Positano is a famous, and very popular, seaside resort along the Amalfi coast in the southern Italian region of Campania. It is thought to be named after Poseidon, God of the Sea, and was a popular place for wealthy Romans to build exotic holiday villas.
Dating from the 9th century the town was built up around the Benedictine Monastery of St Mary and gradually spread upwards into the cliffs behind. After being pillaged by Pisa in the 13th century it increased its defences by building imposing fortified walls and a series of watch towers around the tiny, steep settlement.
During medieval times it was a wealthy port, trading mainly in fish, and the town prospered and grew. However, by the beginning of the 20th century, it had gradually declined to nothing more than a poor fishing port. A vast percentage of the inhabitants left, mainly going to America, in search of a better life.
In the 1950's it began to attract tourists, partly due to an article published in Harper's Bazaar by John Steinbeck. He said "It is a dream place that isn’t quite real when you are there and becomes beckoningly real after you have gone." This, along with an enviable climate of long, hot summers and mild winter, Positano quickly became one of the favoured holiday destinations of the rich and famous.
From the sea, Positano is a vertical profusion of colour, clinging precariously to the cliffs which rise sharply from the beaches below. The town itself is a maze of narrow, steep and windy streets, mainly consisting of steps due to the sharp incline. There are no vehicles in Positano and everything has to be bought in by hand, including all provisions, building materials and furniture!
From whichever angle you look at Positano, it is totally dominated by the Collegiate Church of Santa Maria Assunta. Easily recognisable by its majolica tiled dome, the church is believed to be linked to the original Benedictine Monastery and houses a Byzantine icon of a black Madonna.
The beaches of Positano are a big attraction and the main one is Spiaggia Grande. This, as the name suggests, is the largest and is busy and vibrant, being the centre of most of the activites for the town behind. It consists of very tiny pebbles which are a dark grey colour making the beach look almost black at times. If you want to be at the heart of everything then Spiaggia Grande is the place to be. If you prefer a quieter beach, then Fornillo is the most popular and accessible of the secluded beaches, There are many others, some can be accessed by steep coastal steps and others are only accessible from the sea.
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