Breezing Back Through Positano

Soon, we were landing back at Positano’s own Marina Grande.

The girls wanted to shop. They had spied several enticing boutiques on the morning walk down, but we had been focused on getting to Capri, rather than shopping.  Now they could.

But first, an icy cocktail at Buca di Bacco.

Mmmmm...I'm thirsty!

These two California girls somehow inherently knew that it is common practice for Italians to have an early evening apertif (aperitivo) and appetizers (stuzzichini).

The two bartenders vie for the attention of Nichole and Allie

After refreshments, the girls got right to their shopping.

Do NOT let Gino see these! If you have read my blogs from previous trips, you may recall that my husband has a fetish for ceramic plates like these.

A t-shirt would be much easier to pack home
(although not nearly as exciting)

Anyone up for a gelato after all that shopping?

Shopping is a holy endeavor, at least in Positano

As we meandered back up the wide pathway through the commercial part of Positano, we saw fireworks erupting near the church of Santa Maria Assunta and veered over to find out what was being celebrated.

The doors to the church had been thrown wide open, and several people were milling around just outside. The pealing of bells rang through the air, and all of a sudden a procession of robe-clad boys emerged, carrying staffs.

Making a wide circle through the small piazza, they re-entered into an adjacent door, followed by priests and men carrying a large statue of the Madonna. I love that in Italia, there is always some celebration in progress.

It was time to make our way back to the bus stop. On the way, we spotted a few interesting signs.

Hotel California!

Since our espresso maker at home is dubbed Bruno,
we couldn’t resist this photo

At the top of the hill, while waiting for the “Jerico” to take us back to Praiano, we amused ourselves by watching motor-scooters careen around the corner, rarely bothering to stop at the stop sign. Morbidly fascinated, we held our collective breath against a potential crash, but trusting that none would occur. Luckily none did.

It was a pretty place to wait for a bus.

Chris claimed he saw a blind man driving a scooter. The man had been wearing large sunglasses and carrying a stick like the blind use. The man had tapped the ground with his stick as he drove the scooter along. “Didn’t anyone else see this?” Chris asked, hoping for concurrence.

Chris swears he really saw
the blind motorcyclist!

A blind scooter driver? Actually, I wouldn’t doubt it — this was Italia, where anything can happen.

The Jerico was full. Tired but happy, we clung to the overhead railing as we rumbled back to Praiano. It had been a great day.

Boat to Paradiso

With tickets in hand, we ambled over to watch people disembark, anxious ourselves to board.

Ticket to Paradise!

This proud Italian is reminding people they are still in paradise: Italia!

And do you doubt it with water this color?

Nichole and Kris ready for take-off!

Say goodbye to Positano

And here we go!

The receding view of Positano brings to mind the quote John Steinbeck made to Harper's Bazaar in 1953: "Positano bites deep. It is a dream place that isn't quite real when you are there and becomes beckoningly real after you are gone."

We turned our heads away from Positano diminishing in the distance and faced forward, eager to greet Capri just a few waves away.

Gino, Kris, Nichole, Allie, and I wanted to ride on the top deck with the open air and unobstructed views. The others went below. As it was, there was standing-room only on the upper deck, but we didn’t mind. It was exhilarating and thrilling with the warm air whipping our faces and hair.

Upper deck

Unless you prefer the lower deck

As our hydrofoil churned its way towards Capri, we passed a small group of rocky islands, known collectively as Li Galli.  Once owned by the famous Russian ballet dancer, Rudolf Nureyev, their nicknames are amusing. The largest is called Gallo (rooster). The smaller one is called Coniglio (rabbit). At least that is what I was told.  I could find no evidence of that.

See any Sirens?

The mythological Sirens are also said to have lived there, as reported by a Greek geographer in the first century B.C.E.  So many stories surround these little islands.  I wondered about them as we splashed past.

Down At The Dock

As the time of departure drew near, we headed toward the water, milling around the area where the boats dock. The scenery was no less beautiful from this angle.

Picture perfect Positano

The stunning Church of Santa Maria Assunta seen from below

Centuries-old towers built to warn against imminent pirate raids, allowing the citizens a chance to "scappare" up into the
higher hills.

With enough warning, you could hide from the pirates way up there.

We discovered an enormous anchor standing next to the rocky hillside. It was easily twice the size of a man. The sign nearby proclaimed it was dedicated to the mariners of the world.

On June 14, 2008, the town of Positano dedicated this anchor to the mariners of the world.

Without Kris and Nichole, this anchor would have fallen over!

Tony, waiting patiently for the boat to Capri

Candace, Nichole, and Allie, turning plenty of heads while also patiently waiting for the boat

The boat arrived and it was time to board.

Spiaggia Grande — Positano’s “Big Beach”

Along Positano’s Spiaggia Grande (Big Beach), several ticket stands sprinkled the sand, each offering boat rides to Capri. We compared modes and prices and settled on one with a good departure and return time.

Choosing just the right ticket to Capri

Still, we had close to an hour to wait for our 20-minute ride to the island, so we wandered along the waterfront to pass the time.

Wanting another cappuccino, Kris stepped into Buca di Bacco, his first “real Italian espresso bar.” While he sipped, he watched in amusement and amazement as locals would sally up to the counter, knock back an espresso like it was a shot of whiskey, then dash off.

Nichole and Kris in Buca di Bacco

Kris and Gino (with me in the middle)

Ah! It's finally my turn!

Allie's first taste of real gelato

Allie took her first taste of gelato while Chris and Candace made up names for the dogs nosing around the outdoor tables for fallen tidbits.

Chris and Candace: naming the dogs while they wait

Candace, Chris, and Dan decide beer is better

The hour was almost up.  It was time to head towards the dock.

Down to Positano

After morning cappuccini, we quickly gathered what we needed from the villa for the day’s outing to Capri and headed to the bus stop a very short distance away.  We had learned that a small bus called the Flavio Gioia buzzed back and forth between Praiano and Positano.  Conveniently, we could purchase tickets directly from the driver which eliminated having to track down tickets ahead of time.

The bus rumbled towards us, right on time.  As we looked around to make sure we were all present, we noticed Allie was missing!  I thought we may have to let the bus leave without us, but then we spotted her, flying down the hill.  She had headed off to the wrong stop, but when she saw the bus go by, had chased it down to where we were all assembled.

Riding the “Jericho” from Praiano to Positano:
Dan in forefront, Kris, Nichole, and Allie in back

The excited chatter of our group filled the little bus

Allie could never remember the name Flavio Gioia and started referring to the bus as the Jericho.  This was hilarious, but somehow fitting, and the name stuck. During the following days, whenever we planned an outing, we always checked the schedule for the “Jericho.”

Despite the twists and turns of the coastal road, it was not a long ride to Positano, la cittá verticale — the vertical city.  The driver let us off and pointed us down a stretch of road that would deposit us at the port where we could catch a boat to Capri.

The rest of the way to Positano is on foot

It was almost too beautiful to be real

Dan and Sharon inside a postcard

Turn your gaze away from town to take in this

This is a place where you could easily forget the rest of the world

We followed the downward path until we reached a Y.  Not sure of which branch to take, I asked a group of locals sitting nearby if the road continued on to the marina.

“Va agli autoscafi?” I asked politely. “Si’,” they responded. As I walked off, I overheard one of them tell his friend in an amused voice that I had asked directions to the autoscafi instead of the aliscafi. Mortified, I immediately realized I had asked for directions to the “car boats” instead of the “fast boats.” Oops!

But I quickly forgot about my linguistic error as the path transformed into a cool corridor of  flowers, a river of purple flowing overhead. We were mostly silent as we walked, awed by the unexpected burst of blooms.

Truthfully, we were in no hurry to arrive at the bottom.

On to Praiano

We continued on. The constricted, serpentine road twisted and turned, curling back on itself in places.

The intense blue of the Mediterranean Sea sparkled to our right.

Positano came into view, its pastel-colored houses cascading down the hill like frosting on a cupcake.

Positano -- pretty in pastels

Around another corner, just a few miles beyond, Praiano, our final destination, appeared.

Just around the corner -- Praiano

Although we had the address of the villa that would become our home for the coming week, we still had to stop and ask locals where we could find the elusive Via Ruocco, where the villa was located. After learning that Via Ruocco was actually a street of stairs, Giuseppe pulled over and we got out.

The van was parked on a tiny road hemmed in by a rock wall on one side and stone buildings on the other; it was hard to imagine this was the main road of upper Praiano. Throughout the week to come, we would traverse it on foot many times.

I'll bet the main street in your town doesn't look like this.

Today, however, we were laden with our bags and, most importantly, Nichole’s wedding dress, and were only concerned with getting our gear up to the villa.

Glancing about, Nichole recognized a palm tree from one of the website photos.  She and Allie walked up a steep pathway to the level above, appearing overhead a few minutes later to wave at us to come forth. The villa was up this way.

With bags in tow, we found ourselves on a small paved pathway that led to the foot of a very steep set of stone stairs. A ceramic sign affixed to a rock wall leading upwards confirmed Nichole’s findings: Via Ruocco. This was the “street” we had been looking for.

You can see why the van would not be driving up Via Ruocco.

The owner, Paolo, appeared and unlocked a door cut into the stone wall that bordered the path. The door swung open to reveal a strange-looking platform connected to some sort of mechanized pulley system. This, we soon learned, was a luggage elevator. Very clever — our piles of bags rode up, a few at a time, to the lower level of the villa situated straight up from where we stood. Bodies, however, had to use their own steam.

Halfway up, a gaping green door marked the entrance to Villa Giampa, our temporary Amalfi Coast home. In awe, we stepped through the portal cut into the stone wall and found ourselves in a Mediterranean wonderland.