Sunday, September 19, 2010

Positano Photo Gallery

Sitting at LAX I decide to write one more story about my vacation in Positano because I have some more photos I want to share. 


Positano beach scene

There seems to be two rules for sunbathing here:

1.  Show as much skin as possible (no matter your age).

2.  What little you wear should be very brightly colored.

A local painter, paints on the beach and sells his work in a nearby garden.


These clever people created a rocking night club inside the rocks.

An ink drawing made during lunch one day, the old watch tower watches over the 2010 beach scene below.

Local guy checks out the tourists below his balcony.

Taking Mama for an early evening stroll.

Father and son, men of the sea..

I saw this same roof design all over Santorini Greece last year.  They tell me the domes are filled with sand and it insulates the home from the heat.  The dips between the domes, create channels for the water to run off the roof into drain pipes located on the side of the house.  Very clever engineering, and so simple.

Doors of a small abandoned church.

Half way up the 72 steps to my hotel, you can stop and pray you will make it.

Church of Santa Maria Assunta

Hope you enjoyed my vacation photos and that they make you want to get out and explore the world.  Please leave comments below,  Sandy

Catching the Wrong Bus Leads to Discoveries

Positano has only one road.  It is a narrow one way loop connecting to the Amalfi Coast Road at one end of town, winding through the middle of town and connecting back to the Amalfi Coast  Road again at the other end of town.  Small orange busses make a dizzying loop around town all day long. 

One day I spend the morning photographing and exploring the town and then seeing the bus pull up at midtown I hop on to ride back up and around to the upper part of town where my hotel is located.  I think I will buy lunch in the grocery store and eat on my balcony.

The bus goes up, but instead of circling back down into to town  where I want to go,  it turns up hill on a really tiny road.  I soon realize this must be how people get to the houses that seem to hang from the cliffs way up above Positano.    Soon the only passengers are locals accept for two Germans in serious hiking gear with their walking sticks.   Locals ring a bell and get off from time to time at a lone house or a clump of 3 or 4 buildings, the bus keeps climbing.  Almost an hour goes by, I am really getting hungry but we have passed no restaurants or grocery stores.  What have I gotten myself into?

Finally the bus comes to a parking lot on top of a cliff and stops.  “Nicola” the driver says, obviously end of the line.   I ask can I ride down now, “No next bus 1 hour”.

I seem to be on top of the world, the only sign of civilization is a tiny church steeple sticking up from below the parking lot and a wall with this map on it.

I must be at the tip of the arrow. The Germans disappear down a trail and as I follow them I see a welcome sign “Ristorante St. Cruz” .   Following the trail down past a tiny church I come to a clump of buildings and walk into a lovely restaurant.  Up here?  The waiter sits me by the windows with an incredible view.

Lunch is a delicious salad at half what I have paid in Positano.  A friendly couple from Sidney took this photo in front of the windows with the view.

Here’s the view.

I used the zoom lenses to try to see if anyone was home on this yacht.

The Ausies and I catch the bus down the hill and I snap photos of a few locals that get on by waving down the bus as it comes by their homes.  

Seeing people getting on carrying small dogs makes me wonder is this how they walk the dogs?  Their cliff hanging houses have no where to walk the dogs except on this narrow road so maybe they take them down to Positano for a walk?

This is interesting, a miniature village sculpted into the cliff along side the road.  I have seen a few of them, wish I knew the story behind their creation.

Positano has so many hotels and shops you have to really look to find buildings that actually have people living in them.  My accidental trip to Nicola afforded me a glimpse of homes perched above the hustle and bustle of the tourist filled town below and the rugged people that live there.

Big Busses, Narrow Road = Insanity!

The Amalfi Coast Road was built under Spanish occupation in the eighteen hundreds (I forget the exact date) and “improved” after World War II.  It has to be the greatest challenge for bus drivers anywhere!

Huge SITA buses (the local bus system) vie with huge tour buses for space on a road not wide enough to be called two lane by any stretch of the imagination.  In addition to buses, cars (many rentals driven by tourists) and local motorbike riders and you have mayhem on wheels.

My first encounter with the road was my arrival day on a SITA bus. Lucky to find a seat, I found myself surrounded by laughing Ausies and locals who have mastered standing in the isle while holding a dog or a bag of groceries without toppling over as the bus took tight corners.  I was so enthralled by the incredible views of the coastline and the amazing bus driver that I missed my stop.  On the side of the bus where I sat I looked straight down cliffs to the sea with only a short stone wall edging the road.  On the other side the mountain went  straight up with occasional houses and shops built right up to the road. 

I kept wondering what my bicycle riding friend Bill would think of the traffic on this road!  He thought drivers on the roads in Belgium were crazy, how about two buses meeting face to face and a motorbike zooming in-between!  It was impossible to photograph but here are some feeble attempts.

On another day in the tour bus to Pompeii, I am sitting on the drivers side so this shows what should be the lane coming the other way, accept that it is only 3 feet wide!  The driver honks at every corner.  If someone is coming they have to stop and back up until there is a space wide enough to pass.  Fold-in car mirrors must have been invented here!

I am riding in a big shinny purple and gold tour bus to Pompeii when this big SITA bus coming the other way squeezes by but manages to scrape the bus I am on.

Our driver leaps out of our bus yells at the other driver who also leaps out of his bus and the two argue while traffic backs up both ways.  When I get off the bus I find a 6 inch long scrape in the pretty purple paint.

Better to look at the stunning views from the road than how narrow it is:

Parking is impossible to find here so the locals don’t bother with cars, they ride everything from Vespas to Honda motorcycles.

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Cars and buses squeeze by these bikes on the narrow road by inches and yet the locals feel safe parking them like this.

At home we have a huge propane tank for our house in the country, and a big truck comes once a month to fill it up.  I saw this little truck making the rounds in Positano every day delivering small propane tanks to everyone that needed them.

If you go to Positano, the ferry is more relaxing but you have to experience a bus ride on the Amalfi Coast Road at least once before you leave the coast.

Friday, September 17, 2010


My only “Must See” on this vacation was Pompeii.   Pompeii did not disappoint.  For one thing it is HUGE!  From photos you just can’t get an idea of scale.

My husband and I both love history so it did not surprise me when our son majored in history in college.  So mainly for them, I want to  to share some of my photos, along with the most memorable facts I learned from our guide.   I am skipping the dates and details that are in the history books and concentrating on the things I found most interesting.

Marina Gate (names here come from Archeologists (not Romans).

Big hole is for chariots, small one for pedestrians.

Much of the marble came from North Africa only a small amount from the Tuscany region of Italy.

My camera cannot capture the enormous size of the forum.  That is part of Mt Vesuvius in the background.

Another memorable fact (no photos of this one) human urine was collected for its ammonia for use in the making of wool.

As a painter I was hoping to see more original frescos, but the ones I saw did not disappoint.

This fresco is from the “menu” in a very tiny brothel.  Don’t speak the language?  Just  point at the picture of what you want, like in McDonalds!

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How do you find a brothel?  The penises point the way!

This is the ceiling in the sauna in the men’s public baths.  To prevent drips on the men below, the moisture that collects on the ceiling runs in grooves down the dome of the ceiling into gutters on either side.


The Romans were also ahead of their time in advertising.  The name of the family that donated this marble basin in the men's’ sauna is engraved in the marble.  

The best preserved statues (not moved to the museum in Napoli) are here in the men’s sauna also.  Here is a single one close up:

This looks like our neighbor’s Pizza oven and it works the same way.  It is the oven in a Pompeii bakery.

This is a stone for grinding flour, several are in this one bakery.

These large stepping stones kept pedestrian's feet dry when crossing the roads that often flowed with water or waste water.  The clever Roman’s also figured out standardization, all the chariot wheels were the same distance apart so they fit between the stepping stones.

These roads were busy you can see the tracks worn in the stone by the chariot wheels.

The archeologists think this tiny bits of marble were fitted in-between the stones of this road to help light the way at night.  The marble would reflect the moonlight.

As a painter I am always careful to use archival products in my work, so I wonder if this artist had any idea his or her work would still be viewed today?

Art must have been everywhere, most of course has been removed to the museum in Napoli, but here and there you find carvings like this.

Bringing home the bacon?

If you enjoyed this short tour of Pompeii please leave me a comment below, because I always wonder who is reading my blog.  I get many emails about it, but I would prefer to receive comments directly on the blog.  Just click on the word “comment” and let me know you are out there.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Positano is Vertical

Positano on the Amalfi Coast of Italy has been my vacation spot following my watercolor workshop in Cortona.  My plan was to just relax, be on my own schedule, sketch and paint, explore the area a bit, and visit Pompeii.

My hotel, Casa Albertina, is a lovely family owned small hotel run by Lorenzo (fourth generation owner) and his capable staff.  My room is pretty, everything works, and the bathroom is really nice and probably new (not always the case in Europe).   The free breakfast buffet  has the most choices I have ever seen anywhere!   And the Cappuccinos are made to order from really yummy coffee.  The hotel is up 72 steps from the lower circle of the road and down a whole lot more steps from the top circle off the road making it very quiet and insuring that guests get in shape!

Some of the 72 steps, glad I packed light as I had to carry my suitcase and backpack all the way up myself.  Note to self: get smart phone that works in Europe next trip so I can call hotel and let them know I am at the bottom with a suitcase!

7:00 am view of Positano (I only set the alarm for the day I was taking the tour of Pompeii and was being picked up at 7:15am) no other alarms allowed on my vacation!

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Positano later in the day.

Positano evening

My take on Positano:  its vertical, its pretty, its Italy’s Carmel. 

The previous photos were looking down from my hotel, the two above are up.  Streets here consist of one for cars, the rest for walking only, mostly stairs.   The car street is wide enough for cars and tiny city buses to go one way only and it circles the top half of town.  Want to go to the lower half of town and the beach?   It is down stairs.

A page from my watercolor journal.  It is an ink sketch done from Cafe Positano while having lunch.  I love that the ancient stone watch tower now watches over the beach scene at the bottom of the limestone cliffs.

The pass times here are first shopping, second eating, third seeing and being seen, fourth the beach.  Where Carmel has street after street of art galleries, here there are boutiques selling linen clothes and ceramics. 

Shoppers on the only flat street in town, about 100 feet of flat part in the midtown area, no cars allowed.

“Street signs” but the “streets” are simply 3 to 8 feet wide walkways with stairs.

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A few of the hundreds of shops crammed into this village that hangs from cliffs and tries not to fall into the sea.

Weather is perfect, more when I make time.