Saturday, November 28, 2009

Positano gardens.

The winter season is rolling into town, though  it’s not  the rain that announces it but rather the buzz of work beginning on houses, and hotels in the area. With the elections coming up in a couple of months, it may be that a blind eye is turned to ‘construction without authorization’  this year and many seem to be taking advantage of it.
Most of the people who worked in the tourist industry during summer go back to their regular jobs involving manual labour. It’s nigh impossible getting any of these skilled workers to do reparations during summer, so I imagine there must be a backlog of work now.P1000138
In the abandoned terraced gardens in Fornillo, lemon and orange trees are being pruned of dead growth and the creepers tangled in the fruit  trees  are ripped off and used to feed large bonfires.  The owner and a helper work for days, cutting and carrying piles of  sticks and cut growth on their shoulders.  They wind down along the maze of ancient tracks from garden to garden, piling the  bonfire stack high.
The remnants of the Morning Glory which has blanketed the olive trees all summer, crackles in the flames.  The smoke billows up to the house.  These steep gardens which were once so productive with vegetables and fruit have not been tended for years as manual labour is more costly, and the owner/gardeners are  disappearing with the generations.  Wild fennel and weeds now cover the embankments.  The new owners are too busy with their summer jobs to keep an eye on the place and even the lemons are often left unpicked.

It’ll soon be time to cover the fruit trees with their heavy netting to protect them from the wild winds that pick up in winter. The meshing lets the sun in, whilst tempering the force of gales.
In  April, when the nets are lifted, the trees' leaves will be flattened like hat hair, that is, until the wind ruffles body into them.  And then they’ll blossom once again.
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Tuesday, November 24, 2009

A 'How to...Guide'

You know that you’re  ‘The Head’ (who said Mayor?) of  Positano if:
  1. You repeat the same Promises to get work done  over a twenty year period, without keeping your word.
  2. You know that people won’t believe you anyway.
  3. You find an infinite amount of excuses ranging from funds, contract work, other emergencies in town, file work, lost phone numbers or the weather (too hot, too wet, too near Xmas, too near Easter) to avoid doing the job. You use ‘said excuses’ in rotation. For twenty years.
  4. You pass the buck to the town Engineer who passes it right back at you. For twenty years.
  5. The same locals,  pester you so often, that you learn to duck into shops to avoid them in the street.
  6. They manage to corner you anyway, while you are sunning semi-naked on the beach.
  7. You write an open letter to the local paper in answer to the opposition party’s criticism talking about smoke screens, illusions and deceit. But locals feel that what you said about the opposition, would have suited you better.
  8. When someone tells you about a famous travel guide that mentioned the whiff of drains in town, you demand to know their name so that you can sue them for slander.
  9. You are very occupied presiding at religious functions in town, even though you are non-believer.
  10. You do anything that your Party tells you to do.
  11. In order to spend state funds, you are prepared to put a natural oasis in the Vallone Porto at Positano at risk, rather than lose the money.
  12. You need to spend more money to undo the things you did without foresight.
  13. It isn’t by chance that the Town Hall is situated right at the very top of  town ( King of the Castle syndrome ).
  14. You spend a lot of time between May and September officiating at numerous Weddings at the Town Hall.
  15. You hold a Positano Myth Festival in summer to which no one local outside politicians and VIPs are invited, so that the Festival essentially remains a myth.
  16. You find time to paint and hold showings at a local Gallery.
  17. You turn what was once a picturesque fishing village into something resembling more of a Disneyland with fancy lamps, bridges and concrete paths along the beach.
  18. You are so good at your job as an Italian Politician, that you could be, who knows, a Mayor or something, anywhere in the south of Italy.
  19. You are seriously lucky that (up to now),  you don’t have viable opposition in the upcoming elections.
And I’m still waiting…

Update 25-11-09: This morning they've come to start the work.  I'm astounded!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Ssshhh. Can you keep a secret???

When the sun shines brightly in summer from  a cloudless sky, and the calm sea mirrors the vertical cliffs of the town with their flamboyant pocket gardens, we often pack hefty lunches, lilos, beach gear and tiny dog into our even tinier boat and head round to our favourite beach which our family has nicknamed La Spiaggia delle Balene.  With it’s compact outboard motor strongly resembling an egg beater, our boat chugs slowly along the shores dipping dizzyingly in the deep blue waves. My third  son sprints ahead with the kayak coming and going a dozen times till we arrive.

One of Positano best kept secrets,  we have yet to encounter any tourist picnicking on our beach or doing more than resting on it’s shores while snorkeling in the rocky ridges between cliffs.
The locals know the Germano area well. But other than twenty years ago, when  a water taxi service unloaded ten very overweight Germans, who incidentally stripped completely to sunbathe in  what they thought would be a secluded beach (hence the name Whale Beach or perhaps beached whale), we have only had occasional locals for company.
For our ‘Whale Beach’ is accessible only by boat. The nearby beach has a path leading to it from the road side but very little know of it’s existence. And to glimpse the shore line  from a boat, you would not really suspect that such a gem was hiding behind the jagged fallen boulders.
Being a cove that has shade on one side or another all day long,  it’s rock formations frame the Amalfi coast all the way to Capri through its arched windows.  The limpid sea beneath the arches dazzles, with it’s colour changing dramatically as the depth plunges.  Minute fish nibble at greenery and sea urchins nestle in cracks with sea cucumbers as you snorkel  past.
My family of six adores this place. Splashing happily in the shallows, fighting over the right to the water floats, climbing the ledges and diving off the cliffs, a day quickly passes. Boats come and go, sometimes a diver will emerge from the deep for a short stint in the sun before the sea reclaims him but rarely does anyone invade our territory as completely as we do.
When we see a boat approaching, we hold our breath. Frequently they are boats from hotels with their tourist guests who are showered by the boatman with tap water before being allowed to re-board the boat after their swim. They never swim to the shore.
Our dog gives up trying to follow us in to the water and resigns himself to a long wait in the shade.
Many head to this private beach around the corner or to the small one alongside it visible from the sea. If it were to be transformed into a trattoria, they would certainly have a roaring trade but thankfully the area is protected as part of a natural reserve where your anchor needs to stay firmly in your boat if you don't want to risk a fine.

So our beach remains a Positano secret. Our little jewel.

Maybe not as secret as it was in the sixties when this was painted by my father-in-law, but then you won’t tell, will you?

Saturday, November 07, 2009

The little gift that goes a long way…

I’m touched by individual stories of foreigners who have come to the Amalfi coast and have left their hearts behind.   After all it happened to me.   When the individual in question is a little boy who’s barely ten and spent two weeks on the Coast a couple of summers ago, it’s even more poignant.


Annika, who’s blog many of you read, has launched an appeal to pay for her son’s trip to Siena Italy.

Annika is in a one salary situation and can’t afford paying a second fare for her son Alexander from Sweden to Italy, for her much dreamed of, weekend away.

Alexander really desires to go as he’s obviously among many things, ‘un buon gustaio’ and loves Italian food.  But he also appreciates the Italian culture and women, because as you’ll notice on the video that Annika filmed, he made a special friend with this little princess on his trip to Positano.

It’s one of the most beautiful home spun videos that I’ve seen about Positano because it has been made with the secret ingredient: ‘amore e passione’.

Please go read Annika’s story, and give just a little to help Alex join his Mum!

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Ladro di Limoni – When Life gives you Lemons, or rather, doesn’t…

My mind may have waffled by age, but the few remaining neurons tell me that we left a lot of lemons behind on the trees in our garden this summer.

It just isn’t possible to consume the quantity they produce, all at one time.   Hundreds found themselves in  granita (seeing that I bought an ice-cream maker at a 70 percent discount).  Others in lemon curds, and lemon tarts non stop.   A large jug of lemonade took up too much permanent space in the small fridge.  Ice lemon tea, lemon marmalade, lemon chicken, grilled fish with lemon…need I continue?


I even bring lemons back with me to Luxembourg. I haven’t bought lemons in years. After having the whopping Sfumata D’Amalfi lemons at your disposal, it’s hard to call the shop bought ones, real citrus.


Lemon Pergola

My husband headed back to Positano a week ago and I reminded him that we were low on lemons in Luxembourg. I was sure that he’d bring back as much as his luggage would allow him to. I spoke to him on the phone the next day.

“There are no yellow lemons left” he said.

“ What do you mean? None at all?”, I asked incredulously.

“Not One ! Only green ones”, he insisted.

“Have they all fallen off ?”, I said  facing the fact that strong wind may have contributed to their demise.

“There’s nothing on the ground either!”

They couldn’t have been stolen I thought, because this garden with four lemon pergolas is a completely walled-in garden. No way passers-by would dream of coming in.

Gate to garden.


When the gardener dropped by to prune the grapevines yesterday, my husband asked him if he knew what had happened to them.

'”They’ve been stolen”,  he said.  “ Most likely to be next door’s seasonal gardener.  With a  ladder let down from the garden above, they would have taken all of five minutes to snip off the fruit and disappear again”.

Sfusato Amalfitano


Great.   Someone is going to make wonderful limoncello.

         Dear Lemon Thief,

  • May all the lemons be dry.
  • May they be lacking in flavour.
  • May they have trees complete with roots and leaves in each segment.
  • May they have scores of pips.
  • May the Limoncello you make, give you a terrible hangover.
  • May we catch you next time!

Meanwhile, I’ll have to buy the scrawny things in the shops…