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Roscrea Community Choir
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Amalfi Coast Diary 24th to 31st October 2003

For the third year in a row, Roscrea Community Choir headed off to Italy for the Halloween break. 2001 was our first trip abroad - to sing for His Holiness in St. Peters - a truly memorable experience. August 2002 saw us visit Lake Garda - with Venice and Opera in Verona as the highlights and 2003 it was to be the Amalfi Coast, south of Naples.

Day One

Friday the 24th October arrived early for Roscrea Community Choir and friends under the baton of Lucy McCarthy, with Father Michael Collins as Spiritual Director, and Joan Murray Organist who were travelling to Minori. The bus departed from the Catholic Church car park at the early hour of 3 a.m. Weary and bleary-eyed we arrived at Dublin airport. We took off on time and arrived at 11 a.m. in Naples Airport. There Kieran - our ex-officio member and tour guide, met us and we were soon on our way. We got a view of the countryside we hadnít really planned for at this point in time, as we had to go over the local Lattari Mountains to get to our destination owing to a recent rockslide between Maiori and Minori (shown by the arrow on the map) that closed the usual road. The resulting 90-minute journey was spectacular from this high road which clings to the rock face; soaring and plunging and sending drivers wheeling from one hairpin bend to another. Much of it was so narrow that the distance between passing vehicles could be measured in coats of paint! Village after village rolled slowly by as our bus snaked its way along the road - this was the beginning of what was to be a week of honking roadways with splendid scenery and hair-raising precipitous coastal meanderings. The bus negotiated these accompanied by numerous ooohs and aaaaahhsss! Finally, we arrived at our hotel - Hotel Villa Romana at about 2 p.m.- and while the staff unloaded our luggage and placed it in our rooms we got the first taste of the local cuisine. After lunch we had a rest before we were taken on a short orientation tour. We passed the church of Santa Lucia, the Roman Villa - after which our hotel was named, finishing up at the Basilica of Saint Trofimena, which is the largest church on the Amalfi Coast This saint is one of the most revered on the Amalfi Coast. She was martyred about the year 300 A.D. during the persecution of the Emperor Diocletian. Centuries later, the urn in which her remains were held was found by a woman washing clothes in the Regina Minor River which flows into the town of Minori. Her tomb is now in the crypt of the basilica in Minori - the largest church on the Amalfi Coast. The evening was filled with dinner at the hotel and afterwards there followed a demonstration on the making of Limoncello - a local liqueur made from lemons, sugar and of course, alcohol! There were also lemon chocolate samples on display from a local factory. These proved very popular during the week. This was the first of many demonstrations of local crafts that took place almost nightly after dinner. These were specially organised for our group. Then there followed the first of many musical sessions in the lobby with members entertaining all in the hotel in real Irish Style! The musicians travelling were Joan Murray on keyboard, Pauline DeFue on harp and tin whistle, Lucy McCarthy on violin and tin whistle, Eimear Guinan on flute and tin whistle, Father Collins on tin whistle and Dick Conroy on guitar.

Day Two

This began with the now traditional early morning swim - before breakfast - for those brave enough to withstand the cold temperature of the outdoor pool. Following breakfast the choir went to the Basilica to rehearse for their concert arranged for that night. Huge posters proclaiming this event had been put up all over the town. The owners of the hotel, the local choir and the parish priest put a lot of time and energy into helping advertise and promote the concert in Minori. Following the rehearsal the group had lunch at the local American Bar situated on the seafront - a beautiful setting on a lovely sunny day. After lunch there followed a trip to the local liqueur and chocolate factory for both buying and tasting! The choir then had another rehearsal prior to the concert. The concert itself took place at 8 p.m. to a full house. The choir performed a number of religious choral pieces, while the musicians played some traditional Irish music. The local choir of Minori - Gli Amici di San Francesco (The Friends of Saint Francis) performed four pieces and joined Roscrea Community Choir in the Finale -The Battle Hymn of the Republic which got a standing ovation from the audience. There followed a presentation by the local choir of a commerative plaque, books, CDís and a bouquet of flowers to Ms. Lucy McCarthy. This concert was so well received that a local organiser from Amalfi - called Michele Angelo - asked that we come to Amalfi Cathedral to perform the program there. We were only too delighted to oblige, as due to the road blockage a previously booked performance in Sorrento had to be cancelled - buses were not allowed to run on the mountain roads at night. We duly returned to our hotel for dinner and the nightly session.

Day Three

An early rise was in order this morning as we were heading for the Beautiful Isle of Capri. Following breakfast, we caught a small boat in Minori at 8 a.m., which took us to Amalfi where we boarded a larger boat that took us to Capri, a journey of about 90 minutes. The Isle of Capri is one of the most sought-after tourist destinations in the world. It is famous for its picturesque villages, stunning views and home of the rich and famous especially since its popularity took off in the 1960ís. On arrival we took the minibus to the highest point on the island - Anacapri. Here there was free time for shopping and to enjoy the spectacular views from outside the Villa San Michele. This villa was constructed by Axel Munthe in the late 1800ís. Some of the group went shopping while others took the chair lift to Monte Solaro - the islandís highest peak. Following lunch we went to the lower village of Capri - famous for its designer shops. Some of the group took the walk to the Villa of Augustus. From here there was a spectacular view of the island. The Villa of Gracie Fields - remembered by many for her rendition of the Jimmy Kennedy song The Isle of Capri- is visible near the Marina Piccola. At 4.15 p.m. we boarded the boat for our trip home. Passengers on the boat were treated to some Irish music and dancing. On our return to Minori Fr. Collins celebrated mass in the church of Santa Lucia, following which we had a gala dinner organised by the hotel.
A locally renowned pianist and singer provided the music; later the well-established session began in the lobby.

Day Four

Following the usual early morning swim and breakfast, we walked to the neighbouring village of Maoiri to catch our coach to visit Herculaneum and Vesuvius. The rock slide on the coast meant that our driver couldnít come to Minori to collect us. The road was blocked off by the police and we had to wait for some fifteen minutes for local politics to work and have the road opened for a limited period to pedestrian traffic. The journey was only about a mile from Minori to Maiori. We boarded the bus and this is where we got our second look at the spectacular Amalfi Coast from a side we had not yet seen. Our first stop was the ruins of Herculaneum, a once small seaside village of about 3,000 people that was destroyed by the eruption of Vesuvius in 79 A.D. These poor people we buried under 60 feet of boiling mud that travelled at over 30 miles and hour from Mount Vesuvius, hitting the village in under four minutes. Because it was buried by a mud flow, the buildings were in great condition, with upstairs floors intact as well as the frescoes and mosaics in better shape than those of Pompeii, which we saw three years previously. Pompeii, being a much bigger town of 30,000 people would be much more impressive because of its sprawl, but the quality of the buildings, frescos and mosaics in Herculaneum is spectacular. We visited a typical house, a shop and the public baths. Among other things we saw the perfectly preserved road surfaces and sidewalks. After our guided tour of Herculaneum we boarded our bus and proceeded up to Mount Vesuvius itself. We lunched on the way and afterwards continued to the car park from where we would climb the last 1,000 feet to the rim of Vesuvius. Our bus developed a blocked fuel filter half ways to the coach park. Luckily Eddie Murrayís skills soon had it fixed. The climb was tough at the beginning, and with our hearts pounding we pushed forward to get to the access gate before closing time. The view of Naples, Capri and Ischia was wonderful - let alone the view into the crater; which still spewed a little steam from cracks in its sides - it last erupted in 1944. We walked all along the rim till we reached the end of the trail. At various points along the way there were souvenir shops. By the time we got back, dusk was already falling and we were muscle-weary from the climb. Happy to have succeeded in climbing the mountain, we headed home. After dinner again that night, there was a session of local popular music performed by five musicians, including one of the hotel waiters. Some of the pieces were hundreds of years old and were in the local dialect. After this, we had a music session of our own in the hotel.


Roscrea Community Choir
Roscrea Community Choir
Amalfi Coast Diary 24th to 31st October 2003 Continued
Historic trip to Rome for Roscrea Community Choir

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