This past June I spent 12 days on the beautiful Sorrentine Peninsula. This is an area of about 121 square kilometers just south of Naples on the West coast of Italy. A place so gorgeous and full of colour, I was blown away. Although I had been here briefly before, for one night in 2004 with my high school travel group, I had no idea that this area offered so much beauty. Yes, of course there are the picturesque towns that everyone knows so well, Positano, Capri, Amalfi etc. But what I found much more stunning was the diverse and gorgeous landscape. Every tourist here, and locals alike, fight for their own small spot with a view to enjoy. And now that I have spent more time here, I understand why.
The mountains and cliffs are breathtaking and around every corner. The beaches are small, but plentiful and many a secret. The water is so blue/turquoise/green and clear that you stop in your tracks. I haven’t spent so much time underwater with my eyes open since I was a child in our family swimming pool. I felt like Ariel, as the sun sparkled through my hair as I swam. Every evening offers a gorgeous view over the Mediterranean sea to watch the sunset, colourful and vibrant over a sky so large. Jasmine and lemon blossoms scent the air. The breeze (if you are lucky enough to get it) is moist and salty. There is a never ending supply of fresh shellfish, citrus fruit, gelato, pizza and pasta. Almost all of which I ate every single day! Thankfully we walked up and down a lot of stone steps and I ended up coming home weighing less then when I left :)
I spent a Sunday morning climbing lemon trees in my pyjamas (did you know they have very sharp thorns ?) and harvesting lemons with 3 Italian brothers. I tried to explain to a family in very small pizzeria that the dog I was walking was afraid of thunderstorms, as I struggled to carry him home. I attempted to not cover myself in ice cream while walking down the street carrying and licking two cones one hot afternoon. Orson Welles said ” Italy is made up of fifty million actors. The worst of which are on stage. ” And this is so true. And when you are there, even as a tourist, you often feel as if you are in a film or storyline. Every corner offers a story to watch, a drama, a neighbourhood play.
I have however realized that I have a love-hate relationship with this area. And maybe with southern Italy all together. Although this place is paradise, there are so many things (which are hard to show in photographs) that I find so sad to see in today’s society. About 200 000 residents live here permanently in many different towns and communes, one of the largest being Sorrento. And it’s hard to pin down an exact statistic of how many tourists visit each year because of where they all stay, but it is in the millions. The infrastructure is so difficult, partially due to the small streets (and difficult landscape) and partially due to the government. This makes travelling doable but usually frustrating. Which is understable, because it is Italy! But what bothers me most is that everything that is owned privately is pristine, clean and organized. Everywhere that is public space is completely the opposite. I was also so upset and surprised to find the insane amount of trash and pollution everywhere. This is due to a lack of trash bins, recycling systems, lazy people, and a fast paced, buy and throw away society. #zerowaste is non-existent in this area. There are no bike paths, sometimes ones for pedestrians, lots of vespas and cars, and violence and danger on the roads. I kept trying to picture the streets full of e-bikes and electric vespas and cars, in order to see how it could be, and maybe will be in time. I could not even recycle because I rarely had the opportunity to do so. You would think this would be the opposite in a place so beautiful, that people would want to protect and take care of it for everyone to share. But this type of thinking is certainly very naive. Waste was washing up on every beach in large masses. Plastic bags and litter were being thrown out car windows and stuck between rocks in gorgeous settings. Garbage bags were piled for days on end along thin streets, rotting in the sun and being eaten by street animals. Recycling systems are there, but can not accommodate the excess litter everywhere. I literally cried over this fact many times, and had to sit down and breath because I realized that I could not clean up and take care of it all myself. Now that I am back home in Germany, not far away, but with a completely different system, and infrastructure, I find it difficult to do something about it. I guess I will just have to keep signing petitions, speaking up, leading by example, and hope that others will follow. I know this is a very complex issue, but one I struggle with over and over again. Dear European Union, dear Italian Government, and the area of Naples, and Sorrento please do something about this!
On a happier note, I have here for you about 400 images of my time spent there. (I took almost 2000 images in 12 days so it has taken me a long time to reduce this) Below you will see beaches, harbours, piers and swimming holes in the city of Sorrento and its surroundings. As well as The Saint Antonio festival evening in the fishing harbour of Meta. This is a traditional festival on June 13th celebrated in many Catholic regions. This one in particular is in hope that the fishing season will be prosperous in the area. There are also many images from the Island of Capri, as well as some along the Amalfi Coast from the towns of Positano and Priano.
I am so thankful for my time spent there. For Timea and Ãlmos for sharing their beautiful orchard home and time with us. For Raffaele for showing us around and lending us his car. For Matthieu for taking multiple great photos of me. For the sun that tanned my skin and highlighted my hair. And for the salt that cleaned my body, mind and spirit. And of course for all those stairs that I climbed. I hope everyone is having a good Summer so far. ENJOY!