Swirl Wine Bar & Market

Monday, August 13, 2012

Positano Bites Deep...

“Positano bites deep. It is a dream place that isn’t quite real when you are there and becomes beckoningly real after you have gone.”  John Steinbeck

 After 13 hours of flying and two tiring train rides, the five of us, later tagged as "le cinque donne", lug our suitcases down the very long train track in Napoli. At the end of the platform a pack of Italian male limo drivers awaits, holding up signs, maneuvering around each other, ready to whisk the "stanieri" to destinations on the beautiful Amalfi Coast.  As I yell out into the crowd asking for Vincenzo, a jovial face makes his way to us.  An infectious smile with an easy, friendly manner, we exchange kisses on the check, feeling immediately comfortable with our new found friend and ready for the adventure that awaits.

Vincenzo Fusco, our friend and driver in Positano

Deliriously dazed, we pile into his van and make two request: bathroom and espresso.   With chaos of Napoli drifting behind us, Mount Vesuvius to our left and the bay of Naples to our right we leave the autostrada and begin ascending the infamous Amalfi Coast highway.  Zig zagging our way up past towering rocky bluffs and plunging gorges, the beautiful combination of the mountains meeting the crystal clear waters, I've never seen more spectacular views.  The pastel colored buildings clinging to the cliff ledges, sparkling in the afternoon sun, beckoning, seducing enchanting, what took me so long to get here and how am I ever going to make myself leave this place?

Our first look at Positano

We stop at the pinnacle of one of the cliffs on the highway and both requests are answered at a little tabacchi perched on the edge of the rock.  A little further down the road Vincenzo makes another stop giving us our first drop dead view of Positano.  Nestled in the rock crevice below, its deep blue water dotted white with boats, the dark pebbly beach lined with colorful umbrellas, we have arrived in paradise.  We descend, twisting, turning narrow streets bring us to the road above the villa.  I say "above" because to reach it you walk down a steep flight of 75 steps to reach the terraced ledge along which sits Le Sirene, our home for the next week.  We embrace Chiara, owner of the villa, as two burly porters lift the luggage of 5 women on their backs and bring it down the ancient stairs all in one trip.

View of Positano from Villa Le Sirene

I'd looked at the pictures of the view from the villa's terrace a thousand times, but as Chiara threw open the 12 foot tall double doors, nothing prepared me for the scene that awaited.  All of my senses are awakened from the exhausting trip as we walk out on the terrace and absorb the scene below us.  Sounds of waves crashing, children laughing, dishes clanking in the restaurants below, conversations drifting up the hillside, this little town is so alive with the most wonderful energy.  Salty ocean smells, clean sea air, and aromas from the seaside cafes, accompanied by visually stunning views, it draws me in as no place ever has, and we've only been here 5 minutes...

Photos of Da Vincenzo, Positano

We settle in and decide on an early dinner followed by a good nights sleep to prepare for our first full day on the coast.  Out of the villa, puffing our way back up the 75 steps we came down earlier, we go left on the street to "Da Vincenzo"  a beautiful little spot on the main drag.  Of course it's early, way to early for any respectable Italian or anyone accustomed to the late dinner hour in Italy, but they we're totally accommodating to our bleary eyed and barely functioning group of tired women.

As soon as I see the menu, I know how I wanted to start my meal.  Insalata del Mare (salad from the sea), piled with fresh mussels, tiny delicate clams, langostino, octopus and squid in a deliciously simple marinade of local lemon juice and olive oil, is a staple on the Amalfi Coast and something that should not be missed.

And now the decision on the wine.  Familiar and beloved varieties like Falanghina, Greco di Tufo, Fiano di Avellino are on the white wine list, but I want something different, something that would taste like this wonderful  place.  So I choose from an unknown producer (who we actually got to visit on our next trip...), Tenuta San Francesco, and select their inexpensive Costa d'Amalfi Tramonti Bianco, a light, crisp blend of native varieties, biancolella, pepella and falanghina grown in a deep valley further down the coast.  Beautiful floral and herbal aromas with wonderful minerality and acid, it is the absolute perfect match for la cucina del mare in Positano.  It became one of our favorite wines on the trip, our go to bottle to accompany any of the fresh seafood dishes, and something I can't wait to have each time we go back.

Le cinque donne in Positano

Sipping on that wine, tasting the sea in that wonderful dish in that little restaurant with 4 of my favorite people around me, is a moment I will never forget.  A peacefulness comes over me, a feeling that there was no where else in the world that I want to be in this moment in time and it is a feeling that stays with me the entire visit.  There is something about this town, the warmth of its people, its natural beauty, culture, wine and cuisine that keep me coming back year after year.  It's affect on me is profound and hard to capture in words, all I know is that it keeps calling me back and I can't help but listen...

Links to our favorite people and places mentioned in this post.  Please tell them Beth & Kerry from New Orleans sent you...
Taxidriver Positano,  Vincenzo Fusco
Chiara & Giuseppe, Villa Le Sirene
Da Vincenzo Ristorante
Tenuta San Francesco

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