Our hotel on the Italian island of Ischia sits on a promontory overlooking the Tyrrhenian Sea between the towns of Lacco Ameno and Forio. We spend each morning walking miles up and down the hillsides to work off the pasta (not always a successful remedy!). One of our favorite walks winds through the forest above our hotel, past the Italian film director's house (which sits at the end of a dirt road), past a bocce court as the road becomes asphalt, along the coast to an overview of Forio. Then we wind down cobblestone streets past the Church of San Francesco de Paola, past the beach resorts in Forio and the marina, to a cafe in town for a cold drink.
|View from our hotel promontory|
|Tower rooms in our hotel and pool|
At the beginning of this walk to Forio we must descend our hotel's half-mile driveway. Part-way down there is a sign that reads, "Madonna di Zaro" (Madonna of the Hillside).
Charley and I ascend the dirt path through the forested hillside toward the shrine, which sits atop winding wooden steps. On this walk, we are not alone. In a dirt car-park, taxis and a van wait in leafy shade for their customers, who begin to file singly down the steps after their supplications. Scattered next to the vehicles are picnickers' plastic bottles, sandwich wrappers, melon rinds, and the condom evidence of lovers' trysts.
"No, I sit next to my husband in the middle," the other woman answers.
"Take a different seat!" she hears. "Angelo and I want middle."
Angelo and his wife get their wish. If only the Madonna had the power to cleanse the wooded hillside as she had (dubiously?) cleansed the petitioners' souls!
|Overlooking the town of Forio, Ischia|
|A family shrine|
Of course, the woman doesn't understand a word! She waits till we exit the tunnel before shouting curses as she passes.
On the roads hugging hillsides on Ischia, sidewalks are built as a brief nod to the tourist, then they disappear. Crosswalks are mere suggestions. Charley decides that since crosswalks are meaningless, he can cross where he pleases. He grabs my hand and holds his free hand up like a traffic cop, defying two lanes of traffic to stop or hit us.
Once we get past the beaches, we hug the sides of cobblestone houses and produce shops while cement trucks and faces frozen behind glass in tour buses whiz at forty-five mph within twelve inches of our sucked-in stomachs. Young girls with their arms around their boyfriends' waists zoom around us on cycles, the boyfriends yelling back to them and flinging one hand in the air with fingers together like blown kisses for emphasis. Taxi drivers never disrupt their phone conversations around blind curves. We stand on the asphalt's six-inch shoulder, waiting till Charley can swing out into the curve with me following. He uses a sideways pushing motion away from us, certain that motorists coming out of the curve will see him and make NASCAR moves to avoid us. Ahead of him, housewives in flip-flops with their groceries defy the drivers without ever looking up.
In front of one market, a car slows to claim its parking space. It's the same space where Charley is walking. "Hey, stop!" he yells to the female driver, who stops within three feet of his upright palms.
Out jumps Nana, with her cloth grocery bag. "Quoi? Quoi?" Nana asks.
In other words, "What's your problem? Don't you know my daughter owned a motorino (motorbike) when she was six?"
|Fruit and vegetable vendor in Forio|
|Blind curve on Ischia|
|Another blind curve on Ischia|