Living the Italian Dream
Who knows how a dream starts? Was it a clip from an old film on a Sunday afternoon, or a magazine article that lit the spark? All I know is that I have always longed to visit Positano.
The pastel painted villas clinging like limpets to the cliffs, the narrow gorge opening onto a pebble beach littered with fishing boats and the open-air café life under the ancient Mediterranean sun was one of those visions in the "must do one day" file.
In 2009 the dream became reality on the Amalfi Coast trip. During the week I fell in love with Italy. Now and again the sea mist parted to reveal superb views but the glimpses of Italian rural life were my abiding memories of the trip. The youth minding his goats as they grazed, a recreation ground in Bomerano and the mule train laden with chestnut poles on a hillside track.
Dignified Ravello with its narrow alleys winding uphill between secluded gardens full of vines and roses and the Church of St Francis, founded by the saint himself, contrasted with Amalfi which was a mad comic opera full of hustle and bustle, bright colours and loud voices. Huge displays of monster lemons were piled outside the shops, people spilled out of cafés and at the waterfront two policemen, each with loud whistles, attempted to control pedestrians and traffic. Cheerful chaos reigned supreme.
It was great to take a dip in the sea and then visit the Cathedral which was - this being the Amalfi coast - up a huge flight of steps. No one could be bored in Amalfi; the town is as invigorating as a shot of its famous limoncello. The ruins of Pompeii were awe-inspiring; that the forces of nature could cause such devastation is almost beyond belief. By contrast, Capri was filled with fun, laughter, enticing shops and good food.
But finally - my highlight. Leaving Bomerano we took the well-named "Walk of the Gods" which went up through shady woodland, into grassland and out onto the rocks. Finally we started to descend. People dispute the number of steps - I stopped counting after 1200. The path twisted and turned, something new at every turn. As we got into the town we walked past villas with walls washed in every shade of stone, cream and beige. Here and there a wall of shrieking purple bougainvillea caught the eye. Down we went through narrow alleys with local and tourist shops, hippy clothes, shoes, art and flowers intermingled with cafés. At last we reached the waterfront dominated by very upmarket restaurants. I took a table on the edge of the promenade and ordered an espresso and a Bellini. I forgot my hot and sweaty feet and my informal clothes. For an hour I lived my dream, sitting at the edge of the Mediterranean in Positano watching the world go by, basking in the sun and dreaming which villa to buy when I win the lottery.
Jane Byrne travelled on The Amalfi Coast (TDA) and is one of four runners up in our travel writing competition.