Aaahhh … Positano

Positano from the seaRegular readers will know that Positano on Italy’s Amalfi Coast is one of our favourite places to visit. We’ve taken many picture of the view from the village looking out to sea and of the village from the beach, but it’s not often that we venture onto the water and see the village from the sea.

Good news though – it still looks great.

This picture is actually from a few years ago when we were returning from a day tour along the coast. Thanks to Gennaro and Salvatore’s boat hire for many great days on, and in, the water. As I look at the photo I can still hear Capitano Salvatore singing as we make our way home at the end of the day. Multo bene.

Togetherness

Old Couple in PositanoFrom the balcony of our hotel room in Positano we could look across the road and see the back yard of a small villa which was perched on the edge of the cliff overlooking the bay. An elderly couple live there and every evening they sit outside, side by side and enjoy the sunset.

Sometimes one gets the other a drink and sometimes one or the other nods off to sleep. But every evening they are there, sitting next to each other.

We first noticed them years ago and every time we visit Positano we see them again, each time a little older, a little slower and a little frailer. But always together.

By train to Florence

Jean travelling at 246 km/h north of Napoli

Jean travelling at 246 km/h north of Napoli

Yesterday we left Positano and travelled north by high speed train to Firenze and then drove south to our base for the next two days – Radda in Chianti.

After the fun and games of air travel, train travel is so easy and relaxing it’s ridiculous. The most stressful part of the trip was keeping an eye on our bags at Napoli Station – a place renown for pick pockets and thieves.

In all it took 2 hours and 50 minutes to complete the train trip that would have required between 5 and 6 hours to drive.

We collected a rental car at Firenze, negotiated the city’s one way system, and 50 minutes later checked in at Relais Vignale in Radda which is in the heart of Chianti.

We have dinner planned with friends who live in Chianti and a trip to Siena for a spot of shopping before heading on to Roma – because, as they say, that’s where all roads lead.

 

 

Return to Positano

Prosecco for dueYesterday, our week in Sicily came to and end and we returned to Positano. Our journey back was a truly Italian experience. We drove from the villa to Catania airport and arrived with over 2 hours to check in, go through security and board our flight – loads of time we thought.

The first clue that the airport was going to be an adventure was the thousand or so people crowding around the 4 Alitalia check-in counters, with another 150 people crowding around the 3 working automated check-in terminals.

Jean and I have played this game before so she joined the “bag drop” queue (for that read mass of people all crowding around the one poor Alitalia staff member at the bag drop counter) while I joined the “print your boarding pass” queue.

After about 40 minutes Jean had moved 3 feet and I had reached the check in terminal. With about 200 people watching, waiting and providing helpful (and loud) advice in Italian (no pressure) I went through the process of printing the passes.

Just as I rejoined Jean an Alitalia staff member came through the crowd saying that those travelling to Napoli should move to another, newly opened, check-in counter. Salvation we thought, as we joined a relatively short queue to check in.

But then another Italian tradition kicked in – everyone in the queue had a problem with something – the lady travelling alone with 4 check in bags and no intention of paying for excess baggage. The couple travelling with a dog, but no booking for the dog.

In 30 minutes 3 people (plus 4 bags and 1 dog) had checked in. We now had less than an hour to our flight departure.

A lovely Italian gentleman who was seeing his son off looked at us and shrugged his shoulders. He said that this always happens but somehow it all comes together in the end – he called it “Italian creativity”.

At that point the baggage belt stopped working. Apparently the baggage handling team was overwhelmed and needed some time to recover.

By this time we had reached the check-in desk and had our bags tagged but they were sitting on the floor in front of the counter – together with a growing number of bags as the luggage started to spread across the terminal floor. The baggage conveyor belts were full and not moving and we were told not to leave our bags unattended.

We now had less than 30 minutes to get through security and make the flight. This made us nervous because as we’d passed the entrance to security about an hour and a half earlier and it had queues longer than the check-in desks. But we had no choice. We were stuck watching our bags.

Stalemate.

At this point a helpful check in lady pushed a few bags around on the carousel and found a spot for our luggage. So we were off to join the queue at security.

But now the delay worked for us. Because check-in had effectively stopped, security was deserted. It took 5 minutes to go through and reach our gate, just as boarding was commencing.

At this stage we gave our bags about a 10% chance of making the flight – but as we sat on the plane we could see them being loaded – along with all the others for the flight. We left on time and actually arrived 5 mins early into Napoli – with all our luggage intact.

After the early start and drama of the flight, we were exhausted so both managed to fall asleep in the back of the car that collected us from the airport for the drive to Positano.

But things were looking up – we arrived at the hotel to a warm welcome, a room upgrade to a suite, and two glasses of chilled prosecco waiting for us.

All good.

A cliché within a cliché

For the week at Positano we booked the smallest rental car we could. For those of you who know the roads and the local drivers, this makes perfect sense. We were aiming to be the smallest target possible.

The rental turned out to be a Fiat 500 – the quintessential Italian car.

On top of that we were offered the cabriolet version which meant the chance of open air motoring on fine sunny days. How could things be any more classically Italian.

Our road trips were all cream scarves blowing in breeze, polka dot print dresses, white linen shirts and designer sunglasses. Truly la dolce vita.

Our little Fiat made trips down to the village for groceries (no one wants to carry heavy shopping bags up the hill at Positano during summer) and over the hill to Sorrento to explore old haunts – as well as the hour and a half drive to and from Positano.

The bonus was returning it undamaged – no mean achievement given the roads and drivers of the Amalfi Coast.

Ready for festival

The August Festival is a much anticipated event in Positano. There are parades of boats and fireworks all topped off with dinners all around the town on Friday August 15th.

Sadly there had a been a fatal car accident the night we arrived which took two lives – one being a local boy, the son of a prominent Positano family. With a population of only a few thousand people, the loss was keenly felt in the village. A decision was made on Wednesday not to have the fireworks display on festival night as a mark of respect. This was the right decision but meant that for visitors the evening was much quieter than usual.

Having said that, it was still a great night with everyone getting dressed up for the occasion. Jean had purchased a dress in the UK especially for the evening.

The paparazzi caught her about to leave Villa Greta for dinner.

Jean wearing Karen Millen

 

Firefighting in Positano

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During festival night a fire started on the cliffs above the coastal access road to Positano. It burned up the hill for most of the night and because of the terrain the ability to get men on the ground was … Continue reading

Hotel life

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Yesterday we moved from the villa to the hotel proper. We have a delightful room just a stone’s throw from the piscina – and the hotel staff to cater to our every whim. The hotel describes its rooms as suites … Continue reading

Plonkers in Positano

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Dinner at Chez Black can be a sophisticated affair. The restaurant is one of Positano’s oldest and most respected. Since 1949 it has been host to many famous people including Denzel Washington and Harvey Weistein who we sat next to … Continue reading

We’re here – or there – depending on your point of view

First Positano BlogGentle reader, please accept my apologies but it has been almost a week without a post. Put it down to jet lag or simply the frantic activity involved in doing very little, but rest assured a stream of posts will follow.

We arrived in Positano last night and are now resident at Villa Greta.

As I write this the temperature is a warm 29 degrees, the sun is shining and I can just glimpse the Galli Islands above the Bougainvillea covered railing running around the patio.

This afternoon is planned – a late lunch at Eden Roc and an afternoon by the pool.

Enough said.

 

Plans are afoot

Positano from Villa Greta's roof terrace

Positano from Villa Greta’s roof terrace

Our Italian holiday is less than a month away and we are in the final planning stages. Rome, Tuscany and Sicily are all places we will visit but our base will be Positano.

Ahhh, Positano.

We have booked Villa Greta for a week in August to coincide with the Festival of Our Lady of the Assumption on August 14th and 15th, which is one of Positano’s most important festivals. To quote the Positano.com website:

The festival both honors the town’s protector and commemorates the ancient legend of how a ship carrying a Byzantine icon of the virgin Mary was beached in the bay of Positano. Not until the sailors gave the icon to the local inhabitants were they able to set sail once more.

On August 14th, the celebrations begin with the so-called “Alazata del Quadro” (“The Lifting of the Painting”) in front of the Church of Santa Maria Assunta.  In the evening, a spectacular procession of illuminated boats heads to the “Mamma e Figlio” rocks by the beach of Fornillo before returning to the Spiaggia Grande beach and the Cathedral.

On August 15th, the festivities continue late into the night and conclude with a magnificent firework display over the sea, which lights up much of the Amalfi Coast.

We will be watching from the terrazzo of Eden Roc hotel – one of the best vantage points in Positano.

Today we turn 300

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Since April 2011 there have been 299 posts to this blog so this one is officially number 300. Over the last 2 and a bit years we’ve covered our trip to Europe – which was the reason for starting this … Continue reading

Another stormy day remembered

Having successfully survived Wellington’s recent storm, we started to think of other storms we’d been through – and the one that sprung to mind first was, funnily enough, an Italian storm.

It was during our stay in Positano in November 2011. After unusually good weather we were warned by the locals that the weekend was going to be stormy. It happened to be a weekend when we had visitors from the UK and New Zealand staying with us at Villa Greta.

Now, please understand, by storm we mean weather that was less than idyllic. Which involved wind (a bit), rain (not a lot) and seas that were rough (all to be taken in context of the Med just being a giant bath).

Our Saturday started with a visit the the beach at Positano and a late breakfast at Buca de Bacco. Apart from a strong breeze and the overcast conditions the only clue that there was a storm was the surf hitting the wharf. But despite the poor weather the resident beach artist was painting – as he does every day – a beautiful sunny vista full of blue skies, blue seas, bright sun and Bougainvillaea cascading down the sides of houses on the hill, somewhat at odds with reality.

In the afternoon we drove down the coast to Amalfi. The roads were treacherous and largely awash in places. The Amafi Coast has no real storm water drainage system  – other than the water rushing downhill towards the sea as fast as possible – down streets, across roads and over cliffs until eventually ending up in the sea. This system meant we were often driving along roads more like rivers and through villages where every lane was a steam cascading towards the sea.

In Amalfi the sea was crashing against shore and the sea side carpark that we had used only a few months previously in summer was now forming the breakwater and largely underwater. The wonderful thing was that, by the time we had driven up from Amalfi to the top of the cliffs to Ravello the weather had cleared and we had magnificent views looking east along the coast towards Salerno. Normal transmission had resumed.