I had only just met him a few weeks prior, but I couldn’t resist when he offered to take me to Italy to meet his family. Although, I was perplexed, I agreed with a shoulder shrug and an indifferent, “Sure.” Notorious for dating foreign men who have problems communicating their thoughts in English, I thought I had found my soul mate as we drove through the winding hills along the Amalfi Coast. Surely this must be what love feels like. Wild herbs growing endlessly beneath the lemon trees that delicately pollinated the air with their citric aroma, you breathe in deeply to hold a piece of its beauty within you. What does it matter that he can hardly pronounce my name? Most men have problems communicating anyway; at least the language barrier makes it easier to tolerate. Besides, I dare anyone to travel along the Amalfi Coast with a lover (even if his name evades you) and not be ready to elope once you have arrived at your bed & breakfast overlooking the Mediterranean. It’s the return flight that you have to worry about. As you sit buckled into your middle seat, smiling as you are flip through photos of your adventure, and that beautiful man, with his endless chatter, is suddenly starting to annoy you with the way he completely disregards consonants.
Monte di Procida We started in his birthplace, Monte di Procida, a charming little mountain top town overlooking the beautiful island of Ischia. The town is only a few miles wide and gives an authentic insight of the rural Italian lifestyle. The main road littered with prostitutes as many locals struggled to generate income through the few establishments in town. There was a simplistic beauty in the way that the locals conducted their daily routines. The mornings were for the fishermen, who would go out into the sea with their makeshift boats and bring back the catch, that the town people would purchase fresh daily. Most of the restaurants were closed during the week and could only afford to open on weekends in order to accommodate their staff’s wages. The men would congregate in the square or at the coffee bar and shout at one another using aggressive hand gestures that I found disrespectful, only to find out is was only friendly conversation between peers. While the men stood around the square talking in alarming tones, the women were home preparing their husbands lunch, sometimes in groups, to talk about their husbands of course. Once the men returned home, they ate lunch, and proceeded to their ritual midday naps. The women proceeded to preparing dinner before the children arrived home. Once school was released, the streets began to swarm with young unattended children, who walked themselves home, without the fear of being kidnapped by a stranger luring them to a car with candy. In Monte di Procida, no one was a stranger. Everyone looked after one another’s children as their own, peering at them out of the open shutters of the kitchen as they chopped, peeled, and oiled the pepperoni for dinner. Though this town is not overcome with wealth and modern conveniences, it possesses an invaluable asset… peace of mind.
Vesuvius As we continued south, through poverty-stricken Naples, we exited off of the main course and began driving up what looked like a mountain. When we reached the top, he looked over at me in the passenger side and smiled deviously, “You are now on Volcano.” We hiked for 20 minutes, up the volcano, following the subtle fumes to the wide-mouthed crater. I’m not sure what was more invigorating, the fact that I was at the mouth of the most dangerous volcano in Europe, or the view overlooking the Bay of Naples, Capri, Ischia, and The Amalfi Coast. Being able to stare into the mouth that had destroyed all of Pompeii in 79 AD, while getting a glimpse of what would come to follow, was the perfect inception to our excursion.
Sorrento As the co-pilot, I was in charge of the music, and I was exhausted with my favorite Italian pop hit, Sotto Casa by Max Gazze, that played four times an hour. We ascended along the coast to Lauryn Hill’s Can’t Take my Eyes off of You. It was nearly dusk when we pulled into our bed and breakfast, which appeared modest from our parking spot. After walking up a few short steps that led to the courtyard, our eyes widened in astonishment. Le Terrazze at sunset was breathtaking, as the sun left splashes along the sky until it disappeared beneath the ocean. I did not know what else was ahead, but I wanted to stay there, feet firmly planted and gaze. Our room was a dual story loft, accompanied by a small kitchen equipped with fresh potted basil and a patio overlooking the sea. We watched the fireflies weave in and out of the hills until we faded softly into the night.
Positano We woke early the next day and continued our journey along the coast, stopping at numerous street vendors along the way. We gathered lemons the size of melons, fresh cherries, and jars of pickled peppers. As we drove past the simplistic white wooden sign that read “Benvenuti a Positano” I began to possess the anxiousness that a young child demonstrates as they drive past the golden arches of McDonald’s. I insisted that we park immediately, and walk through the small town so that I could properly receive its beauty.
We began at the top of the hill and worked our way down to the sea, moving past the cute little shops that sold mostly white linen and intricately designed Italian furniture. Following the vines that tightly embraced the small, close-knit collection of stucco buildings; we were greeted by the palpable magic of the city. We had lunch on a terrace that balanced briefly above the sea. Ristorante Covo dei Saraceni served a variety of Mediterranean seafood so fresh that you could taste the sea between your teeth. The panoramic view of the cottages, that looked as if they were stacked in a staircase fashion towards the sky, was more enthralling than the squid.
Ravello On our way to Ravello, we passed through an arched Roman tunnel on a sharp road, and pulled over to enjoy the view. The steep mountain gave the illusion that one wrong step would land you at the bottom of the sea. We went inside a nearby hotel for wine and did not want to leave, or even blink. The Locanda del Fiordo was perfectly positioned between Positano and Amalfi, and its most magical feature is the narrow staircase that leads you down hundreds of feet to the deep blue sea. After sun soaking on the platform at the bottom of the staircase, we continued on to Ravello. The most charming town of them all, Ravello’s city center courtyard welcomed us with a warm familial embrace. The curves and finishing’s were delicately displayed, in cooperation with the vines that grew along the bodies of the buildings. The pinnacle of the town lies within the gates of Villa Rufolo. An architectural masterpiece, that stands itself as a work of art, filled with the perfectly balanced combination of sun, sculptures, and flower gardens. Erected in 1880, Villa Rufolo has served as inspiration for many artists and is the home of the internationally recognized Ravello Festival. Strolling through the uncovered walls of the villa was the perfect summary of the exquisite detail and historical journey of the Italian culture. The enchanting arches spoke of the Roman history, while the robust smell of herbs in the garden told the story of tradition, and the Mediterranean sea, with its demanding beauty, tied it all together.
Our relationship didn’t last much longer after we returned to the states. The romanticism created in Italy did not exchange as well as the currency.
This story was curated by Sasha Bonet.