***note: This panorama was shot from out on the pier and is nearly a 180 degree view of the city of Amalfi. It was shot handheld (I didn't have my tripod with me), processed in Lightroom, and stitched in CS3.
The plan for this day is a bit more laid-back. We’re grabbing a complimentary breakfast on the roof of the Marriott Grand Flora, renting a car from Avis, and driving down to Amalfi where we plan to stay for the next 3-4 days. Breakfast was a huge buffet with just about anything you could want, and it was eaten on the rooftop patio which overlooked much of Rome. To the left you can see the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica standing out clearly against the sky, while the majority of the view is of the Borghese gardens, which includes the Galleria Borghese and the Villa Medici among other things. After breakfast we went to get our rental from Avis. The reservation was set up with the Avis office at the Leonardo da Vinci airport, which would require a metro ride to the Stazione Termini, followed by a 45 minute train ride to the airport, followed by negotiating through the airport crowds to the counter, getting the car, and driving back to the hotel to finish checking out. As I walked out the front of the hotel I noticed an Avis sign and asked the bellman about it. Lo and behold there was an Avis office two blocks from the hotel! I walked down there and there were incredibly helpful, switching my reservation and hooking us up with the weekly special which included full insurance coverage (something I normally don’t bother with but will come in to play later in our trip) a newer model and unlimited mileage for less than the original reservation. As a spur of the moment decision I also added a Tom-Tom, which was the smartest thing I did the entire trip. It was worth every penny of the cost as it likely saved our marriage. Without it we’d have been lost many times and probably would’ve ended up in multiple arguments. Anyway, the vehicle they gave us was a blue 4 door Opel with a manual transmission and a 1 liter, 4 cylinder engine. That’s right, 1 liter. We left the hotel and began following the Tom-Tom’s directions to Amalfi, when I noticed something. Street signs and traffic lights were in very different locations, so much so that I ran the first traffic light I came to and nearly clipped an elderly woman about to cross the road. Needless to say she let me know I was an idiot in a very colorful way. We made our way south down to Salerno and began the drive up the coast. This was fun and nerve wracking at the same time as the road was very narrow, very windy, cut into the side of the mountains, and had many blind corners. Oh, and they were filled with scooters weaving in and out between the cars and giant tourist buses bullying their way around the hairpin turns. As we finally pulled into Amalfi Jen pulled out the reservation information. It said there was no parking at the hotel and that we should call them to find out where to park and so that they could send down the luggage service which would transport our bags to the hotel. Yeah, we didn’t have a cell phone that worked in Italy and pay phones didn’t seem to be readily available either, so we asked a traffic cop what to do. He helped us out and soon enough we parked the car in a parking garage, left our bags for the luggage service, and headed to the hotel (Residenza del Duca) which was located on the 7th floor of a historical building just off the main piazza of the village. There wasn’t an elevator, and I wouldn’t suggest this hotel to those that aren’t in some modest bit of shape. There were two days in Amalfi where we went up and down those steps enough to justify a second dessert after dinner. By the time we got settled, showered and changed into clean clothes it was time for dinner. Amalfi is a small town, and the main piazza is where everyone congregates in the evening. There are many cafes, pottery stores, and gelato shops, and the local liquor Limoncello is served and sold everywhere. It is manufactured up and down the Amalfi coast and comes in two forms, both made primarily from the local lemon crop: a clear lemon liquor, and a cream lemon liquor, both of which are quite good. Each town on the Amalfi coast claims to be the original Limoncello makers, and even the Isle of Capri lays a claim to it also. I’m not quite sure where it actually originates. As we ate at a sidewalk café and enjoyed people watching, a group of musicians came around and played several of their songs. I’m a bit of a sucker for this kind of thing, so I bought one of their CD’s. They call themselves Gypsy Orient and have 4 member: a singer (with a tambourine of course), a guy with an accordion, a guy with an acoustic guitar that had duct tape holding it together, and a bassist who played a standup bass with only 3 strings. Did I mention how much of a sucker I am? Anyway, we spent the rest of the evening relaxing and enjoying the people watching.