"Positano bites deep. It is a dream place that isn’t quite real when you are there and becomes beckoningly real after you have gone." John Steinbeck, Harper's Bazaar, May 1953
Ask any of my friends what my favourite chick flick is, and they will tell you: ‘Under the Tuscan Sun’. It’s a wonderful story of courage, adventure, new beginnings, and for a woman of a certain age, it is most uplifting. It is based on the novel by Frances Mayes whose own adventures in Tuscany are well documented in her many books. You should visit her web site or subscribe to her blog. Frances is one of my favourite authors and her books are a sheer delight to read.
However, Positano is a town a long way away from Cortona, Tuscany. It is, in fact, a town stuck like a limpet to the sheer cliffs of the Amalfi Coast in Campania. Apparently the perpendicular town of Positano was founded by Neptune for his beloved nymph, Pasitea, after whom the town was named. It has been inhabited by the Greeks, Romans, Saracens and Normans – plus plenty of others. In the Middle Ages, Positano was an important trading port. It went through hard times, as did all this region, but then in the early 20th Century, it became popular with writers and artists from Germany and Russia. Following on from this, Positano was discussed in a seminal essay by John Steinbeck in Harper’s Bazaar in 1953 which brought about an influx of writers, artists and other bohemian types who extolled the virtues of the town. A tourist boom followed.
For me, Positano is the place where Marcello takes Frances to meet his family. They share a meal and some homemade Limoncello. Later, they walk along the Spiaggia Grande – the main beach of Positano, and here they have their first kiss. They also adopt a little black kitten here. For those who have not watched "Under the Tuscan Sun" this may sound like gibberish. But this wonderful setting, plus a drop dead gorgeous Italian man named Marcello, a beautiful American recently divorced girl named Frances…well, Positano was the most romantic and beautiful place on earth.
On this trip, we were spending a few days in the beautiful town of Sorrento. Using it as our base to explore the Amalfi Coast, we took a bus from Sorrento to Positano. This proved to be an amazing adventure in itself. A scary, exhilarating drive along a road which clings precariously to the sheer cliff, snakes left, then right, then left, and the drop down the cliff to the ocean is breathtaking. Much horn blowing and skilful driving bring us eventually to Positano. No cars, let alone busses, are allowed down into the town. We alight the bus at a spot where the view is priceless. After many photos, we walk down the steep narrow roadway to the town and to the Spiaggia Grande, the main beach. I tell my companions I simply MUST walk on the brown sand beach that Marcello and Frances walked.
The steep road that led from the bus stop down to the township and beach was lined on one side with curious looking antique stores on one side, and a sheer drop down to the beach on the other, with buildings stuck precariously down the rock face at all angles. Only mopeds are allowed here, and their constant buzz was quite noticeable.
We walked out onto the Spiaggia Grande. There were boardwalks over the sand to reach the beach. By Australian standards, this beach was nothing to write home about. However in the context of the surrounding scenery of sheer cliffs with pastel coloured houses and villas clinging precariously, the cobalt blue of the Mediterranean Sea, the whole Italian thing….well, this was paradise.
We walked along the beach where Marcello and Frances dallied, found a lovely little bar/restaurant, and ordered a carafe of Italian white wine. Bliss. Or should I say, 'Bellisimo’. A cute beach boy (don’t really know his job role) was at our beck and call on the beach, but we were not really interested in the water sports on the beach, just walking on it. We were also just interested in relaxing and enjoying our wine.
We craned our necks to look above us at the houses that seemed stuck onto the cliff with Blu-tac. Pink, blue, yellow. Some white balustrades on little verandas. Every house in Positano must have a view of the blue Mediterranean sea.
After a time, we wandered through the maze of laneways and narrow streets, exploring the shops, and admiring the range of clothes and tourist wares for sale. We thought Positano was a fairybook town in a wonderful setting.
Time to climb back up the hill to catch the bus from Positano over to the towns of Amalfi and Salerno. We climbed the steep climb easily, as the view is just so stunning that it is a pleasure to take it slowly and enjoy the view.
We reached the bus stop. More and more people came along and the bus shelter was filled to over flowing. No bus. We waited for 3 hours. Eventually a bus came from the other direction, heading back the way we came from Sorrento. Earlier this morning, we had checked out of our accommodation in Sorrento and had train bookings for this evening from Sorrento back to Rome. We had to go.
We were disappointed that we didn’t get to explore more of the Amalfi Coast, and the towns of Salerno and Amalfi. However, we did get to see Positano and it was time to return to Sorrento, collect our luggage, and catch the train to Pompeii where we intended to explore the ruins before continuing our train journey up to Rome where we had accommodation booked.
The time spent at the bus stop at Positano was not wasted. I have yet to see another bus stop in the world with such a view. What a gorgeous town; what a gorgeous view. Arivaderci Positano. Marcello, my phone number is …..
Recipe for Limoncello from Zia Maria’s authentic Italian recipe http://www.squidoo.com/homemade-limoncello-recipe#module147777976
• 8 organic (yellow) lemons.
• A 750 ml bottle of Vodka
• 3 1/2 cups of white Sugar (about 25 oz or 800 grams).
• 750 ml of Water.
- The first thing we have to do is take the lemons, wash them with a lot of water and peel the zest off.
- The lemons must be yellow and not green
- Stay away from the pith (the white part); we will just use the coloured part, because the pith will give a bitter flavour to our Limoncello.
- I usually use a vegetable peeler for that, but you can use anything you want.
- Now we need to put the lemon zest inside the alcohol, and let it macerate for about 48 to 72 hours. You may probably want to separate the alcohol in two bottles, otherwise the zests will not fit.
- Put a cap on those bottles, they have to be closed hermetically, and keep them away from sunlight. And now, we wait...
- Zia Maria's Italian Limoncello recipe continues like this: Put the 750 ml of water to boil on a pot, turn the flame off and then add the sugar.
- We just want the water and the sugar to mix together, we are not making any caramel here.
- Let it cool for about 5 to 10 minutes and then add the alcohol from our macerated lemon zests to the pot. You can use a strainer, since we do not want the zests here.
- Combine everything, put it in bottles and wait for it to cool off.
- Once is cool, put those bottles in the freezer. Limoncello is best served chilled after a meal as a digestive liqueur.