There’s just something about a beach town in winter. It’s a curious blend of melancholy and hope. Melancholy because the whole town is a bit deflated. It’s purpose and reason for existence is still there (the beach, the ocean) but the spirit, the visitors, are nowhere to be seen. It feels hopeful because, well, obviously, the people will come back again and the town will come alive again.
At least, that’s how it felt in Positano.
After an early morning of gazing in wonder at Pompeii’s penises, we left the quickly growing crowds of tourists (seriously, go early. You’ll have the place to yourself) and headed off for a drive along the Amalfi Coast. It was predictably gorgeous scenery: a thin thread of a twisty road clinging to cliffs, the blinding blue ocean backdrop giving you a sense that you were about to drive right off those cliffs. No road shoulders, so no opportunity to stop and look at the tiny presepe (nativity scenes) nestled into roadside caves all along the way.
(It now seems funny to me that word: presepe. So close to precipice, as in flying off of…)
We crawled along Positano’s sidewalk/street until we found a Tetris-style parking garage. Then we went off to be charmed by the little beach town.
During the summer, Positano is mobbed with thousands of visitors flocking in from nearby Capri or Sorrento or Ravello. But on a misty, chilly (by Italian standards. Really it was in the 50s) day in early December, it wasn’t busy at all. Sure, there were a few other tourists poking about, but not too many. I’m guess going to a seaside resort town in December does not top the list of a lot of must-do activities when one visits Southern Italy.
So you could really just meander through and soak it all in.
The architectural details were still lovely.
There were still flowering vines clinging to brightly colored walls.
Most businesses were closed for the winter, their wooden doors shut tight. But a few places were open to sell their world-famous, brightly painted ceramics and limoncello to stalwart tourists.
You could still walk under the canopy of arched branches, and imagine what it’s like when the sun dapples down through them.
The beach was fairly deserted, and all the little fishing and pleasure boats were piled up waiting for spring. We sat and watched a couple of dogs chasing each other up and down the beach in total freedom without having to dodge a bunch of people. Dogs don’t care if the sun is shining or not: a good beach is still a good beach.
Most of the beachside restaurants were closed and boarded up, their patios draped in heavy plastic. If you closed your eyes and let the sound of the waves carry you, you could imagine what it’s like here in the summer. The murmur of conversation and laughter, the tinkling of plates and silverware, the shouts of waiters. But then, you probably wouldn’t be able to hear the ocean if the place was crowded.
We slowly made our way to one of the few open restaurants for a nice, leisurely, wine-filled, seafood lunch. No need to hurry. There’s nowhere to go. No one’s waiting for us to vacate our table. There are no shops we need to get to before they close, no mobs of tour buses dumping yet more people onto this charming little seaside town.
The people will come back again. But for that day, Positano was all ours.
Here’s a much more informative overview of Positano, should you ever want to go.