Positano – The Black Madonna and the Shop that made Pants for Dustin Hoffman

DSCN5845Positano is the jewel of the Amalfi Coast.  The story of how the town got its name goes like this – Saraceni pirates stole a Black Madonna icon from the church.  As they were fleeing, a storm rose in the sea.  They heard a call from heaven saying “posa, posa” or put it down.  They returned the icon to the town, and were able to leave unharmed.


Today the 13th century icon is one of the town’s sites.  Actually, it’s the only significant site in this picturesque little town that is tucked below steep limestone cliffs on the Amalfi coast.  It’s a place to relax, eat, shop, swim, and enjoy yourself.

Imagine a barefoot Italian girl in a colorful dress.  That’s the Positano style, and it’s a world away from the gritty, busy big cities of Rome and Naples to the north.

Locals have embraced tourism for decades.  Rich and the not so rich.  According to my tour book, Maria’s shop has even made pants for Dustin Hoffman!


Shoe makers will make you custom sandals while you wait – and every one of them was busy!


The colorful mainstreet was dripping with Bougainvilleas.


Some of my other favorites are below.





Access to Positano isn’t that easy, so it isn’t overrun with tourists.   The easiest way into town is to take a long and windy bus ride (not my favorite thing to do) from either Sorrento or Amalfi.  The views are incredible but the buses are crowded, and people don’t seem to mind standing for an hour or more.  There is also a tourist bus for twice the price, less frequent service, but a better chance at a seat.  Buses drop you off at the top of the town and you have to walk down.

Rick Steves says in his guidebook that no one has been able to get a building permit in the town for the last 25 years – so there aren’t any large hotels to accommodate tour groups.  There also aren’t any elevators – or lifts – just stairs, stairs, and more stairs.  All of this gives the town a more relaxed feel than Amalfi or Sorrento.

There’s a reason the Amalfi coast has been the playground of the rich and famous for decades.  Positano!