THINKING of POSITANO
The seaside town of Positano consists of craggy cliffs that pop up out of the Tyrrhenian Sea. There are Pastel Colored homes that are stacked one atop the other as they climb the mountainside clinging to it as they go upward from the Sea. The sheer cliffs of Positano ascend almost straight up to quite high heights into the quaint hamlets of Montepertuso and Nocella. The towns flora consist of Lemon and Olive Trees with numerous gardens that sprout such vegetation as; Pomodoro, Oranges, Peaches, Whisteria, Cucuzza, Eggplants, Basilico, Zucchini, Rosemarino, Sage, Wild Oregano, and Daisy’s and a multitude of wild-flowers, and fruits and vegetables of the region. Jasmine Trees line the streets and Bougainvillea can be seen everywhere. Whether the Flora is edible or not, it’s there to see and smell, and boy some aromas are quite intoxicating, Jasmine for example.
Positano burst from the Sea, forming a town so stunning, all the world just must see. People will travel 5,000 miles and more, to see it, to be there. That’s the affect this place has on you. The Amalfi Drive has an endless array of world class views around each-and-every hair-raising turn in the road. Everything about this part of the globe is amongst the most beautiful and breathtaking scenery in all the World. Its beauty is unmatched, and as I once said when having breakfast with a lovely young lady on the terrace of The Casa Albertina, “this is like being on Heaven on Earth. A true Paradise.” And this is pretty much how most people feel when they are there, whether in the seaside town of Positano, or pretty much any place on the Coast of Amalfi, as well as on The Isle of Capri, in Sorrento or Ravello, and even the capital city of Naples.
I was 23 when I first visited Positano and the Devine Coast, and that first trip I shall never forget, from that first approach sitting aboard the Blue Cita Bus as it wound its way from Meta on to Positano, that whole ride on that bus, each and every turn opened a new and most spectacular view filled with sights that I shall never forget. Those remarkable views from the road high above the sea were breathtaking, and so completely beautiful that they were almost beyond belief. It may sound cliché, but one must really go to Positano, Capri, and the Amalfi Coast for themselves to be able to truly appreciate the full breath of this unmatched beauty on The Devine Coast.
Whether looking in magazines, in a guidebook, or on the onternet, you’ll find thousands of beautiful pictures of each and every corner of this coast, but of course, there is nothing quite like being there yourself. Positano captivates, and once there, you my friends will be hooked for the rest of your lives.
The thing that first led me to Positano was that my boss Nick and his wife Valtentina spoke of this area as if it was the greatest most beautiful place they had ever seen, a virtual Nirvana. Well I tell you this is how their stories of Positano made me feel, so “I just had to go.” And when I did go, I must say, that was exactly how I felt, “like this was the most beautiful place on Gods good Earth,” and it just about is. The Amalfi Coast is one of those Bucket List places that absolutely must see, as the area now holds almost equal importance as such famed destinations as; Rome, Paris, Venice, the Grand Canyon, “Positano and the Amalfi Coast are“not to be missed.”
One night when I was walking home from work at John’s Italian Restaurant, I ran into some friends. It was just one week before my first European trip to Italy, France, and Spain. I ran into my friend Alma who was with her friend, the poet Rene Ricard. I said “Hello,” and Alma introduced me to Rene. The three of us were chatting on 2nd Avenue when I happened to mention that I was going to Italy, and Rene asked me, “where in Italy?” When I told Rene I was going to Rome, Florence, Barcelona, Venice, and Positano, Rene got quite excited and wanted to tell me all the good places to go to. He told me I should stay at the Hotel Locarno in Rome near the Piazza di Popolo and that I had to visit the twin churches of Santa Maria Montesanto and Santa Maria Mircoli, and that I had to go for a Campari at one Rosati’s across the piazza from the churches. Rene recommended a hotel in Venice that I can’t remember the name of, and he said that I had to have a Bellini at Harry’s Bar and a Cappuccino at Florian’s in the Piazza San Marco, which of course I did, for as with Positano, Paris, and Rome, everyone should see at least once.
Rene told me that I should stay at the nice little hotel Villa Maria Antonietta in Positano where Rene had stayed with his mother the previous Summer. He wrote me a note to give to Signora, Carmen stating that I was a friend of his and for them to take good care of me. Rene told me that I should have my espresso and my early evening Apertivo ( a Negroni) at Bar DeMartino, and that I just had to have the Spaghetti Vongole at Da Vincenzo’s which he said, was “the World’s best.”
So, with all of my friends suggestions and advice, and my new copy of Frommer’s Europe on $40 a day, my American Express Travelers Checks, and my two bags of luggage, I was on my way to Italy, with Spain, and the French Riviera in-between.
On Saturday June 15th, 1985, I made my way to JFK International Airport to catch my Pan Am Flight to Fiumicino Airport in Rome. I was quite excited and lucky to sit next to a nice couple who were also going to Rome for the first time. We chit-chatted on the plane and made plans to all have dinner together on our first night in Rome.
After getting our bags and going through the Passport Control area, we went outside to get transportation into the center of Rome. We were leaving the airport (early in the morning) when a gypsy cab driver approached us and asked if we needed a taxi into Rome. We did, so we hopped in and he drove us into Rome. We realized later that he over-charged us and ripped us off a bit, but since we split the fare, it wasn’t so bad. I had the cabby drop me off at the train station where I checked my luggage, so I could go out and look for a hotel room. Things were much different for traveling back then (No Internet). I had my list of pensione’s I made from looking through my guide book. I checked my bags and went out in search of a room, which I found near the Stazione for just about $15 (28,000 Lire) a night.
That day when I made my first foray into the Eternal City, I went absolutely nuts for this glorious city of Ancient Rome, the Empire, the Colosseum, and everything that followed. The things tht followed, were; Felini, The Trevi Fountain, the Piazza Navona, Campo di Fiori, Bucatini Carbonara, Amatriciana, Trastevere, and everything Roman! I stayed in Rome for 5 days and fully adored it. After Rome, it was off to see my High School friend JoAnna in Florence for a few days.
While in Florence, staying with my friend JoAnn and her husband Leo, they took me to Fiesole, San Miniato, and one Sunday to the glorious town of San Gimgiano where we ate Wild Boar Salami and drank Vernaccia Wine. JoAnn and Leo bought some Olive Oil for their house as well as a supply of wine. Our day in San Gimignano was capped off with the most spectacular Rainbow I’ve ever seen in entire my life. As we drove away from San Gimignano and were surrounded by Olive Trees and grapevines, that big beautiful Rainbow spread its arch across the Tuscan Sky next to the medieval town of San Gimignano. That Rainbow in Tuscany was a most wonderful sight, and a thing I have never forgotten, these 33 years later. I will always remember it, a day in Tuscany with an old high school friend.
After six great days in Tuscany, I boarded another train, this time on my way to Barcelona to meet up with my friends Efram and Cristina. I had a most wonderful time in Barcelona, eating Tapas, drinking Spanish Wine, seeing the Sagrada Familia, and swimming in Mediterranean on the Costa Brava before eating the tastiest grilled Shrimp ever, as I sipped Sangria, as the romantic music of Julio Inglesias played on the stereo. I sat in bliss on the terrace behind the little beachside restaurant in Blanes, Spain, and it was all so marvelous.
Oh, I almost forgot to mention that I was with my friend Lisa Lipitski who I just happened to run into on the Ramblas in Barcelona one day, strictly and without plan, “Out of The Blue.” Crazy!
Well a few days in Spain and I was off to The French Riviera, Nice, and Monaco. It’s needless to say that, “I just loved it,” over there. I rented a scooter one day and drove along the Grand Corniche from Nice to Monaco. I was in absolute 7th Heaven, meeting and having a little Tryst with a beautiful young French gal as I had the time of my life.
After Nice and Monaco, I hopped on a train bound for the most Serene Republic of Venice, Italy. What can one say about Venice that has not already been said a million times over. I stayed at the Hotel Firenze near San Marco Square and I did the usual things. Of course, I loved it. But I had to leave after two days, to finally make it down to Southern Italy and my first taste of the magical little town of Positano and the Devine Coast of Amalfi. And let’s not forget Napoli too, while my 1st visit to Capri would be a year later.
Yes, John Steinbeck wrote, “Positano Bites Deep. It is a Dream of Place that isn’t quite real when you are there, and it becomes beckoningly real when you are gone.” Oh yes, Positano becomes beckoningly real when you are gone. It always beckons one back. Once you’ve been there, you cry when you have to leave, its beauty is that strong, almost beyond belief. Positano will summon you back time and time again. Like all who’ve been there, you will dream of Positano; of the things you did, what you saw, how you ate, marveling at every step you took, it will be ingrained in your brain. If you’ve never been, you’ll not understand, for as they say, “you have to see it, to believe it.” The Amalfi Coast is quite possibly the most beautiful place on all of Gods Good Earth, “yes, it is.” All the little hamlets along the coast, whether down by the sea, or way up into its soaring cliffs. And of course, this includes the nearby islands of Capri, Procida, and Ischia as well.
On my first trip to Positano I took the route that I thought was best at the time. I read about it in my Frommer’s Guide Book. So I hopped on a train in Rome that was headed to Naples. There is a wonderful train called the Circumvesuviana that goes along the coast from Napoli to Sorrento, stopping at Erculano, and the Roman Ruins of Pompeii, Vico Equense, Castelamare, and all the coastal towns from Naples to Sorrento. The train only cost about 3.5 Euro, and back in 1985, it was about one dollar. It is a beautiful train ride, with many interesting things to see along the way, like; Olive Tree Groves, grape vineyards, fruit and vegetable gardens, Lemon and Orange Groves, and all those towns you pass through along the way. You have many spectacular views of the sea, the countryside, and just about everything. Yes, I love seeing Lemons and Oranges growing, and I marveled at all these things, including the almost black soil that had just been turned over in the many small farms and gardens the train passes through. Looking at the rich soils, I think of Tomatoes, Eggplants, fruits & vegetables that grow there and eventually wind up on people’s dinner plates. Yes, the train ride is quite delightful and an absolute bargain for what you get, which is transportation from Naples to Sorrento, which in the year 2018 would cost you 100 Euro or more by taxi or any private car.
Once you are in Sorrento, you will catch a bus to Amalfi that rides the Amalfi Drive and passes through all the towns, and ending up at the main square in Amalfi, but not before passing through Positano along the way. You can also take a ferry boat if you prefer it to the bus, but believe it or not, traveling along the famous Amalfi Drive is even more spectacular than going by boat. They are both wonderful ways to go, and I recommend trying both while on your trip. And if you are in a hurry, and or don’t wish to be in traffic, taking a boat from point to point is without question your best option.
So back to that my first trip to Positano. Someone told me to get off at Meta and catch the Sita Blue Bus to get to Positano. I did just that. So I got off the train at the Meta Station, so I could pick up the Blue Bus from there. I had to wait, if I remember correctly for about 30 or 40 minutes before the bus came, so I waited at the little caffe by the train station. I had a fresh Orange Juice and some Gelato as I waited. The bus finally came, and I jumped on and sat back, and got what would be the most magnificently breathtakingly beautiful bus ride of my entire life. Certainly, up to that point in my life at 23 years of age at the time. As it turns out, it still is after traveling the World three times over. That bus ride is still the most spectacular ride of ever seen.
The bus made its way high up above the sea, on a road that straddles sheer cliffs. The bus twisted its way from Meta on its way to Positano, and then would continue to Praiano, and finally on to Amalfi. The views of the sea, the cliffs, and the towns that we passed, were beyond wo. Riding the bus was a bit scary at first, as the bus navigated through tight hairpin turns beeping its loud horn, and as it made those tight turns it looked as though the front of the bus was going to go over the edge of the cliff of the road, and that the bus would drive off the road and crash on to the cliffs and into the sea more than 1,000 feet below. Yes this was a Wild Ride and I was filled with mixed emotions the beauty, and it seemed dangerous at the same time as each and every turn the fear of crashing over the side seemed oh so very real. This supposed danger of the drive mixed with such incredible beauty made for quite the emotional roller coaster. If you take this ride, you will never forget it. I haven’t.
As the bus makes its way and whether you are on a bus or driving in a car, the combination of the Sea against the blue sky, the cliffs, the Saracen Watch Towers, hotels and little towns, and everything there, else there, will completely captivate you. You peer into the distance at small towns that jut out into the Azur Sea, with the backdrop of a lovely Deep Blue Summer Sky, along with bright colored Mediterranean Flowers of every type, this is what you’ll see on the Amalfi Drive, widely consider the World’s Most Beautiful Road of all.
If you’re going from Sorrento on your way to Positano and Amalfi, make sure to get a seat on the right side of the bus for the best views and the ability to snap some memorable photos and video of this most spectacular bus ride of your life. If you are heading from the town of Amalfi or Positano towards Sorrento, do the opposite and get a seat on the left side of the bus. Sit back and enjoy the ride, for it’s the most beautiful you will ever see.
EXCERPTED from Daniel Bellino Zwicke ‘s forthcoming new Book POSITANO The Amalfi Coast
Daniel Bellino Zwicke
with Friend Vincenzo Manzo (L)
At VILLA MARIA , MINORI
On The AMALFI COAST
LUNCH in POSITANO