The Shortest Hour of My Life: Positano, Italy

by Gray Cargill on May 8, 2013

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It was May of last year that I visited Positano, Italy for the first time and experienced the second major travel regret of my life. (My first, if you’ll recall, is that I didn’t visit Egypt before the political situation there became unstable.) My second travel regret isn’t that I visited Positano, of course. Far from it. No, my regret is that I didn’t have enough time there.

I had one day in the port of Naples on my Mediterranean cruise. Just one day to see Pompeii and as much of the Amalfi Coast as we could squeeze in before we needed to be back aboard the ship. “As much as we could squeeze in” turned out to be Sorrento and Positano, two picturesque towns along the coast, with very different landscapes and personalities. Both were beautiful in their own way, but Positano was unlike any town I’ve ever seen, with the azure sea spread out before it, dotted with boats, and steep cliffs rising up behind it and layers upon layers of winding streets that make the houses look stacked one upon the other.

Positano, Italy


To get there, our guide, Giovanni, drove our van along narrow, winding roads, with sheer rock cliffs on one side–draped in netting in an attempt to prevent rockslides–and a steep drop off the other side. Occasionally, a large truck or bus would come careening around a blind curve at us, and everyone would hold their breath and pray there was enough room on the road for both vehicles. Everyone except Giovanni, who seemed completely unfazed. When Giovanni stopped on a hill overlooking Positano so we could get some photos, I knew this view was our reward for taking our lives in our hands on that road. Because yes, it was worth it.

Then he drove us to a garage in town and let us have some time to wander at will. Because we needed to get back to the ship before it departed, we had about an hour to explore. Just an hour to enjoy all of this:

Lemons Corn and Peppers


Positano, Italy



Positano, Italy

 China store


Positano, Italy


Pretty Positano


Positano, Italy


Covered alley


Plant shade

Positano, Italy




Beach at Positano

See what I mean? To have just an hour in a place this beautiful? The tragedy of it all.

Actually, I’m very lucky I got to spend any time there at all, which puts me ahead of millions of other people on the planet. But I feel as though I went to a birthday party and only got a fingerful of frosting off the cake before it was gone. Some day, I’d like to go back and spend more time in Positano–and the rest of the Amalfi Coast, too, while I’m at it.

Do you have a favorite place that you only had a short period of time in and wish you could spend more time there? Where was it?

ronald kronowitz February 10, 2014 at 4:14 pm

Read your article on Positano and also feel that Positano is beautiful. I went in 2013 and stayed a few days at a beautiful hotel overlooking the sea. I had spent several days in Naples before and took the train to Positano. It was going from the ridiculous to the sublime – though I would go again to Naples as well. They just are two different travel adventures. I took the day trip to Capri and that was a waste of time. Positano far surpasses Capri for beauty, food and good value. I live parttime in Budapest Hungary and so have the opportunity to visit many of the nearby areas by low cost airlines. I would encourage you to come visit my adopted parttime city and have an experience quite unique. The cost of room and board is very very reasonable: the city is beautiful: the outdoor life from spring to fall is outstanding. Many people just drop by as they board or disembark from their river cruises and I hear from some how they wished they had booked more time to enjoy all that Budapest offers. Again I enjoyed your blog. Enjoy your travels. regards Ronald

Gray Cargill February 14, 2014 at 8:04 pm

Hi, Ronald – Sadly, I had to choose how to spend that day in port and wasn’t able to experience any of Naples. Maybe next time I’m in the area. Though I suspect you’re right–it would be a very different experience from Positano!

You’ve definitely got a good situation. I often think it would be great to rent a place in Europe as a “home base” for 6 months or so and make weekend trips via low cost airlines to all the cities I want to see in Europe. I would like to make it to Budapest some day.

margieinitaly January 4, 2014 at 12:43 pm

Great article, Gray.I love Positano too and agree that an hour is nowhere near enough time, but at least you got there. I am sure you will return one day to experience more of this vertical city on the Amalfi Coast!
As usual your photos are spectacular!

Gray January 4, 2014 at 2:23 pm

Thank you, Margie! I’m so grateful I was able to see it in person. What a beautiful place. And yes, I do hope to go back some day. 🙂

Lisa @chickybus June 4, 2013 at 9:22 pm

I totally relate to this. Positano looks lovely (great photos, by the way!) and I would have wanted more time there, too.

The place I regret not having more time at is Gili Meno, a tiny island close to Lombok, Indonesia. It was so peaceful there and beautiful that it truly felt like paradise. No cars with honking horns or obnoxious motorbikes. Just some horse-drawn vehicles.

I had 3 nights there and the first one was in a room I didn’t care for. (It didn’t matter much, however, since I stayed at the beach most of the time.) But then, I was happy after that in my next room and with the island in general–so happy that I paid a pretty penny to take a $$$ boat back later on my final day (vs the cheaper, earlier boat) to have an extra four hours there.

If I could do it again, I would have wanted 5 nights there. And I believe I will return; that’s how gorgeous it was there.

Gray Cargill June 5, 2013 at 6:14 am

That sounds beautiful, Lisa. I guess the positive thing about realizing when we have too little time in a place we’ve fallen in love with is it motivates us to return.

Rosa June 1, 2013 at 1:05 pm

I did stay there forever! Rather it’s 26 years now. I always say to those taking a cruise in the area choose one town and see it properly. It creates more lasting memories and gives you a better feel for the town. I’m glad my town had such an impact on you 🙂 even in the short hour!

Gray Cargill June 5, 2013 at 6:15 am

I’d have to agree with you, Rosa. You are very, very lucky to live in Positano.

Margieinitaly May 14, 2013 at 6:51 am

Positano is one of my favorite places, Gray. I would never get tired of going there. Actually the whole Amalfi Coast is so beautiful. It is my favorite spot in Italy. Hope you get to return soon!

Gray May 14, 2013 at 11:10 am

I can see why, Margie! And I hope so, too.

Kris May 10, 2013 at 4:11 pm

Gray, I know what you mean! This area is SO overlooked. People go to Italy and focus on Rome, Florence and Venice – and who can blame them – but I personally think Campania is awesome in general. I even loved Naples. The authenticity. The pizza. The day trips to Pompeii, Herculaneum and Sorrento. And Capri. And Positano. Sigh…

Gray May 12, 2013 at 5:12 pm

My guess is it’s just easier for people to see and do a lot in the larger cities, and of course, they’re so well-known. But yes, the Amalfi Coast is gorgeous and has a lot going for it! Thanks for your comment, Kris!

Sarah P | The Travel Spotlight May 10, 2013 at 2:56 am

Lovely photos Gray! It is a travesty that you only got an hour to spend in Positano! But then again, it’s the packaged tour trade-off I guess – I love the convenience but ti does restrict you somewhat! Thanks for sharing the pics!

Do you agree that Italy was hard to photograph? I loved Italy so much but somehow I found it more challenging to depict the beauty of it – when I came home, I had lots of pictures of cobblestone pavements & old buildings but with the exception of panoramic viewpoints (a ala Cinque Terre) I found it tough to show ppl back home what I loved abt it so much! Was this your experience too? (but the photos above are lovely – so maybe not!)

Gray May 10, 2013 at 3:07 am

Thanks, Sarah! I agree it’s hard to truly capture Italy’s beauty in photographs, but I think it can be done (I’ve certainly seen some amazing photos of Italy). I think for me, the problem was time (as always). I just didn’t have enough time to visit sites at the right time of day (for lighting) or linger when there were no crowds to get good photos.

Sarah P | The Travel Spotlight May 10, 2013 at 3:11 am

Agreed! Some of the best photos I took were at dusk or when everything was winding down for the day! I was time-crunched when I visited too so know exactly what you mean!

JoAnn May 9, 2013 at 8:49 pm

The Amalfi Coast is beautiful. If it makes you feel any better you spent more time in Positano than I did. I can’t remember if we actually stopped in Positano (if we did it was to take a few pictures) or if we drove straight through.

I wish I had more time to spend in Florence. I was only there for half a day, not nearly enough time.

Gray May 10, 2013 at 3:05 am

I think that does make me feel a little better, JoAnn. What a disappointment for you, though! Yeah, I feel the same way about Florence.

Tracy Antonioli May 8, 2013 at 3:58 pm

Ohmygod! Gorgeous! At least you were there for a day, right? I could stay there for forever, though.

You may have sold me on Italy. By train, not cruise ship. Slowly.

Gray May 8, 2013 at 4:49 pm

Not even a day! An HOUR! I didn’t even have time to stop for a cold drink. Oh, you would love Italy, Tracy. It s the most beautiful country. Really.

Jaklien May 8, 2013 at 3:58 pm

I just love that coastline there! Simply stunning.

Gray May 8, 2013 at 4:50 pm

It is, Jaklien, isn’t it? Very dramatic.

Marsha May 8, 2013 at 1:40 pm

Some darned good work for just an hour. Color me impressed! Wish I could have spent more time in Chicago during my road trip this past spring. Great city with incredible architecture and some darned good pizza. Definitely worth at least a long weekend.

Gray May 8, 2013 at 3:54 pm

Now that you mention it, Marsha, I bet you drove through a lot of cool places that warranted more time than you could give. That’s the downside of needing to be somewhere by a particular time, eh? I only spent 24 hours in Chicago, and I certainly agree with you. Great city, worthy of more time.

Jason May 8, 2013 at 11:47 am

This reminds me than I really need to return to Italy. Gorgeous!

Gray May 8, 2013 at 3:52 pm

We ALL need to return to Italy, Jason. Or go for the first time. The whole country is gorgeous.

RobRob May 8, 2013 at 8:24 am

Good to know. We’ll be in – our maybe on – the same boat next summer with just a day in Naples. Happy to be going but going crazy figuring out just what to see in such a short time! I’m thinking maybe just getting off the ship and staying there might be the best idea! 🙂

Gray May 8, 2013 at 11:18 am

Yeah, I really wish ships would stay in port for 2 days to maximize time, RobRob, but we do what we can do. You should love it, even though there really isn’t enough time to see and do everything. Enjoy!

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