Positano is a little fishing village teetering on the cliffs of the Amalfi Coast between Sorrento and Praiano. The houses are built on terraces, precariously stacked upon one another, cascading down the steep cliffs towards the small beach below. A backdrop of verdant covered hills against a cobalt blue sky completes this picture postcard of a town.
Pretty as a Picture
To call the town, picturesque would be an understatement. The pastel-painted houses – primrose, pink, peach and terracotta peep out from overflowing foliage and lemon groves to give the town a dreamy feel not to be mistaken for anywhere but Italy’s Amalfi Coast. You’d almost expect to see a young Audrey Hepburn drive past in an ice-cream coloured sports car, chiffon headscarf billowing as ‘Moon River’ floats on the breeze behind her.
Colourful shops line the stepped and sloping alleyways selling ceramics, art, jewellery and hand-made leather sandals – made to order while you wait and handy if your heels can’t hack the inclines. The hundreds of steps can be hard work and there are no lifts but every other building is a bar or restaurant so there’s no shortage of places to catch your breath and besides you’ll know you’ve burnt off the calories from that gelato before you’ve got back to the top.
Head down to Spiaggia Grande where the fishermen launch their boats. Sunshine-coloured parasols spike the sand like cocktail umbrellas and ferries drop off sandal-clad, straw-hatted day-trippers. Restaurants and bars line the walkway and artists replicate the views on their canvases. Gelato abounds. Because there’s no room in Positano for tourist buses or major development it has retained that charming fifties feeling. Positano is a Roman Holiday in glorious Technicolor.
Wander along to the far side of the beach and look back for one the best views you’ll see of Positano. The Collegiata di Santa Maria Assunta, founded in the 13th century is topped with a gorgeous majolica dome encrusted with vibrant yellow, blue and green tiles; yellow for the sunshine, blue for the sea and green for the lush foliage. The softly rounded dome contrasts beautifully against the pastel coloured cubes clambering down the hills. Inside the church you’ll find the icon Tavola of the Madonna Nera or Black Madonna.
Church of Santa Maria Assunta
Positano makes for a dream of a day-trip during your stay in Sorrento or Amalfi. The views on the drive to the town are stunning and there are many lookout points dotted along the coast with wonderful views of the town, La Galli islands and the Costiera Amalfitana. So, stroll awhile, shop awhile and indulge in an amazing lunch at ‘La Tagliata’ in the hills as you gaze down on picture postcard Positano and a perfect day.
How to get to Positano
The SITA bus departs twice-hourly from the front of the Sorrento train station to Positano, continuing on to Amalfi. You can purchase individual tickets (€1.40–€2.50 per sector) or a UnicoCostiera pass for unlimited travel all along the Amalfi Coast – valid for 24 hours (€6) or 3 days (€15). The bus can get very busy in high season and a seat is not guaranteed. For the best views when travelling from Sorrento to Amalfi sit on the right-hand side of the bus (as you face the front) and swap to the left for the return journey.
For a different perspective on the return journey, a ferry is a good option giving beautiful views of the coastline from the water. www.metrodelmare.com Frequency varies seasonally and there are roughly six daily trips between Amalfi and Positano (20 min €6) and four daily between Amalfi and Sorrento (60 min €7).
If you’re feeling reckless/brave you could hire a car and drive yourself – although that’s not something I’d recommend if you really want to take in the views because your eye will be on the oncoming traffic – out of season would be less crowded but still not for the faint-hearted. Parking is extremely limited in Positano.
Resting on a plateau above Pamukkale’s Cotton Castle in Turkey are the remnants of Hierapolis ancient city. With views over the dazzling white travertine terraces and 17 thermal springs, this town is home of the original spa break. Hierapolis and Pamukkale come neatly paired so if you’re visiting Pamukkale I recommend you take a wander through the nearby ruins of Hierapolis as well.
A Visit to Hierapolis
We enter the ancient city of Hierapolis at the South Gate having been dropped off at the top of the hill by Mehmet in the hotel minibus. This means no steep climb which is just as well because the late September sun is screaming down on us and Mister’s wasp sting is looking pretty angry. I leave him with his foot in a shallow spring – will the waters work their magic? – and head up the hill to investigate the well-preserved theatre.
Constructed around 200 BC the theatre held up to 20,000 spectators, the stage buildings are decorated with detailed reliefs and there is VIP seating at the front; the views from the Gods at the top across the Lycos Valley are stunning. Over the centuries the city of Hierapolis has been hit by several earthquakes and in 1334 a huge quake led to abandonment of the site, however, the theatre withstood the tremors due to the strength of the vaulted passages underneath.
Hierapolis Gate to Hell
Gateway to Hades – photo credit Wikipedia
I leave the theatre and follow the path down past the remaining foundations of the Temple of Apollo – dedicated to Apollo Lairbenos founder of the city. Had I crossed to the other side of the temple I’d have confronted the Gate to Hell – I’d have definitely sneaked a peek even if just to tempt fate! Named the Plutoniumthis small cave was believed to be the domain of the Roman god Pluto (Hades in Greek). Toxic gas was, and still is, emitted from an underground spring. The eunuch priests were the only ones with the power (or the savvy to hold their breath) to enter the cave and emerge unscathed. The small animals and birds they took with them didn’t survive. In recent years two tourists have died here and the subterranean entrance is now closed off – the fumes can apparently be heard bubbling through the underground spring as they rise to the surface.
Hierapolis Antique Pool
We bypass The Antique Pool – it’s warmed by hot springs and the water holds segments of ancient marble columns. You can also visit Doctor Fish to get your feet nibbled – but not really our thing. I hope it looks a little more antique inside…
We head down Plateia, the main street of Hierapolis, which runs for half a mile from the south gate to the monumental Arch of Domitian which serves as the northern entrance to the city. It has three arches and two towers, and was originally two stories high. The gate led into a colonnaded street known asFrontinus Street which was the centre of the city during Roman times.
To the left of the gate are the pillars of the latrine – the most public and the most ornate gent’s toilets I’ve ever seen – not that I’ve seen many gent’s toilets.
We pass through the Gate of Domitian and come to The Necropolis or graveyard which has three different areas, north, south and west. The north is the largest with more than 1200 graves including tumuli, sarcophagi and house-shaped tombs from the Hellenistic, Roman and early Christian periods.
Tomb with a view…
As long ago as 190 BC people travelled from afar to Hierapolis to take the waters and heal their ailments; although looking at the size of The Necropolis – the largest in Anatolia – it would seem that the waters were somewhat lacking. They certainly didn’t help Mister’s wasp sting – at least not half as much as the large, ice-cold Efes we had when we got back to Pamukkale town…
Hierapolis and Pamukkale visiting information
Entrance fees to Pamukkale and Hierapolis are 35TL (Aug 2017) to both attractions and entrance to the Hieropolis Museum of Architecture is a further amount. It’s also an extra cost to swim in the Antique Pool
Visit in spring or autumn to avoid the high-season crush. Start your visit with a stroll through Hieropolis and save your descent down the travertine for just before sunset. It’ll be quieter, cooler and the white terraces will glow golden in the last rays of the sun as the moon rises behind the plateau.
In Hoi An town at full moon the town celebrates. All the electric lights are switched off and softly coloured lanterns cast magical shadows in the narrow streets. Candles are lit and cast into the river along with wishes and prayers and set sail into the night flickering in their small paper cups. A gentle glow radiates through Hoi An…