Praiano – a walk to Torre a Mare and other heavenly things

I’ve been listening to some soft spoken Italiana singing “Hotel California” as I watch the sun set settle itself all pink and sexy over Positano. I am on my last sip of limoncello after a lobster linguini and a terrific little hike. I am suddenly pulled into the past and into the deepness of a feeling when the Italiana is replaced with Kate Bush. What?! Kate Bush?!

Did I listen to anyone else in the nineties? Amazing the feelings that can come with music. It doesn’t matter that I’m 47. It doesn’t matter that I’m in Italy. Kate sings and I am instantly Running up that Hill with her, all earnest, with our big hair and our eyes just a little too wide. Kate implores,

“Tell me we both matter don’t we?”

Oh Kate, we do matter. But we just don’t realize it for a while.

I think of her and her crazy dance videos and yet somehow – it had dignity and genius, my favourite being Hounds of Love and .Sensual Worldimages

I think of myself in those years, really into the retro dresses, floral prints and cardigan sweaters, starting to get my hit, buying my first pair of Fluevogs, doing the Value Village mash up, putting real flowers and ribbons in my long curly hair. I started to collect my core great girlfriends that I still hold dear today and I started dating intelligent gorgeous men who had a kind of disdain for me, like I was warm beer. I just couldn’t make myself cooler.

I lived on King Edward and Main in a big old brightly painted house for four hundred and twenty five dollars a month and that included utilities. I wondered how the hell I was going to get my equity card when nobody in town would even see me for an audition.

I put that girl, that girl with her skinned knees and her Body Shop citrus spray – I put that girl across from me at the table tonight, to listen to Kate Bush and to look at the twinkling lights over the sea.IMG_3922

She said, “Wooooooooooooooowwwwwwww. This gets to be me?”

Yeah kid, it does. And we just finished an adaptation of a commissioned script, and we think it’s pretty good, and so we’re celebrating.

“Did you just speak Italian to the waiter? I’ve always wanted to learn Italian!”

Don’t get excited, that’s still about all I know.

“Dad would be impressed!”

(I decide not to tell my younger self that Dad dies at the age of 59)

“And you’re married?”

To the best sexiest kindest man ever.

“And you have kids?”

Yup. I wish I could hook you up with Scott now and save you all the morons you’re about to date for the next twenty odd years, but Scott is partying his way through university right now and, to use his own words, he’s still “a complete and clueless dick.” So…yeah. Let’s not mess with destiny. Let’s let that fruit ripen. Because, no offence, you’re a little needy and hysterical.

“How can you say that?! I’m just trying to figure out WHO I AM!”

I sure wish I could have those upper arms back, but gosh, I do not miss the existential angst. Sip your limoncello. IMG_3923

It’s been a beautiful day. The two days before I spent entirely shut up in my suite writing like mad and cooking my own meals. My lovely hosts keep dropping off beautiful things for me: home made orange marmalade, big fluffy lettuce pulled right out of their garden, lemons from their tree…I’ve been sipping espresso in the famous Positano painted ceramic cups and getting out onto the balcony once in a while for a stretch and some fresh air.

My eyes were starting to hurt from strain and my brain was mush from writing four 12 hour days in a row. So, today, I did a bit of editing and then I hit the road with my water bottle and my glow-in-the-dark Puma sneakers.

As far as I can tell there’s only one way to get anywhere from Praiano, and that’s by walking along the ridiculously narrow cliffside road that two way traffic goes down and pedestrians. Sometimes when a car has slowed down in order for a bus to pass by it, a motorcyclist will zip in-between the two impatiently and it becomes three way traffic. I cannot capture in pictures how dangerous this all seems to me. And there’s really nowhere to go, unless you want a very high dive into the Mediterranean.

And little dogs and children are everywhere. I came across a little dog today that had a limp, likely a motor vehicle hit. IMG_3948He kept following me and hopping along down the middle of the road. He was driving me crazy with anxiety. I started to call him “Come here, Darwin! Darwin Award, get off the road, you crazy dog! Oh my God, I can’t watch…” And he would face traffic, bewildered, like he had completely forgotten what a vehicle was and that it may just be dangerous, and at the last minute he’d skitter away on his three good legs looking behind him like, “what’s the rush, geesh!”. I headed into a marina area just so he would follow me and get off the road and it worked. Down the stairs he went. “Arrivederci, Darwin Award!” Whew!IMG_3949

It’s seriously quite a bit of work just to stay alive. I have to constantly look behind me when I walk because some vehicles are coming so fast and so close to the curb I have to literally flatten my body against the wall or barrier to avoid my purse smacking their windshield. And there aren’t really any streetlights. There are some very pretty sort of Victorian lamp things that are solar powered and virtually useless. So, one has to make it home before the sun sets or something like this tunnel here is – well – I just wouldn’t do it. Even in broad daylight, I run, I RUN through it. The locals chuckle at my fear. IMG_3946

Oh, even the sides of the street are beautiful. Wisteria and clematis grow on everything like weeds. IMG_3926Parking lots look like vacation huts with bamboo roofs. Usually above them is the family lemon grove. Above that is the whitewashed villa.IMG_3927

My goal is the Marina di Praia and the Torre a Mare. This is in the direction of Amalfi, about thirty minutes down the harrowing honking beeping motorcycle mania road. Once I get there, it’s gorgeous, and there’s a winding set of stairs to the watch tower and the sea. It’s right near a famous club called Africana. It’s build into the side of a cliff, the band plays in a rock cave. Yachts can pull up to it.

In the Torre a Mara is an artist named Paulo Sandulli What a lovely human. He’s studied painting and sculpture three years in Rome and five years in Paris and has since been doing his sculpture and painting out of the torre for thirty years. His focus is the local people and the human form and how we interact with the sea. So, he has painting and sculpted local fishermen playing cards, he has fanciful scuba divers with painted toe nails and he has mermaids holding real coral and sitting in the bathtub. One of his signature pieces is a sea goddess bust  of a woman with a real sea sponge for hair. My favourite piece was a hanging sculpture: a rollypolly woman in a bikini diving into the water with her nose plugged, her little delicate toes wiggling. And above her is a man reaching for her gently and elegantly, naked and comfortable in the sea. It was just so playful and loving. He also had a lot of naked terracotta gals riding fish and squids provocatively with bright pink nipples happy as daisies…he let me walk up the very creaky rickety old wooden spiral stairs to the top of the tower where he kept more work. I really loved meeting him and I wish I could have purchased the lady plugging her nose but this trip is now well beyond my budget.IMG_3928

After that, I walked to the marina and along a cliff path. Along it there was art from the artist I just saw and mosaics pressed into the pathway and a beautiful mosaic bench guarded by a ceramic San Lucca.IMG_3930IMG_3929

I turned a corner and two electricians were working on some wire that seemed like it had fallen from the hotel far above or…something. Anyway, the guy was up a ladder against a cliff…he climbed down when I passed. When I came around again to return home he was up there again and told me to just go under his ladder. I started to laugh. On top of being hugely dangerous, let’s now give ourselves bad luck.

I ducked under his ladder and made the sign of the cross and the two electricians laughed along with me and shrugged their shoulders. There’s too much work to do to be worried about superstitions – I think is what his partner was saying. Or maybe I’m just getting very good at pretending I am understanding Italian.IMG_3933

On my way home, as I said, I stopped for dinner at a restaurant near my villa to celebrate my completed adaptation with Kate Bush and my younger self. Claudia had recommended it: Ristorante La Strada. But when I walked in, the entire seating area was completely empty. I asked, “Are you closed?” The gracious waiter said, “Oh no! Would you like to go upstairs like everyone else?” I didn’t notice this place had an upstairs.

He lead me to the back of the restaurant up this long flight of stairs built right next to a cliff wall. I thought to myself, “Where in the heck am I going?”

Sure enough, I got to the top and it opened out into a huge terrace with a wide bar and lots of tables out on the  patio,, white tablecloths fluttering. So beautiful. The food was quite nice too. The service was superb.IMG_3952

I realized, as I descended down the terrace stairs of the restaurant…despite the traffic, despite the cliffs, despite the environmental danger all around me, I’m not really afraid of death. I don’t give much thought to it. Maybe because I don’t regret my life. I feel I have left a good mark. I think everyone I love knows I love them. And I think there’s something beyond. Who knows. Could be like this restaurant. It’s possible that there’s a whole other level to existence I can’t even imagine, with a much better view.

My younger self smiles because I’m staring out at the sea with my eyes just a little too wide.









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  1. Cathy York

    Beautiful walk Lucia! I love the way you write,so descriptive and full of life.Great pics that accompany it all.I will miss your writings re this wonderful country that brings back many great memories.Be safe.Cathy.

    1. Lucia Frangione

      Thank you! Where did you visit in Italy, Cathy?

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