Italy's hidden hillside gem
‘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,’ wrote author John Steinbeck in 1953. Steinbeck may have fallen in love with the Italian village more than six decades ago, but its charm hasn’t faded since.
The magic of the seaside village captivates you before you even get there, as you drive south from Naples along one of Europe’s most beautiful stretches of coastline. The road winds around hairpin bends, through deep gorges, past cliff-hugging lemon orchards and grapevines. Along the way, there are stands with people selling strings of dried chillies like precious jewels, anked by vertiginous drops down into the luminous Mediterranean Sea, hundreds of metres below.
On reaching Positano, you are met with pink, yellow, peach, terracotta and white houses.Villas are stacked on top of one another like puzzle pieces clinging to the steep slopes that tumble down to a pebbly beach and gently curving bay dotted with shing boats and yachts. Draped with bougainvillea and wisteria and anked by boutiques, gelateria and elegant hotels are narrow pedestrian-only streets that run through the village. Restaurants with terraces that make the most of the views serve seafood feasts lobster risotto, fried octopus, grilled sh, linguine with clams and chilli – accompanied by wines made with grapes from the tiny vineyards along the coast and shots of the strong lemon liqueur limoncello. As dusk falls, Positano is pure romance: the sky turns a bruised dark blue and the sea becomes a mirror re ecting the twinkling village lights. It’s easy to see why this is a popular spot to get married – and to honeymoon. Every year scores of couples from around the world tie the knot in Positano’s 900-year-old pastelyellow Santa Maria Assunta church.
The only downside to this coastal paradise is that the beach is packed during the summer months.So if you’re not into sardine-like beaching, the best way to escape the lounger-and-umbrella crowds is by renting a boat to cruise along the coastline. Stop off at secluded little beaches, dive off to oat in the warm water and explore turquoise grottoes. You’ll also be able to catch a glimpse of Italian actor Sophia Loren’s former villa high up on the cliff near the village of Amal , and for a long lazy lunch, dock at a jetty of one of the many beach restaurants that dot the coast. At these rustic sand-between-your-toes eateries, the fare is simple but delicious – fresh catch of the day, tomato-laden bruschetta, garlicky mussels, homemade pasta, lemon cream desserts and chilled white wine. With your deckchair siesta spot and the crystal-clear sea steps away, la dolce vita doesn’t get better than this. mc