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The Other Positano

18.01.2019. Positano

Le Sirenuse assistant concierge Mauro Contino will be travelling to Cannes in March as the Italian nominee for the Les Clefs d’Or award, given annually to a young concierge who excels in his or her job. Officially named Union Internationale des Concierges d'Hôtels "Les Clefs d'Or", the association dates back to 1929, and today counts around 4,000 members in over 80 countries, all of whom have met the rigorous entrance requirements of their national committees, and wear the familiar ‘golden keys’ badge while on duty.

Asked to write an article that displays his inside knowledge of the destination he serves, native positanese Mauro came up with the following, which we reproduce with kind permission of Les Clefs d’Or. It reveals a Positano of the mountains and the sea that goes far beyond the rushed day-tripper’s view of the town. 

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My home town is one of Italy’s most famous seaside locations, captured in an endless stream of Instagram posts. Can such a well-known destination have any secrets left to explore?

It can indeed. When return guests say: “So Mauro, show us something about Positano we don’t know”, I tell them to free up a day of their time – and ask if they mind walking up a few steps?

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Positano is a seaside town with a mountain heart, which beats strong in the rural district of Nocelle, a mere 1,800 steps up from the coast. Until late in the twentieth century, it could only be reached on foot or muleback, and I still recommend the walk. There’s no rush: everyone goes at their own pace with guide and trail runner Giovanni Cuccaro, a young, simpatico talent we discovered in our midst here at Le Sirenuse, where he is our building works supervisor.

From the little piazza in front of Nocelle church, the views down the coast are stunning. And signor Antonino’s orange juice, freshly-squeezed as you wait, is the perfect pick-me-up before Giovanni’s next challenge: the Sentiero degli Dei or ‘Path of the Gods’.

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Beginning in Nocelle, this high-level trekking route offers one of the most panoramic walks in the whole of Italy, if not the world. There’s no need to attempt the whole 3-hour route: a short foray is enough to enter a wild natural scene where soaring falcons and sprays of gorse and rosemary frame the azure sea. Perhaps you will even meet a shepherd (these things can be arranged!) and taste his fragrant, crumbly sheep’s cheese.

After all that exercise, it’s time to focus on la buona cucina. Back in Nocelle, you will be welcomed by Mamma Luisa, a local housewife who exudes the simple folk wisdom of Positano’s outlying mountain communities. Gathering salad leaves, plump tomatoes and herbs, you will join Luisa in making lunch, breathe in the heady scent of her ragù sauce – and of course sample the delicious result, served by her charming daughter Mariangela.

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After lunch, it’s a short stroll with Giovanni to enjoy an espresso in the bustling village of Montepertuso, admiring along the way the pierced rock known locally as il Buco, created, as legend would have it, by the Virgin Mary in a contest with the devil. Another ancient flight of steps, predating the modern road, leads down into Positano, past what must be one of the world’s most scenic cemeteries, last resting place of many of the artists and emigrés who made the town their home.

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And now, down on the beach, comes the Dolce Vita reward for all that exertion. A sunset cruise for two on Sant’Antonio, a traditional fishing gozzo. Sip champagne as the skipper drops anchor off Li Galli – the Siren Islands, once owned by Russian dancer Nureyev – and watch the hills you conquered flare up gold. Then come back to me tomorrow for more Positano secrets. I love a challenge!

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