Southern Italy: The Amalfi Coast & Caserta

Thursday was the day I’ve been looking forward to all semester. We hit up the Amalfi Coast! And we really got to experience it in the most beautiful weather possible. It was warm, sunny, and cloudless. The sun was warm, radiant, and beautiful. It warmed me as if an oven warms a kitchen. I was actually sweating most of the day if you can believe it.

The bus drove along the coast for about 40 minutes seeing Positano and other neighboring cities on the water, each with their own spectacular viewpoints. The blue water glistened under the yellow sun. It looked like it stopped, laying their lifeless. I saw no ripples in the water from above, yet I could see maybe 15 feet underneath the surface because it was so clear. I bet living here costs a lot!

Anyway, we saw the Cathedral in the city, which was pleasant and peaceful. It was named for the patron Saint Andrew. The cathedral wasn’t my favorite part though, so I’d like to tell you what was. First, a little back-story. When my grandmother learned of my trip to Italy, she immediately told me I had to visit the Amalfi Coast. It was one of her favorite parts of Italy when she went. Also, how could I not go someplace that my grandmother said was absolutely beautiful? It would be a crime, really.

All I could think of was how ageless, how timeless and never-ending this city really is if my grandmother remembers it. So I took lots of pictures and thought of my family as I spent time with really great people. I relaxed by the water, ate a very cost effective lunch, and shopped a little bit. We took a boat tour of the coast, too. On this tour we saw neighboring cities and learned a little bit about the surrounding area.

learned of the bridge of love, which are naturally formed rocks shaped like elephants kissing. This spot is used frequently for promotions on postcards and guidebook is what I was told. There was also the Devil’s mouth, or boca di diavolo. This hole in the mountain gets its name because when the wind is most ferocious, it makes a strange howling noise.

I also learned of a few famous houses, private beaches and five-star resorts that cost an arm and a leg to stay in just for one night. There is also a castle that sits high on the mountain, and its called castel di santo andrea, named for the patron saint of the city. Who knew that movie stars and millionaires like this city so much!

Just kidding, I can finally understand why. The coast is so far one of my favorite places in Italy. It was simply perfect. Friends, food, history, and natural beauty helped make this day trip everything I thought it to be. I don’t think I would have enjoyed the trip as much if it wasn’t sunny and clear. Final thoughts – this trip was for my grandmother, as she is the one that wanted to see me do this. Now that I have, I know she’ll be happy to hear it when I tell her.

Caserta’s Royal Palace

On Friday, the group toured the Palace of Versailles … oops! Just kidding. I did that already. I meant the Royal Palace in Caserta. The palace was not as nice as Versailles, obviously, but it was so much fun to look at and take a bike ride through. The day was sunny; blue skies and green grass were the only colors I let me eyes see.

I was sitting on the grass eating my packet lunch – provided by the hotel that we stayed at all week – and it didn’t taste too great after four-plus hours of sitting in my backpack. My next thought was to rent a bicycle for a modest four euros per hour. The garden was two miles long, and I biked it all. There were some easy spots, and some surprisingly tough patches.

But I was rewarded when I reached the fountain of Diane and Actaeon. The fountain is represented by Diane, the goddess of hunting, and Actaeon , a hunter. In the representation, Actium is caught spying on a naked Diane, who was lying in a fountain, from afar. When she finds out, she turns him half into a deer. Then, when Actaeon ‘s hunting dogs see him like this, they maul him and kill him thinking he is an actual deer.

Looking at this fountain, complete with a waterfall in the background, was amazing. The ride down was so much fun, too. I didn’t even have to pedal because the hill carried me all the way to the bottom. I actually biked back up the hill to ride down it again it was that fun. I remembered for a moment that I was in Carlisle, my hometown, biking down the humongous hill about ¾ of a mile up the street from my house.

The Royal Palace of Caserta (Reggia di Caserta) is a former royal residence in southern Italy, constructed for the Bourbon kings of Naples. It was the largest palace and one of the largest buildings erected in Europe during the 18th century. In 1997, the Palace was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The fountains and cascades fill a vasca (“basin”) and include architecture and hydraulics by Luigi Vanvitelli at intervals along a wide straight canal that runs to the horizon.

The palace inside just magical. I didn’t care that it wasn’t Versailles because I had the same emotion at both places. Marble invaded the space like bed bugs and it looked like carpet. The marble was designed to create a warm, comfortable space that looked like it had carpet even though it didn’t  The marble was decorative and soothing with a soothing hue of grey and reddish clay, like terra cotta.

As you walk up the grand staircase, also made of marble, your eyes do not focus on any one particular thing, they are constantly moving. But you do see the royal majesty with a crown on her head. Some of the marble is from Florence. The palace includes work from a variety of artists and sculptors so every room is designed differently.

The dead center of the palace features a compass dial on the ground showing the directions of north, south, east, and west. Four tunnels lead in different directions to different piazzas of the palace. The palace was designed to have four and was actually meant to be a capital, similar to the Vatican. It has 1,200 rooms, barracks for soldiers, a church, monastery, courtyards, and more.  

I really enjoyed this day trip, too. The garden is beautiful and it was so sunny and so warm. I couldn’t have asked for better weather. It was peaceful and soothing, open and spacious. The only thing that would have made it better is WiFi, why didn’t the architects think of that as something the king would need…

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