Amantea - I know. Where?
Trip Start May 16, 2006
33Trip End Jun 13, 2006
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From Palermo, the plan was to take the train across Sicily and stay in one of the towns on the eastern coast. I'd forgotten, however, about our missing day of sitting around in Naples, so we had to alter the plan and catch a ferry in Messina, to start the journey up the coast. We found the Maritime Station in Messina without much trouble, but not a single one of the ferries had any sort of label, sign, or helpful board telling where they went. So we basically walked on to the nearest ship, hoping it was right and we wouldn't end up in, say, France, and started grilling as many passengers as we could find before it set off. Evidently, we made the right guess.
While we were on the ferry, we met another colorful character, Obsessed With Death Lucio. Lucio was evidently 25, in the Italian Army, and from a town that had had hundreds of Mafia slayings a few years back. He desperately wanted to make friends with us and write us email from whatever Bosnian town he was shipping out to. However, Lucio's favorite conversational topic was death. A conversation would start innocently enough, such as swimming in the ocean. He would somehow turn this to the jellyfish stings you would encounter, and how it would be an ineffective method of suicide. After realizing that I was growing more and more distant, he turned his attentions to Sarah. We agreed later that it had been an okay ferry ride, and the scenery would have been nice, but we were so busy fending off OWD Lucio that it was hard to enjoy it. The boy managed to equate ice skating with death. The skyline of Messina. Everything. We were not sorry to see him go. In fact, the conversation went, "Did we lose him?" "I dunno. Walk fast. That way."
From Villa San Giovanni, we took the regionale train up the coast, determined to find a beach. It didn't really matter which one, we just wanted a beach. About an hour later, we started paying close attention, since the beach out of the window was turning from rocks and concrete into sand. Finally, we saw a beach that looked just perfect, so we grabbed our stuff and jumped out as soon as the train stopped. We were the only passengers alighting there, and the platform was completely empty. Sunny, with a great view of the beach, but empty. With a little trepidation I went to the departure board to see how soon it was possible to leave, just in case there was no lodging or facilities of any sort in this place. Turns out, there were a few trains, enough to set my mind at ease, and we started to look around. The station sign let us know where we were - a town called "Amantea." Deciding that it had a pretty name, we ventured off the platform, through the attached snack bar (with surprised looks from the locals) and out into town. We stopped at the first hotel we found - after worrying that it didn't look nearly dilpadated enough to be ours - and found that the Hotel Meditteraneo had lovely rooms with private bath for 60E a night, and that in high season.
We giggled like idiots about our lovely room for awhile (a three star is quite a jump up from our usual one star), throwing open all of the windows and peering in every drawer, nook and cranny. There was even a mini-bar. We set off to find the internet in town, squealing delightedly at the fact that "our" town had all sorts of ruins up on the hills surrounding it, and that its prime business seemed to be in pet stores with adorable puppies and kittens. I have no idea how a town miles from anywhere can have all of those pet stores and no stray animal problem, but it did. We stopped at the internet place (Via Dogano, east side of town), which had visitors so rarely that they just registered us as normal users, complete with home addresses and id numbers. They were too expensive to stay long, so we headed to the beach. It was too dark and cold to swim, but we wanted to have a route mapped out for the morning, to maximize the available Beach Time.
On the way back from the beach, we stopped at a seafood restaurant for dinner, where we made such a mess of the orders between our Italian and the waiter's English, that we ended up getting three first courses, one second course, a salad, two bowls of bread, and three extra plates. The way the rotation of the food went, whenever he'd come back by, Sarah would have another empty plate in front of her, while I was still nibbling on what he'd seen before. This was not at all an accurate representation, as I think I probably actually ate more (we were so confused by the three first courses that we assumed two of them were actually just mine split onto two plates, so I ended up eating most of the first courses), but at the end of the meal, we noticed he asked me specifically if the food was good and did not even bother with Sarah. This bizarre impression was probably exacerbated by us laughing so hard for the last thirty or forty minutes, whenever he'd bring out another empty plate for no apparent reason, that the other customers must've thought we were on something. We made sure to leave a big tip and he handed us starfish as a going away present. Sarah was so confused by the mad tea party-like meal by this time, she turns to me and asks, "Is this a starfish or a cookie?" As tempting as it was to watch her try and eat the starfish in full view of all the other diners who thought we were quite crazy, I told her that the waiter had, in fact, just handed us starfish for no apparent reason, and it was probably time for us to go now.
As this was the night the World Cup was starting, I think the atmosphere of the town was a lot merrier than it would normally have been. We stopped into the hotel to let the desk clerk know that we would like to check out at the unheard of hour of 2pm the next day ("Two?" "In the afternoon?" "Okaaaay. Sure.") and went out to the bar behind our hotel to get cappuccinos. The very cool bartender (who we refer to as "Amantea Tony," because we're not quite sure what his name actually was) spoke a bit of English, but preferred speaking Italian very slowly and clearly, with hand gestures. He introduced us to his grandson and seemed extraordinarily pleased to have us around. After the extra, completely unneeded caffeine, we went back to our room, to listen to the shouts of the town around us as the World Cup game was played. When it was over, we determined they were happy with the winner from the screaming in the streets.
Hopping off the train wherever we pleased turned out much better than it could have. Amantea's a keeper.
Where I stayed