Hugging a semi-vertical rock formation, Positano is the quintessence of picturesque. Once one of the most exclusive retreats in Italy, the seaside has been thoroughly “discovered” but retains its elegance.
Its unique mix of seascapes, colors, art, and cultural life has fascinated many famous artists, from Pablo Picasso and Paul Klee to Toscanini, Bernstein and Steinbeck. Today, it is preferred destination of tourists and fastionistas, coming to buy what has become known as “Positano Fashion” from the local designer showrooms and elegant boutiques.
Luckily, crowds haven’t affected Positano’s unique location, and the town remains as picturesque as ever. Steep ramps of stairs replace streets. The typical pastel-colored houses – cubes with domed roofs and porticoes or loggias overlooking the sea-poke from the overflowing green of gardens and citrus groves. Tip:Wearing comfortable shoes without heels is a must here; otherwise, climbing the steep alleys and many steps will be an ordeal.
The earth of town is Marina Grande, the beach where fishermen used to haul up their boats. At its western end is the pier where ferries arrive and depart. From Marina Grande starts a cliffside pedestrian promenade, and the only flat street in Positano-which stretches along the shore past the cape of Torre Trasita to the smaller beach of Fornillo. Not far from Marina Marina Grande is the Collegiata di Santa Maria Assunta founded in the 13th century and later decorated with a gorgeous majolica dome. Inside, you will find the famous tavola of the Madonna Nera (Black Madonna), an icon in 13th –century Byzantine style. The best churchs of Positano are the lesser-known ones. The small Chiesa Nuova restored on the 18th century, which has a striking colored tile floor, one of the most beautiful in an area known for its colourful tile work. The Chiesa di Santa Caterina, built for local Porcelli family, is another small architectural masterpiece in neo-Gothic style, with an elegant bell tower. Just west of Positano on SS163 is the renowned Belvedere dello Schiaccone , the best lookout on Amalfi Drive. At 200 m above sea level, it overlooks the archipelago of LiGalli and Capo Sottile over a palm and citrus grove, with the splendid Monte Sant’Angelo a Tre Pizzi in the background.
Positano is blessed with four delightful beaches besides the central Siaggia Grande by the marina: Fornillo (linked by boat service from the Marina) to the west of town; and La Porta, Ciumicello and Arienzo to the east.The sand is rather gray and pebbly, but the views are idyllic and the sea is clear and refreshing.
For a quieter swim, locals like to take a boat to the archipelago of Li Galli (The Roosters). Privately owned, the four islands (Gallo Lungo, Castelluccio, Gallo dei Briganti and La Rotonda) are where according to Homer – the Sirens lived. Indeed, the other name of the archipelago is Sirenuse, from the Latin Sirenusae, meaning Sirens. According to legend, these beings attracted mariners with their magical singing and caused their ships to crash into the rocks. In Greek mythology, sirens were represented as birds with human faces and the bodies of fish (hence the name LiGalli, “The Roosters”). Once you skirt past the Sirens and arrive safely on Gallo Lungo, you’ll spot a watchtower and the remains of a Roman villa; the archipelago is the site of the house where Rudolf Nureyev spent the last years of his life.
Positano offers many hiking opportunities on the town’s outskirts, in addition to the town’s own steep streets.The most famous trail is Sentiero degli Dei (Trail of the Gods) linking Positano to Praiano. This is trail of moderate difficulty, requiring some preparation, but it is –as its name suggests- a divine trail. Sections of it are a ridge trail, running high over the sea and affording magnificent views of the entire coast.