09-26-2018 Day 2 The Stairs of Positano

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Montepertuso, Italy, Clear and Sunny  72F  22C

On our first morning in Montepertuso we woke to a brilliant sunny sky.  The night had been incredibly windy and all the beautiful terra cotta pots filled with herbs on the terrace had been blown over. 

With the gusty winds our first lovely breakfast provided by Sara was served inside on the dining table rather than on the terrace.  What a breakfast it was!  The star of the show are Sara’s homemade croissants served with her homemade jam.  Breakfast includes these wonderful croissants, eggs, various meats and cheeses, juice, yogurt, panini sandwiches, sweet and savory home baked breads, and some kind of crispy toasts in a package.  It is always much more than we can eat so we save the paninis for lunches when out walking, the yogurts for afternoon snacks, and the breads are piling up in our bread basket.

After breakfast we decided that in spite of the winds, it was a perfect day to walk the stairs down to the town of Positano.  The stairs are a highly recommended activity when visiting Positano. Most often reviews mention the wisdom of walking down instead of up and taking the bus back up the hill.  We thought that was great advice.

There are about 1,700 steps from our village of Montepertuso down to Positano.  This number seems to vary according to different websites but after reading more we have decided that this is a pretty good number.  The elevation difference, however, is not in question and the 1,100 foot elevation drop from our village to the beach is real, regardless of the number of steps. Our step trackers showed that we walked a bit more than 3 miles. No matter how you count it there is a LOT of down.

Positano is built on a cliff of limestone and the roads and stairs snake along the cliff sides with each turn providing another mind boggling view of the town and the sea to the south. The entrance to the stairs is a short walk from the square in Montepertuso along the very narrow road where we have learned to squeeze against the railing as cars pass.  Traffic along these roads is basically indescribable. You have to experience it.

The upper part of the stairway is a bit rural with lush terraced vegetable gardens and scattered homes.  The stairs themselves vary in depth and height and the surface is rough stone.  There are railings in some places and not others but you have to be careful if you use the railings because they are often crawling with tiny ants.  Amazing views open up at almost every turn. 

Approaching town we passed some people going up and others going down as we were.  Notably, most of the people going up were young folks with backpacks heading for the Path of the Gods.  This hike is another highly recommended activity in the area and begins in Nocelle which is a tiny village beyond Montepertuso. I would love to talk to some of these folks AFTER they climbed all those stairs and then continued a hike on the path.  The only one I know who could do it easily would be Mark Johnson.

After about an hour we came to “the pink house” mentioned by a BnB owner we encountered on a porch overlooking the trail who was kind enough to give us directions.

Turning left as he said we found ourselves emerging on a “real” street in Positano filled with tourists, shops, and marked by gorgeous Italian ceramic planters filled with flowers.  We got caught browsing for a bit in the ceramic shops but am proud to say that I didn’t succumb to purchasing anything although those brilliantly colored platters and vases have always been a draw for me.

We walked along the road a bit toward the east before turning and continuing down toward the spiaggia (beach).  The stairs wind down through tiny streets lined with shops and then open up into the piazza  in front of the cathedral.  We skipped visiting the interior for the moment and continued down some more stairs passing a few more shops before arriving at the the lovely Positano Spiaggia.

The BnB guy on the path on the hill had told us about the best gelato to be found in Positano and we found it just past the bar at Cove Dei Saraceni as he had instructed. There we had our very first taste of Italian gelato and it is everything we imagined.  How in the world can simple ice cream not taste anything like simple ice cream! There is a method to purchasing gelato in Italy.  You must first pay at the cashier, decide whether you want a cup or a cone, get your receipt, and only then return to the ice cream counter. Only then do you choose your flavor. There are often small tables and seats in the shop but should you choose to sit instead of walk with your treat there will be another charge.  The same holds true for ordering espresso or cappuccino in the cafe’s.

The beach at Positano is quite tiny without true sand and very few folks laying out in the sun.  There were all types of boats moored in the small harbor from tiny rowboats to big yachts, local fishing boats, speedboats, and several ferries to various locations around the coast including the Isle of Capri, sparkling in the distance.

By this time I was feeling pretty tired walking with the stick compensating for the stupid knee and needed a place to sit.  Not far up the street from the beach we found a nice little restaurant called La Zagara where we were seated at a nice window table for two.  We were initially offered one of those tables in a dark corner that they try to give to unsuspecting tourists.  We had a simple and inexpensive lunch of a slice of pizza and lemon granita tea .  It was delightful.  We were grateful for the use of the restaurant restroom as there are not many public restrooms available in Positano.  On the way out we stopped at the bakery counter of the restaurant to purchase a fabulous pistachio cannoli to take home for dessert.  Italian cannoli was another new experience.  WOW! It was nothing like the tasteless things I have tried only rarely in the states.

We walked back up the stairs to the Duomo The Church of Santa Maria Assunta and took time to enter into the quiet sacred space.  Visiting cathedrals can be a bit overwhelming. It takes time and the willingness to go slowly.  We wandered, read a bit, took photos, and did some oohing and ahhing between us before emerging back into the sunlight.  Deanna and I were both a bit appalled at how some tourists seem to have no qualms intruding into spaces where people are in prayer and contemplation with their cameras.  We both made an effort to be respectful but it takes a bit of effort to get decent photos inside a cathedral no matter how many people are inside. 

Leaving the cathedral, we returned to the Fermata Mobility (the local bus stop) across from the Tabacchi (tobacco shop) where we purchased our bus tickets to Montepertuso.  The fare is 1.3 EU each way and worth every cent.  It is 1.70 EU if purchased directly on the bus.

We have found the people in Italy to be delightful, charming and pleasant, except  when they are waiting for the bus.  This particular activity requires fortitude and a willingness to get in the midst of the push and shove of everyone trying to get on the same bus though the same tiny door.  However, once on the bus, the walking stick and white hair are quite an advantage. Everyone from older men to younger women offered their seat to me! I did take advantage and used the “old lady card” and was very happy that I didn’t have to stand all the way home through the winding streets of Positano high up to the village of Montepertuso.

A view of Montepertuso. Our apartment is right behind the church

With our tummies full from our afternoon lunch, dinner was simple and perfect with another glass of Enzo’s delightful wine from the previous night and our gorgeous pistachio cannoli.

The rest of the photos for this day’s post are located here.

Author: kyotesue

Soil scientist/mapper working for 35 years in the wild lands of the West. I am now retired, enjoying my freedom to travel, to hike without a shovel and a pack, to knit and quilt and play, to play with photography and write stories about all of it.

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