By Giuseppe Mastrobuono
Positano is a village overlooking the Tyrrhenian Sea. It served as a port of the Amalfi Republic in Medieval times and a prosperous center for maritime trade during the 16th and 17th centuries. One truly experiences the divine amidst the sharp volcanic cliffs which slope majestically down to a crystal, azure sea. As mentioned in Homer’s epic poem The Odyssey, the Siren maidens of antiquity lured the hero Odysseus onto the shores of Positano with their sweet and melodious song. It is a rare combination of earth, sea, and sky which renders the first-time visitor mesmerized in a way that few other places on earth are capable of.
In May of 1953, American author John Steinbeck wrote in an article for Harper’s Bazaar: “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.” When strolling through the narrow streets of Positano one becomes acutely aware of what Steinbeck was expressing in his article. The brilliant colors of the bougainvillea flowers and the intoxicating scent of the wisteria streaming down the sides of the stone walls create an exotic ambiance. Quaint little shops of ceramic pottery arts and crafts, local wines, cheeses, and olive oil are waiting to be explored and tasted. The sounds of the natives calling to one another in the musical Neapolitan dialect fills the air. The turquoise sea lies below and stretches to the horizon, drawing one into a dreamlike state as it did to Steinbeck more than half a century ago.
Among its many historical attractions is the church of Santa Maria Assunta, known for its dome of majolica tiles and 13th century Byzantine icon of the black Madonna. According to legend, the statue was stolen from Byzantium by pirates and was being transported across the Mediterranean when a terrible storm forced them to take refuge in Positano. Responding to a voice crying “Posa, posa!”, meaning “put down” (hence the origin of the name Positano), they unloaded the black Madonna in the church and it has remained there ever since, drawing thousands of tourists each year.
Positano is densely lined with lemon groves. Harvested three times each year, they are unusually large. Their enhanced sweetness is a product of the rich volcanic soil, warm temperatures, and an ideal balance of rain and sunshine. They are the hearty ingredient of the local “limoncello”, or lemon aperitif, one of Positano’s main exports..
Just steps from the beach lies Chez Black restaurant, in operation since 1949. On it’s outdoor patio one can indulge in the zuppa di pesce locale, spaghetti con ricci di mare, and paccheri di gragnano con Positanese. The luxurious hotel Le Sirenuse is a 58 room 5-star hotel which was once the summertime resort of the prominent Sersale family of Naples. The majolica tiled rooms are furnished with precious antiques, providing magnificent views of the Mediterranean and village of Positano. In July of 2016 it was voted #7 Best Resort Hotels in Italy by Travel and Leisure magazine.
Visiting Positano is an unforgettable experience and key to understanding “the fatal charm” of Italy.
Courtesy photos – Positano.com