Monday, 23 April 2007

From Flanders to Amalfi


After the plains of Belgium came the peaks and troughs of the Amalfi coast. It would have been nice to go straight from Belgium to Italy, but I broke up these trips by doing a couple of days'work in London.

After a pretty straight forward journey to get there I settled into my apartment which was just off the main square (Piazza Tazzo) in Sorrento.
I was keen to get out and ride around the area. The last time I'd been in Sorrento, some 2 years previously, I ended up leaving early as I'd felt so miserable there during the grey rainy days. It really wasn't cycling weather, and I felt even worse knowing that the weather was sunnier and warmer in London than in Naples !

But the weather had changed in the 2 years since ! So here I was on a sunny terrace on Piazza San Antonino setting my bike up ready to ride around the coast, and recce the cyclosportive that I was there for - Giro della penisola sorrentina e costiera amalfitana.

Riding through Italian built up areas can be challenging, especially in the South, as I found. You need at least 2 pairs of eyes ! Drivers are not aggressive or cyclist unfriendly - they are just careless and absent-minded it seemed. Riding out of Sorrento, and the nearby town of San Agnello was not that easy. But at least I had time to admire the neopolitan architecture. This was to be a recurring theme when passing through other towns - Amalfi, Praiano, Positano.

Two other towns I passed through bucked the trend of being picturesque though. Castellammare di Stabia looked like it had been an in place once upon a time. However, today it seemed to have disused industries and dilapidated houses. The people seemed different as well. The folks in Sorrento, although a little scatty still had a certain style about them. The people in Castellmare seemed even more scatty, bordering on uncouth. People drove beat up cars, and those on motorbikes didn't bother with helmets. There was alot more washing hanging out of windows too, with people shouting, and music blaring out in the streets.

The neighbouring town of Gragnano seemed even less of a picture. That didn't even look like it had had a golden era. It had just been a depressed town from day 1. It was a tip - literally. There was no such thing as a rubbish bin there. People just threw their rubbish in the street. There were piles of household rubbish along the side of the road. And a real stench to it. I rode through pretty quickly for fear of catching the plague ! Maybe there was a dustmen's strike or something, but there was something pretty weird about all that rubbish. Shame, to see the place in such a bad light.
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