This post is continued from Part 1 in my Positano Series: How to get to Positano.
I’m not gonna lie…I first heard about Positano from the movie Under the Tuscan Sun. There’s a scene when Marcello (played by hunky Raoul Bova) driving a convertible (of course) casually speeds through the stoplight because it is “just a suggestion,” and then Positano bursts into view like a colorful barnacle clinging to a cliff. Then Marcello leads Frances to the beach where he whispers sweet nothings like “your eyes, I want to swim inside them,” and you can’t help but swoon a little because it’s Raoul Bova and with a charming Italian accent. AND THEN HE FINDS A KITTEN ON THE BEACH. (Gee I wonder where Americans get the Italian Stallion stereotype?)
Ever since Under the Tuscan Sun, I’ve been enamored with Positano (how could you not be?) Since we were already planning to go to Pompeii, I thought, we are so close, we have to go! And because my parents entrusted the itinerary planning to me, I got my wish.
But…here’s what nobody told me about Positano.
First of all, some background: my two biggest phobias are moving vehicles (as a pedestrian) and heights (ledges & cliffs mostly – I’m okay with flying). The car phobia came from a real experience – I broke my leg in a freak car accident when I was 9. I’m not sure where my fear of heights came from, but for years as a child I used to have recurring nightmares about heights, like being stuck on a ledge or somewhere up high. Maybe it’s a result of that one time I fell off a swing and got the wind knocked out of me? Even balconies or staircases where I can see below give me the type of vertigo that makes me want to get on all fours so I can feel the safety of the ground. These are embarrassing full blown panic attack types of fears.
Cars & cliffs…my two greatest fears were there to greet me in Positano. In ALL of the Positano guides that I read, I never heard anyone mention the fact that there is one main road, the Strada Statale Amalfitana, that cuts horizontally around the mountainside above Positano, and everybody, I mean EVERYBODY and their mother’s third cousin’s uncle have to share this super narrow road. Parked cars. Giant tour buses (going both ways). Cars. Vespas. Pedestrians. And yes, even a mother pushing a stroller. All with a cliff going straight up on one side, and a cliff plunging straight down into the sea on the other. We had to duck in between parked cars every time cars or busses going both ways passed each other.
Right after we arrived in Positano, at “Casseta Arienzo,” our little white house on the cliff, we decided to head to “downtown” Positano, which we could see off in the distance. The only way there was to walk…on the road of my dreams/nightmare. It was undoubtedly one of the most beautiful places I had ever seen, but I was being forced to live not one, but two of my biggest phobias at the same time.
My brother took a video of me shimmying along this cliffside road closing my eyes and holding my dad’s hand because I could.not.look.down. I looked ridiculous, but the fear was real, y’all. I was not prepared to be terrified in Positano.
As we sat there eating dinner on the beach with Positano twinkling against the ebony sky, I was filled with disappointment and regret. This was all my idea. I was freaking out about walking back to our apartment in the dark. Cliffs & cars are bad enough during the day, but at night?
Was this a Ceylon moment? In my favorite book, The Drifters by James Michener, one of the main characters is Britta from Norway. Her father had built up Ceylon (Sri Lanka) in his dreams as the ultimate paradise and antithesis to the frigid Nordic cold. Britta fears that if her father “was ever forced to see Ceylon as it actually was, he’d collapse.”
Do we build up places so much in our dreams that they can never live up to reality?
I was starting to consider cutting our Positano trip short to have a few extra days in Rome….I didn’t know if I could spend the next few days on the edge of a cliff. But the next day I made an exciting discovery that changed everything for me.
To be continued…