Trip Report: My Solo Trip to the Amalfi Coast (again)

I flew from Trieste to Naples via Volotea on a rainy, cold Sunday in May, Mother’s Day in fact. I had just finished my second Rick Steves tour, this time two weeks to Eastern Europe. Most of the tour was blessed with daily, constant rain and temps of 40-50 degrees. Even with the rain, I walked a lot, but the cream cake and goulash were literally weighing me down. I was ready for the Amalfi sun and a lighter cuisine.

Trieste was the first airport I have encountered where no announcements are in English. I had to rely on the facial expressions of the other passengers to determine if there was bad news. There wasn’t. I breathed a sigh of relief as the attendant scanned my boarding pass without noticing that my bag was 2 inches too fat. (Note to self: leave pillow at home). Naples, here I come. 

I splurged on a driver from the hotel to pick me up in Naples. The route was over the mountains high above the coast. After 75 minutes of hair pin turns on a narrow road, we arrived at the most adorable blue and white inn built into the cliff right over the sea. I was greeted by the sound of the waves crashing on the rocks, the smell of herbs/lavender/honeysuckle/jasmine, and the owner Nicola with a big "Buongiorno Annie!" My solo adventure was about to begin. 

Villa San Michele is the blue and white building on the side of the cliff

The Villa San Michele is a former home built after WW2. The lower building, nearest to the sea, is the original house. That’s where there are 12 guest rooms, four on each floor. My room is on the first floor closest to the sea. It has two large windows each with a wide ledge directly over the sea. Mine is the only room without its own terrace. That’s okay. There is nothing between me and the sea. I can hear the water crashing on the rocks below. In the distance to the left I can see the little town of Maiori. 

View from my room

The top of the hotel is just below street level. The office and dining room are on this level. To get there from my room I have a series of several stone stairs that lead me through at least three flower filled terraces, each with a postcard worthy view of the Amalfi Coast. I am winded just going up from my room to the office!

Flower filled walkway
Several steps up to the dining room

One of Nicola’s two grown sons, Andrea, shows me the dining room where a three course dinner and breakfast are served as part of my “half board” rate. The dining room has an incredible view of the coast. Pinch me, am I really here? What a find!

View from the dining room

The beauty of traveling solo is the ability to go wherever you want to go whenever the mood strikes. My goal is to spend my time exploring the area and revisiting places like Amalfi and Ravello. I like staying in a place long enough to feel like a local.

The first order of business is to buy bus tickets. Yes, the notorious Amalfi Coast bus. Always late, always crowded, but the only way to get up to Ravello or anywhere too far to walk. I am assured by Andrea that Amalfi is an easy 10-15 minute walk along the coastal road. Hmmm. The same treacherous winding coastal road where buses hug the edge, motorcycles at top speed weave in and out of traffic, and there is no lane for walkers? Well, you know what they say....When in Rome (or Amalfi in this case). I make the gorgeous but terrifying walk along the coastal road, sucking in my whole self whenever a bus passes, praying that someone will find my body if I fall over the ledge to the sea below. What seems like at least an hour, (but more like 20 minutes) I arrive in the bustling town of Amalfi. 
I did it! 

Walking along the coastal road

This is a good place to point out for those who don’t know that Amalfi is a town and it’s also an area. When people say they are going to Amalfi they usually mean the area, which prompts one to respond, “Which town?” Some people call the town “Amalfi Town”
I call the town of Amalfi “Amalfi” and the area the “Amalfi Coast”. Capisci?

Amalfi is, well, a tourist trap. It is the coastal bus hub and also a ferry port. Tourists from Sorrento and Positano come to Amalfi to spend the day shopping the tacky overpriced shops and drinking wine on the sea port. Unlike most other towns on the Amalfi Coast, Amalfi is flat. It’s has a beautiful duomo right in the middle of town where people sit on the steps and take selfies. 

Duomo of Amalfi

I spot a sign for a self serve “lavanderia”. Perfect! Clean clothes for me!

I walk back to my hotel along the coastal road with a little more confidence. It doesn’t seem to take as long. I can do this. 

Over the next few days I begin to settle in to my new life as an Italian. I greet people with “giorno” instead of buongiorno, (which is kind of like a Southerner greeting you with “Mornin!”). I am able to tell the bus drivers where I need to get off, and we exchange a “grazie”, “prego”.  I’m no longer intimidated by the coastal road traffic, and have the walk to Amalfi down to 10 minutes. (Tip: always walk on the side of the sea no matter which direction you are walking.)

On a rainy day I pack my little backpack with my dirty clothes and head to Amalfi. Maybe the rain will discourage the tourists and it won’t be so crowded. No such luck. 

The new laundromats don’t require soap. You basically pick your water temp, put in the coins (6 euros for wash, 1 euro for every 15 minutes of dry) and push start. 

During the wash cycle I find a gelato place with a cover over the outdoor seating. My chocolate gelato has big chunks of chocolate in it. Could this be the best gelato I’ve ever had? Maybe. While my clothes are drying I go to a cafe for an espresso and people watching. Life is good. I wonder if other people feel such joy at doing laundry and hanging out in Amalfi on a rainy day. Gratitude. 

Probably my best day was by accident. Antonio, the person who runs the dining room, told me he lives In Maiori, the little town I can see from my window. He told me if I go there I must walk the “lemon path” connecting Minori and Maiori. It’s the ancient road high in the hills above the towns that people used before the coastal road was built. 

I was going to take the bus to Minori to check it out, but it was a beautiful day and I’m now a pro at walking the road, so I take off. The views are spectacular! I keep stopping to take pictures. 

Minori is a pretty little town with a promenade along the water. Not sure I’m up to the Lemon Path after walking the whole way there, so I stop to have a coffee. In Italy and most of Europe, one cup of 2 euro coffee buys you as many trips to a clean  “toilet” as you need. A bargain.I’m tired and it’s starting to sprinkle. But something gives me a second wind and I’m off to find the Lemon Path. 

Steps, steep stone steps. Up, up, up. I keep climbing. Way up in the mountains above the coast. I’m not half as winded as I thought I would be! Climbing higher, the vistas are spectacular. I pass little houses where old ladies are sweeping their porches. I pass a man with two donkeys selling huge lemons in crates on the donkeys backs. It smells like fresh air and lemons. Finally the steps start descending. In the distance below I can see Maiori. Stunning. Pictures. 

Minori from the Lemon Path between Minori and Maiori

Maiori from the Lemon Path

As I walk down the steps, I’m so excited that I actually did it! I did the Lemon Path! 

In Maiori I find an empty restaurant where I order a healthy salad nicoise and pat myself on the back. 
I catch the bus back to Villa San Michele. I can’t wait to tell Antonio about my day. 

My last day I had ambitious plans to take the bus to Ravello and walk the path down to Maiori. As I walked through the flower filled terrace, I saw Nicola taking pictures. I said “Nicola, this is your place and you are taking pictures like you are a guest!” He looked at me, and with his gravelly Andy Garcia voice, he said, “So many people come here and they run run run, and they don’t stop to look and smell the flowers and the sea and enjoy the quiet peaceful scenery. I love the nature, the sea and the flowers.” So I went back to my room, put on my bathing suit and went out to the sundeck. 

Sun Deck over the water ala Jackie O

It was a perfect way to spend my last day. The waves were crashing on the rocks while I waved at the tourist boats passing by. I felt like Jackie Kennedy. A couple of German guests joined me and bravely jumped into the cold water (Germans do that). They said they had stayed at Villa San Michele 17 years ago and always wanted to come back.

The morning I left, Antonio carried my bag to the office. Nicola came out to give me a hug goodbye. He told me he wished me a quiet, peaceful life. Arrivederci, Nicola. Arrivederci, Anita. 

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