Positano – Italian version of Eat Pray Love
pizza in Italy
There are so many beautiful places and women and so much good wine and food in the world, that those who are not exploring its beauties and tastes, are wasting their time. Such people don’t live fully. The Italians could teach you.
The most beautiful part of all Italy to me is situated in the area called Campania on the Amalfi coast, that stretches to the south from city of Naples. I’m sure, all world famous influencers would agree. In the world of social media you are nobody if you don’t have any post from this area. Many celebrities have their villas built on the rocky shores among lemon trees. Like Sophia Loren for example. And there is also one Italian wisdom: if you want your girl fall in love with you, take her to Positano. I fell head over heels in love with this place long time ago, a way before it became one of the most photographed destination on Instagram. And I think it’s about a time to dust off this old relationship…
In the year of the Covid, as soon as Italy has recovered from the hard blow of the first wave of pandemic and opened its borders to tourists for the summer again, I’m taking an unpaid leave form the work and together with my Slovak friend Jarka we are running away from the strict measures for a well-deserved vacation. Although Positano has only one tiny pebble beach and the rooms at even the most luxurious hotels are super small, it is a terribly expensive destination. But despite the high prices, it is always crowded here, especially in summer. However, the pandemic have significantly lowered prices and also the number of tourists dropped. The perfect time to take the opportunity and finally return to my beloved destinations after years. Such a chance may not occur again… I know that prices will go up again once covid is over. Off-season travel could be the solution. Don’t be afraid to travel even in October. We are here the first week of October and the weather is perfect, pleasant and sunny. It cools down a bit in the evening and it rains for one day, but otherwise it is just perfect. Even the water in the sea is pleasant after a hot summer.
Naples and pizza
The nearest international airport to Positano is in Naples, and from there I recommend you to book a private transfer with a driver who will take you comfortably to the hotel. Renting a small Italian car, such as the Fiat 500, is as romantic as in the movie, but later you will run into the big parking problems. And the Italian Vespa won’t carry all those suitcases you brought with you. If you have enough time, have a stop over in Naples for half a day. Although Naples has a reputation as a dangerous, dirty city full of Italian gangsters – mafia guys, there are also a few mind-blowing attractions: Vesuvius, the only active volcano in Europe, an underground city and, above all, the best pizza in all of Italy. It was in Naples where pizza was born. Kalo50 is one of six pizzerias in the world recommended by the Michelin Guide, and is said to be the best pizza in all of Naples. However, I dare say that you will not find bad pizza anywhere in Naples, even if you buy it on the street.
Less regretti, more spaghetti
After an hour and a half on narrow winding roads with breathtaking views, we arrive to the town of Positano and check in to Marincanto Hotel, which I can highly recommend. Waves crashing on rocks sound like music to my ears. Like the whole town, this hotel is carved into the rocks above the sea. In short, Positano has an unmistakable architecture. Romantic bays, rocky cliffs, narrow terraced streets, cafes and taverns with deluxe views and the scent of lemon trees. It’s getting dark and we are getting hungry. And so we are about to start our carbohydrate “diet” in the hotel restaurant. And without any remorses. Because when you’re in Italy, you don’t count calories. How can you omit Neapolitan pizza, buffalo mozzarella from Campania, spaghetti with meatballs or Amalfi limoncello (sweet lemon liqueur)? And how to deal with extra pounds? As Julia Roberts advises in the famous guilt scene in the movie Eat Pray Love: “I’ll tell you what you gonna do. You gonna enjoy your portion of carbs and tomorrow you gonna just buy yourself bigger jeans.”
On the beach
Immediately after breakfast we run to the beach to enjoy the sun. Our hotel has its own private mini beach, which is good because the only public beach of Positano – Spiaggia Grande is usually full of people. However, not during the covid period in early October. An incredibly steep spiral staircase leads down to our beach and I already know exactly where we will burn all those pastas, pizzas and tiramisu. On the stairs of the terraced streets of Positano. After bathing in the sea and drying up, we are ready to explore the steep streets of this romantic city.
Spiaggia Grande – the most photogenic place in Positano
There’s actually only one beach in Positano and it is also the most photographed place on the entire Amalfi Coast. Yellow and red umbrellas make beautiful contrast to the blue sea and colorful houses in the background. The best photos are those captured from the water or from the boat. To avoid the crowds, come to the beach early n the morning when the others are still absorbing the histamines from the wine and cheese of the previous evening. At the end of the beach, at the end of the umbrella row, towards the Merincanto’s hidden beach, you will find a spiral staircase to the Rada restaurant. And this is another photogenic site. From there, the promenade stretches towards the city, which is lined with striped red and white or blue and white changing cabins. Then take the stairs up towards the church and you are in the center of town. You can not miss the famous Buca di Bacco restaurant, which even organizes Italian cooking classes on a regular basis. We don’t really want to cook now, but we are definitely ready to digest another pizza.
Where the two main walking streets Piazza Dei Mulini and Via Cristoforo Colombo meet, stands Villa Delli – another iconic place in Positano. The streets around the Church of Santa Maria Assunta play with all the colors thanks to the traditional pottery on display. Ceramic bowls with lemon motifs are irresistible. Not enough space in the suitcase is not an excuse, because you can always buy something and have it shipped anywhere in the world. I can already see myself preparing spaghetti bolognese in a big colorful bowl in a lemon apron and with a lemon scarf on my head a lá Sophia Loren… Maybe I should sign up for that cooking class at first…
Bellini at Black’s
It’s raining all day on the third day, but it doesn’t ruin our mood, because Positano is beautiful even when is moody. In addition, another friend has joined us today. The main plan practically for all day is to taste as many local specialties as possible. For the plan like that there is a perfect restaurant on the beach called Chez Black. It is famous for its heart-shaped pizza and great homemade food. We are drinking Bellini (champagne with peach puree) and watching the boats in the bay. Apart from Chez Black, there is another gem in Positano. It is impossible not to hear about Hotel Le Sirenuse, which brags about the best views of Positano. You can only enjoy the view if you have a hotel room reservation, but visiting the local Franco’s bar is also a solution. More affordable solution. Should we have another Bellini?
Capri – lemons and luxury
The weather is good again the next day, so we don’t hesitate and go on a small trip to the island of Capri. First we take a ferry to the island of Capri, where we rent a motorized boat with the captain for a few hours for 150 Euros. The best feeling of Capri you will get on a boat trip around the island. An acquaintance recommended us to use the services of Capri Whales Boat Tour. If you are lucky, your guide and captain might be that cutest old sailor man who looks like from old Italian movies. Although our boat is driven by a young Marco (probably a grandson) and not an old fisherman, which we were looking forward to, we still enjoy the trip fantastically. Marco guides us around various caves and rocky formations, and the crystal clear water is incredibly turquoise. The Blue Grotto Cave is glittering like a diamond in places where the sun’s rays fall. We anchor our boat in one place near the bay and jump into the water. Total fantasy! In the distance, we even notice a huge yacht with a helicopter landing pad. James Bond’s ship? Our neighbors quite clearly reveal what type of people this small island attracts. After the trip, we continue exploring mainland. We have to take the cable car from the port to the center of events. We buy tickets at the kiosk nearby. Up there, other incredible views, romantic alleys, stately villas and boutiques with the most luxurious brands are waiting for us. The atmosphere at La Piazzetta, full of cafés and open terraces, is great for inhaling Capri atmosphere with a strong Italian espresso. I have a feeling that everything is yellow on Capri: yellow candles, yellow chocolate, yellow candies, almonds soaked in yellow icing, yellow limoncello and, above all, yellow lemons. Although what grows in Campania is more like Polyvinyl chloride dummies or radioactive fruits, so gigantic these lemons are. The so-called Capri sandals are also typical, they can be tailor-made for you here within 20 minutes.
We end our trip to Capri at the Punta Tragara Hotel, where Eisenhower and Churchill were making decisions for the future of the world during the raging World War II. Well, the perfect place for big decisions. The hotel definitely has the best views of all Capri. And since a night at the hotel would cost us at least 700 euros, we rather stay modest and enjoy just a cocktail and olives at least in the restaurant by the pool.
On our second last day in Positano we want to explore its equally beautiful surroundings. Just a few minutes’ drive from central Positano, the 5-star historic Hotel II San Pietro di Positano features a Michelin-starred restaurant. Benches on the hotel terrace, lined with colorful ceramic tiles, are a hallmark. The idyllic vibrant village Vietri sul Mare, home of a number of picturesque ceramic shops and pretty views, is also worth a visit. On the road between Positano and Villa Treville, you will come across a picture-perfect fruit car. Another great place for a perfect photo. However, we are especially attracted by the town of Ravello, where we are heading. The charming town is located in the hills almost 400 m above the Amalfi Coast in the province of Salerno and it earned a listing as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We rent a car with a driver and on the way to Ravello we are passing other iconic places. Between Praiano and Conca dei Marini, we stop at the bridge over the Fjords in Furore. We quickly run down the stairs so we can take a picture of one of the most famous beaches among the rocks. For the second time, we stop in front of a small pottery factory for some necessary shopping and few minutes later we lean out of window, as we pass the main beach in Amalfi town.
Ravello and Villa Cimbrone
After about an hour’s journey we arrive to Ravello. We agree with the driver that he will come back for us later on, and we continue up the stairs to the center of Ravello. Ravello has a completely different atmosphere than, for example, Positano. I quite understand why artists such as Giovanni Boccaccio, Joan Miró, Greta Garbo or Richard Wagner loved this picturesque place in the past. Every year in the summer months, the Ravello music festival takes place. IT began its tradition in 1953 in honor of the composer Richard Wagner. The 1953 movie Beat the Devil was also shot in Ravello, starring the phenomenal Gina Lollobrigida. One of the scenes also takes place on the endless terrace of the Terrazza dell’Infinito in Villa Cimbrone.
The Terrace of Infinity
Iconic cliffside gardens of Villa Cimbrone are our goal destination this day, although the journey itself through the charming streets of Ravello has its charm. However, the gardens take our breath away with their beauty. Admission fee to the villa costs 7 euros, but a visit is worth every penny. Although we come here for sunset, now we regret that we have so little time until closing time. It is beautiful to get lost in the gardens like in a fairy tale. This 12th-century residence including gardens was bought and rebuilt in early 20th century by the English traveller Lord Grimthorpe, who came here to heal is broken heart and depression after his dear wife passed away. The terraced gardens with picturesque statues, which got its name due to its far-reaching views, make us speechless. In the pallet of sunset colors this place has the atmosphere of another world.
On the way back from Villa Cimbrone down to the city we are attracted by romantically lit terrace of another impressive historical place, which is Villa Maria. Villa Maria serves as both a hotel and a restaurant, and we decide to have the last dinner right here. We sit down at a table with a beautiful view of the winding hills and for the last time in the coming weeks (until we lose gained pounds again) we go for Italian food and wine. And since Amalfi is famous for its lemons, I order Linguine al Limone and as dessert Lemon delight…
If you have time left on the way back…
Before you return to the airport and fly back home, try to spare some time for the ancient town Pompeii. It is said that one must be fresh for the visit, the area of Pompeii is huge! Amazing proof of the wit of the people who in 79 n. l. were buried by Vesuvius. The city, which was once inhabited by 20,000 people, has been hidden under a six-meter layer of lava for hundreds of years. Today you can walk here freely and gent enchanted again and again. Everything here had its meaning and function. Theaters, alleys, marketplaces, taverns, olive oil factories, residential houses, gardens, parks, spas, everything has been preserved for eternity. As if the city was waiting for a good fairy to come, which would break the curse. However, in one of the many alleys, it is still busy even after 2,000 years later, even out of the main season. It is exactly the one that leads to the former brothel, where the walls are decorated with a painted menu. My friends were more fascinated by the statue of the well worked out Apollo than by historical kamasutra. Unfortunately only from behind… Supposedly because it was not Italian, the guide joked.