To get out of Amalfi we had to put up with more twisty madness and twisted drivers. I can't describe how dangerously these fools drive considering the narrowness of the roads and the abundance of blind curves. Lisa shot a video that captured the insanity... including a near head-on collision. Once we headed south of Sorrento on the highway, things became more normal... well almost.
The highway was six lanes wide in places. Ahh... cruise control, come to Babbo. Actually, I was amazed that the South had such a great highway--huge bridges crossing over deep ravines, and lots of tunnels going through the mountains. Italy has always turned their backs--and the government wallets--on the South. But, get this... every several miles there were lane closures, switching lanes over to the opposite side of the highway, with no construction or workers in sight. There was one such detour that funneled 3 lanes down to a single narrow lane, with concrete and metal guard rails that were inches wider than my Volvo XC60 SUV. I actually stopped completely... thinking I was going to scrape the sides of the car. The collision sensor was making that flat line sound! I JUST made it... and somehow the small box truck behind me made it, too. This stuff is nuts.
Anyway, the rest of the drive to Castelmezzano was beautiful. Bigger and more rugged mountains lined our path. This was like the West in the U.S.... big sky and mountains. Some were bald and rocky, others were forested. Then there were dizzyingly high peaks with villages clinging to their cliffs.
We took a side detour to a ghost town I had heard about hanging on one of these sort of cliffs, 2000 feet above a steep valley. It became a ghost after an earthquake decades ago. But as we pulled into the village some officials were just leaving and locking a huge gate that had been recently installed. They said it was to protect the historic site from vandals and that it was too dangerous. I had seen lots of pics from people visiting this site and we had supplies for a picnic overlooking that incredible view. They must have locked the place up fairly recently. What a shame. The men were very nice and their leader told us to follow one of their cars to a nearby rustic picnic area that turned out to be really nice. Bread, olives, cheese, tomatoes, fruit, "gassata" (sparking water) and Fanta... lunch was simple but great. (By the way, Fanta here is NOT like the chemical tasting stuff in the U.S. It actually has orange juice from Italian oranges in it. Very light and refreshing.)
Pulling in to Castelmezzano was great... uphill twisty roads but more sheep than crazy drivers. Our first views took our breath away. What a mystical setting. A village tucked under amazing dolomite pinnacles. We were able to pull right up to the hotel an unload... parking a short walk down in the village parking. The reception was on the 5th floor... our room was down on the first. At the desk, Lucas tasted the huge block of salt that someone turned into a glowing lamp. Salty with a soft glow. This was an upside down, fairly modest hotel clinging to a cliff with views of the dolomites outside our windows. At least there was an elevator.
Dinner was a bit stuffy and formal but food was good. As this was mid October, the hotel seemed to have only 3 rooms booked. I suppose they get busy in the summer with people flocking here to do the zipline (more on that below). Afterwards the highlight was walking the passagiata with the locals (we were the only tourists) and coming upon the piazza overlooking the cliffs and village just as all the lights were lit. A Christmas village illuminated right before our eyes. I got some great pics using my tiny backpack tripod. We then walked a bit on the little streets, so narrow that you had to hug the walls if a small car came past.
The next morning we drove to the nearby sister clifftown of Pietrapertosa via an amazing twisty and dangerous road (one part was undercut from a landslide... I drove quick over that.) Even this drive was an enjoyable adventure with just us on the roads--aside from the sheep and goats. I tried taking a photo of a line of sheep heading toward our road to cross... as soon as I got out of the car I heard one of the "sheep" give two sharp barks. It was the sheep dog warning of the danger. The sheep stopped dead in their tracks and would not move as long as the didn't get the all clear.
The views of Pietrapertosa were even more astounding than Castelmezzano. I'll be sure to post some pics... words can't do it justice. The pinnacles were ornate and many. Some looked like faces... others just impress with the volcanic uplift that created them. The views from the road is amazing. In some parts of the village the cliffs lean and hang right over the houses!
There is even a zipline that runs between the two towns called the Flight of the Angel (volodellangelo.com). You lay flat in a harness--Superman style--and fly at over 70 MPH! I had hoped to do it myself but it was a bit of a logistic problem... You need to decide which direction you want to travel in. There are lines going both ways but in different locations due to the downward pitch of the line needed to go from one town to the other. I couldn't figure out how to get back and forth--and one of the roads between the two towns is closed. (Yea... that's my story and I'm stickin' to it... yea, that's the ticket.)
We then drove into a broad high plateau to move to our next amazement... the cave city of Matera, where we would spend the night in a cave hotel....
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