The morning we set off for Positano was one of indecision and false starts.
In the end, we found ourselves bundling into two separate cars and, with the windows rolled down, carefully hugging the via Nastro Azurro all the way along the coast using bright, white Atrani shining in the distance like a beacon as our waypoint.
As we neared Positano we played peekaboo with the town as the road concertinaed in, then out, then in again in line with the deep folds of the cliff face.
Then, pulling around the final bend, we commenced mission: find somewhere to park. First we travelled up and over the town, before by some miracle managing to double back on ourselves and duck out of the conga line of traffic just at the right moment to join the town’s one-way system. We finally found a place — tucked up in the top-left corner of the town (it’s no use applying horizontal geography to a place this precipitously vertical) and paid handsomely for it. But there’s no putting a price on Positano’s prettiness.
As we tottered down the steps, dust-pink alleyways led to startling viewpoints, which in turn led to more staircases and new perspectives.
I quickly became obsessed with the jumbled, vine-strewn vegetable gardens stacked precariously one atop another. Think you don’t have room for a garden? Go to Positano and you might discover that you do — it just requires a little imagination (and maybe a ladder).
But to look down to the sea, or up at the sky? That was the real question. The day was not the finest, but was all the better for not being too sunny. Great balls of mist took silent, theatrical tumbles over the cliff edges, while out at sea the clouds shifted with a palpable nerviness.
I found something simultaneously thrilling and unnerving about the the atmosphere, which felt dense with a smoky kind of mysticism. It was a definite mood — a sense of foreboding and melodrama. If the Italians did their take on Nordic noir, this scene would be the set-up shot.
Drawn instinctively downwards, as though by gravity, we found ourselves in the clutch of streets comprising Positano’s narrow, trinket shop-filled centre. We couldn’t think of anything much we wanted to buy, until we found the granita stand. Late April is a little too early for granita in most of the region — except here, in this one place. Sticky fingered in the sticky heat, we deposited the lemon ice onto our tongues with tiny plastic trowels and let the tang of the acid fill our mouths as it swiftly melted away.
From above, the focal point of Positano is its mesmeric tiled dome of the town church. It’s only when you reach the church that you realise the siren call of this building is merely a ruse. It tugs you down towards the sea so that when you turn back and look up you are struck by the twin sensations of vertigo and awe.
Positano is not precious and quaint like Portofino, nor is it elegant and ordered like Sorrento. It’s a hot mess of a town, big on drama and glamour. It feels like it was built for illicit liaisons between long-lashed, silk scarf-clad women and the men in thrall to them.
If you’re not here to play act your own cinematic romance, you might — as we did — grab a drink and watch those who are.
The return ascent from Positano’s toe to its uppermost tip is no joke. We girded our knees and puffed our way back to the car with not much grace or ease. This formula is the same around the entirety of Campania’s coastline. It’s easy to be seduced by the region’s waterside wonders, but disentangling yourself — usually with a full stomach and a light head from lunchtime wine — means committing to an uphill slog. In Positano, the gain comes before the pain.
If you’re lucky, like we were, the sun will choose just this moment to show it face. Now, with light to bask in, the pastel buildings will begin to glow.
But if you’re contrary, like we were, you will agree that Positano is most effective as a misty dreamscape, and that the cloud suited it much better after all.
LIKE THIS? PIN IT!