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Walking through Smeraldina
Walking through Smeraldina
I've done a goodly amount of walking through Italy and England, always the same places that shift shapes so that each time is like the first. I smell the compost burning near the lemon groves this morning as I gaze along the mountainside down to the coast the smoke curling up like candle flame that has just been wicked, trailing towards the sky like Italian smoke signals. Cera!! The mountain folk call out as I walk by, their clothing made of wool and corduroy, clothing they have owned for many years. The men wear a derby cap and the women tie scarves over their heads as if ready at any moment to dip into church to pray.
I've spent the afternoon in Amalifi woke up that morning in a bedroom with tiled floor and geraniums at the window looking down at the beach in Positano. I took a ferry around the peninsula and landed in the great old Eastern port where spices and silk made their way by boat to the shores of Italy via Asia Minor and China. The bloody fighting between the different City States of Italy a constant battle for portage and wealth between the great families including the Medici.
All is calm now except for the incessant traffic that clogs one of the most beautiful roads on earth, the Amalifi Coastal Road. Tour buses jam every existing space, scooters speed by like buzzing insects of death, shiny black floss whipping away from the girls' heads as they cling to their lover, their boots impossible as are their short tight skirts for riding side saddle as they zoom up the steep switchback on their way to the cafe and an afternoon of Italian chatter over espressos.
It is not very calm, but there seems not to be any blood shed as I walk through the piazza and look up at the imposing steps leading to the Duomo. I've gotten a gelato as I meander through the narrow streets with my own lover who has, a few minutes ago, taken me in a back alley only to be discovered by an old woman opening her shutters to our grunts and shouts.
We are licking our gelato, we've got our backpacks and are walking towards the cliffs that hang over Amalfi and have made it nearly impossible to reach except by Sea. There is an old abandoned paper mill by the raging stream, it had rained that morning, the water flooding past boulders and green branches broken by the force.
The forest becomes dense as we find our way to the first of a thousand wide, shallow stairs that will be our yellow brick road, our trail to Ravello which is the town where we will sleep that evening.
As we begin to climb the ancient stone steps that were first quarried by the Romans we hear bells jingling. We are walking towards the sound and are surprised by an old man, his donkey laden with branches and his old black dog which growls half-heartedly at us as we pass by. The bells a warning to all that climb the stairs which are blind in many places.
The top is near and the sweat is streaming down our faces and backs, the air moist and heavy as we stop for water and a look out at the green mountains and the lazy smoke coming from the lemon groves that sprinkle the hillside in number too many to count. It is autumn, in spring the air would be pungent with lemon blossom but now the trees hangs heavily pregnant with abundant fruit.
I am very happy at that moment looking at the Sea below and the stairs ahead. I look also into my lover's eyes which say, 'yes' to me. Without a word I lift my backpack off my shoulders and undo the button on my hiking shorts, I work them down and out of my legs so that I am standing with my hiking boots on and nothing to protect my succulent inner thighs. I lean over the stone wall protecting me from a very steep decent into the green canyon below and am taken from behind by my lover. We blend our personal liquids and feel the pleasure of outdoors all around us. We might get caught at any moment as we both let out a shriek and he falls onto my back. We laugh at the beauty of it all.
Up we go to the very top and through a small village with an outside cafe. We sit and have pizza maurgarita cooked in an oven with fresh mozzarella, basil and tomatoes. We drink lemonade squeezed from the lemons that surround the village.
Looking out we can almost touch God. It is a perfect combination of land and sea, steeply dramatic and green, unchanged for many many centuries. There are the little villages below, there are the green mountains rising from the depths of the bluest sea on earth, our Mediterranean.
Then there is the smoke languishing skywards and silent, filled with smells of the earth, musky and fresh.
We chat a while with the owners of the cafe, in our broken Italian and then walk on up and down many more ancient steps and with no warning, no fanfare, we step into the Piazza of Ravello, the most silently steep, the most romantic of all the towns along this coast, where great artists from Wagner to Vidal lived and still live amongst the ruined grandure of the beautiful Sorrento Peninsula.