The classic view of Positano is from the sea. That’s the view that captivated me as a young teenager. I forget where I saw the photograph and read the article, but I was enchanted by the picturesque village hanging on the side of a cliff on the Amalfi Coast, a well-kept secret favored by the occasional in-the-know artist or writer. I decided I would go there some day, and more than 40 years later, I did.
We arrived by road, my cousin and I, not by sea. The bus dropped us at the top of the village. We had two options: to wait for the local bus to take us down or to walk. We chose the latter. It was a good decision, and not only because in the hour or so it took (we stopped for coffee on the way) the local bus didn’t pass us. The walk down the serpentine road to the seafront demands attention, and on the whole it’s not especially companiable. The road’s narrow and there are no sidewalks, so much of the time you walk one behind the other, hugging the wall so that the cars, vans, and fearless motorini riders don’t take you out. The seafront, when you get there, is like that of any seaside resort, and the sand on the beath is gritty and unappealingly grayish. For me, the point of the visit was the journey, not the destination. It was the walk down, passing a little school, a dentist’s office, houses, cafes, and ordinary shops, and every so often, stopping to look at the view and marvel at the buildings that seem to perch so precariously on the steep cliffside.
The whole vacationing world has discovered Positano now and it’s no longer the sleepy fishing village of the article I read. (Maybe it never actually was.) Even in October, tourists were plentiful, and the souvenir stores and restaurants were doing a good trade. But it’s still charming.
I felt sorry for the people who live in Positano. What a price they pay for the beauty and quaintness of their village. Then again, they make a killing on the tourist trade, so the same beauty and quaintness pay them. I wonder, though, how many of them would like to have Positano back as it once was.