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Visiting in 1953, John Steinbeck enthused: ‘Positano bites deep. It is a dream place that isn’t quite real when you are there and becomes beckoningly real after you have gone.’ Today, it is no less enchanting. Lying an hour and a quarter south of Naples, the drive to Positano takes you past Pompeii and Mount Vesuvius, past Sorrento and then along the mountain coastline until the vertiginous descent to the town begins.
Seen from below, the buildings seem to have been stacked one on top of another, climbing from the tiny crescent bay towards the cliffs that loom precipitously over the town. The pastel colours – primrose, pink, terracotta, peach and white – give the town a theatrical aspect that couldn’t be mistaken for anywhere else. In the mid-1950s Positano became desirable as a holiday destination and, for a while, rivalled Capri as the playground for the rich and famous.
Patricia Highsmith based the little port of Mongibello inThe Talented Mr Ripley on Positano, although Anthony Minghella chose to film that part of his adaptation in Ischia. A low-wattage celebrity still glimmers here and there and, with world-class restaurants and ultra-luxe hotels, the town still attracts a glamorous, affluent crowd.