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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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Check Out My Favorite Capri Walks in Dream of Italy!

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It’s been a quiet summer around here on Ciao Amalfi, but it certainly hasn’t been a quiet time. Summer is always a busy period, but this year seems especially hectic … and hot! We’ve had a heat wave on the Amalfi Coast, making usually hot August even stickier than normal. But I’ve had a lot of fun experiences this summer, including writing a feature piece in Dream of Italy’s June/ July newsletter on my favorite walks on Capri. It was a pleasure to explore the island, covering familiar pathways and discovering some new ones to me – all while taking notes and photographs for the article. I’ve shared a variety of walks, including some short and easy walks if you only have a limited time on Capri as well as some longer hikes if you’re staying for more than a day. However, all of them show you the way to discovering the natural beauty of Capri!

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You can check out a sneak peek of one of the walks on the Dream of Italy blog with Capri Walk #2: Natural Beauty Up Close. To read about all the walks, check out the Dream of Italy June/ July 2017 issue here.

The Amalfi Coast in Perillo Traveler Magazine

Perillo Traveler The Amalfi Coast

The last few months have been a bit of a whirlwind, but in many good ways. In the middle of multiple writing projects, the end result can sometimes seem so far away. But when the final product arrives, all the extra work is worthwhile. It was a joy to get the Winter 2016 issue of Perillo Traveler magazine recently and see my feature article on the Amalfi Coast. This was an especially fun project because it included all of my own photos. (Except the cover below – that’s not my shot.) When I write about the Amalfi Coast, the words are intimately connected to the landscape here and the photographs that I love taking while out exploring. To have the two of them together is a dream!

Perillo Traveler The Amalfi Coast

The article takes a broad tour of the Amalfi Coast, with stops in Amalfi, Positano and Ravello. I also share some of my favorite walks, beaches and day trips along with the best restaurants, hotels and shopping spots on the Amalfi Coast. Planning a trip to the Amalfi Coast? You won’t want to miss this article and the Insider’s Guide section! Even better, you can download it for free at the Perillo Traveler website. Or click here.

Perillo Traveler Amalfi Coast Winter 2016

In this issue you’ll also have the chance to win a 5 day trip to Rome for two! (Make sure you enter before March 24, 2016.)

The Amalfi Coast: Walking Through History One Step at a Time

NIAF Ambassador Magazine The Amalfi Coast

This summer I had the pleasure to write about one of my favorite pastimes on the Amalfi Coast — walking and exploring the ancient pathways and hiking trails — for the NIAF Ambassador magazine. This is this quarterly magazine for the National Italian American Foundation, which is a wonderful resource for all things Italy. It was a joy this autumn to virtually flip through the magazine feature and to see my photographs across so many pages!

NIAF Ambassador Magazine The Amalfi Coast Hiking

If you’re a NIAF member then you’ve likely already read through three of my favorite walks on the Amalfi Coast. If you’re not a member but would like to find out more, visit the NIAF website for all the details.

NIAF Ambassador Magazine Fall 2014

A huge grazie to Michelle from Bleeding Espresso for the very kind recommendation for this writing project! Over the coming weeks I’ll share more of the photos of the different walks that I took while doing some of the most pleasurable research I’ve ever done. Stay tuned to the Ambassador magazine winter issue for an article about my two favorite spots on Capri. You will be tempted  … oh so tempted!