Indulgent days of wine and pleasure
Ristorante Il Pirata. Picture: Di Bauwens

Is there a more beautiful place on Earth than Positano? On the other side of the Sorrentine Peninsula, the prettiest town spills charmingly from terraces on the steep rocks of the Monte Comune down to the sea.

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Little beaches and coves, gelato-coloured houses clinging to the cliff face and greenery overlooking the great blue wonder.

Legend has it that Positano was founded by the god Neptune when he fell in love with the nymph Pasitea.

After a hectic two days of shopping and sightseeing, we leave Rome in a luxury chauffeur-driven vehicle on a comfortable four-hour road trip through Campagna, past Naples and on to the glorious Amalfi Coast.

Le Agavi Hotel is perched on a roadside bend high on a hilltop where a sign reading "Positano" heralds our arrival. The beauty of this five-star hotel, with its spectacular vistas of the Bay of Positano, unfolds daily. Built from local stone, it's a labyrinth of 63 rooms and seven suites, terracotta-tiled rooftops, terraces, secluded gardens and stone walls covered in vines and blooms cascading like poetry down to the great blue sparkling sea.

On sun-drenched terraces, vermilion geraniums dance in terracotta pots. Massive lemons hang from fragrant trees. Walls are smothered in magnolia, bougainvillea and yellow lantana. Cacti and olive trees are abundant.

The reception area, main restaurant and meeting rooms are exquisite spaces filled with fine antiques and furnishings. The staff members are gracious and accommodating.

My spacious room, with large ensuite and a dressing room, is spotlessly clean - maids in crisp uniforms see to that round the clock. My terrace, with wrought-iron table and chairs, umbrella and sun beds, has spectacular views.

All over Positano, holidaymakers worship the sun, lounging on bright orange and banana-coloured beds. Fishing boats bob about on clear waters. Birds sing.

Here the peasant within me dances and sings. I dress in the colourful embroidered clothes of brilliant colours. Sandals on my feet. Turquoise and silver at my throat. Golden earrings dangling from lobes. Skin kissed by the sun. Hair hanging in salty tendrils like a Medusa.

At night the moon hangs like a crescent jewel in an indigo sky over the twinkling lights of Positano. I feast on plump red tomatoes that taste of the sun, great slabs of mozzarella drizzled in olive oil, shellfish with the flavour of the sea.

Glory days of wine and happiness.

These long, indulgent days begin on a terrace restaurant with a continental breakfast of ripe fruit, tomatoes, cheese, hard-boiled eggs and fresh Italian bread.

Each day is a gift, overlooking the beauty from every angle. An exquisite carpet of colour and blue sky is softened only by clouds resting on mountain tops and mist rising from the sea, from which tales of mermaids saving ships and villages are still told with reverence.

There is a mountain which resembles the sensuous shape of a reclining woman with a perky nipple protruding from its breast. I call it "nipple mountain". Only in Italy.

Where to swim? This is the pressing question each day. A grotto pool with shaded balcony for lunch? Or a spectacular ride on the funicular to the beach via winding paths, steps and a lift before finally emerging at the beachfront? The funicular and many stairs to climb are an integral part of life at Le Agavi so it's best to be reasonably fit.

Remmese Restaurant at the beach overlooks two rocks called Mother and Son. Legend has it that an image of the Black Madonna placed on the Mother rock brought about a miracle, when on February 2, 1943, a British torpedo fired at Positano hit the Mother Rock, saving Positano.

Prosecco time. Waiters with smiling eyes in handsome faces and melodic accents come bearing chilled glasses of the preferred midday drop. Le bollicine. Lunch. Where do I begin to convey the flavours, the plates we savour? The songs we sing in celebration, with "Volare" at the top of our hit list.

One day, after a delicious lunch of mussel and clam soup on the deck at Remmese, I walk down to the little jetty where I climb down the ladder into emerald waters - this is the jewel of the Amalfi - and swim across rocks to a sea cave where I have my mermaid moment. Lying half-naked on the rocks with the sun beating down and water caressing my body, I compose in my head a letter to loved ones which reads: "If you want to find me, you'll have to swim across the oceans. I now live in a sea cave where I'm blissfully happy."

In the evening a hotel shuttle transports us down the winding road to the heart of Positano. The place Italians call Paradiso, as if it were a religious experience. It is. In the Church of Santa Maria Assunta, with its majolica-tiled dome and 13th century Byzantine icon of a Black Madonna, I light candles and pray.

We then meander through cobblestone streets stopping at everything from art galleries to designer boutiques, to shops filled with intricately embroidered and lace holiday dresses, vibrant cottons and caftans.

Pretty sandals and thongs, bejewelled bikinis. Jewellery and pottery in the colours of the region to dazzle the senses, splashed with olive and lemon patterns. Reminders to take home.

We dine in so many restaurants in Positano, from expansive terraces on the buzzing beachfront overlooking the mountains and sea to little places tucked away down steps disappearing from the street.

Secluded tables under the stars in garden courtyards are filled with the ubiquitous lemon trees. Oh, how we feasted. Melanzane parmigiana, caprese salads, pizzas, swordfish, zucchini flowers filled with ricotta and sage, pasta smothered in plump cherry tomatoes, shellfish and oil. Pinot grigio. Volpolicella. And limoncello: there is no better place to savour this drop than here, in the place with roadside signs that read "Bed and Lemons".

There is a peace to Positano that sets it apart. No discos or rowdy bars to break the spell of stillness. Sometimes the gentle sounds of ancient instruments being played softly on steps outside a church or Moroccan rhythms on a terrace will pervade the silence, but gently. There is no place for intrusion here.

One night we go to the nearby village of Praiano to one of the most spectacularly romantic dinner settings you'll ever see. We walk winding oleander-fringed pathways down the cliffs to the sea to Il Pirata. After a shell-pink sunset, the water turns to silver and the moon lights the gentle ripples of the sea. It is breathtakingly beautiful.

After dinner we stumble along another cliff pathway lit only by the moon and stars to the Africano Famous Club, which is built into a giant cave in the rock face. It's perhaps the coolest setting for a nightclub I've ever seen but it's also a restaurant for lunch and dinner.

One day we charter a boat from Le Agavi. It's a boat that screams Italian chic: sexy, all shiny turquoise hull, polished timber and soft cream leather with a handsome young "capitano" called Acquille. We cruise down the Amalfi Coast, stopping along the way to swim or glide into caves and waterways which hide tiny fishing villages where life has not changed in centuries.

Prosecco corks pop in celebration of this glorious day on the waters in front of the resort town Ravello.

It's good to be alive, and even better to be in Positano.

The West Australian

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