Walking in Positano

The March 1944 eruption of Vesuvius, by Jack R...

The March 1944 eruption of Vesuvius, by Jack Reinhardt, B24 tailgunner in the USAAF during World War II (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We woke up early the next day and set out after breakfast, walking through the narrow streets. By 9am, the tourists were already out in force, snaking their way through the alleys. Out on the other side of the town, overlooking the cliffs, the sun had already slipped away, replaced by a cool mist. I thought of the vapourous matter overhanging Mount Vesuvius. Our cab driver had explained to us in great detail about the careful scientific monitoring that took place daily; men with sophisticated electromagnetic instruments. He said that Vesuvius was active, and therefore dangerous, she could blow at any moment. What could anyone do? Life must go on regardless.

We walked without without strain or effort, owing to the coolness. A few boats bobbed up and down upon the waves below. Along the narrow coastline, we were forced to squeeze against the barrier wall so as not to be squashed by passing trucks. At the top of the hill, overlooking the town, we saw a woman and her son. They appeared to be waiting for the red bus that passes along every hour or so. They were twitching with curiosity as we approached; we were the only strangers around, as if not many tourists ventured this far. The young man was silent, but his mother opened up. She was a bit merry, as if she’d been drinking. From afar, she looked like a skinny rock chick; but up close the roots of her hair told a different story.

She wore a humongous amount of jewellery; bracelets that clashed violently when she pointed at a villa nearby. She recommended it as a place to stay, swimming pool and all of that. I didn’t like the look of the place, it was overly guarded, hidden behind a small forest of trees, but I saw the benefit of staying somewhere private, with a pool.
‘Ten Americans arriving next week,’ she told us, ‘they rented it for a month.’
She told us she worked there, as a cook, and that she and son lived in another town, not far from Positano. They were waiting for the red bus to stop off.
I got the name wrong on the gate, thinking it said ‘Mauro’.
‘Not not ‘Mauro’, the woman said, ‘Maura, the villa belongs to an Irish woman called ‘Maura.’
I felt cheated; here I was on a remote hilltop in Southern Italy, and here they were too. Was there no cave I could crawl into? No corner of the earth to hide in? No; as soon as I am in the cave, they will crawl out from beneath the rocks.

“The Irish are everywhere “, I said, “my whole life I have been trying to escape, but the world won’t let me.”
“Oh yes ” she replied brightly “everywhere, Italy, America, Canada, everywhere!” Evidently, she didn’t regard this as a complaint. I looked again at the houses built into the cliffs. If those rocks tumbled, all of those houses would be gone too. This was the Positano way, one for all, all for one; not like me, detached, and broken off from my roots.
“My mother died two years ago,” I said, but the woman was already talking about something else.

Vesuvius from plane

Vesuvius from plane (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Happy Birthday Part Two

The waiters came wheeling a trolly. We sang happy birthday in unison to ‘Giovanna’.
Joanne blew out the candle, and the older guy cut the cake. It was lemon cake, very succulent. We took our slice and they went off, wheeling the cake back to the kitchen, ‘for breakfast’.
They brought a couple of limoncellas on the house, we all said ‘salute’.
‘Have some cake’ we invited.
‘Si, si,’ they said, ‘graci.’
I felt like the spoilt French princess, Marie Antoinette, who, (when informed that the people had no bread, and were starving), said ‘let them eat cake’.
I turned to Joanne, ‘I always feel bloody uncomfortable when other people serve me.’
Joanne didn’t get this at all. ‘Why?’
‘Not sure,’ but I had an inkling that it was guilt. Back in the 1970’s, my father was forced out on strike. My mother became the breadwinner, supporting the family by working as a waitress at a lively downtown hotel.  My mother loved working, she felt liberated, while my father, on the other hand, felt emasculated by her sudden independence.
I laid the memory aside, turning to Joanne, ‘my grandfather was a socialist,’ I said, as if that explained the feeling.
The Patron’s daughter glanced over now and then. She had a shock of black, curly hair, framing a Renaissance style face.  I suppose we seemed odd in her eyes, two women quietly celebrating together. Everything seemed out of sync with reality. I felt like I was in a dream.

Marie Antoinette Paper Doll

Marie Antoinette Paper Doll (Photo credit: Totally Severe)

Happy Birthday To You Señora

It became colder, sitting out on the restaurant terrace. We were dressed like summer tourists, naturally enough. In the end, we succumbed and requested to move inside.
Our waiter showed us a room, another dining space, which was empty, except for the patron and her daughter sitting at a table, with one of the men who worked at the hotel.
Other than this, we were by ourselves, sitting at a corner table in splendid isolation. The other diners seemed prepared to brave the chill.
I let my eyes wander around the room. To the right of us was a passageway leading to the kitchen, and a hutch area where the waiters prepared the wine, and cutlery. I saw an old, farmhouse style, Italian dresser, nicely carved, and on the walls surrounding us there was an exuberant fresco, spanning the length of the room, primitive browns and burgundies, men fishing with their boats and nets, a biblical resonance.

These devoted expressions reminded me of my childhood, a soothing balm on the troubled landscape of memory.
Is it faith, or art that heals? Or a combination of the two?

Dinner at Pupetto Part One

That evening we had dinner at the hotel. Diners were sparse, owing to the inclement weather. It was chilly sitting outdoors. The waiters were apologetic, stressing how unusual for the time of year. Even so, it was fun sitting on the balconied terrace, peering into the mystery of night. Our waiter was a young guy, very handsome and smooth, betrayed by a subtle hint of shyness. When I enquired, (sotto voice), about my friend’s ‘surprise’, he smiled and said, “don’t worry, we know everything”.

We ordered seafood, followed by pizza, and mineral water. The young guy brought still water, instead of sparkling; when he saw his mistake the smoothness faltered, and for an instant, we could see that he took his art very seriously, and was proud.

I felt a shade of nostalgia, he reminded me of someone long ago.

The seafood was naturally divine.

staying in positano - dinner at hotel pupetto

the restaurant

Waking Up In Paradise

We woke late in the evening, maybe 8 o’clock. It had been raining, and the terrace was soaking wet. Rainwater poured from the roof but the sky was pierced through with light. I looked over the railings to where the fishing boats were tethered, nestling peacefully. Tinted clouds crossed the indigo sky.

Waking up in paradise

Fishing boats in Positano


Sound of the Sea

sound of the sea

amalfi coast, positano

That afternoon we slept. Our bed had a pale, green coverlet, we lay on two single beds pushed together to appear as one. The filigreed bedstead lent an artistic touch. The rest of the room was equally simple, yet pleasant.

Cool air fanned our faces as we dozed.

The waves had the effect of a shell pressed lightly against the ear, the sound was soothing and warm, like a feather.

I heard a distant ferry blowing its horn, then fell into a sea-drunk sleep.

Mozzarella Cheese and Prosecco


Prosecco (Photo credit: rdpeyton)

Food and wine were foremost on our minds when we arrived. We were hungry, and thirsty, having been awake since 4 AM, without breakfast, and travelling via Milan to Naples on a connecting flight. The whole journey was over ten hours long.

As it was Jo’s birthday, and I had arranged for a bottle of Prosecco in the room.  The wine was there in an ice bucket, along with two champagne glasses.

We drank with glee, looking out onto the waves, and though the sky was not bright blue, we  felt as if we had reached the land of the gods.

Joanne ordered a plate of cold cuts and tomatoes. The girl at the desk, Veronica, arrived soon afterwards with a tray of prosciutto ham, fresh salami, melt in your mouth mozzarella, gigantic, sweet flavoured tomato, olive oil, and fresh Italian pana (bread).  We took the food onto the terrace and devoured it.

A strange thing happened. Jo told me a story about a nun, Sister Kosmos. This nun had given the family shelter when all the hotels in Rome were full.  The convent was a kind of last hope, providing bed-and-breakfast when all else fails.  Somehow, this struck me as funny. I imagined a shrewd, wheeler dealer nun, with a sideline in hotel accommodation.

As I chuckled to myself, the glass slipped out of my hand and exploded on the floor. I looked down at the shiny, ceramic tiles.  Splinters everywhere.

I was speechless, and then astonished, because  the shards of glass had travelled due North, South, East and West, the full range of the nautical compass, including twenty feet onto the terrace outside.  A small splinter had even lodged itself into the door frame. Another was wedged in the door jamb. None of it went near Jo, or I.

This struck me as peculiar. That the glass should have leapt so high into the air, somersaulting over the bed, (there were even fragments on the pillow), then arriving promptly on the opposite corner of the room.

I began to wonder.  Is this an omen?  Should I connect it with the storm clouds? Or is it simply, (quotation marks) one of those things?

In the end I opted for  a kind of jubilant abandon, much like the Greek practice of smashing plates at weddings, a ‘sign of good fortune’, signifying a break with the past.

Wedding of Thetis and Peleus. Attic red-figure...

Wedding of Thetis and Peleus. Attic red-figure pyxis, ca. 470–460 BC. From Athens. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)