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Sat 23/24 Sept
 amalfi coast to messina....coastal highway extraordinaire

23 sept ...amalfi coast

we are up early and starting driving towards the bay of naples and the amalfi coast. the amalfi coast is a stretch of coastline on the southern side of the sorrentine peninsula and is known for its rugged terrain, scenic beauty, picturesque towns and is listed by UNESCO as a World Cultural Heritage site.

confused after contending with yet another proliferation of helpful signage, we decide to 'dead reckon' our way south. and while we thought we would just keep the sea over our right shoulder and the sun in our eyes and we would end up going where we wanted.... sure....any number of times we often end up off the beaten pass at useless beaches and abandoned ruins and we would have to have a drink before returning to our mission.

fortuitously we end up on highway 118 along the coast. or more accurately, above the coast, often with nothing more substantial than a sturdy, well made, italian designed steel fence protecting the Mediterranean from a couple of screaming canadians hurtling towards it from 100's of feet above.

towns appear on the sides of hills and we slowly wind our way thru them on the 'single track' that passed (pun intended) for the main drag. jim is driving and ensures that the tires suitably squeal like out of a scene from deliverance. then it is back to the open roads....effectively deserted except for the typically suicidal driver we scarcely now give a second thought to

we eventually stop along the coast for lunch. it is the first and last time l will consider ordering seafood....nuff said.

l take command of the beast for the first time and quickly remember to forget any thing resembling driver etiquette, turn signals, stop signs, or giving quarter. l drive like a champion....jim says l have the skills of a Kuwaiti, a ringing endorsement, l decide.

as the day plods on, we begin to look for a hotel. as usual, overwhelmed with an endless variety of hotels and motels to choose among, we decide on a nice quiet place that happens to be having a wedding for the entire southern part of italy we are shocked to learn that you apparently have to be invited to attend so belatedly we are off into the night to find another place to rest our weary heads.

we find a simple place called the hotel vittoria in ramona and settle into a quiet's evening reflection and map study for the next day...followed by a coupla beer and the racks....

just as l had to begun to seductively slide my hand beneath *'s  silken there is an earthquake that shakes both the building and is dark and loud and l am outta bed and wildly trying to find my clothes...who wants to get squished to death in an italian hotel and not be dressed for the occasion....the next coupla seconds of abject, wild terror are followed by more wild abject terror followed by noises l assume are made by....jim snoring. apparently having a hotel room located directly above a major rail centre linking every single part of europe to directly below our window is not enough to waken my roommate. when my heart rate drops back to its usual 37, l have had another beer and made my way back to the racks and a fitful sleep.

sunday 24 sept  strait of messina

we are up early and it is yet another stinking hot and humid day. we continue south. l am driving today and apparently scare jim with a high speed, cm's-to-spare pass of death.  pish, l say to no one in particular....l mean after driving for hours suspended above the Tyrrhenian Sea, separated from instant death by a guardrail flimsy enough even an italian bicyclist, tastefully attired in appropriate safety skin-tight shirt and cycling pants, could pierce, l am just not gonna get excited. besides, l was almost killed in an earthquake the evening before.

we arrive at reggio and after yet another fruitless hour trying to wade our way thought yet another forest of helpful signage, we find the ferry to messina. 

we cross the strait of messina, the narrow section of water between the eastern tip of Sicily and the southern tip of Calabria. At its narrowest point it measures 3.1 km (1.9 miles) in breadth, though near the town of Messina the breadth is more on the order of 5.1 km (3.2 miles). A natural whirlpool forms in the strait, which has been linked to the legend of Scylla and Charybdis. In Greek mythology, Charybdis was a sea monster taking the form of a monstrous mouth, swallowing huge amounts of water three times a day and then belching it back out again creating whirlpools.  On the other side of the strait was Scylla, another sea-monster. The two sides of the strait are within an arrow's range of each other, so close that sailors attempting to avoid Charybdis will pass too close to Scylla and vice versa. The phrase between Scylla and Charybdis has come to mean being in a state where one is between two dangers and moving away from one will cause you to be in danger of the other. Between Scylla and Charybdis is the origin of the phrase "between the rock and the whirlpool" (the rock upon which Scylla dwelt and the whirlpool of Charybdis) and may be the genesis of the phrase "between a rock and a hard place". ok...enuf bs trivia. suffice to say, the germans retreating in 1943 from Sicily across the straits had to content with the royal navy and air force, whirlpool and sea monsters...sucked to be them ( pun thoughtfully intended).   

we arrive in messina and find a secondary that takes us north along the Sicilian coast to milazzo where we will catch the hydrofoil to the Aeolians Islands.

click on a picture to see a larger image. hit arrows at either end of the slideshow for more pictures.


the amalfi coast. beautiful. very, very careful driving.

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