Positano is one big cliff rising from the Bay of Salerno. The town’s one road winds, turns back on itself, loops around churches and villas and trees that have been here since donkeys determined where the road would go. The advent of the automobile gave Positano to the world. Yet, despite metallic din drowning whispery breezes, I have not found a corner of Positano that lacks an avian chorus.
I stayed in 17th Century villa that clings to the cliff. How exciting! Even more exciting, the power failed after the housekeeper left for the night. I was alone somewhere in time, but not in this century.
Light was fading, radiators were cooling. I rounded up candles, a down comforter, and a bottle of limoncello. From the salon’s library of books in four languages, I selected a book I have been meaning to read for 20 years. I passed the grand piano with the first sorrow I have felt over giving up piano lessons for gymnastics. Imagine playing Mozart with keys illuminated by the antique candelabra. Imagine playing Mozart looking over an iron balcony at the lights of Positano winking on below. So much for double back flips and tarnished team medals.
Something was missing. Dinner. Using ingredients on hand and cooking by candlelight in an old kitchen modernized with basic appliances was a hazardous pleasure.
I boiled pasta in unsalted water—not a culinary tip, I simply could not find the salt. I sliced garlic, onions, basil from a pot on the kitchen terrace, a tomato and my thumb. The pasta was tasty, although I could not tell if the red stuff I was eating was tomato or blood. However, the dish did not taste unsalted, and that’s where I jumped off that train of thought.
In a brass bed, under two down comforters, I read Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own by the light of three candles. The limoncello expanded my understanding of Woolfe’s premise, which evaporated by morning leaving me with a personal premise. A room of one’s own in a deserted villa is a decadent delight.
I woke to the hiss of radiator, redundant because my face was warm from sun shining through the terrace’s glass doors. I drifted into the fragrance of sea air and roses and looked down on the bay. Fishing boats and yachts looked like bathtub toys.
The cliffs on both sides have mythical grandeur. Is this a scene Homer envisioned when he wrote Odyssey? On the terrace, generously blooming potted plants and meandering vines thatched a privacy screen.
A long soak in a deep tub was like one of those optional tour excursions that cost extra. I paid for the bath with an hour that could have been spent exploring Positano. Like the gondola ride in Venice, it was worth it. Green marble tiles, little chandlers flanking the vanity mirror, a warming rod. Mundane duties. But in the tub, light was diffuse and so was birdsong and so were my thoughts except for one. Showers are for hotels; in a villa, one bathes. I replenished hot water three times, contemplating John Steinbeck’s remark. “Positano bites deeply”. Dare I argue with that master of English prose? Yes.
“Hey, John, you used the wrong verb. Positano burrows. It takes root in your soul and leafs out in memories too dear to have appraised – particularly when the lights go out".
This is a guest post from Carol Stigger, travel writer on TheExaminer.com