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Positano, Italy
web: lafenicepositano.com
email: fenicepositano@virgilio.it

By Marion Morra and Eve Potts, Correspondents

Positano, called la citta verticale (the vertical city), is Italy’s most picturesque and photogenic town. Its bleached peach, pink and terracotta houses cascade down the hills to the bright blue sea. It’s a perfect place for a southern Italian holiday, located about a third of the way down the famous Blue Ribbon (Nastro Azzurro) Drive that wends its way along the entire length of the curvy Amalfi Coast, stretching from Sant’Agata sul due Golfi near Sorrento to Vietra sul Mar.

Where to stay // If you want a spectacular location, where you will feel like you are part of a big extended family, La Fenice Bed and Breakfast is ideal. Named for the mythological Egyptian bird the phoenix, La Fenice is perched on a hill, with villas and cottages that gradually drop down by a series of steps, lush with flowers and plants, to the Tyrrhenian Sea. But the best part is the gracious owner, Costantino, his wife Angela and sons Gulio and Giocomo, who give you a warm welcome, offer incomparable service, propose great ideas for activities and restaurants, and do everything they can to make your stay special.

Accommodations // The rooms are in several buildings, spread up and down the cliff. They are simple, basic Italian style, with comfortable beds, some with large private terraces. You can enjoy swimming in the curved seawater pool with its Jacuzzi carved into the mountain rock or take your sun, swim or boat ride at the property’s small private beach. There are several bougainvillea-wrapped terraces where breakfast and lunch are served. The location is for the fit. In our week’s stay, we found exercise was not a problem as our room was 100 steps down the cliff, with spectacular views all the way. The beach was another 250 steps down. Breakfast was served in the main villa, an additional 94 steps up.

Activities // The town’s center, the Piazza Mulini, is a 15 minute walk down the road from La Fenice. Or you can take one of the narrow alleys to make your way to the main beach, the Spiaggia Grande, with its grey sand lined with colorful beach-chairs and umbrellas to rent. You also can choose one of the stairways that lead you to shops, wisteria-draped hotels, smart restaurants and the green and yellow majolica dome of the Chiesa di Santa Maria Assunta. You can hire a small motorboat, take the ferry to Capri, Ischia, or Amalfi or a SITA bus to Sorrento, Amalfi and Ravello. For hikers, try one of the best known walks on the Amalfi Coast – a 12 km, six hour walk following steep paths that link Positano to nearby Priano.

Where to eat // The town offers great dining experiences both for lunch and dinner. Two of our favorite restaurants are Valle dei Mulini and Tre Sorelle -- we can vouch for the freshness and quality of their extensive Italian menus, filled with homemade pastas and sauces, fresh fish, wood-oven baked pizza, grilled vegetables and meats. Tre Sorelle’s view of the beach and Valle de Mulini’s delightful vine-covered terrace made eating there a joy. The luxury hotel Palazzo Murat serves both lunch and dinner in its flower-filled courtyard. Ristorante Bruno, with its outdoor tables overlooking the hills of the city, is another delightful spot as is Bucca de Leon. We found that there are so many good restaurants serving freshly made Italian food that we didn’t have time to try them all.

Transportation // Getting around town is largely a matter of walking, mostly up and down hillsides. Car and bus traffic is heavy and parking is limited. There is an orange bus which runs regularly around Positano; you can buy your tickets on the bus. The entire peninsula is filled with roads that wind their way through hills covered in olive trees and lemon groves, with magnificent views at every turn, but the driving can be difficult.