Protected from the North Winds by the Monti Lattari mountainous uplands, Positano has the virtue to have a mild and dry climate. The feature of the small town is very original: its buildings are arranged in overlapping lines and climb the overlooking rock. The small houses, heaping themselves, are so peculiar to be used as the subject of never-ending pictures. The colours have vibrating tonalities: the white of the hovels forms a canvas perfect to the lightful flowers that decorate the houses, as the little shops of the artisans, the boutiques of Manifold colours, introduce a scenery that the visitor finds hard to believe real. And the smell of the leather used for the production of sandals, the restaurants customized in fish dishes, the bustle of the everyday life, they all make this place unique in the world and destination for very important artists.
The earliest settlements in Sorrento surely go back to the post-ice age, when the sea level was lower and Positano was civilized by picker hunters as other cities in the Amalfi Coast. Instead, the earliest historical evidences certify that the city was already known in the Greek Era; indeed, the island mentioned in the Omero's Odyssey, the island where Ulysses tries to resist the sirens' song, is certainly one of the three small island that are located in the open sea of Positano and made up the Li Galli archipelago. In the Roman Age the city was characterized by the presence of manifold estates belonging to wealthy people, and the name itself derives from Posides Spado, a rich freedman who owned a mansion by the maritime village, or anyway, derives from Poseidon, God of the Sea. The estates, along with other buildings of the Romans, were covered by the pumices during the Plinian Eruption in the 79 a.C. when it's clear that also the economical life of those ancient inhabitants suffered a sudden change. Since the IX to the XI century Positano has belonged to the Maritime Republic of Amalfi, sharing its fate until the slow and progressive decadence. Nevertheless, in this period Positano was one of the most active trading centre of the Mediterranean Sea and it's told it entered into competition with Venice. In the Classical Era and the Renaissance also Positano treated its community an illustrious citizen; indeed, in the XV century, the citizen of Positano Flavio Gioia invented the compass, which it's still used nowadays.
In 1492 Positano became a fief of the Neapolitan Giovanni Miroballo and then in 1532 of Marino Mastrogiudice, who the Cossa, the Blanch and the Bonito followed to. In those years of decadence and domination, Positano experienced indigence and terror; the feudatories imposed duties of any kind, the assaults and the incursions of pirates were frequent in this land, the surrounding mountains were overrun by robbers as an epidemic of pestilence damaged a land already signed by other difficulties. The turning point comes in 1668, indeed, the community of Positano disburses 12.943 ducats, an enormous amount of money in that time, to get free from the feudal weigh and become Royal City. Then followed some agreements with Greece and Cyprus, pledging a blooming trade throughout the Nation, particularly referring to the regions of Calabria and Puglia, as to become market leader. By the way, another period of decadence was looming for the city. The annexation Of the Reign of Naples to the Italian territory didn't encourage Positano, as any other place in South Italy. In a climate of terror and vexation, people from here had only to emigrate to the United States, the land became depopulated and it would have never overflowed the four thousand units. They say that there are more than 30.000 people who live in the States descending from the inhabitants of Positano. From the beginning of the XX century, even for accident, a lot of illustrious personalities started to come from any part of the worlds, being astonished by the beauty of this place. Richard Oelze, Picasso, Carrà, Siegfried Kracauer, John Steinbeck, Corrado Alvaro, Dino Buzzati, Alberto Moravia, all this people stopped in town and exalted its singular loveliness. So these personalities brought their friends, it was rumoured that the city was becoming an appealed destination; time after time houses turned into hotels, the ancient meeting points became restaurants and the fishers started to give themselves an organization and provide seaside resorts. Nowadays Positano is one of the most developed and organized tourist place in the world.
Although the centre of the city offers notable cues of interest, it's worth to consider that the territory of Positano is particularly wide and that the most famous hamlets, as Montepertuso, Nocella and Laurito, offer interesting attractions too. The Montepertuso hamlet, located in Positano, is famous for its natural beauties, as the very singular hole in the mountain. It's told that it has been caused by the Virgin who, faced by the devil, put a finger on the rock, piercing it and making the devil fall down. Here, on July 2nd of every year, on the occasion of the celebration in honour of the Virgin, a spectacular happening takes place. The most important church in Positano is surely the Chiesa Parrocchiale church; nevertheless, we'd better not loose the occasion of visiting the New Church of Positano, which, castled on the hill, gives its name to the whole place. With a baroque style, it is characterized by a marvellous majolica floor accomplished by the artist Ignazio Chianese and by the presence of manifold archaeological finds and paintings rich in value.
Among the most interesting monuments of Positano we can number many control towers that had been built in the ancient era for the ship sighting and in order to prevents the land from the landing of the pirates and the Saracens that had the custom to carry out sacks in any part of the coast. Torre della Sponda tower is located half way along the path that goes to Marina Grande and it's now used as a private house.
The three little islands of Li Galli, in the open sea of Positano, have been described by Omero as the places where the Ulysse's famous bewitchers used to live, the sirens; priestess, young shepherdess, warriors and cannibals. Thanks to this notoriety these small islands have always remained in the legend. It's not a case that a noble Roman, who's told to be a Tiberius' courtier, decided to emulate its emperor and treated himself to an estate in an island smaller than Capri, but rich in beauty and history: The Gallo Lungo Island. The rock of Li Galli are really lovely to see and can be considered as one of the most beautiful view of Positano. Anyway, they are inaccessible, and it's probably for this reason that they can still give hospitality to the famous blue lizards; elsewhere they are almost completely extinct. To end up the seaside: the Fornillo beach, with its little ramifications; the Great Beach that, located in the heart of the city, gives hospitality to a luxurious estate that, according to the legend, was the mill in which a long time ago the slaves used to grind the flour and knead the bread that was conveyed to Capri for the Tiberius' table. Beside the seaside, manifold restaurants and bars have their lucky seat, while it's also possible to park one's boat. The Arienzo seaside goes along the houses of Franco Zeffirelli, ad Italian director, the houses where the Russian poet and painter Giovann Zagarniki lived and died. The biggest beaches are always crowded as they offer armchairs and sunshade parasols in a reduced strip of land; the ideal would be having or renting a boat and go on the open sea to one of the minor wonderful beaches made up of small grey shingles and intense blue sea.
Food of Positano
The specialities that protray the Sorrento and Amalfi cooking are strictly referable to the infinite variety of products that the land provides. The traveller who find himself to walk the streets of the coast will be enchanted by the fragrances and the aroma that burst out from the thousand vineyards, the grapeyards and the gardens full of orangegroves and lemons. Nevertheless the sea represents an inexhaustible source to draw from; undisputed protagonists of the tables are fishes and crustaceans (boiled lobster, even cooked with tomatoes, braised octopus, fried crayfishes o frigged in a light breading). The cooking art of the Italians, you know, enjoys a worldwide reputation, but, among the many traditional specialities of the peninsula, there are some that have become a real symbol of the Italian cousine in the foreign countries. Among these, the "Gnocchi alla Sorrentina" occupy a privileged position. Even if the invention of this recipe must be ascribed to the culinary talent of this people (as clearly shows the name of the dish), it isn't often underlined that the carrying out of this course is attached to its original land. Indeed, the basis and the secret of the "gnocchi" are the local tomatoes, mozzarella and basil, which lend this recipe a particular taste that even the most popular chef can't imitate without the original ingredients.
Among the parallel activities, Sorrento is different to the other cities also for the production of wine, whose qualities a lot of writers have talked about, like Plinius, Stabone, Galeno and the Italian Mario Soldati. In extremely limited areas they produce three different varieties of wine: Lettere, Sorrento and Gragnano, which most of the people consider "the traditional wine of the real Neapolitan people".
Anyway, the primacy among the typical liqueurs is certainly up to the limoncello, a liqueur produced in small craftmade laboratories with alcohol, sugar, water and lemon fragrance, often got by grating the peel of the delicious citrus. Limoncello is usually served frozen as a digestive liqueur at the end of a meal, especially in small tiled grasses, frozen themselves.
The centre of Sorrento, Corso Italia and Tasso Square, are studded with a considerable number of shops, which sweep from the handicraft to the typical products; notwithstanding this, the pulsating heart of the trade is the small and narrow San Cesareo Street, where the opportunities to find what you wish to give a friend and oneself are multiplied. A stage that cannot be disregarded for those who have decided to spend some time in Sorrento is a visit to the inlaid artists' store. This is an old practise born in town, which during the centuries has extended in the whole region.
The art of marquetry is extremely old, and seems it grew up in Asia. The process consists in the assemblage of small pieces of wood of different origin and colour (walnut, olive, holly, orange) previously shaped in order to create a final more or less complicated design. In the second half of the XIX Century a cultured tradition of the tarsia develops and harden, which tradition found in that century its best splendour in Sorrento, as to be pointed out as a special production of the land: the Sorrento Tarsia. Nowadays, if you need an inlaid object to present, you are definitely spoiled for choice; the array sweeps from the furniture to the smallest box.
As referred to the purchase of gastronomical presents, beside the above mentioned limoncello, a very singular gift could be the walnut liqueur, a variety of the area liqueur that is extracted from the walnuts of Sorrento, abundantly cultivated in this region, and from coffee-beans.
The happy geographical position sets Positano in the barycentre of one of the most beautiful place rich in history and loveliness.
The tourist success started after the Second World War, but even having had an intense development, Positano has preserved its peculiarity of vertical city and its solar architecture, with its impressive views and the panorama which guarantees not only an intense life, but also moments of absolute tranquillity.
Thanks to their innate sense of hospitality, the people from Positano had the capability to obtain and preserve one of the highest positions among the most famous tourist location in the world. You can choose to stop in one of the manifold hotel structures, carrying out daily excursions in the different places of big interest and choosing an accommodation according to your budget and your needs, from the bed and breakfast to the five stars hotel.
Otherwise, if your passion is being as much as close to nature, you can choose one of the various farm holidays of the area, as to have the chance to find out the gastronomical richness of the peninsula. Then, whatever is your idea of holidays, you'll find in the Coast the destination of your dreams.
Positano and the neighbouring cities get frequently busy of many cultural happening ranging over different fields, from the eno-gastronomy to religious ceremonies, from the historical commemorations to the concerts.
To start, even this year, Positano Sea has been awarded with an official acknowledgment: indeed, for the 11th time, the bathing location queen of the coast has obtained the blue flag which testifies the healthy state of the sea washing the city. To celebrate the success, during the month of June takes place the Blue Flag Celebration, enriched with canoe contests and live popular music. Always in June we have the Music Festival; in different locations chosen year after year, as the Massine mole and the main church, performance of live music and classic sets will gladden your nights. July is the month of the classic music happening which in the latest years has given hospitality to very important personalities like Eileen Huang, Trio Jeng, Yin Yin Acevedo, Joseph Rosen, Taisiya Pushkar., Adiel Shmit. Since Agoust to September you can discover the less known hamlets of Positano thanks to the review called Positano Open Hamlets (Positano Quartieri Aperti), by going through the most impressive houses locations, by tasting the Neapolitan traditional dishes, by listening to the old legends of the place and the popular songs, surrounded by wonderful compositions of flowers cultivated in the coast. On 15th August night, accompanied by the performance of the greatest pyrotechnics of the area, takes place the Landing of the Saracens, or better an historical folk fancy dress representation.
Positano offers it's visitors numberless opportunities of delight, both during the day and the night, like polished open space coffee bars, typical "trattoria", disco and outdoor places. After an aperitif in the centre, it's good to spend a romantic dinner in one of the many restaurants, accompanied by typical Neapolitan live music. And by night, young people can go wild in the poshest discos in South Italy, while adults who don't love confusion can take a walk and do shopping in the typical shops open until late. The host's duty is guaranteed and the local people's friendliness will persuade you to come back as soon as possible.
How to get there
- Run across the A3 highway Naples/Salerno
- exit in Castellammare di Stabia
- follow the indications to Penisola Sorrentina (Sorrento Coast)
- once you arrive to Meta di Sorrento, follow the indications to Positano. From here, the distance to run is about 10 Km.
It's possible to use the SITA Bus service that starts from Naples (direction Amalfi) or from the Circumvesuviana Railway Station of Sorrento (direction to Amalfi or Positano). For the schedule and the lines connections see www.sitabus.it
Even in this case, it's possible to reach Positano very easily. The companies that carry out the connections are Linee Lauro and Metrò del Mare, which effects a connection among the most important harbours of Campania.
The nearest stop is certainly Naples Capodichino (NAP). From here you have a wide range of options to reach Positano, or better a bus from Naples or the Circumvesuviana Railway to Sorrento, where it's possible to change with other bus lines.