Positano: What dreams are made of

There’s a certain breed of people that are not Italian but feel as though the country is deep within their soul. I am one of those. I can’t really explain it other than I’ve had an intense connection to the place for as long as I can remember. It couldn’t be any further from my current home and even less like where I originally came from. It wasn’t inherited nor learned, for even at a young age, I was drawn to all things Italian. Over time, it has only heightened thanks to my ever-expanding knowledge of food, wine, art, and culture.

We’ve been slowly working our way through the country and although the Amalfi Coast has been on my radar for years, it wasn’t until 2014 that we were finally able to go. It certainly helped that my friend Jora was also going to be there with her family and we could spend time together. It was the first time I’d travelled abroad with a friend on the other side and hopefully it won’t be the last! What fun it was to experience such amazing places together and especially with someone who knew the area quite well. It was a magical 6 days.

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Unfortunately, our time there was cut short due to a major passport mistake on my part. I will write a separate post about that, but it sort of changed the scope of our trip because we lost a full day and our planned rental car, plus it made for an even more stressful journey.  Thankfully, it all worked out in the end and the good news is, we will definitely be back to see all of the things we missed the first time around! 

I also didn’t take many proper photos when I was in Positano. (Most of these are from my phone.) Oh how I wish I had a better reason… but the truth is, I carried a baby on my chest 90% of the time and our flat was at the very top of the town — 695 steps up or down, multiple times a day. That number probably seems inconsequential unless you’ve been there, but let me tell you, the rest of my family heaved and ho’ed, whined and whinnied while I used it as incentive to burn off those pesky post-pregnancy pounds. By the end of our stay, we were seasoned climbers! We ate and drank nonstop and still managed to lose weight on this trip! I can’t tell you how many times we’ve talked about it since, but I dream of living somewhere I have to get a workout nearly every time I step out the front door. (Sigh, one day!) 

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To Do

• Spend at least one day at Da Adolfo for the amazing food, charming location, staff, peach wine and the ultimate Italian beach experience. (Take the Red Fish boat at Spiaggia Grande.)
• Enjoy the view with a cocktail in your hand at the famous Champagne Bar at Le Sirenuse hotel.
• Stock up on gorgeous produce, wine, delicious antipasti and other prepared foods at the Delicatessen on Via dei Mulini.
• Rent a “lettino” (umbrella/sun bed) and spend the day at Bar Bagni Da Ferdinando on Fornillo Beach.
• View the coast from the water, whether it’s on a water taxi headed to a nearby beach or from a hired boat for a private tour.
• Eat a Sorbetto al Limone (Lemon sorbet in a frozen lemon; my children’s favorite treat!)

These are all the things I didn’t get to do but will next time:

• Hike the Path of the Gods.
• Visit all the neighboring villages: Nocelle, Montepertuso, Maiori, Minori, Praiano, Ravello, Amalfi, Atrani, Furore, Sorrento.
• Go to CAPRI!!!
• Sail and swim in all of the grottos.
• Beach day at Bagni d’Arienzo.
• Spend time in Naples.

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Tips

GETTING THERE: We flew from London to Naples via Easy Jet. We then took the first taxi we saw to Positano. I’m not entirely sure that it was a legit driver, but we made it in a little over an hour. On our way back, we had a much better driver that drove us to Pompeii and waited in the parking lot while we looked around, then took us to the airport. It cost a little extra, but helped us kill time before our late flight.

TRANSPORTATION: You can definitely get by without a car. In fact, we were kind of glad that we didn’t have one in the end. There are a couple of private car parks but they are pretty expensive (about €25/day) and you’d likely still have to walk up/down the hill to get to them. That said, a car would be useful for visiting all of the neighboring towns like Ravello, Praiano, Furore, Maiori, Sorrento. But should you decide to not rent one, there are local buses to take you around Positano and beyond. You can also take the boats/water taxis to various nearby beaches or for a cruise around the coast. They are found in the Spiaggia Grande and some are free provided you eat and spend a good chunk of the day at their beach. Call for reservations in advance.

LOCATION: I spent a ridiculous amount to time trying to figure out where our apartment rental was in relation to the main areas of town. It was really difficult to tell how high up it was and how close it would be to everything. Turns out, it wasn’t marked correctly on Google Maps. HA! I would probably recommend staying in Positano town if it’s your first visit (ie. not in Nocelle or a neighboring village.) This way, everything is within walking/climbing distance and you can get a real feel for the town. Clearly, this town requires a certain amount of mobility. We managed to do it with an 11 month old, 8 + 10 year old — but it would be really challenging for some people. I’d also recommend you bring as little luggage as possible. There’s a great chance that you’ll have to haul it up or down stairs to get to your place (or pay a porter to do it for you). Second, make sure you have a view of the sea. It’s a lovely reward after all the stairs!

LODGING: I never bother looking at hotels because most can’t fit our family, so I spent hours perusing Airbnb, VRBO, Summer In Italy, Owner Direct, etc. until I managed to find a place. I would link to the apartment we stayed in, but it’s no longer listed. 🙁 Either way, know that Positano books up quickly during the high (summer) season, so it’s important to book as early as possible! 

FOOD: I made a list of restaurant recommendations prior to leaving and we barely made a dent in it! In the end, we had many of our meals at the beach (Da Adolfo or Da Ferdinando). We ate at Saraceno d’Oro a few times, as it was closest to our rental. Or we kept it simple and picked up mozzarella, bread and tomatoes from the deli and picnicked on our large terrace. Needless to say, we ate well the whole time, even if it wasn’t as I’d expected. (Restaurants on my list: Da Vicenzo, Il Puppeto, Bucca di Bacco, Bar Bruno, Bar Mulino Verde, La Tre Sorelle, the restaurant at il San Pietro, La Tonnarella, La Sponda, Saraceno D’Oro, Cove dei Saraceno, Le Sirenuse, Next2, La Tagliata, Donna Rosa, and La Terra.

KIDS: My children loved Positano. Some of this was because they had friends to play with, but I genuinely believe they enjoyed it for all the same reasons we did. Italy is truly one of the best places to take kids. Italians are so friendly and children are welcome everywhere. Plus, most kids love Italian food. There’s swimming, boats, cliffs to jump off of, gelato, grottos, etc. Sure they grumbled at first about the stairs but soon it became a fun challenge to see who could get to the top first. Like everything, it’s just a matter of getting used to something different. Besides, children are smart — they can sense the mystique and magic just as much as their parents. Sometimes more! My kids give Positano a double thumbs up and are also longing to go back. 

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You’ll often hear Positano being called the Jewel of the Amalfi Coast, and rightly so. From the sweeping views of the Tyrrhenian Sea, to the gorgeous and colorful houses perched on the cliffs, to the bougainvillea and ivy covered walls, to the endless, winding stairs that weave through this vertical town — it’s truly hard to beat. There were multiple times where I felt like I’d been plopped into a 1960’s Italian film where beauty abounds and everything is insanely chic and sexy but at the same time deceptively simple. I think Italians have mastered that “un certo non so che.” (ie. Je ne sais quoi!

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Perhaps John Steinbeck said it best,

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. 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. Nearly always when you find a place as beautiful as Positano, your impulse is to conceal it.”

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