I had finally made it. Italy. A place I visited frequently in my childhood daydreams. Those first lovely dreams filled with romanticism and yearning. The building blocks, it seemed, of my life.
I arrived in Naples with no plan, and no understanding of the language. Once out of the air, I quickly googled a route from the Napoli Airport to my cliff-side villa in Praiano. I found the post I needed describing an immersive and scenic route that put me on trains, a ferry, and a taxi to my destination. I always choose the scenic route. So after stuffing a few hundred euros in a few hidden places, I headed out into unknown regions.
And besides the woman who followed me screaming for money for her children, and the man on the train who threw his jacket over his lap to get in a quickie… I was euphoric.
The old decaying buildings sprinkled across the rolling landscape called to my soul like poetry. And to me, the world seemed to be tinted in pretty shades of pastels and a dreamlike haze.
But it wasn’t until I hit the sea in Salerno that I was able to breathe deeply and really take in my surroundings. Everyone here was headed to happiness and I was able to again don my wide-eyes of wonder. I was on my way to the Amalfi Coast.
“Come Girl!! Ah, Here! Bella, Ci, Here.. Come”.. were the shouts I remember being directed at me from across the square. From a handsome man in a form fitting suit of navy, adorned with a floral silk neckerchief and leather Italian loafers. He pulled it off effortlessly.
I had been wandering the streets, smiling like a gypsy with her eye on treasure. Our eyes locked and I ran blushing to the beckoning man, leaving a mess of blaring horns and curses from car windows. Apparently I was causing quite the commotion.
I was shocked to realize the beautiful man that seemed more like a walking Versace ad was in fact, a taxi driver. And so after enjoying an invigorating haggle, I settled in for my first nascar race experience.
He gripped the cliff edge as he sped along the coast and I gripped the leather seats. Deep breaths interweaved with tiny maniacal laughs. The typical behavior, I told myself, of any good near death experience. But by the time we reached Praiano I was a devout believer in Italian drivers. I tipped him well for his mastery and headed off, exhilarated, to find the villa.
The large white villa, as seen in Casa a Praiano, where I ate and slept was a luxury I hadn’t quite known before. Filled with old-world charm and bright locally made tiles, the villa sat proud and gleaming. Perched on its own above the marina below, it was an impressive sight.
Look closely and you will make out the villa and tunnel that must be bravely walked on foot (with formula one taxi drivers zooming past) to find the entrance to the house. The entrance itself was another feat to master, as the stairs seem to be hand carved out of the side of the mountain side, with only a bit of metal railing to protect from the lovely distraction that beckoned.
I arrived just in time to meet the group of women that would be sharing the house with me for the next few days. And while I usually prefer solitude, staying with other photographers was quite invigorating. Even my times of aloofness seemed comfortable. And that is a true treasure.
Nights were reserved for wine and fine dining under twinkling lights and moonlit seas. But the days were my favorite. Long days filled with exploration, creativity, and the lovely gift of insight.
For the mornings, a delightful stroll to the market became routine. The cobbled streets and alleyways were filled with art and scenic views. Some of my favorite pieces of art were odd faces and clay heads placed along the walkways. Some grotesque, some charming, and all very unique with a story to tell. Early in my stay, I happened upon an alleyway that housed the local artist who I had been secretly admiring.
I heard his name was Bob, and so Bob was what I called him.
Bob would often sit outside in the crisp morning air and craft his art just for the pleasure of it. Most of it to end up on the walls of nearby homes and dotting the alleyways of the village.
Many of the homes along the way filled me with a serene happiness.
One of which was The happy little Pink House by the Sea. Upon seeing the house I knew I was close to my destination. Because here is where the smell of fresh baked bread came wafting down the cobble stone street. I would soon have a loaf of it, accompanied by a wheel of Bufalo Cheese and bottle of red wine. With the breeze of the Mediterranean in my hair, and and the scents of the village filling me, I was always happy to be near the little Pink House by the Sea.
There was another particular home with bright white walls and interesting architecture that grabbed my attention right away. What made this one stay with me though was the immense pride, I later realized, that it took to keep such a home. I would never have understood this had I not beat the sun to the marina one glorious morning.
Already used to the presence of boat captains and locals, I didn’t pay it much mind when I saw a group of fisherman huddled that morning. It was only after I sat down to eat a bite of toast that I noticed them painting the wall that separated the beach and dining area. Each one of them was devotedly coating the already white walls. Their technique was fantastic. An almost artistic slathering, that seemed suddenly, very fitting of an Italian fisherman.
It was then that I wondered about the many white walls on the Amalfi Coast. What pride and community it must take to keep the cities so beautiful.
Later when I was home, on a slightly different colored salt water, I found the image of Proud Walls. Right upon seeing the white walls of the striking little villa, I thought of who must cherish it that way. Is it the pride of ownership? Do these people truly carry beauty to the regard often fantasized about? What does it take and who actually is doing the incredible job of white washing these villas? Did they notice they missed a few spots?
Oddly enough, the time I spent in Italy wasn’t with the intention of making art. At least, so I thought at the time. Though I realize now I was always making some form of art, during my time on the Amalfi Coast, I simply called it portraits or photography.
No matter what I was calling it at the time. The images I made in Italy awoke something hidden inside me. And the women who shared this time with me were keys, unlocking secrets that I seemed to already know. This evoked a need in me to create more connection with women in my art. To seek out and understand more about the unique inner power dwelling in me and other women.
What I won’t be able to correctly portray though, is what I felt most from my experience on The Amalfi Coast. A dream-like, fuzzy sense of being outside -looking in. Like I was always only catching a glimpse. Thinking back on my memories, it seems the longing to be there was with me even while I was there.
Or, may be, it was the romanticism I spoke of earlier. A feeling of yearning that seems to accompany me most days. A hunger to know more. See more. To understand different cultures, destinations, and simply people in a real way. From raw experiences. Feelings that have gotten me in trouble a time or two before.
I wish I could say that the longing presented itself while I was there. That I understood time was slipping away, and that I had all the power to make this enchanting place everything I dreamed. Could I then have been more present. Intentional in what I absorbed and the moments I took in and sought out. The moments I captured.
But this is life. An on going of days that we tie together as best we can. And so it seems that Amalfi will remain a dream to me to for a while longer. A place that holds a wondrous fascination that still calls to me. I know I will be back one summer. But for now I’ll keep Dreaming Amalfi.
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