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Timeless Atrani

The cry of a gull overhead pulls me back into the moment. But it wasn’t the moment I left behind. Beyond me the quiet piazza stretches to the infinity of the sea. On a day like today the horizon is gone, playing a game of hide and seek – and winning. The church is quiet today, taking a well-earned break from its Sunday duties. Two ornate street lamps stand out in silhouette. One lantern cocks its head slightly, as if beckoning my gaze on. A light is what is needed to lead the way to what is past and what is present, but they stand as only guardians to the gate of that journey.
 
Time stands still in this piazza, despite the hourly ringing of the church bells. The bells have always rung out the hours here and they always will. Something so regular to define time actually defies it. How many people have heard those bells ring out over the village? While hanging laundry out in the sunshine, while feeding their families, while making love, while crying? Those people are all still here and will also all be here soon.

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Here there are the echoes of other sounds, too. Of children chasing a small orange ball across the piazza. A cat’s pleading meow, asking for something to eat. Of wind howling down the mountain valley on a stormy winter night. The click of my camera’s shutter as I capture this moment full of invisible sounds.
 
But most of all, it’s all the voices I want to listen to as they float through the piazza. There are stories caught in this piazza, countless stories. Not the kind you read about in the newspaper. These are moments of daily life, the moments that make a life, the moments that are forgotten, but nevertheless left behind. Stories crated day after day, lost to time except in the memories of those who stopped to listen.
 
Listen.

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There’s the hum of a fisherman early in the morning making his way down to the beach. He’ll pull his small wooden boat, blue paint chipped off around the edges, down to the edge of the sea. He’ll give it one last push as he hops aboard, perhaps with the hope about what he’ll catch filling his mind.
 
That hope floats through the maze of tiny, shadowed streets back up to the piazza. It finds an open window and settles into a kitchen – still quiet except for the sound of a moka pot bubbling its dark, intoxicating scent into the morning air. A new day has begun, and with it comes the thoughts for another day ahead. Another menu to prepare. While tying an apron around her waist, a woman wonders, “What catch will the fisherman haul in today?”
 
The clattering of steps brings new life into the piazza. Children with bags slung over their shoulders and sleep in their eyes run across it on the way to school. Always late, always running. Across the piazza they go and down the steps to the future, a future that is unseen and unknown from here.
 
Unknown and yet the same. An old man sits at his window and watches the children run, just as he once ran to school. He knows the future, he’s seen it. But now he watches the future of others, sitting there. The steps are cruel friends. They take you where you want to go, but they take their toll with every step as well.

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And steps are what this village is made of from top to bottom. The sound of heavy steps carries through the labyrinthine staircases. Finding your way is like walking through an M.C. Escher drawing come to life. Even he was here, lost in the alleyways, inspired by the alluring confusion of this place. There he is in the quiet piazza, setting down his sketchpad, mind swirling in the haze of yet to be visualized designs. He stops for a moment of respite. Maybe he sees all the stories, too?
 
My feet are tired. I look down at the honey leather loafers battered by the steps of the Amalfi Coast. Glancing over my shoulder, my eyes land on a cement bench. There’s a spot to sit and watch the stories unfold. Settling in uncomfortably, I look up expecting to find the same scene, the same voices, the same time and place.
 
But it’s all gone.
 
A seagull’s taunting call fills the piazza, seemingly laughing at my confusion. The church bells ring, slowly eleven times. I’m going to be late. I grab my bag and throw it over my shoulder, hurrying off across the piazza and down the steps to my own unseen future. But before going, I stop to turn and look up at the balcony, half expecting to find the old man watching me. And he’s there. As my feet carry me swiftly down the steps, I know they’re all there.

________________

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– A short story by Laura Thayer inspired by Atrani.

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“L’Estate di San Martino” in Amalfi

During breakfast this morning, I heard the weatherman on the TV talking about the “Estate di San Martino,” which means the Summer of San Martino. This is similar to what we call an Indian Summer in the USA. It’s when the weather is particularly nice after a cold spell, but it refers specifically to this period since the festival for San Martino takes place today. I looked out the window and it was a gloriously sunny day. A true and proper L’Estate di San Martino! We spent the morning running some errands before stopping at the Gran Caffè, which has outdoor seating overlooking the beach. You can spot the umbrellas in the upper right of the photo above. It’s one of my favorite spots in Amalfi for a Spritz or a light lunch. Today, with the sun shining down, it was perfection.

After lunch we took a leisurely stroll along the waterfront in Amalfi all the way to the end of the town’s largest pier and then back again. One of the things I love about Amalfi is that even though it’s small there’s a wonderful passeggiata if you walk from one end of the town to the other.

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The harbor still feels empty after the busy summer months, but the winter is my favorite time of the year for taking photos along the waterfront. There are still a few gozzo boats and the usual cast of colorful fishing boats that stick around all winter.

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Although the piazza was surprisingly busy, the waterfront was very quiet. It’s especially nice to walk along here after lunch, when many people are still resting. You can sit on a bench, take in this view below and for just a few minutes feel like you have it all to yourself.

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The sun was deliciously warm today, and a few people were even taking advantage of that on the Marina Grande beach. I would have loved to have spent a little bit more time in the sunshine. More rain and clouds are in the forecast for the week ahead – all the more reason to enjoy the sun today!

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I hope you enjoyed this quick update from a beautiful day in Amalfi. In this world of social media, it’s a pleasure to get back to my blogging roots. However, if you’d like to join me for more daily updates from the Amalfi Coast, you can find me on Instagram @ciaoamalfi.

 

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La Selva Handmade Soap from Positano

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A gift box of 4 soaps from La Selva (Photo courtesy La Selva)

High in the mountains above Positano there is an enchanting place where you can experience the natural beauty, sights and scents of the Amalfi Coast in an untouched setting. That special place is called La Selva, and I’ve shared about it here before since it’s setting for Sole Yoga Holiday’s annual Positano Yoga Retreat. La Selva is the creation of Martha and Cristiano, who have worked hard to make a place that respects nature – and highlights it at the same time. This is perfectly encapsulated in Martha’s new line of handmade soaps. And, yes, you can order them online!

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Handmade soap from Amalfi Coast grown lemons and olives (Photo courtesy La Selva)

I’m always on the lookout for locally produced crafts that capture essence of the Amalfi Coast. I’m also dedicated to living as natural as possible on a daily basis, which is a continual evolution and wonderful journey. This summer while at La Selva for the Positano Yoga Retreat, I was excited to learn that Martha had created her own line of soaps. I had the pleasure to sit down with her and learn more about the process while I was there. The soaps are made with local olive oil from the first cold press along with other natural oils. Walking around La Selva, a meandering pathway leads through a beautiful terraced olive grove. Everywhere you look are the beautiful natural plants and herbs that Martha uses to make her soaps.

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La Selva’s olive grove overlooking Positano with the Li Galli islands in the distance

In fact, the soaps are all natural and include traditional Mediterranean scents like lemon, orange, mint and rosemary. Ingredients are all sustainably sourced and the soaps are produced in small batches completely by hand using a “cold process” technique before being air cured and hand cut.

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Hand cut soap drying (Photo courtesy La Selva)

There are a variety of scents to choose from: Limone e Oliva (Lemon and Olive), Agrumi (Citrus), Menta e Rosemarino (Mint and Rosemary), Propoli e Miele (Propolis and Honey), Iperico e Tea Tree (St. John’s Wort and Tea Tree) and Mirto e Arancia (Blueberry and Orange). I’ve tried out three of the soaps above and love them all. I’m excited to try out the new Lemon and Olive oil soap this winter!

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Lemon and Olive oil handmade and all natural soap (Photo courtesy La Selva)

If you love the Amalfi Coast and natural products, this is the soap for you! You can find out more and order directly online from Martha at the La Selva Positano Cosmetici Naturali Facebook page.