundreds of citizens seeking shelter, but today just one man lives there  – here’s his mailbox. 07191502 castle ceramic and mailboxWe pass him on his way down for morning coffee and newspaper. Wow – he must stay in shape with this at-least-once-a-day trek up and down!
Kirk and Jenny go all the way up,07191502 two went all the way and walk around the fortress as far as there is a passable path. 07191502 walked around as far as possibleI chicken out on the last part of the hike, and enjoy the view, along with a cat taking a morning stretch. 07191502 catAs I sit, a young teen comes up, unlocks the storage shed under the stretching cat, and hefts out several jugs of red wine, then takes them down, two at a time, multiple flights to a car parked below. 07191502 wine under the catSoon Jenny and Kirk join me, and as we begin our descent, we’re stopped in our tracks as sunlight tinges the town below 07191503 bells and sun tingedand Sunday bells ring out over the valley.
The descent goes more quickly, of course, than the ascent, and soon we’re back in Maiori,07191503 flat ground maiori where it’s time to pile in the car for the winding drive to Vietri sul Mare,07191503 go to vietri famous for ceramics since Roman times. 07191504 ceramics since roman timesOne artisan has designed a wall of tiles telling of the history of the village, pirate attacks and all. 07191503 tale of the townA bit of shopping, a bit of posing,07191504 shopped and posed then back to Maiori for lunch by the sea.07191505 el dorado El Dorado has quickly become a favorite, and although I plan on a healthy salad for lunch, I can not resist the lemon ricotta ravioli. 07191505 el lemon ricotta ravioliWe’ll soon be leaving the coast, and where else would I find such luscious lemon pasta?!
The smoked swordfish and eggplant parmesan is also delicious – as is everything we order. 07191505 el smoked swordfish eggplant parmWe’re celebrating today – it’s Olga’s birthday, and her daughter has traveled long and far to join us for a few days. More festivities this evening…to be continued-

The Sparkling Sea of the Amalfi Coast

The Sparkling Sea of the Amalfi Coast

Amalfi Coast
Thursday, July 19, 2012

Interested in a Music and Markets Tour? We’d love to hear from you!  Join us on our featured (and expanded!) summer Amsterdam/Belgium tour!

Threatened thunderstorms delayed our departure from Dulles, but we were able to just make our connection in Frankfurt, and arrived in Naples as planned, shortly after noon. And this time our luggage arrived with us – always a welcome event:)
In a short time we’re all packed into our little Fiat Panda, and on the road. Exiting at Vietri-sul-Mare, we slope down towards the town, the former headquarters of the Amalfi Coast Music and Arts Festival. The ceramic- topped dome gleams over the ancient rooftops stacked around it like blocks, with the gorgeous Mediterranean glittering beyond.

This is where the famed Amalfi Coast Road begins its snaking cliffside journey, and Kirk, fortified with two cups of espresso from a roadside café, is in his element, loving the curves, the challenge, and the views.
The new festival location is the beachside town of Maori, which we’ve often passed through on previous festival tours, but have never stayed in. One year we enjoyed a Fine Arts Quartet concert in the pretty gardens of the town.

The festival directors have booked us into the Sole Splendid, and first thing we do is check out the balcony view – love it!

Now to get our bearings – we find the partner hotel where we’ll meet the rest of the festival participants for dinner, and the little chapel where tonight’s concert will take place, do a few errands and grab a gelato, then back to the room for a quick nap so we can stay awake for the evening events!

The hotel’s set into a curve of the Amalfi Coast Road, with an ancient Norman tower, defense against marauding Saracen pirates, just beyond on the point before town.

We join Leslie and Sasha, directors of the Amalfi Coast festival, now in its 17th year, for dinner,

beginning with a primi of scrump- tious gnocchi, roasted cherry tomatoes, and smoked Scarmoza cheese.
“Did you see the pool?” Leslie asks – and we walk beyond the dining terrace to check it out – wow! Winding among gardens

and trees heavy with big Amalfi lemons, it’s an inviting beauty!

This evening’s concert, Canzone d’Amore (love songs) is presented in Maiori’s San Giacomo church by nineteen talented soloists, all of whom are here to polish their technique and learn from master teachers. Thanks to that nap we can enjoy the whole concert, and finish our long day with a walk home along the beach.