Sunday, 31 August 2014

The Amalfi Coast Travel Diary: Part 1 - Scala

I thought I'd write a big Amalfi Coast travel diary post as my first real travel blogger post because it truly was an amazing adventure. To summarise, we (me, my brother and my parents) spent one week in the small coastal town of Scala and spent the next week doing a road trip up Italy to Pisa to catch our flight home with plenty of stop-offs to other destinations on the way. After realising the sheer volume I wanted to write for this one post, I decided against it, preferring shorter and snappier posts that keep people can actually stay interested in in this day and age where Facebook notifications cause huge distractions. So here goes... a travel journal of my week in Scala, a series. 

After the malarkey of a delayed flight, we finally landed in Pisa and so the first days job was to travel south for 630 km to the extremely picturesque Amalfi Coast which is a collection of a few beautiful little towns lining the Southern Italian coast including Sorrento, Positano, Capri and a couple of others too. It took a hefty 7 hours but it was great to see some of the views on the way down and discuss the different places that we were going to go and the things we all wanted to do down there. If we were to do it again though, we'd most likely fly to Naples instead as that would have been a much shorter journey.

If I was ever to give a bit of advice to you all, it definitely would be to stop at the services for lunch if you need to! As all of us UK-er's know, at our motorway services, we generally get a HUGE choice (joke!) of fast food shops such as MacDonalds and Burger King etc or a cold option from the occasional Marks & Spencer's which may not be to everyone's liking. I know I'm usually quite reluctant to buy at UK services due to the ridiculous prices for pretty average food. 
However, in Italy, there are the great restaurants and cafés along the autostrada. The first place we stopped at had fresh baked on site bread and a wide variety of fresh meat to choose from. I chose a mortadella sandwich. It was the biggest mortadella I'd ever seen and frankly I was shocked and impressed; it was about 3 x the size of my head... Maybe more. The man serving us was very generous with the mortadella and the sandwich itself was about the size of my head and it was delicious, as was every other sandwich he served I'm sure. All the other services we stopped at had restaurants that looked very appealing with a selections of pizzas and spaghettis to choose from. Ah, Italy!

When we finally got off the autostrada and onto the roads heading to Amalfi, we were met by extremely thin and winding roads that seemed to go on for hours. Be careful because the Italians are used to these roads so whiz up and down them quite fast, leaving very little room for other cars to pass. The views from these roads are amazing though with constant appearances from Mount Vesuvius, although it was sometimes masked by clouds.

Once we finally got near the top of the hill, near our final destination of Scala where out apartment was situated, we stopped at a restaurant where we were greeted by Stefano (the man who managed our apartment.) He introduced himself and explained a little bit about the apartment, area and essential things to do/visit whilst providing us with well needed nibbles and refreshing drinks. 

Summarising Scala

Language: Italian 
Where: South West Italy 
Currency: Euro (€)
Population: 1,500 
Atmosphere: Friendly, quaint, traditional 

Stefano ordered us a take away pizza that would be at the apartment on our arrival so we could rest up after our long day of travelling, ready for tomorrow's adventure. I did my research on the villa via Trip Advisor and it surpassed all of my previous expectations. I really can't recommend this apartment enough. It was called Villa Laura and we stayed in the Apartment Ilaria. It was bigger than expected and could easily home 6 rather than the party of 4 that we had if they added 2 extra beds. There was 2 small balconies in the living room which paid homage to the beautiful seascape view and the lively view of Ravello, the neighbouring town. There was also a large 2 floor terrace where the view was even more visible, equipped with lounging and dining equipment (which is where we ate our tasty pizzas from a nearby pizza delivery service called 'Take Away' - 10 points for effort and originality with the name guys). Although we were too busy exploring during the day to use it, we had access to a shared pool and a games room. Check out the reviews of Villa Laura here

Scala itself translates to mean steps and their emblem is a lion with a lily on top of some stairs, so as you can imagine, walking is the key to getting round Scala. However, this villa had a great location as it was about a ten minute downhill walk to the main square so it was very accessible and there was a (irregular but frequent) bus service around the whole of Scala which had a drop off point right outside our villa. There was also regular buses to the main square in Amalfi, Ravello and all the other adjacent towns so it was only about a 30 minute bus journey or less to any major town, making Scala the perfect holiday destination. Scala is out of the hustle and bustle of nearby touristy areas but close enough to reach quickly and easily. Scala is the oldest town on the Amalfi Coast and with its multiple arches, it's an attractive place to be. The town square consists of a pharmacy, a bar/café, a restaurant, a church, a fruit and vegetable store, a 'mini market' (people mainly go to the Despar on the road leading up to Scala for their main shop) and very lovely people (and their super cute, friendly dogs).

After we devoured our pizzas, we all went to bed as it had been a long day and we had tone up super early for our early morning hike, a event sweetly organised by the owner of the villa. 



I would really recommend the hike we did to anyone who likes walking and is completely capable (it's a little strenuous) as somehow a lot of it is uphill (even though we were heading downhill to Amalfi) and the ground is relatively uneven when you enter the forest. These areas around Scala are lush, as you can see through my images on the contrary to the rest of the Italy's Costiera Amalfitana which is very dry and hot. Before entering the forest, we walked down A hell of a lot of steps and found ourselves within a lovely old ruin. The ruin itself was very picturesque but if you looked around out to the landscape it seemed even more beautiful than before. After that ruin we headed down some steps eventually entering the forest and passing the ruins of a foundry and then coming across a clear water stream with multiple attached waterfalls and then followed its path to a massive waterfall that was really impressive. Unfortunately, you need a tour guide to see this waterfall as it was behind a locked gate that was only accessible for certain people as it's protected due to the area being a Riserva Naturale Orientata "Valle Delle Ferriere". It's well worth getting a tour guide though, as well as the waterfall, there are other amazing nature spots which you can see. I took a lot of photos but I find that iPhones and even DSLR's just can't capture the beauty that the eye can (or maybe that's due to my shoddy photography skills.) To see the waterfall was 50 minutes out of the way but well worth the effort. After that we continued downhill to the more touristy town of Amalfi, passing more ruins and deserted mills until we got to the main square where there was the most beautiful cathedral and quite a few restaurants as well as lots of little stores. We went to Ristorante Piazza Duomo (which was situated in Piazza Duomo... again 10 points for the creativity of the name). 

I find that the pizzas in Southern Italy are generally very wet so for the first time ever it was a fork and knife job. It was quite pricey for what it was, I thought. The pizzas weren't at the standard that I expected but it was still quite nice and the service was relatively fast. It was situated in the main square with a great view of the main church so I guess we were paying for the location and the view too. After the hard work of the hike we decided it would be best to relax for 1 or 2 hours on the black, pebbly beach. It was quite late but it was nice to have the sun on my skin for the first time in what felt like forever!  

shorts - Miss Selfridge, bikini top - Triangl Swimwear*, kimono - eBay, shoes - Nike

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