Since the start of this year—and after a rambunctious New Year’s Eve in Amalfi that hearkened back to pre-pandemic festivities—I’ve been crawling out of bed early, lacing up my shoes, and heading out for morning walks. It’s been something I’ve wanted to do for ages and this still unusually beautiful January weather made it too tempting to resist. I do love the morning after all. However, the quiet streets and beautiful sunrises in Amalfi could probably convince even the most devoted night owl to wake up a little earlier.
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In the quiet of the morning I’ve watched cormorants fishing in the cold sea and then later holding out their wings to dry in the sun. I’ve spotted things around Amalfi that I’ve never noticed before (a large stone seahorse anyone?) and stood still listening to the sea. Even tiny waves get a moment of glory early in the day. They’re so much louder when everything else around is calm! This morning I watched the sun rise over the mountains along the Cilento coast across the Gulf of Salerno and it was nothing short of magnificent.
It’s been the most beautiful start to the year that I can remember here on the Amalfi Coast. (Remind me of that when I’m walking in the rain next week, okay?) But rain or shine, this new morning habit has quickly become my favorite part of the day. I’ve been sharing more images from my walk daily (or thereabouts) over on Instagram and Facebook. Follow along if you’d like to see more!
-Vintage postcard of Amalfi (Photographer: Ernesto Samaritani/ Author’s private collection)
STORIES FROM THE PAST
There’s nothing quite like slowing down to read a poem. Since the start of the year I’ve also been spending more time with poetry. Lately I’ve been slowly (and finally…) reading Ray Bradbury’s excellent book Zen in the Art of Writing. In there, amongst many many many gems, there’s this great encouragement: “Read poetry every day of your life. Poetry is good because it flexes muscles you don’t use often enough. Poetry expands the senses and keeps them in prime condition. It keeps you aware of your nose, your eye, your ear, your tongue, your hand.” All things that are a good idea to keep an eye on for sure.
Although I need very little encouragement to read poetry, those words inspired me to get A Year of Scottish Poems (*affiliate link*) and I’m reading them daily with my mom. And we’re having a blast! (As I write this I have an old Scottish song about three craws sitting on a wa’ stuck in my head.) Now, you won’t be surprised at all to find that I enjoy reading poems about Amalfi just as much as I love looking at old photos and postcards or reading what writers who visited here in centuries past wrote about the Amalfi Coast. Recently, I’ve been researching a bit about Longfellow in Amalfi, which I’ll tell you about more in a future newsletter. Until then, I thought I’d share with you one of my favorite poems about Amalfi.
-Sara Teasdale (Credit: Gerhard Sisters, Public domain via Wikimedia Commons)
The poem “Night Song at Amalfi” was written by American poet Sara Teasdale (1884-1933). When I first happened across it years ago, I hadn’t heard of Teasdale before. While her name probably isn’t familiar to many readers nowadays, she was quite successful during her lifetime, even winning a Pulitzer Prize in 1918 for her poetry collection Love Songs. Before that, her collection Rivers to the Sea from 1915 was a bestseller. Her love poem about Amalfi is part of a series called Vignettes Overseas from Rivers to the Sea that also includes poems about Naples, Capri, Paestum, and Rome.
Night Song at Amalfi
I asked the heaven of stars
What I should give my love—
It answered me with silence,
I asked the darkened sea
Down where the fishers go—
It answered with me silence,
Oh, I could give him weeping,
Or I could give him song—
But how can I give silence
My whole life long?
—Sara Teasdale, Vignettes Overseas from Rivers to the Sea (1915)
Isn’t that lovely? When I read the poem I imagine her sitting on the balcony of the Hotel Luna Convento late at night listening to the sound of the waves crashing below. Or perhaps she was at the old Hotel Cappuccini (today the Grand Hotel Convento di Amalfi) where Longfellow once stayed and looked out over Amalfi from far above. Or maybe she never visited Amalfi at all. I’m still trying to track down exactly when (and if?) Teasdale visited Amalfi. Whether she experienced Amalfi with her own eyes or imagined it through words, it is one of my favorite love poems.
-Stereograph of the view from the Hotel Cappuccini, Amalfi (Author’s private collection)
Bradbury suggested reading “any poetry that makes your hair stand up along your arms.” Teasdale’s Night Song at Amalfi does that for me - and more. Somehow it does that little thing that poems can do so well: wiggle their way deep inside and put words to a piece of yourself you wouldn’t dare say aloud to anyone else. Reading the poem again today has reminded me to dig a bit more into Teasdale’s time in Italy and find out if she visited the Amalfi Coast. I’ll report back!
Looking for a good read about Italy? Here’s what I’ve been enjoying lately:
Even if you’ve seen Pompeii, I bet you haven’t seen Pompeii with sheep. Check out the new low-tech way Pompeii is being kept tidy: To Save a Ruin, Send in the Sheep via The New York Times. (No paywall. That’s a special gift link for my subscribers.)
Laura Itzkowitz from the great Substack The New Roman Times shared 23 Places in Italy to Inspire Your 2023 Travels.
This video of Ischia is gorgeous and might just inspire you to visit this year.
Not Italy related, but I REALLY REALLY LOVED THIS ESSAY!!!!
Bootcamp, but make it Positano for a different way to visit the Amalfi Coast.
Say cheese! Katie Parla on one of my favorite mozzarella producers near Paestum: This Roadside Shop Makes the Best Mozzarella in Italy.
Only available in Italian, but check out these incredible mosaics that were rediscovered (thought to be lost) in the underwater Roman ruins in Baia near Naples.
THANK YOU FOR BEING HERE!
Whether you’ve been following along for the last decade+ or this is your first newsletter, thanks so much for subscribing to Ciao Amalfi. I appreciate your comments, emails, stories you’ve shared, and all the love for the Amalfi Coast from around the world. Ciao Amalfi has always been 100% a passion project - and one that I am indeed very passionate about.
While it is a gift for me to be able to share this place I love with so many, it takes many hours to create and run Ciao Amalfi. To help keep things going (and growing!), this month I’ve launched paid subscriptions for Ciao Amalfi. If you love Ciao Amalfi and want to support what I’m creating, it would mean a lot to me. But this has always been an all are welcome community and you will continue to not see a paywall in sight. I’d rather take a DONATING = LOVING approach inspired by The Marginalian (one of my favorite places in the whole of the world wide web).
To celebrate the launch of paid subscriptions, I’m offering an Early Bird Sale for 20% off subscriptions if you upgrade to paid now through the end of January 2023. A huge thank you to everyone who has subscribed already!
But, above all and in any way, shape, or form, I hope you’ll continue to join me in 2023!
Ciao from Amalfi,
Thanks for the shoutout! I'd love to know where in Italy you want to travel in 2023!
Will be in Atrani 2nd week of February...1st time over the pond for me to celebrate my birthday...So looking forward to exploring : )