Tales from Positano
Part I: The Driver
Disembarking at Napoli Centrale I expected immediate chaos to ensue. “Better to call the driver now before I get lost”, I thought. I didn’t want to miss him, incase he was waiting for me when I got off the train. But the thought also crossed my mind that he might be late, knowing the traffic and general disorganization in Naples.
My final destination wasn’t Naples, however. I was heading to Positano, a town nestled in the cliff sides of the beautiful Amalf Coast. Although I am rather well traveled in Italy, Positano was one place I still hadn’t been to. When Patricia, a good family friend, emailed me to say that she and her son would be travelling to Positano in early November and that I should come to visit, I was estatic. It was the perfect excuse to travel.
Isn’t it funny how we make excuses in order to do things we have always wanted to do?
Just as I was dialing the number for the driver that Patricia had emailed to me the day before, I saw a man at the end of the platform with a sign made out of a piece of rectangular cardboard with white printer paper taped to it and my name handwritten in capital letters with a black marker. “I guess that’s for me”, I thought.
As I looked up, there stood a neatly dressed man in a dark blue suit, graying hair combed to the side, and a monumental moustache that seemed to have been placed perfectly above his upper lip. I breathed easy. Despite my pessimistic expectations, there seemed to be some order in this man.
Reaching the end of the platform, I made eye contact with the man holding the sign. I could see that he too began to relax. He had done his duty and found the girl he had been hired to take to Positano.
He reached out to shake my hand and I could tell that he didn’t know whether to say ‘hello’ or ‘buona sera’. Much to his relief, I greeted him first, “Salve, sono Sarah”. Hello, I’m Sarah.
“Lucio, piacere” he responded.” Before I even had a chance to reach my hand back down again to take the handle on my rolly suitcase, he had already begun to walk with my luggage in his hand. We began to make our way out of the station, Lucio leading the way, making small talk in Italian.
After three hours on the train, I really needed a coffee and I thought maybe Lucio might want one too, so I asked if we could stop for a quick caffè. Looking disappointed, Lucio took a moment to respond. I thought maybe he thought it rude of me to ask to stop since he was the driver, the one in charge. After a moment of hesitation, he admitted to me that he had just had his coffee right before picking me up, but that we could stop at a bar on our way out. Afterwards I could tell that he was sort of chuckling at my request. Maybe he wasn’t expecting la signorina americana to want an Italian coffee?
We made our way to his van parked outside the station and Lucio put my bags in the trunk, politely opening the passenger door for me before getting in himself. I could tell he was a bit shy, but I was so excited about being in Naples and the next few days I would have in Positano that I couldn’t help but ask Lucio loads of questions.
Soon enough we were joking, as he offered suggestions to me on where to go to eat Neopolitan food in Bologna. “Just tell them you know Lucio at Il Duca d’Amalfi”, he advised me, “They’ll treat you well there”. Apparently Lucio had a friend who owned several Neopolitan bars and restaurants in Bologna and Il Duca d’Amalfi was one of them. This suggestion was like gold to me, as I meticulously made a mental note to go there when I got back to Bologna.
We stopped quickly at a corner bar and Lucio let me out to use the bathroom and grab a quick espresso. Although confident with my Italian language skills, I felt a little bit out of place. Three men were working at the bar, speaking so quickly and in a language that I couldn’t recognize as Italian.
“So this is the Naples dialect”, I thought. I had such difficulty understanding the barista that when he mumbled something to me as he handed me my espresso, I had to ask him to repeat himself three times before I vaguely understood that he was trying to warn me about the cup being really hot. I sort of shrugged it off, but then when I picked up my coffee to take a sip I noticed that the cup really was hot – something I would come to realize is very typical in Naples. The coffee cups are practically boiling and the coffee is always served at a very high temperature.
As I went to pay for my coffee, the cashier just stared at me. He was leaning over the counter, one hand under his chin, grinning ear to ear. “Non sei di Napoli, vero?”. You’re not from Naples are you?. I laughed and admitted nodding my head, “No…non sono di Napoli”. No, I’m not from Naples. He just smiled, handing me my change, still smiling as I walked out of the bar.
Lucio and I continued on to Positano, speaking about everything from the best pizzeria’s in Napoli, to his dreams and aspirations for his two children. My adrenaline was high at this point as I was so excited to be in a new place, outside of my normal life in Bologna. I couldn’t help but ask loads of questions. Yet, when something important came up along our journey, Lucio would interrupt me mid-sentence to dutifully inform me about the town we were passing through. I could tell that he wanted to make sure our trip was informative just as much as it was enjoyable. He had this aura of responsibility and duty about him. This was his job, his territory and he knew best.
Once we reached Positano he handed me his card and reminded me that if we needed a ride tomorrow he would be happy to help, particularly since the buses would not be running their normal routes due to road damage.
We waved goodbye to Lucio as he climbed inside his van. He gave a smile so small that all I could see was his perfectly combed moustache move ever so slightly. Still, I could tell by his eyes that he was sincere. He waved back as he drove away in his van, up and around the winding hills that lead to Positano.
This story is from a series, Tales from Positano. For the next few weeks, I will be releasing a new “tale” every Friday. Stay tuned for more!