I am back in Lausanne and I have finally made it through the 400+ emails and several crises that were waiting for me upon my return. Toward the end of the week I started coming down with a cold but, through rest, fresh fruits/vegetables, and lots and lots of garlic, I seem to be beating it.
The rest of my Amalfi trip was wonderful. On Monday we went into Sorrento and walked around. The weather was nice and it was very pleasant just people watching. In the evening I made dinner for the whole clan: caprese with tomatoes, basil, and fresh mozzarella from just down the road; roasted peppers, eggplant, and zucchini from a small fruit/vegetable stand in town; bolognese sauce with fresh, local pasta; and an assortment of desserts prepared by the bakery in town. Actually it would have taken an inordinate amount of time if I had been the only one cooking, so I enlisted the help of some willing volunteers. Many thanks go out to our team of sous-chefs, who proved that “too many cooks in the kitchen” can actually be a good thing!
Tuesday we spent on the isle of Capri. “Isle of Capri” was the title of one my dad’s pinball machines. I also grew up with a painting of Capri’s Faraglioni just outside my bedroom (My mom brought it back from a space industry conference that was held there.). I had been to Capri once before but the weather was cold and rainy so I turned back after just one day. This time we couldn’t have asked for better weather.
We split up and each subgroup wandered off in its own direction. Mom and took the funiculare up to Capri (the town) and spent the day wandering along the cliffside paths in search of lunch. We finally found the right place, an open-air restaurant built into the side of a cave and overlooking the sea. We sat back and enjoyed local seafood, wine, pasta, and–of course–insalata caprese. We returned to the mainland as the sun was setting but it was a glorious day of quality time, just my mom and I.
The evening featured what was–for me–one of the highlights of the trip. Naturally it involved food. The caretaker of the villa, Anna Maria, and her daughter (who both live just down the road) spent all day cooking for us. We gave them a broad mandate (The only criterion was to stay away from hearty red sauces since we had had that the night before.) and we were not disappointed with what they turned out.
For antipasti we had roasted, sauteed, and fried vegetables, spinach pie, artichoke pie, olives, fried balls of prosciutto, and provolone. As a primo piatto we had pasta with a light tomato-basil sauce. As a secondo we had two kinds of fish, both marinated and baked to perfection. And finally, for dessert, we had traditional Napolitana pastiera. Oh what a meal!
Wednesday morning I arose before the rest of the group and hopped on the bus to the Naples airport. I was excited to have arrived on time until I learned that my flight to Rome had been canceled. Alitalia: strike 2.
As one may imagine, this caused a great deal of consternation with all the passengers and I stood witness to classic examples of Italian “non-queueing.” Italians seem to believe that lines are made to be broken. Anyone who has ever set a toe in Italy will understand what I am talking about. At the airport, with rope-defined lines up to the ticket counter, I thought perhaps I would find an exception to this rule.
Oh how mistaken I was. The passengers in line seemed to think that roped line boundaries were meant to be deconstructed and that the louder they yelled at the poor customer rep who was trying to help the one person at the front of the line at a time, the better/faster service they would receive. Oy. This spectacle was repeated when it came time to load our baggage into the bus, almost crushing the poor driver in the process. Oy.
The bus ride was nice, though, and I met a nice Napolitana girl who was on her way to London. She asured me that Alitalia wasn’t all bad and that they had recently acquired Air One, which was actually quite good. It turned out that my flight from Rome to Geneva was operated by Air One and, sure enough, it was great. So I suppose the lesson learned is that, if flying Alitalia, make sure to choose Air One-operated flights. Good to know!
Although this trip to the Amalfi Coast was short, it was great. It was a little surreal hanging out with the friends of my parents/parents of my friends from back when I was in preschool/kindergarten but it was a lot of fun. Many thanks to them for organizing the trip and for welcoming me along.
I have fond memories of living in Huntsville. It was a good time in my life; I had a mother who took great care of me, I had great friends, and my father was still alive. So I suppose what made Huntsville so great was its people. 40 years ago this year Huntsville’s people put a man on the moon. I’m glad to see that, even now, the city’s greatest assets are its people.