I am in the town of Positano on the Amalfi Coast in Italy. Right now, I am in front of a computer in an internet “bar.” It’s mid-morning and the bar is technically closed but I’ve managed to persuade the young waitress to let me in to use the internet and to write. I can only see about 25% of the well-used, Italian-based keyboard I am typing on, so bear with me. (The punctuation keys are all over the place!)
I am convinced that the Amalfi Coast was created by the gods because there is neither brain that could design nor hand that could build the Escher-like series of stacked villages, cliff-hugging roads and detailed churches on such remote and rocky cliffs. Moreover, all of these engineering marvels are surrounded by a horizon of deep blue water. It wasn’t difficult for me to understand why people seek out the Amalfi Coast.
Praiano, the village where I am actually staying, is smaller and situated between the two larger “cities” of Amalfi and Positano. I wanted a remote town on the water where I could sit, relax and not be bothered. I used Amalfi Coast Rental to help with my plans. My rental sits on a cliff about 40 feet high off the Tyrrhenian Sea, but so close to the water that I thought I could roll an empty wine bottle off my deck and into the water (please note, I only THOUGHT about doing this.). My room has neither a phone nor a TV. It has no central heat, which means that the cooler months may be a bit uncomfortable, especially at night. The large, east-facing deck is where I spend most of my time during the day and early evenings reading, writing and watching the same three guys fish from about 8am until 9pm — in rain or shine they appear without fail. They do well enough and seem satisfied catching these thin, elongated fish. I’m not sure what motivates them, although I like to imagine it has something to do with the nature of their relationships with their wives. Either way, they are both quite fat and they whistle while they work, so I imagine they’re happy.
There are three places to eat within 100 steps of my apartment. Each is located in a small beach cove known as Marina di Praia. I describe them as “places to eat” instead of restaurants or trattorias as each seems more like someone’s kitchen than a typical American restaurant. My favorite of the three is accurately called, Petit Restaurant Bar Mare. This means, “The small restaurant/bar by the sea.” The tables are mostly outside and also (thanks to the lack of real estate) are a stones throw from the water. My dinners are spent staring into the rolling surf or reading. I wondered whether the waiter, due to his rolled-up shirt sleeves and no-nonsense demeanor, could also be the local mechanic. He is pleasant, but in deference to my lack of Italian language skills, I’ve never really engaged him in any meaningful conversation. Instead, I’ve been sticking with basic pleasantries and ordering food from the menu that end with ‘alla Amalfitana’ (based on my personal belief that anything local is better.) So far, I’ve not been disappointed. Risotto alla Amalfitana is a combination of butter, lemon (An Amalfi Coast staple), parmesan cheese and fresh shrimp. I highly recommend eating this dish at least once if you are in town. It is perfection. I had dinner companions. There are two stray dogs that sit and watch me eat every evening. The dogs are never bothersome in their panhandling. They only stare at me expectantly and leave me in peace.
When I am looking for a little more excitement, I can board the blue bus called “SITA” for one Euro. The bus travels to either Positano or Amalfi, the cultural and civic centers of the coast. I suggest visitors should be patient. SITA’s confusing timetable seems to change daily. I pondered that the timetables were set to the whims of the drivers. Both Amalfi and Positano are beautiful and have many more choices for restaurants and hotels than the smaller towns, like Praiano. However, I have always shied away from bric-a-brac boutiques and bric-a-brac boutiques abound in both Amalfi and Positano! The only real industry left on the coast is the manufacture and sale of kitchen ceramics and a magical yellow liquor called “limoncella.” Both towns are nice, but they are tourist spots. Fortunately, Amalfi is not nearly as annoying as, an “Escape from Alcatraz” T-shirt in San Francisco.
Overall, The Amalfi Coast is geared towards retirees on vacation and young couples on honeymoons. There is not as much for a single person to do. But for now, I am leaving to buy some wine and food, and head back to Praiano for a little solitude. I wonder if my boys are still fishing? I hope so.