#onemonthinItaly was just the beginning…

I’m convinced that in order to deserve spending now the vast majority of my summer in Italy, I must have rescued puppies from drowning in a previous life. I can’t just be lucky, right?

After a purely magical month of May in Positano (with a quick stop in Rome in the middle), I was back in Italy for most of July.  First, it was Franciacorta and Lago d’Iseo for my friend Giovanna’s wedding, back to Verona for the Opera Festival, then back to Positano. Because, again, the puppies.

The great thing about my summer in Italy is that it’s been a wonderful combination of new experiences and old favorites. So, dear reader, you’re in a for a treat: A series of posts about my favorite place on earth!

Starting with #onemonthinItaly in review – my month in Positano!

Positano is easy navigable by its two bus stops: Chiesa Nuova (at the top of town where the bus drops you off in front of Bar Internazionale) and Sponda (on the other side just up from Li Galli bar). In between there’s a one way road which winds through town, culminating at Piazza Mulini. I rented a gorgeous apartamentino in the Liparlati area of Positano, just a 10 minute hike up steep stairs from the center of town between Piazza Mulini and Sponda. I had a teensy Juliet balcony with French doors that opened on to blooming bourganvilla with a sea view and within chiming range of three churches. So you know, a shack really. 😉

I quickly got acquainted with my local market and vegetable shop. My friend Luigi drove me up to the fish market at the top of town, where Nicola and the crew expertly cleaned and filleted my fish for me, because I of course could not be trusted with such a feat of culinary expertise. But while I was self-sufficient as I could be, I soon found that working from home every day meant that social interaction over meals every day was essential. And so, a normal day looked like this:

  • 9am: Wake up, get ready, check some emails.
  • 10:30am: Walk down to Collina for a cappuccino and cornetto.
  • 11am: A quick little passegiata on the main beach.
  • 12pm: Back up to the apartment on the local bus to continue working.
  • 2pm: Lunch at home. My favorite: Clams sautéed with garlic and cherry tomatoes.
  • 4pm: A little rest at home or on the beach.
  • 5pm: More work until Italian dinner time.
  • 9pm: Back down to town for dinner, then drinks with friends.  If I had an earlier day and could finish around 7 or 8pm, I threw a little aperitivo in there for good measure.

I have a little collection of friends in Positano since I’ve visited once a year since 2007, but what a treat to meet i miei nuovi amici! There was always someone at the bar having an espresso or at La Brezza having a beer and I was always welcomed to join in. I thought I might get bored in this town of 4,000 people over the course of the month, but I settled in quite naturally to the slower pace of life complimented by the buzz of the social nature – what’s not to love about saying “Ciao!” to five or ten people on your walk to town?!

And because I wasn’t cramming my visit into four days and therefore only having time for my favorite restaurants – Le Tre Sorelle and Mediterraneo – I was able to try a whole host of new, both to me and in general, eateries. Tanina’s healthy fare and delectable sweets at Casa e Bottega was a multiple times per week occurrence.

More to come on the foodie adventures, but first, actual adventures! With all of this time in Positano, I knew I would make the compulsory trips to Sorrento, Amalfi and Ravello, but I also wanted to try some new things as well.

First it was off to Praiano, Positano’s sister town just a short 15 minute bus ride from Mulini. I rode the bus all the way to the top of town to take in the breathtaking views, then walked back down to the Chiesa San Gennaro with it’s majestic mosaic piazza overlooking the sea with Positano in the distance.  I visited on a Sunday so several of the shops and eateries were closed, and I didn’t make it down to One Fire Beach so I don’t feel that I experienced the best of Praiano, but that’s something to look forward to on the next trip! 🙂

My lovely friend Suzanne came to visit mid-month and as we sat over breakfast at Casa e Bottega, we got a recommendation to forgo Positano’s main beach and even the more low-key Fornillo, and head to Laurito.  This tiny beach is a 15 minute (free!) boat ride away from Positano’s boat dock – just look for the boat with the red fish sign for Da Adolfo, one of two restaurants on the beach.  You hop off unceremoniously from the boat and within seconds are ensconced in a sun lounge. Lunch is at the spectacularly tasty Da Adolfo which is nearly always packed.  It’s a bit comical really as tables are full at Da Adolfo and empty at the neighboring Le Sirene.  On my first visit, we stuck to chef Sergio’s special eggplant parmagiana which was creamy, cheesy and surprisingly satisfying for a hot day in the sun. When I went back with my friend Antonio, a Positano native now living in Milan, the spread was decidedly more of a celebration of local specialties: mozzarella on grilled lemon leaves, carpaccio, seafood salad, grilled local fish and white wine with peaches. With Laurito, boats start running at midday, stop between about 1:30 and 4 for lunch, then return to Positano between about 4 and 6pm.  Be careful on the weekends as this little oasis gets busy and you may be in for a let down if you don’t make a reservation for a sun chair or lunch.

Throughout my month in Positano I’d been asking around for a guide to take me to hike the Path of the Gods, renowned for the bird’s eye views of Positano. A friend offered to take me in lieu of an official guide the Monday of my last week, offering a much needed physical exertion after a few weeks of delicious food and gelato. We started from his home village of Montepertuso, about 10 minutes drive up from the top of Positano, hiked for over an hour toward Nocelle, then turned around and came back, where we rewarded ourselves with lunch at the incredible Il Ritrovo, just on Montepertuso’s main piazza.

Finally, on my very last full day, my friend Alberto picked me up for the drive to Praiano’s Praia marina, where he guided me on a private sea kayak tour to Laurito and back. It was my first time in a kayak, and after I got the hang of how to steer myself (and push myself off rocks when steering failed me, let’s be honest), we weaved through some spectacular little caves, waved to yachts and earned our 11am beer at Da Adolfo. The trip back to Praia was a bit rough due to wind and rolling seas, so poor Alberto had to tow me most of the way. I’m shocked really that he had the patience and energy to share a yummy lunch with me at Da Armandino (oh dear lord the lemon risotto with shrimp!) before driving me back to Positano.

The best thing about my new experiences in Positano is that I shared them with old and new friends! Thank you to Lorenzo, Luigi, Fanny, Suzanne, Antonio, Cristian and Alberto for making my month truly magical!

 

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© Jennifer Konopasek and GoodTravelerKarma, 2014.

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Positano Favorites: Mediterraneo

“You be careful,” the English woman scolded, looking at me nervously. “You’re just the kind that these Italian boys love.”  “Don’t worry,” I replied. “They’re my friends. They’re taking care of me not hitting on me.”

I understand her concern given that when I arrive at Mediterraneo I often feel like I am disturbing the other diners with our antics. At this point, I’m hesitant to even call myself a customer at Mediterraneo; they are my little local crew.  I usually end up having multiple meals here and definitely drop by as well for a coffee or a drink.

The Esposito family owns the restaurant so their son, Lorenzo, is usually the first face you’ll see. And if you don’t see him, you’ll most certainly hear him, either singing along with Pietro Rainone, the regular musician, or shouting orders back to the kitchen and bar.

I dream in zucchini flowers and Mediterraneo has the best, so be sure to start your meal with those.  The mussels are also so fresh and flavorful, they are a standby as well.  The seafood risotto is a favorite and you can’t really go wrong with any seafood from this area.

Most people I meet at Mediterraneo return at least once during their trip to Positano, and I have no doubt you’ll see why when you visit for yourself.  Even if you start with a quiet, romantic meal, I’m sure you’ll get drawn into the atmosphere quickly and be singing along with Pietro or greeting fellow travellers at the next table.

Say hello to Enzo, Lorenzo, Rodrigo, Antonio, Salvatore, Diego and the rest of the crew and tell them Lorenzo’s “cugina” says ciao!

Mediterraneo
Via Pasitea, 236/238
Positano, Italia
+39 (0) 89-8122828

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© Jennifer Konopasek and GoodTravelerKarma, 2013.

Honorary Mayor of Positano

“We saw you down in the street kissing a handsome guy hello,”  said one of my new American friends.  “Well, that was a friend of mine,” I laughed in reply.  “After all, I’m basically the mayor of this town.”

A couple of days earlier, I met said Americans while waiting in line for the SITA bus from Sorrento to Positano.  English-speakers flock to each other when traveling I’ve found, so it’s not surprising that two couples from Kansas City heard me talking to my friend Becky while waiting for the bus and decided to strike up conversation. First it was to ask me if they were getting on the correct bus.  This being my sixth trip to Positano in as many years, I confidently gave them directions and chatted a bit about the town. Then when I asked them where they were staying in Positano, they told me, “We have to go to the Mediterranean restaurant and ask for Lorenzo.”  I rolled my eyes and started laughing, and they looked understandably shocked when I said, “Lorenzo’s my friend. I’ll take you there.”

Positano itself has less than 4,000 residents which is about twice the size of my high school, except that instead of four years together, the residents here have more often than not spent their entire lives together. Everyone knows everyone, and if you visit as often as I have, everyone knows you too.  Which in all honestly is why I love it so much.  When I arrived to my Pensione Casa Guadagno, the lovely Vanda greeted me in Italian telling me how good it was to see me again and how happy I looked.  And when I went to my standard Mediterraneo for dinner, my friend Antonio hugged me tight, saying, “Welcome home.”

Positano is a bit of a resort town, often depicted in movies like “Only You”, “Under the Tuscan Sun”, and “Nine” because of its idyllic landscape and views. And while I love a little taste of luxury, like apertivo at the bar at the iconic Le Sirenuse hotel, I find this town much more wholesome and authentic in its every day and spend much of my time there living like a local. Incidentally, I find traveling this way leads to the best adventures and stories, right Emily and Becky?!?!? 😉

This time, I planned my trip around the Festa del Pesce, Positano’s annual fish festival held on the Fornillo beach.  For five Euro you can choose a plate of fresh seafood prepared by the local vendors. There’s live music, dancing and fireworks to round out the evening before the young folk head to the town’s one and only club, Music on the Rocks. After scarfing some fried fish washed down with crisp Nastro Azzuro, Becky and I decided to check out the band.  It was as if every little nonna and nonno in town decided to go dancing that night.  Our favourite was a little signora clapping her castanets and dancing for hours at the very front of the stage.  She saw us swaying on the side, grabbed Becky’s hand, and pulled us out to dance with her.  Becky described it best the next morning, “It’s as if they are saying, ‘This is our town and we love it here!’ They want to show it off.” And living in a place like this, why wouldn’t they?

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© Jennifer Konopasek and GoodTravelerKarma, 2013.

Non Vedo l’Ora

Before we left for Italy, my Italian-speaking friend introduced me to a new phrase, “Non vedo l’ora,” meaning “I can’t wait to see you.”  That perfectly sums up how I feel about Italy and the friends I’ve met there.  I can’t wait to see them, and almost as soon as I board the plane home, I can’t wait to go back.

Fortunately, Giovanna and I visited some familiar favorites for me in Positano, Sorrento and Rome.  We practically made a nuisance of ourselves at Mediterraneo and were treated like princesses at Le Tre Sorelle.  The wonderful Vanda and Annalisa at the charming Pensione Casa Guadagno truly treated us like family.

We visited some places for the first time as well and I’m happy to update Good Traveler Karma with the fruits of this labor.  A very special thanks to Pietro and Jennifer at Taverna Allegra in Sorrento.  Go visit Pietro for a delicious and entertaining dinner when you’re in Sorrento and support his musical talent and buy one of his CDs.

It was a truly memorable experience traveling with someone who speaks Italian fluently.  While I’m friendly by nature and always seem to meet people when I travel, having more of an insight into the language and culture of this country I love so much really defined the experience. 

When I visit Italy I try to do my best to exemplify the Italian mindset of living each moment as it comes.  This was one of the first vacations that I actually felt relaxed and satisfied throughout.  We slept, sunned and swam, ate, drank and flirted.  It was only when I boarded the plane home that I started to think about life back in New York.  I was truly sad to leave Italy and I miss it now that I’m home.  I’m ever more convinced that a life of an American ex-pat awaits me.  🙂

Special thanks to the people who truly made our trip once in a lifetime:

Vanda, Annalisa and the famiglia Guadagno; Enzo, Lorenzo and the entire Mediterraneo/Saraceno d’Oro family; Luigi and Giovanna at Le Tre Sorelle; Pietro and Jennifer at Taverna Allegra; Giorgio and the staff at La Piccola Maison; Giampy and team at Alitalia. 🙂  Grazie mille, amici!  Non vedo l’ora.