Translated Jeff Matthews
We knew that this long weekend would be memorable, but we didn't expect the last day to give us such a surprise. Well, in Earthly Paradise miracles are the order of the day.
The feast day of San Gennaro [Sept. 19] occurred this weekend, and that gave us Neapolitans a particularly long weekend. All we had to do was squeeze in that Friday before the weekend to get fours days for our excursions! We had planned a hike at the Bay of Ieranto (or Jeranto) for the last day...something told us we would not regret it. The end of September is the best time of the year to see this little corner of paradise. The sun no longer beats down so mercilessly and there are fewer people, all of which makes the experience much more pleasant.
We left home early knowing that we might have trouble finding a place to park, so we were at Nerano by 8 a.m. We found a spot for our car in the only parking lot along via Vespucci a bit before it narrows down to lead into the small square. Then we made a quick stop at a small market for some water and we set out at a good pace on the trail that, at least at the beginning, fancies itself “Via Jeranto.”
The path had paving stones at first but quickly turned into a trail cut directly into the limestone rock as we moved downhill at a slight angle along the flank of the mountain. The trail is 1.7 km, along which your “climbing differential” (ups and downs) will total out to about 250 meters, and then you are at the Protected Marine Preserve of the Bay of Jeranto. Past the entrance you find “Villa Rosa”, which appears to be the last dwelling, but there is another one further on that is even more isolated; the trail levels out for a bit and then starts down.
Up to this point you've been walking by terraced olive groves and thick evergreen shrubland known as Mediterranean maquis that, in some points, serve as shade from the strong rays of the sun. As you move along, the maquis starts to thin out and change to low shrubbery. The appearance of an old stairway cut into the rock and in terrible condition tells us that the slope is about to get steeper. By now the bay below us stands out clearly and there is a tendency to pick up the pace just to get into that crystal clear water that much sooner...but careful...one wrong step could ruin a splendid day.
The beach, itself, is tiny and can accommodate only about ten persons. The others, however, can find comfortable space on the flat rocks that extend out on the left and, right after, the dock of an old limestone quarry. The structures of the quarry are fine examples of what is now called industrial archaeology; that point is where you can take a refreshing dip at the extreme end of the Amalfi Coast. Since the bay of Jeranto is a protected marine preserve, commercial barge traffic and fishing are not permitted.
So far, the day has been normal. Now comes the surprise.
All of a sudden a large powerboat accompanied by an equally outlandish rubber dinghy hove into view in the bay. We were surprised at that and even more so to see a Coast Guard vessel right behind them. We imagined that some “Sunday sailors” were about to get a very loud talking to by the authorities. That didn't happen. The three boats proceeded together, the third one escorting the first two. Who was on board? Who could not only cross these protected waters, but do so, no less, with a Coast Guard escort? We had even more questions as we watched an entire filming crew disembark. Only Naomi Campbell was missing, or maybe some other big star of the small screen. What was going on? Who could flout the rigid rules that guard a Protected Marine Preserve?
We got no answers until we saw two enormous fiber-glass tubs being unloaded onto the beach. We just had to know what was in them, so we grabbed our cameras and, holding them way over our heads above the water, piled down off the rocks to wade back to the beach.
Surprise! Surprise! The two tubs each held a gigantic marine turtle of the species Caretta caretta; they were about to be returned to their natural habitat. After a few minutes, these two reptiles (whom we had fondly christened “Tarta” and “Ruga” [trans. note: “tartaruga” means turtle in Italian. Yuk-yuk. Get it?]) waddle-marched down the sand and into the water to freedom, flanked by cheering humans. It was a grand day, crowned by a grand encore, a gift from the young people of the Punta Campanella Protected Marine Preserve.
Here are fotos: The Bay of Ieranto
...and here is the video.
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