We stayed long enough to unpack, change, drink some of the wine and admire the view over the hills beyond the town and then we went outside to explore. At the end of the drive was a busy main road that went straight to the main square in Sorrento and we followed it for a while before heading off down a side street in the direction of the sea that we reached after just a few minutes.
We walked a little way along the cliff tops looking down over the small beaches of black sand and the wooden bathing platforms built out into the sea and the colourful fishing boats bobbing lazily on the occasional gentle wave. On the balustrades were plant pots brimming with gaily-coloured geraniums and every few metres there were seats to stop and sit and admire the views.
Finally we reached the town, which resembled a racetrack because Italy has some different driving rules to the rest of Europe and the traffic was murderously hectic this morning.
Traffic lights are a good example of these different rules because each set resembles the starting grid of a formula one Grand Prix. At an Italian traffic junction there is an intolerant commotion with cars impatiently throbbing with engines growling, exhaust pipes fuming and clutch plates sizzling whilst behind the wheel the driver’s blood pressure reaches several degrees above boiling point. A regard for the normal habits of road safety is curiously absent in Italy so although the traffic light colours are the same as elsewhere they mean completely different things. Red means slow down a little bit, amber means go and green means close your eyes and hit the accelerator!
According to EuroStat, in 2004, there were thirty two thousand, nine hundred and fifty-one road deaths in the European Union and five thousand, six-hundred and twenty-five of them were in Italy. That is about 17%. In the ten years up to 2004 the Italians slaughtered sixty-five thousand, one hundred and twenty five people in traffic accidents so it pays to have your wits about you when crossing the road and why if you want to be sure of avoiding death on the highway in Italy it is probably safest to visit Venice.
After negotiating the road we stopped at the Bar Ercolano, ordered some beer and sat in the warm October sun and watched the people and the traffic going backwards and forwards through the main square.
Afterwards we walked back to Sant’ Agnello and took the coastal path all the way until we came to the Hotel Mediterraneo where I had stayed thirty years earlier with dad. It looked smarter now with a fresh coat of paint, immaculate green shutters and a splendidly refurbished interior. Opposite, the little bar where we used to drink was still there but it had changed as well, gone were the white plastic chairs, the cheap aluminum tables and flimsy blue and red sun umbrellas to be replaced with modern canvas parasols and cane furniture. We stopped for a drink of course and this brought back memories of that previous visit.
It was late afternoon so we went back to the hotel to buy some trips to Amalfi, Pompeii and Herculaneum and then we sat around the pool for a while before going back to the room to finish the sparkling wine and get ready for dinner.
This turned out to be a very disappointing affair with a poor choice of food that wasn’t especially tasty so we ate it quickly and then went back into Sorrento to find a nice bar for the evening. We didn’t stay out late because Jonathan wasn’t feeling so good and anyway we had an early start tomorrow to do the famous Amalfi drive.
Sant’Agnello, Sorrento in 1976