Set on the Amalfi Coast, south of Rome, Positano is a small cliffside fishing village, abounding in mythical ties and magical allure and truly, honestly nothing short of picturesque. Pastel hued houses are precariously perched over jagged mountain bluffs, cascading down to the deep blue of the sparkling Mediterranean Sea. It is an engineering marvel really, it makes you wonder how these houses were built and stacked in the first place and what keeps them from tumbling down. Coming in from the Amalfi Coast freeway, there is only a one one-way road that winds through the town, past fragrant lemon groves and orange trees, beautiful yellow, pink and white bleached houses with verandas and rooftops overflowing with startling vines of magenta bougainvillea. The houses were historically painted in such a colorful fashion so that the fisherman could pinpoint their houses from the seashore.
I caught my first glimpse of Positano from the little hamlet of Nocelle on the way back from the incredible Path of the Gods hike. I was exhausted and badly in need of rest and food. My tour guide, Maurizio, who happened to be quite a popular figure in Praiano, the town where we had begun and ended the hike, flagged a ride with a random car that passed by and gave my friend and me a ride to our parked car. From there, we drove into Positano trying to find a hotel or hostel. Positano was the only town in my 10 day Italy trip for which we had made no reservations; We’d figured we’d let serendipity lead the way.
Shortly after entering the town, we stumbled upon this beautiful expensive-looking boutique hotel and just for the kick of it, we decided it would be fun to discover the nightly rate – mind you, we had no intentions of camping there because we didn’t think we could afford it. A bored-looking Italian man in a slick suit welcomed us in as we got out the car and after we exchanged pleasantries, we asked him what the room rates were. To our utter surprise, he told us that a room cost 25$/person with complimentary breakfast AND wait for it…. a balcony with a sea view. 25$? It’s hard to get a bed in a 8 bed hostel room for that rate sometimes. Jubilant, we took him up on the offer instantly. (Turn down for what? :D) Traveling offseason has it perks!
He gave us the keys and walked us to our room on the first floor and …wow, did we luck out! It was a very spacious and artsy room that led into a beautiful balcony. The plush bed was adorned with soft blankets and pillows, sure to bring a sound night’s sleep. The palette in the room consisted of simple whites and neutrals, making the sea view out the cozy balcony all the more breath-taking.
We sat on the balcony; drinking in the view and gobbling up cornettos (Italian croissants) that he had so kindly offered us, and watched as the sun disappeared behind the craggy cliffs, darkness slowly blanketing the quiet town.
A little after twilight, we set out to explore the city. Besides the one-way road, the only way to go anywhere in this town is by braving the many narrow stairways that twist and turn and deceive. Just when you think you have reached the top, more steps magically appear. There is certainly no need for any gyms in this part of the country, if you ask me. These steps will keep all the fat at bay. Looking forward to juicy rewards in the form of a cheesy delicious Italian meal, shopping at chic boutiques that everyone had been raving about, we ventured out on this calf-sculpting hike down the steps. Yes, I did say “down the steps”, Lol. And no, I’m no wimp. There are so many steps that even climbing down can sting after a while, for some sooner than others.
Since we had decided to be serendipitous, we were hoping to bump into some locals and ask them for recommendation for things to do and dinner. But as luck would have it, there was not a single crow or fly in sight – piazzas were deserted, boutiques were closed, windows were tightly shut and it was unnervingly quiet; the only form of life we saw was a grumpy clowder of cats outside the church.
(Useless fun fact: The collective term for a group of cats is “clowder”. Being insanely obsessed with cats, I had to throw it out there)
While I love traveling in the off-season period, primarily because of the absence of fellow tourists, I was not really enjoying this eerie vibe. Disheartened, we trudged on towards the sea and finally ran into what appeared to be only open restaurant in town and by the looks of it, a tourist trap (Well Played Murphy!!) that served French fries and Mozzarella sticks. So much for an authentic Italian experience, huh? I resorted to ordering what I usually order in American Italian restaurants – Gnocchi alla Pesto, and a sheep’s milk cheese salad. After the dinner, which I will reluctantly admit, was pretty tasty, we lazily strolled around before heading to the Spaggia Grande beach. We found a comfortable bench to sit on and spent an hour on the beach, listening to the gentle waves rise and recede, recounting our Italian adventures and finally retiring for the night.
Initially we had decided to spend at least 2-3 days in Positano given it’s reputation for being the “party town”. But considering the ghost town status, we decided to make an early retreat, with promises to return at a more livelier part of the year. We woke up early the next morning, made ample use of the delicious breakfast spread at the hotel – starting with a luscious cup of cappuccino, then stuffing ourselves with as many nutella cornettos as we possibly could. One can never tire of coffee and cornettos in Italy, even more so, when they come filled with Nutella. Wrapped up breakfast with thick, creamy yoghurt and freshly squeezed orange juice. Oooh Mamma Mia!
We drove a little while around the city, before leaving to catch a ferry to the island of Capri, delighting in the sights of a sleepy village coming to life – a man and his dog on a vespa, a vegetable market owner setting up shop, Italian men getting their coffee fix at the cafeteria, etc. Perhaps we had made too quick a decision to leave? We’ll never know. 🙂
Legend has it that the three islands of Li Gall called the Sirenuse, just off the shores of Positano were inhabited by the Sirens. These mythological creatures, with bodies of bird and female heads, lured and seduced with their enchanting music and song all those who sailed nearby.
I don’t know if it was the Sirens that worked their charm or it was Positano’s timeless beauty, perhaps a bit of both, that made me fall in love with this beautiful and quiet town. “Ciao Positano!” until next time. And yes, there will definitely be a next time…