Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Italy Motorcycle Diary: 10. Mary of the Snow Day

It took another 45 minutes of passing cars and leaning around curves before I arrived in the gorgeous town of Amalfi. Nestled on a steep hillside between cliffs, lush outcrops, and the sea, it was a nautical superpower in medieval times. Now it’s a tourist’s paradise. I cruised through the town, admiring it, then saw a modern concrete structure and sign that looked familiar – Luna Rossa, the parking garage I had scoped out at home on Google Maps. I pulled in front of it – and standing there in the shade of the structure, near an entrance gate, was Paul, who had just disembarked from his ferry and was looking for me.
We laughed at the coincidence. He said the owner of the Dona Giulia was coming down to meet us. I told him I’d be out of the garage shortly with my luggage, and then we could check in and hit the beach.. He told me how he’d spent some good times in Salerno on the hunt for a WWII-era wreckage of an American P-38.
The Luna Rossa was like a sauna inside, and the varnished concrete floor slippery with oil drippings. One motorcycle space was left, in between a gaggle of scooters. I had to move the bike forward and back a couple of times to make sure I had enough space to open the side cases. I had to wipe off my glasses every two minutes as sweat accumulated on the lenses. By the time I had filled my duffel bag and put away my motorcycle gear, 20 minutes had elapsed. I walked toward the garage’s entrance but didn’t see Paul waiting for me. I made him wait too long, I thought – he probably walked around to the main street that went into Amalfi, where the B&B probably was. Instead of continuing to exit the garage there, I walked through a tunnel, thinking it would be a shortcut. It went on far longer than I wanted it to, finally spitting me out near the coast road. There was no sign of Paul. I asked several people if they could point me to the Dona Giulia, but no one had heard of it. Dragging my $17 Walmart duffel , carrying my small gray duffel full of dirty clothes, and sweating like a fire hydrant, I grew more frustrated by the second.
“Ray, where are you?” Paul texted.
“He should be down by all those bathers in bikinis,” Kent texted back from Switzerland, referring to a photo that Paul had texted. “That looked very nice to me.”
“He’s an impossible flounder,” Paul texted back, quite possibly hotter and more frustrated than I was. “He’s been parking his bike for nearly 30 minutes. I think he is lost in the garage.”
“That made me smile,” Kent answered.
“Got bad directions, walked up unnecessary stairs after Paul ditched me,” I told the group, though in truth I wasn’t clear that’s what had happened.
Amalfi has few roads, but lots of stairs. I had launched myself up a very long staircase, towing all of my stuff, taking frequent breaks. I must have climbed 200 stair steps before stopping in utter bewilderment, afraid to go up or down because I didn’t know if either would be worth the effort. Finally, I asked another Italian who emerge from one of the hallways adjacent to the staircase if he knew where the Dona Giulia B&B was. He looked at me like I’d asked him what year it was.
“Yes,” he said in English, pointing to a door one staircase above me, about 15 feet away. “It’s right there.”
Sure enough, a sign on the door had the B&B’s name. I dragged the luggage to the door. It was locked. I knocked, but no one answered.
“Paul loses the hotel game. This place was more of a bitch to get to than I thought it would be,” I wrote to him. “If you’re in there, come out and get me!”
Dusty, also in Switzerland, texted “Paul’s at the bar. I can tell you that and I’m not even in the same country!”
“You’re an idiot,” Paul texted me. “You were supposed to come out where I was, like you said you were doing.”
“You weren’t there, dipshit!” I shot back. “Now I’m here and no one else is!”
                He said he was downstairs with the B&B guy and that I should come down. I let him have it, firing off a scorching text to let him know I was unhappy with that idea.
“It’s like that movie with Sophia Loren going crazy in the Italian heat!” Kent texted.
“Which one of them is Ms. Loren, I wonder?” Dusty replied to him.
                Twenty minutes later, Paul and the B&B guy came out of the doorway and let me in. The room was small and serviceable, with one amazing feature — a tiny terrace with a sublime view of the surrounding apartments, the coast, and the sea. A half-hour after we checked in, we were in our swimsuits on our way down to the pebbly beach.
                “All good, about to swim,” I told the boys in Switzerland, now in a much better mood.
                We luxuriated in the sea on a floating line of buoys as Dusty booked the only reasonably priced room in Andermatt and had rosti for dinner. Kent, having toured Sion and taken a train back to Martigny, got his gear together for his planned attempt at the Dom.
                We floated in the water for two hours before getting dressed for the evening. Near sunset we walked out on a jetty to take pictures of the town. At sunset a flotilla of small yachts turned on their lights, beeped horns, and cruised around in circles. It was August 5th: A woman told us it was “Mary of the Snow” day. A fireworks show followed in the town square. After dinner, the power to the entire town went out for a little while. We dashed to buy some gelato before it melted, eating it at the top of the steps of the Duomo, a 1,000-year-old cathedral complex with an amazing, Arabic flourish and black-and-white marble.

Next: Paestum

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