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Monday, April 8
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by Tumbleweed Smith

When I was a soldier in Europe in the late fifties, I took a leave with some friends of mine to Italy. We went to Florence, Rome, Portofino, Milan, Naples and other places. At Sorrento my friends said they wanted to visit Pompeii. I decided to forego that excursion so I explored the coast further south, mainly so I could sing the song Come Back to Sorrento. Sounds silly now, but that was the real reason for going. Besides that, I wanted to cruise the curves and hills and see the sites along the famous Amalfi Drive. I saw buses have to back up to maneuver some of the tight squeezes. There are tunnels and bridges galore and you’re lucky if you get on a straightaway that is as long as a football field.

I stopped in the little village of Positano. It was quiet, tranquil, beautiful, intriguing. I had some kind of spiritual experience there. The city sort of oozes down a mountain into the Mediterranean. I wandered up and down a few of the cobblestone streets admiring the bougainvillea, stone walls and cozy little hotels. It was July and the weather was perfect. I went down to a small beach where a man was making shoes in his little seaside stall. We visited. I practiced my Italian and bought a pair of shoes.

Italian incidents and feelings stay with most people longer than other places. It’s sure that way with me. The images of those few hours in Positano fifty years ago are still as vivid now as they were when I was there. I felt so good. I vowed that when I met the girl I would spend the rest of my life with, I would return to Positano with her.

I did not know it would be fifty years before that happened, but it did in August of this year. We cleared out some time, worked ahead and were able to find a cruise that would visit some cities along the Amalfi coast. At the city of Amalfi we hired a driver. This was a special trip and I did not want to take that route on a bus.

The drive was even more magical than I remembered it. We traveled up and down it all day. During the past fifty years, people have found out about the Amalfi Drive and the charming little villages along it. The traffic was extremely heavy and in addition to the trucks, cars and buses on the road, our driver dealt with baby carriages, dogs and hordes of tourists, many of them lugging giant suitcases.

Positano was wall-to-wall people: in the bars, restaurants, on the beach, on the shaded walkways up and down the hills in the shopping district. I had thought I would buy a pair of shoes, but it was just too crowded. It was not the quiet, tranquil place I remembered. But my wife was there to experience it with me and it was special. I think I figured out that it wasn’t just Positano that was so indelibly stamped in my brain, but the wonderful 28 mile winding route of dramatic coastline, past some of the most beautiful small towns in the world, smelling the flowers and seeing the lemon and olive groves. I do want to return, but in October or January or March.

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