Another stormy day remembered

Having successfully survived Wellington’s recent storm, we started to think of other storms we’d been through – and the one that sprung to mind first was, funnily enough, an Italian storm.

It was during our stay in Positano in November 2011. After unusually good weather we were warned by the locals that the weekend was going to be stormy. It happened to be a weekend when we had visitors from the UK and New Zealand staying with us at Villa Greta.

Now, please understand, by storm we mean weather that was less than idyllic. Which involved wind (a bit), rain (not a lot) and seas that were rough (all to be taken in context of the Med just being a giant bath).

Our Saturday started with a visit the the beach at Positano and a late breakfast at Buca de Bacco. Apart from a strong breeze and the overcast conditions the only clue that there was a storm was the surf hitting the wharf. But despite the poor weather the resident beach artist was painting – as he does every day – a beautiful sunny vista full of blue skies, blue seas, bright sun and Bougainvillaea cascading down the sides of houses on the hill, somewhat at odds with reality.

In the afternoon we drove down the coast to Amalfi. The roads were treacherous and largely awash in places. The Amafi Coast has no real storm water drainage system  – other than the water rushing downhill towards the sea as fast as possible – down streets, across roads and over cliffs until eventually ending up in the sea. This system meant we were often driving along roads more like rivers and through villages where every lane was a steam cascading towards the sea.

In Amalfi the sea was crashing against shore and the sea side carpark that we had used only a few months previously in summer was now forming the breakwater and largely underwater. The wonderful thing was that, by the time we had driven up from Amalfi to the top of the cliffs to Ravello the weather had cleared and we had magnificent views looking east along the coast towards Salerno. Normal transmission had resumed.

A funny old Friday


This gallery contains 24 photos.

Friday is shopping day.  The day we head into Positano with the single-minded purpose of refilling the cupboards for another week. Although the village is only a 10 minute walk, on Friday we take the car. The thought of walking … Continue reading

The traditional Villa Greta greeting

Every time we arrive back at Villa Greta we are met by Daisy and Poppie. They are so pleased to see us and it doesn’t matter how many times we come and go we always get the same rapturous welcome. For those of you who don’t know them Daisy, being nearly 15 years old, is the slower one. Poppie is the one with her favourite toy in her mouth.

Amalfi, Ravello and dinner


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On Sunday we took our visitors to Amalfi and Ravello.  This a drive of only 25kms from Positano but it takes the best part of 50 minutes given the narrow winding road along the coast.  You pass through picturesque villages … Continue reading

It’s officially home

You can always tell when the girls feel at home.  They start barking at everyone walking past and go nuts when anyone visits.  Based on this, as of last Wednesday Villa Greta became “our place”.  For the next few weeks anyway.

Visitors to Positano

This weekend we will have visitors staying with us at Villa Greta.  Our friend Gill from the UK is flying in for the weekend with her Mum and her Mum’s husband Allan from New Zealand who are on their first trip to Europe. Positano is their first stop outside the UK and the trio fly into Naples airport on Friday evening and stay until Monday.

With so many things to see and do and so little time, picking the best activities is critical.  At this stage there is definitely a trip to Pompeii on the cards.  A walk around Positano is a must and a trip down the coast to Ravello or Amalfi is a good way to see the local area.  But beyond that the weekend is an unwritten story.

Suggestions anyone?

A Top Gear Challenge

It was simple.  Charmaine, Mike and James on a high speed train from Naples to Florence.  Jean and I and the dogs in the mighty Peugeot doing the same trip aiming to arrive before the train so we could help them collect a rental car and then follow us to our place south of Siena.

As with all Top Gear challenges there was a twist.  We left Positano at 11am and drove hell for leather north to Florence – a five and a half hour trip.  They left Naples at 1:50pm and were due to arrive in Florence at 4:50pm.

It was always going to be tight.  But I always thought the mighty Peugeot had the edge.  And so it proved as we blasted north along Italy’s version of SH1.

We were just south of Rome when the train was due to leave Naples which gave us a lead of 1 hour.  An hour that would be quickly eroded as the train hit it’s maximum speed of 300km/h on the straights between Naples and Rome.

So we put the hammer down and and spent considerable time close to the 150km/h mark.

But no challenge is that simple.  We got a text from the train travellers that they had run into problems – the train had stopped just 15 minutes out of Naples.  We continued on, extending the gap as quickly as possible.

An update from the train said the delay would be lengthy so we revised our plans.   Mike and Charmaine were picking up a rental car in Florence and were going to follow us south but the rental depot closed at 7pm and with the train delay we were not sure if they would arrive in Florence in time.  We would go to Florence via our cottage in Tuscany, drop off bags and then proceed to Florence with enough room to carry them if required.

Update – the train was moving again and halfway to Rome.  We were on our way to the cottage, it was going to be close.

Update – the train had arrived in Rome.  We were still on our way to the cottage, it was going to be really close.

Update – the train is halfway to Florence.  We had dropped our bags and were on the highway north, we were in trouble.

Update – the train has arrived in Florence.  We were still 30kms short of Florence.  Game over. I could almost hear Clarkson yelling “loser” with the dreaded right-handed “L” to the forehead.

Moral of the story – never race a high speed train.  The trip from Rome to Florence should, according to the train timetable, have taken about 90 minutes.  The train did it is less than 60 minutes – clealry they have a “little slack” in the timetable.

Goodbye Positano

We have had a fantastic time in Positano. The apartment was great, the weather hot (too hot on occasions) and having Charmaine, Mike & James arrive near the end of our stay a real bonus.

As always we were spoiled by the wonderful people at Eden Roc Hotel who made us feel very welcome. But all good things come to an end and on Saturday morning we headed for Tuscany.

We enjoyed the stay at Villa Greta so much we are sure we’ll be back. So it’s not so much goodbye to Positano, more “au revoir”.

Positano from Villa Greta roof terrace

So you own a villa that needs major renovation…

But the villa is way below the road and there’s a lot of building materials that needs to be moved down and lots of rubbish that needs to be moved up.

What do you do?  No problem, just put in a bit of scaffolding for a hoist up to the road.

I’m not sure that a kiwi health and safety person would be completely happy with the Amalfi Coast approach.

Today is a big day

Today Jean’s sister, brother-in-law and their wee baby arrive in Positano. Charmaine, Mike and James have been in Europe for the last 2 weeks visiting London and Paris. They should be well acclimatised and ready to tackle the frantic pace of life that is Positano.

This is their first trip to Italy and we are really excited to have the chance to show them around.

They fly into Naples airport later this afternoon (Wednesday) and we have arranged for a car and driver to pick them up and bring them over the hill to Positano. We’ve already asked them not to judge Italy by what they see during the drive. While there are parts of Naples that are beautiful the parts you pass through on the way to the Amalfi peninsula are not those ones. I’ve never really experienced the third world but I imagine it’s a bit like southern Naples.

The Amalfi Coast with the coast road cut into the cliffs - look closely and you'll spot it

The good news is that all that is forgotten when you crest the backbone of the peninsular and the view is the blue sea with the thin ribbon of road winding along the coast cut precariously into the cliffs and with small villages hanging to the cliffs in seemingly impossible places.

We’ve also warned them about the width of the roads (or lack thereof) and the propensity of Italians driving everything from scooters to tour buses to overtake or undertake or to do u-turns or simply stop for no reason at all.

Thankfully the limousine drivers are experts at negotiating these roads however I do recall one occasion a few years ago when almost all the luxury Mercedes car that we started the trip in made it to the end.

It had a wing mirror removed by a passing car that got a little too close. All I remember was the sound of tearing metal and smashing glass, and the sight of the mirror flying past the side window of the car. No one stopped but we did learn a few choice Italian phrases that we could use if we found ourselves in a similar situation.

Charmaine, Mike and James – welcome to Italy.