We’ve arrived to the final part of our multi-part tour of Italy. If you missed any of the previous posts on my journey through Italy, I recommend you brush up.
As we left Rome, I was nervous and excited. We were arriving in Naples, which has somewhat of a notorious reputation in Italy. It’s said to be one of the more dangerous cities in Europe and if you google “is Naples safe?” you’ll find a plethora of anecdotes confirming your worst fears. So needless to say, I was a little antsy about arriving in said city, even if we were just connecting. But then again, Naples is considered dangerous by European standards which by Baltimore standards is not dangerous at all. I remember reading one stat that over the past couple years over 200 people had died in Naples, when I read that I breathed a sigh of relief. That’s just a typical year in Baltimore!
(I am in no way making light of the horrible situation that is Baltimore’s homicide rate, I’m just merely comparing statistics)
Anyways, when we arrived in Naples we were met by our driver who was booked for us by the travel agency. She was a woman not much older than my Mom, and she was the perfect person to meet us in Naples. Ina our driver was a native of Naples and she said that yes indeed Naples was not safe, but that you just needed to be smart about things. She quickly whisked us to her car where she then drove us to our next destination, Positano.
Positano is one of the major cities that lies on the Amalfi Coast, which is a stretch of coastline that is considered a UNESCO World Heritage site (it lives up to that hype).
Along the way to Positano, Ina filled the time with fun stories and anecdotes about the various sites we were passing in her car. She then stopped for us to take a view of Sorrento the town she currently lives in. Ina’s thick Italian accent was charming, each pronunciation of words like “pasta” would make your heart smile.
I should mention that driving to and from Positano is mildly horrifying. You’re being driven on very tiny roads that are filled with tight turns. Don’t be shocked if you find yourself just closing your eyes and hoping for the best on a few occasions when being driven around this region. This leads us to our first rule:
When in Italy and specifically the Amalfi Coast, hire a driver don’t be a hero. They’re not very expensive and it’s worth it.
We arrived in Positano and we were truly blown away by the beauty of the town. When you’re in Positano, once you’re far enough deep into the town, cars are no longer allowed and you must go by foot. There are some “secret” streets that vendors use to go to the bottom of the town but the average tourist is not allowed to go much further in a car.
When we finally made our way down to the hotel we were blown away. You couldn’t take enough pictures. The beauty of this place is mind blowing. My favorite author, John Steinbeck, describes the emotions you feel when you step foot into Positano perfectly.
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.
Geographically, Positano is a village cut into the side of a mountain. So all the buildings are literally built into the sides of a mountain. It makes for curious yet beautiful buildings that have you begging the question of “how did they even build that?”
Steinbeck captures it perfectly by saying:
Its houses climb a hill so steep it would be a cliff except that stairs are cut in it. I believe that whereas most house foundations are vertical, in Positano they are horizontal. The small curving bay of unbelievably blue and green water lips gently on a beach of small pebbles. There is only one narrow street and it does not come down to the water. Everything else is stairs, some of them as steep as ladders. You do not walk to visit a friend, you either climb or slide.
The view from our room was what you see below, it took us a little bit to get over the shock of where we were staying and how pretty everything was. But nothing helps you break out of your shock than being hungry. So with that we made our way down to one of the many beach-side restaurants and decided to dive right into the what Positano had to offer. Our driver Ina had recommend a few places to us and since we were visiting Positano on literally the last few days that the city was open, all the restaurants had seats available.
(Positano literally closes down for the winter, the entire time during our stay, shops and hotels were closing their doors. Stating that they wouldn’t return until Easter; our hotel closed on the day we were leaving.)
Our hotel couldn’t of been more optimally located for all the best restaurants in town, so we visited Le Tre Sorrelle. Ina had reminded us that the seafood in Positano is excellent (obviously) so we made sure we ordered accordingly. I started off with a seafood appetizer and was blown away by how fresh and perfect everything was prepared. We then tried fried zucchini flowers that were stuffed with fresh mozzarella, they were heavenly. Zucchini flowers have the smell of pizza and are a perfect vessel for cheese. This place sat right on the beach so it was perfect for our late lunch/early dinner.
When we arrived in Positano the first few days the weather was cold and rainy, so you could imagine our disappointment at the possibility of no amazing sunshine happiness days (yes those are a thing). On one of the rainy days we stumbled into a tiny cafe that housed these mouthwatering pastries. Luckily they also had delicious rustic Italian food at a dirt cheap price. The food at this place was great, but the desserts were the true stars of the show. Two varieties of Nutella or Gianduja pies that were smooth, chocolate filled, and delicious.
But then after a few days something magical happened, the weather became sunny and warm, so all was right in the world. Well except for one thing.
You see in order to have such beautiful weather, we had to sacrifice something to the weather gods to churn out that wonderful weather. And that sacrifice was my lower intestine. We didn’t actually sacrifice anything (obviously), but it took me getting a bout of food poisoning to turn the tide towards great weather.
I’ll spare you the awful details of my food poisoning but all I can say is that being sick in a foreign country is one of my least favorite things in the world. Luckily, Mrs. Unmanly Chef is a saint and she scoured the tiny town for Gatorade and crackers so that I wouldn’t die. This leads us to our next rule!
If you get violent food poisoning in another country, make sure you have plenty of fluids and crackers around to help you survive.
The whole food poisoning thing put a halt to all food consumption for me for pretty much the rest of the trip. This was a sick joke that the gods decided to play on me during my stay in Positano, but luckily I got to enjoy enough of Italy’s great food to not really feel too sad.
When I was able to finally walk without having to sprint to the bathroom, we walked around town looking for fun shops to visit. Along the way, we saw this sweet old lady selling granita di limone by the side of the town street. For 2 euros you could get a granita which was perfectly tart and sweet, it was so good. Once I devoured the granita, we made our way to some of the amazing shops that Positano has to offer. So our driver let us know that Positano is great for clothing, and she was right.
Much of the clothing in Positano is typically made by the shop owners (not literally by them, but by their factories right outside of town), the end result is clothes that fit and look great. There was just one problem though, by American standards I’m a Large. By Italian standards, I’m an XL bordering on double XL, as a result looking for clothing was fairly simple in these stores because my options were slim. I quickly became well known by the shop owners as the gargantuan American looking to cloth his hog bod.
Needless to say I got some nice clothes though. This leads us to our next rule:
When in Europe, remember American hog bod sizes don’t translate to the petit Euro sizes.
As our time was coming to an end in Positano, I had one big thing still on my list. I wanted to jump in the ocean/Mediterranean Sea. Despite the fact that it was early November and the water was COLD, I loved every second of it. There’s nothing like swimming in that sea, but just remember it’s not like the American beaches where it’s sand. The beaches on the Amalfi coast are ROCKY like big rocks everywhere, so be careful and make sure you don’t hurt yourself.
The other cool thing about the Italian beaches was the fantastic consequence of plastics not being as popular in Italy. Consequently, there is sea glass EVERYWHERE! So much so that we had to have a Sophie’s choice style organization session prior to leaving so we didn’t bring every last piece of sea glass with us!
Which leads us to our next rule:
When in Positano/Amalfi Coast, look for sea glass it’s there waiting to be picked.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention how amazing the hotel breakfast was at our hotel. The breakfast was OUT OF THIS WORLD! Of course with my luck I only got to eat at it two out of the five days we stayed, but it still was magical. They had quiche lorraine and nutella pies that melted your face off with how good it was. If there’s anything that the Europeans absolutely crush us gringos in, it’s hotel breakfast.
We wrapped up our final days in Positano enjoying the beach and shopping for some cool clothes to bring back home. We were kind of sad to leave, because the town personifies beauty to a T. But, it helped that literally everyone was leaving so it’s not like we were leaving anything behind. The hotel closed on our last day so it kind of felt like the vacation end of days was upon us. I’ll leave it to Steinbeck to conclude this piece:
Nearly always when you find a place as beautiful as Positano, your impulse is to conceal it. You think, “If I tell, it will be crowded with tourists and they will ruin it, turn it into a honky-tonk and then the local people will get touristy and there’s your lovely place gone to hell”. There isn’t the slightest chance of this in Positano. In the first place there is no room. There are about two thousand inhabitants in Positano and there is room for about five hundred visitors, no more. The cliffs are all taken.
So just like that our amazing journey was coming to an end, we were picked up by a driver on our last morning in Positano, and taken to Naples airport where we flew home.
We upgraded again on the last leg. Worth it.
I’ve enjoyed writing about my adventures and sharing them with you (I hope the handful of you who read this blog enjoyed it.) I hope to go on more adventures in the future and I’ll share them again.
If you missed the other parts click on the links below: