We travelled to Positano on Italy’s beautiful Amalfi Coast in August 2012 and until today we think it was one of our best trips. It is impossible not to fall in love at first sight with this patch of sea, islands, beaches, and picturesque little medieval villages that cling to the rock walls of the coastline whose highest mountains soar up to 1,425m (that’s a good 75m North of Ben Nevis’s summit cross, 75m higher than the highest mountain on the British Isles, 200m higher than Australia’s Blue Mountains, and just 600m short of the highest peaks of the Appalachian Mountains).
We arrived via Naples International Airport, spent a day or so in Naples, then went from there by train to Pompeii, from where we then took the bus to Positano, our final destination on the Amalfi Coast.
The bus ride was certainly something. We were half drawn between screaming, closing our eyes and pretending that we were somewhere on a flat beach, and trying to be strong and enjoy the outrageously beautiful views from the windows.
Most of the time the relatively narrow road meanders along the coastline several hundred metres above sea-level, which gives you comfort that you definitely will die quickly in case the bus driver just happens to be one split-second too late swerving out of this road tanker’s path or that truck’s way.
We’ve been to Italy a few times, but it never amazes us how Italians manage to navigate the tiny medieval city streets or winding mountain roads at such speed without regularly getting themselves killed, but it seems to work. They don’t even have their eyes on the road or both (sometimes any) hands on the wheel, they might be involved in conversations with their passengers or the tourists in the back of the bus, wildly gesticulating and drawing faces.
Italians being Italians, they did the obvious thing you would do with a tiny road in a rock face a few hundred metres above the ground: each year they organise car races on this road.
When we arrived in Positano in one piece we felt quite relieved. When we booked the trip, the hotel description read “Apartment Residence ‘Villa degli Dei’ is located just 400m from the centre of town”. The porter from the hotel was already waiting at the bus stop to pick us up with his car. And then we had a bit of a surprise coming: the hotel was indeed just 400m from the centre of Positano, but not, as we had expected, horizontally, a bit further down the coast, no, our hotel was located 400m up in the rock face in Nocelle, about a 7km distance by car or 3km walk.
At first we were a bit disappointed, but it was actually a very lucky misunderstanding, because we enjoyed walking down and up the mountain path to and from town, the hamlet is located right next to some of the main hiking paths, and the view from our little balcony would not find a match from any of the locations in the town centre in a million years.
There are even a few very good restaurants within a half mile radius from the hotel (towards Positano on the only road there is), including our favourite pizza place.
When we weren’t hiking, though, we usually spent nearly all of the time in beautiful Positano, checking out the restaurants, the little stores, a few nice galleries, the market, the main sights, and the beach.
The local cuisine is excellent and really unusual, in that nearly every dish contains tons of lemon juice, they even marinade potato slices in lemon juice (and a few herbs and spices). Most dishes are very simple with just a handful of ingredients, but due to the artfulness of the chefs and the perfect quality of the ingredients there was not one dish we tried that didn’t blow our shoes off. We started cooking Positano dishes at home in London, mainly the seafood ones.
On our way back to Naples we took the fast ferry and enjoyed views we had missed out on while going the other way on the road, such as the brilliant view from the sea towards Positano and surroundings and a real close view of famous Capri island (and a few private islands with massive yachts moored next to them; reminded us how pleasant it would be to be billionaires, never mind), Sorrento, Pompeii and Mount Vesuvius (1,300m high active volcano, considered to be one of the most dangerous in the world, whose eruption destroyed the town in 79 AD), and Naples.
We’ll definitely be back.