Wow, party we did. We walked down to the Montepertuso local store and bought some beer, wine and a few essentials for the evening: buffalo mozzarella, sausage, crackers and a small bottle of olive oil. We snacked, drank, snoozed, then snacked and drank again. This was a bad idea. We had our dinner set for 8:00 pm and it was traditional Italian gluttony. We sat down and were greeted by a glass of Prosecco—nice touch. Then came a Caprese salad with large slices of their local tomatoes, lettuce, basil and balls of buffalo mozzarella. Then came large bowls full of home-made ravioli, stuffed with basil and ricotta cheese… wow delicious, pants getting tight, having trouble breathing. Just when we cleared our plates and sopped up the residual sauces with our crusty bread, the main course arrived. A massive sausage with a pile of olive oil soaked pan-fried broccoli. Breath in, breath out, thank God for elasticated pants, surely they made it onto the Ark. Just when we reached the point bulimic psychosis, a mocha cheesecake was plunked down in front of us. Pffffffffffffff… I expunged air like a bottle of pop in the hot sun and was having serious difficulty inhaling beyond 2 psi. Why did I snack on all that sausage and cheese? Why did I drink those two Belgian beers?
As we struggled with our cheesecake we struck up a conversation with our server, a polite young man named Antonio. He grew up in Positano, but really wanted to leave.
“I love Italy,” he said seriously, “but there’s no opportunity for me here. In Positano everyone knows me as the teacher’s son, or as someone else’s cousin. I would like to just be known as Antonio. I would like to be… how do you say it? Just me.”
“Where else would you go?” I asked.
“Someplace else in Europe, maybe Germany.” He responded.
“Do you have education?” Julia asked.
“Yes, I took computer programming in University, but in Positano there’s no job for me. I’m lucky because at least I work all year. I work here in the evenings and I’m an accountant in town during the day, but during winter most of this area closes down.”
He looked down like he was gathering his thoughts, then continued.
“Italy is all about government and mafia.”
“Mafia?” I questioned, “I’m reading about the Mafia right now, a book about Bernardo Provenzano, but I thought after his arrest the mafia wasn’t too involved anymore.”
“Oh, they’re not as violent as they were, but they’re still here. If you don’t have a good family name you’re nothing, nobody will hire you.”
“So you say the government and mafia, are they working together?” I asked.
“No, but the government takes our money too. For every 100 Euro I make, the company has to pay 50 Euro to the government. In winter it’s too expensive to keep everyone working so most business closes. This makes it hard for tourists. I’m not a politician, but wouldn’t it make more sense for the government to just take 10 instead of 50 Euro? Then I can be employed and not have to get a pension (EI) from the government? It just doesn’t make sense; I don’t have a future in Italy.”
Antonio was clearly distraught about his situation but during this conversation we were half watching a program on the BBC called “Worst Jobs” about a London taxi driver who was sent to Mumbai to drive a cab for a week. As bad as Antonio’s situation was, it paled in comparison to the situation millions in Mumbai face every day. A little perspective is always important.
We retired early, bellies bloated and with the desire to rise early. We planned a trip to Amalfi, the former naval centre of Southern Italy that in 1343, slid into the Tyrrhenian Sea following a major earthquake. Of course, looking around all the towns teetering on the edge of cliffs around Positano and Montepertuso, it’s clear the message wasn’t received. Another volatile earthquake would be catastrophic to this entire region, but no mind, we had breakfast and marched off down the 1200 stairs to Positano, a trail that was poorly marked causing us to go down, then up about another 400 steps before finding our way. The trip down was lovely, weaving through narrow lanes between colourful plaster homes then frequently coming across incredible vistas of the Amalfi Coast and Positano itself. Finally we found what we were looking for in Italy: those beautiful images you only see in photographs or on people’s lame blogs from Positano.
We made it down to the dock and purchased tickets on the ferry to Amalfi, then waited with a few hundred other people. It was Easter Sunday and the beach was packed with people, most of whom were likely Italians on vacation or traveling home to see families. Many people carried boxed cakes as Easter gifts because you can never have too much cake in your diet. Did I mention our breakfast featured cake?