POSITANO

Harper's Bazaar (UK) - - Women - BY JOHN STEIN­BECK

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. 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. 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, not more. The cliffs are all taken. Ex­cept for the half-ru­inous houses very high up, all space is utilised. And the Posi­tanese in­vari­ably refuse to sell.

Again, Positano is never likely to at­tract the or­gandie-and-white li­nen tourist. It would be im­pos­si­ble to dress as a lan­guid tourist-lady and climb the Positano stairs for a cock­tail. She will ar­rive look­ing like a wash­cloth at a boys’ camp. There is no way for her to get any­where ex­cept by climb­ing. This alone elim­i­nates one kind of tourist, the show tourist. The third de­ter­rent to a great in­flux of tourists lies in the nature of the Posi­tanese them­selves. They just don’t give a damn. They have been liv­ing here since be­fore recorded his­tory and they don’t in­tend to change now. They don’t have much, but they like what they have and will not move over.

A Wal­ter Goetz draw­ing that ac­com­pa­nied John Stein­beck’s orig­i­nal piece (above)

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