The crown jewel of our trip, according to everyone we spoke to, was the Amalfi Coast. It’s like no other stretch of coastline anywhere in the world. Once we arrived on the spectacular serpentine roadway above coves and inlets and ancient magical dwellings, I realized it was somewhat familiar to me. You see, I’d seen parts of it in movies and commercials. You have too. Maybe you’ve seen the Fiat commercial where all these Fiats drive into the sea water around Amalfi and pull out of the Hudson River in New York City. Or you recall a fabulous convertible driving along the Italian coastline in Under the Tuscan Sun or any of a dozen other movies where a windswept silk scarf is sacrificed on the altar of passionate love.
It’s not hard to comprehend that the coast highway started out as a donkey path centuries ago. It’s just amazing that it hangs on to the cliff sides under all that road traffic centuries later. If you have a fear of death, bridges, heights, car wrecks, etc. it is the perfect laboratory for exposure therapy to work its magic. A case in point: my wife has been afraid of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge and bridges in general for decades; however, a week after we arrived home from the Amalfi bus ride, she calmly sat in the front passenger seat as I drove over and back across the CBB without a single gasp, death grip, or dramatic gesture. If only I’d known this thirty years ago. But no. That’s not how life goes.
The bridges and tunnels are not modern, but you cannot afford to think about the possible weaknesses of construction as your multi-ton tour bus lumbers on… any more than you can second guess your airplane as it rockets down a runway into the great blue yonder. That’s part of the thrill to know that you could topple to your untimely death at any second. This raw fear helps battle any perfectionism you might have about getting the perfect camera angle from the bus seat where your sphincter pulses metronomically. As we swerved onto the official Amalfi coast highway, I glued my cell phone to the sea side window and held it on video for long periods of time. Our guide Sah’ rah turned on Bocelli’s Con Te Partiro to accompany us into the ethereal splendor. Goosebumps erupted and then baby goosebumps erupted on them. Gravity was suspended along with all the laws of physics as we soared weightlessly like music unfurling across a crystal glass pane over a thousand foot drop.
Yeah, it was the sort of fear mixed with beauty, as if you had asked a super model for a date and she said yes. Now what the hell are you going to do? The bottom drops out and there you are in your silky boxers all excited with no where to go. MMmmm, maybe I said too much there. And maybe she said, “Okay, whatever. I’m so tired of this hot weather. But it’s just too hot for words, if you want to make love, okay”.
Anyway, anyway, it’s all good. No matter where you turned, you found an unrepeatable beauty, a Miss Universe moment’s hook, a diamond in the polishing tumbler wherever you happened to look. Everything, every millimeter shone brilliantly of the proof of God, as if a sardine’s shimmering scales burst through the teal water to knock you over in surprise at the depth of beauty like a bidet of Perrier mineral water upheaving your disbelief. Yeah, damn words just get in the way of the energy, the juice of the universe. Sitting here now with a glass of bourbon does not come anywhere close to the heartbeat of that moment, like the first time I saw a naked girl in the front seat of my dad’s wonderbus. Okay, I said it. Have I gone too far again? The drive in movie theater on Route One that featured Carnal Knowledge and some other movie that we reported in detail to her parents, maybe The Shoes of the Fisherman or The Sting or Serprico. That was my Amalfi Coast slithering highway at 16 years of age in my dad’s 1968 Belmont Oldsmobile. The intersection of magic and orgasm, lemons and canolis, grappa and whathappa?
“Life is a highway, I want to ride it all night long.”
Okay, so there was yet another delicious hairpin turn in the highway of inexplicable bliss. Like a movie filled with hyper reality-ness, we kept on rolling along, singing a song of oceanic ubiquity. Yeah, and so much more… ceramic words fired up in a kiln of a thousand degrees, and we descended, finally, to the soft shores of the actual town of Amalfi.
And yes, it’s the calm end of an unbelievable dragon that snaps in and out like a kite’s tail. The weak end of the serpent, where limoncello is extracted from the frothing fangs of the Leviathan. We didn’t purchase the offered drink. It was just a little too strong I think. Or maybe we were just too worn out to entertain another sales spout. No matter, off we contentedly went, oh, back to the start at Sorrento.
Dinner was on the veranda, another perfect night featuring 360 degrees of pure paradise. As we started to order, other folks from our tour group popped up and we made room for Lynn and Sandy, the Aussies, then another couple of Americans, and two more. Across the veranda we spied the Canadians with the other Aussies and the Indonesians next to the one man band. Of course the crooner got to Volare and our troupe began an impromptu conga line (if that is not a redundancy… “Officer, it was a premeditated conga line, I could just sense it. Collusion.”) around the veranda. It was unmolested fun for the dancers and the onlookers, if not for the wait staff, I think. An exclamation point on the Italian trip in none other than italics. Buona notte.