Positano – the jewel in the splendid crown
It was T S Eliot who said “It is the journey not the arrival that matters.” There is no record of the poet ever setting foot in Positano – the jewel in the splendid crown that is the Italian Amalfi Coast – but his words resonate whenever you journey to this small coastal town. By far the best way to visit Positano is via one of the regular ferries that service this part of the coastline. There is something wonderful about leaving the hustle of Naples, watching the historic waterfront gradually recede as the small but modern ferry noses its way into the calm expanse of the Mediterranean.
The journey along this rugged and spectacular coast line, spotting villages, vineyards and houses that seem to have been painted from a different palette than anywhere else on earth, goes some way to prepare you for your entrance to Positano. As soon as this small town comes into view around the headland, you know you are in for something special. Almost too picturesque, the medieval town made up of pastel colored houses perched precariously on the steep hillsides, seems to have been conjured up out of someone’s imagination, and it is amazing to think that people call somewhere like this “home” 365 days a year.
The town itself is dominated by the Chiesa di Santa Maria Assunta, which boasts a colorful dome made of majolica tiles – a distinctive tin glazed pottery that is a feature of the Amalfi coast. If you are visiting on a weekend, the chances are you will witness a wedding taking place at the church, which is a very popular matrimonial center for locals and foreigners alike. Radiating out from the church up the almost impossibly steep hillsides, are a tangle of lanes and alleys, filled with stalls selling everything from locally produced art and ceramics to the ubiquitous holiday paraphernalia. It is tiring work, and you will be grateful for the many bars and restaurants that are also a feature of this port. Because of the layout of the town, wherever you choose to sit and rest, you will be practically guaranteed a splendid view, both of the Mediterranean and the town itself.
All this beauty does come at a cost. Literally – it is the most expensive of the towns on the already pricey Amalfi coast, but there are times when you don’t mind spending that little bit extra. It also gets very busy, especially in the daytime, as its population swells with the influx of day trippers, which can make the already hot and narrow paths hotter and narrower. If you are lucky enough to stay the night, one of the highlights is seeing the town gradually empty, as those who remain behind take a collective sigh of relief and watch the sun set on this truly magical place. On reflection I am pretty sure that Mr Eliot never sampled Positano, as in this instance, the arrival even outshines the journey.