Amalfi Coast, Italy | Dream Coast |
Deemed an outstanding example of a Mediterranean landscape by Unesco, the Amalfi Coast is one of Italy's most memorable destinations. Here, mountains plunge into the sea in a nail-biting vertical scene of precipitous crags, cliff-clinging abodes and verdant woodland.
I first heard of Positano from Alberto Moravia. It was very hot in Rome.
He said, “Why don’t you go down to Positano on the Amalfi Coast? It is one of the fine places of Italy”. Later John McKnight of United States Information Service told me the same thing. He had spent a year there working on a book. Half a dozen people echoed this. Positano kind of moved in on us and we found ourselves driving down to Naples on our way. To an American, Italian traffic is at first just down-right nonsense. It seems hysterical, it follows no rule. You cannot figure what the driver ahead or behind or beside you is going to do next and he usually does it.
But there are other hazards besides the driving technique.
There are the motor scooters, thousands of them, which buzz at you like mosquitoes. There is a tiny little automobile called “Topolino” or “mouse” which hides in front of larger cars; there are gigantic trucks and tanks in which most of Italy’s goods are moved; and finally there are assorted livestock, hay wagons, bicycles, lone horses and mules out for a stroll, and to top it all there are the pedestrians who walk blissfully on the highways never looking about. To give this madness more color, everyone blows the horn all the time. This deafening, screaming, milling, tire-screeching mess is ordinary Italian highway traffic. My drive from Venice to Rome had given me a horror of it amounting to cowardice.
I hired a driver to take me to Positano. He was a registered driver in good standing. His card reads: “Signor Bassani Bassano, Experienced Guide – all Italy – and Throt Europe”. It was the “Throt Europe” that won me. Well, we had accomplished one thing. We had imported a little piece of Italian traffic right into our own front seat. Signor Bassani was a remarkable man. He was capable of driving at a hundred kilometers an hour, blowing the horn, screeching the brakes, driving mules up trees, and at the same time turning around in the seat and using both hands to gesture, describing in loud tones the beauties and antiquities of Italy and Throt Europe. It was amazing. It damn near killed us. And in spite of that he never hit anybody or anything. The only casualties were our quivering, bleeding nerves. I want to recommend Signor Bassani to travelers. You may not hear much of what he tells you but you will not be bored.
We squirmed and twisted through Naples, past Pompei, whirled and flashed into the mountains behind Sorrento. We hummed “Come back to Sorrento” dismally. We did not believe we could get back to Sorrento.
Flaming like a meteor we hit the coast, a road, high, high above the blue sea, that hooked and corkscrewed on the edge of nothing, a road carefully designed to be a little narrower than two cars side by side. And on this road, the buses, the trucks, the motor scooters and the assorted livestock.
(From Harper’s Bazaar, May 1953)