Amalfi with the masses 

Even accessed by tour bus during the crush of high-tourist season, the Amalfi coast charms.

click to flip through (6) PHOTO BY STEVE MACNAULL - The sea in Sorrento is accessed by this cliff-hugging zig-zag walkway.
  • Photo By Steve MacNaull
  • The sea in Sorrento is accessed by this cliff-hugging zig-zag walkway.

Zipping along Amalfi's treacherous and spectacular coast road in a Fiat convertible has long been a dream of my wife and myself.

The wind blowing in our hair and the drop dead gorgeous plunging views to the Tyrrhenian Sea from the twisting corniche road just seems so Italian, so sexy, so ultra sophisticated.

Alas, it's not to be.

We're on a motorcoach with 40 other tourists lumbering along the clifftop mountain-hugging thoroughfare that's officially known as Strada Statale #163.

The vistas of terraced hillsides, promontory pastel-coloured settlements, towering bluffs and the blue-upon-blue of sea and sky is still the same regardless of mode of transportation.

So we sit back and make the best of it.

After all we're making the trip with our 10-year-old daughter and this Amalfi-By-Road-and-Water jaunt is a one-day excursion from our Disney Magic cruise stop in nearby Naples.

Tour guide Stefano Denovellis is trying his darndest to get the group hyped.

"Mama Mia," he screams into the microphone at a particularly precarious turn in the road.

"When your stomach lurches like that you're allowed to yell Mama Mia because this is also know as the Mama Mia Road."

At another bus-can't-possibly-make-this-turn point Stefano has us applauding driver Bruno Damore's prowess.

Stefano also tells us we aren't the only tourists who've been lured to Amalfi by its unworldly beauty.

"It's been a holiday destination since Roman times," he reveals.

"Emperors Augustus, Tiberius and Nero all came here for the same reasons you have — the bellimissio scenery, the climate, the sea."

Our first stop is Sorrento and our group is unleashed on this charming clifftop town for an hour and 15 minutes.

Just enough time for my daughter and I to race to the cliff's edge and negotiate the zig-zag path down to the sea.

There's not really a beach here, but a series of piers, restaurants and swimming clubs with loungers and changerooms on docks, and access directly into the crystal clear water via ladders.

We cool off with a swim and hike back up to meet my wife who's enjoying a cappuccino at a cafe above.

Since shopping seems to be mandatory for the girls at every opportunity, we troll the narrow pedestrian-only alleyways to check out the leathers, linens and the liqueur Sorrento is famous for, limoncello.

Ironically, I'm the only one who ends up buying anything — a bright orange linen shirt that my wife convinces me is perfectly acceptable cruise attire.

Lunch with the rest of the group in the palm-and-lemon-treed courtyard of Ristorante Parrucchiano proves you cannot have a bad meal in culinary-blessed Italy.

The courses keep arriving — roasted vegetables, mini pizzas, tomato salad with the thickest slices of mozzarella, Parma ham, penne and cannelloni pastas and lemon cake all washed down with the ristorante's own label wine Vino da Tavola-Sorrento.

Back on the bus with full bellies it's on to Salerno to catch the ferry that will whisk us out onto the Tyrrhenian and past the towns that hang precariously between mountain and sea — Cetara, Maiori, Minori, Ravello and finally namesake Amalfi.

Stefano shouts above the roar of water that this is the coast where Italian bombshell actresses Sofia Loren and Gina Lolabridgada have homes, as does James Bond actor Roger Moore and late American writer Gore Vidal.

The home construction ban that's been in place on the Amalfi since 1985 only drives up desirability and price.

The town of Amalfi tops even Sorrento as eye candy.

From the main square, cathedral ringed with restaurant patios, to the side-shopping streets and crowded pebbled beach, it's la dolce vita personified.

A Disney cruise is the perfect way for a family to see the Mediterranean.

The ship is the floating five-star hotel that goes to exciting ports of call in Spain, France, Italy, Croatia, Malta, Turkey and Greece and the excursions are family-friendly ways to combine history and adventure. and



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