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New in Positano: Franco's Bar

14.07.2015. Le Sirenuse

On Saturday 11 July, a select group of international travellers, art-world movers and shakers, Amalfi Coast aficionados and native or resident positanesi met in Positano to celebrate the launch of Franco’s Bar.

Formerly one of the world’s most scenic car parks, a small terrace just above the Hotel Le Sirenuse has now become a stylish al fresco bar that is unique in a resort with no shortage of watering holes. Part of this has to do with the fact that the drinks menu, curated by Le Sirenuse’s head barman Robert Wimmer, pays homage to a golden age of fine spirits, cocktails and bubbly, when cultured imbibers knew their Old Fashioned from their French 75, and what kind of glass they should be served in.

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True to this remit, Franco’s is currently the only bar in Positano where no food is served, with the exception of a few gourmet nibbles (giant green olives, some rather more-ish potato chips). Food just distracts from that view – and the quality of the liquids list. Franco’s Bar frequenters can cool off with a draught Bavarian wheat beer specially sourced by Robert, dip into a Hemingway Daiquiri, or if they prefer, order Krug Grande Cuvée by the glass.

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But what really sets Le Sirenuse’s new-born street-level bar apart is the convergence of artistic talents and expert craftsmen called in to work on the space. It would have been easy enough to spend little time on the décor, relying instead on that breathtaking view of Positano and the rugged coastline to pull in the punters. Instead, hotel owners Antonio & Carla Sersale’s desire to pay homage in the name and the aesthetic of the bar to Antonio’s father, the late Franco Sersale, who did so much to make Le Sirenuse what it is today, demanded a maniacal attention to detail – something that il signor Franco, a true arbiter of taste, would definitely have approved of.

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From the pearl-white tiled floor, hand-fired by Fornace De Martino, a Salerno ceramics business that has been in the same family since 1479, to the selection of Mediterranean plants curated by landscape architect Isabella Casali di Monticelli, to designer Paolo Calcagni’s slender, elegant, deep-blue garden tables and chairs in tubular steel, each new layer both complements and plays off against the others. On the curving bar counter stand two of Orsina Sforza’s ‘Marie Antoinette’ lamps, made out of paper cup-cake pastry cases stapled together, intriguing by day and magical by night, when they look like illuminated marine organisms. Behind, Venetian designer Benedetta Gaggia has created a fine string curtain made up of antique blue and white perline, or glass beads. Another Venetian touch comes in the form of the Murano tumblers by Laguna B, with their bold blue stripes. Created by Studio Marie Lusa, the bar’s logo, a blue sun or starburst with eight mermaid-tail rays, perfectly expresses the playful elegance of Positano’s new open-air salotto.

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But the two most striking interventions must be Giuseppe Ducrot’s yellow ceramic fountain, which dominates one whole wall of the bar, and Karl Holmqvist’s scrawled graffiti-poems which spill out of the bathroom to invade the nearby tables. New-York-based Holmqvist is one of Sweden’s most important contemporary artists. The “Dada-istic songlines” that he’s inscribed in black marker pen on the mirrors of the bathroom and the mirrored shelves of the small drinks tables just outside dip into modern pop culture, mashing up lines from songs by Jay-Z, The Eurythmics, Beyoncé and other artistes.

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In the water feature he created specially for Franco’s Bar, Roman artist Ducrot effects a different type of homage, inspired by Baroque Italian courtyard fountains of the 17th-century, which are here transformed into something rich and strange. Ducrot’s fountain is a sort of sculptural sketch, or cartoon, an impressionistic collage of strips and scrolls of clay, which were then painted an unearthly shade of selenium yellow and fired in Faenza at Ceramica Gatti – whose artistic director Davide Servadei says self-effacingly of his collaboration with Ducrot: “He’s Michael Schumacher – I’m just the mechanic”.

Just 30 metres further up Via Cristoforo Colombo from Le Sirenuse, Franco’s Bar is open daily from 6pm until midnight, weather permitting, from April through to October.

Pictures: © Roberto Salomone

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