Navyo visits Sorrento and Positano (south of Napoli, Italy).
Previous story where Navyo is sightseeing the Museo and Certosa di San Martino, Castel Sant’Elmo on Vomero Hill in Naples: Enjoying the Italian Drama
I had already booked I Fiori di Napoli by the time Valeria returned my CouchSurfing request to be hosted by her. No problem. I’m meeting her for dinner with my new hair. I successfully navigate the spaghetti metro to her stop and this is where the fun begins. I have her address and I’ve found the street on the map and I follow the numbers descending to the right one. But it’s not there. Of course it’s not there! I’ve come to expect this but it still catches me out. I go up and down the hill and realize I’m stuck. Plus, it’s rush hour and the noise and the fumes threaten to choke me. I stop and call Valeria. Bad signal. I just about make out her Italian-English directions and head for a mini-piazza downhill.
She calls me again.
“Navyo! I see you! Up here. On the balcony. No, to your left.”
I walk into the traffic which miraculously lets me pass. I learned this from Giangi in Rome, otherwise I’d be waiting for ever. I look up and see her wave, pointing down to a door. She ushers me in with a mwah, mwah. Upstairs, I am in the home of a professional, the mix of living and working with a sense of activity lingering in the space. She runs a photo agency and is used to hard deadlines and the pressure of the press. Amidst the grit of photos of homicides and life on the street in Naples, there is a feminine grace to her. Her exuberant cigarette-growl laugh is the infectious spirit of a Napoletana. She loves life and is face to face with all aspects of it every day.
We go out on the balcony and dinner is served. She has made a wonderful spread of fresh fish, grilled vegetables, traditional cheeses and the prerequisite bread and olive oil. It’s delicious and reminds me once again how cool CouchSurfing is. A network of people around the world who love to share their lives and homes with the spirit of generosity and connection.
Valeria is someone I feel as if I’ve known before. She is so easy to get along with, charming and effusive. Even though she has a tough side―who wouldn’t in Naples―I can tell there is a tender woman in there. Sitting out here in the warm Napoli evening together, I get another rush of love for Italy and it’s people.
Sex in the Museum
I wake up the following morning exhausted. But it’s another day here in Italy and I’m not going to let tiredness get in the way of pizza, statues and new friends. A shower freshens me up and before you know it, it’s time to hit the marciapiede.
This morning I’m off to the Museo Archeologico to inhale some more culture. The museum is as grand as it’s contents. Not only that, it’s also sexy with the Pompeii exhibit. I think having sex in museums is a fabulous idea that should boost attendance considerably and enjoyably.
The museum is a wonder to explore and seeing the stories in stone from ancient Italy is both inspiring and stirring. As noted, Italians love their bodies and have put them on display since before the Renaissance. One piece particulary catches my attention – The Group With The Torment Of Dirce, otherwise known as the Farnese Bull.
Two naked men wrestle a bull, preventing it from crushing the bare breasted Dirce underneath, who has been condemned for eternity for her indiscretions, tied to the horns of the bull. A fully clothed woman oversees the occasion. A young boy and a dog look on. The men’s apparatus are at eye level for the rest of us watching. Especially so for a group of young American students, all female, who take notes and sketches while their teacher describes the history of the scene. I can’t help but smile.
I continue my tour and find a giant mosaic head of Medusa, an archetypal symbol of Italian lore. She is looking in the direction of the Pompeii exhibit, somewhat hidden through a wrought iron gate. I walk through as if entering a forbidden palace. A warning of explicit images tells me I’m in the right place.
A glass case houses various statues worshipping the penis. Small monks with giant erections protruding from their habits. A talisman with a phallus larger than himself, plus a number of phalli sprouting from his hat, prompting the name Dickhead. A curved flying penis with wings and little bells dangling from wires. I can just imaging that flying past a girls’ dorm window.
In another room, dark with soft lighting, are paintings of various scenes of copulation. I survey the acts of love, imagining their historical context, and suddenly I see her. In the corner, in the shadows, is one of the American students, furiously sketching. I can feel her embarassment at my presence. It’s that forbidden ritual on display that she wants to take home and show her friends. I consider a witty comment, but leave her be.
Such a regular and natural human activity and still in the 21st century we deal with shame around it. In religious terms, it’s still a sin and there lies the root of the problem. The concoction of the virgin birth to prove that goodness cannot be born out of sex has continued down the centuries. Isn’t it time we woke up from this twisted story and celebrated the joy of our bodies without guilt?
I make my way out of this massive museum and enter the heat of Napoli. It’s time for lunch. Pizza, to be exact.
Across the street are tables and chairs and a hot display case full of fresh pizza. I head over and am greeted by the gruff voice of the waiter, tired of tourists but nevertheless in their service as money is money. I order a Margherita, the most widely consumed pizza in Napoli. It arrives and my mouth can’t stop eating this thing. The melted mozzarella, the pomodoro, the fresh basilico, the flour on the crust – it all keeps seducing my taste buds for more. I’m eating the same food that has been eaten here for centuries, eaten by the copulating Pompeiians, the bull-wrestling naked men, the sculptors, the taxi drivers. Made by hand, uniquely Neapolitan.
And then I get it. I’m having oral sex with a pizza. Of course I am. This is Italy.
The Circumvesuviana, as it’s name suggests, is the train that goes around Vesuvio to get to Herculanium, Pompeii and Sorrento. The walk from Stazione Centrale to get to the Circumvesuviana platform is, like its name, interminably long but the perfect opportunity to work off my pizza.
Overheated tourists and commuting locals fill the station, and everyone looks a little dishevelled at 2pm. It’s national nap time. I wait. And wait. Finally, the Pompeii B3 arrives and away we go. The wrong way. I get off and wait for the next train back to Stazione Centrale. By this point, the romance of Naples has lost it’s glamour and I’m tired of the heat and trains and the spaghetti Metro and pollution and scooters and trash and tourists. But I’m still in Italy and I just had oral sex with a pizza so life is not that bad.
I get on the train to Sorrento and let go. My frustration lifts. Trains have a special magic. The motion, the swaying, the sound, the romance. That’s it. Riding a train is romantic. It doesn’t have to be the Eurostar or the Paris to Milan TGV I took last year. It can be an old regionale like this one. It’s just that it’s a train and I’m being carried along with others in this shared experience of motion.
The scenery begins to change and we’re out of the urban sprawl of Napoli and into the rugged coastline approaching Sorrento. It’s stunning.
The station at Sorrento is a short walk into town with signs for pensions, hotels and gelato dotting the route. The air is completely different. Gone is the trash and the pollution. There are tourists of course, but the vibe is not so dense. It’s a beautiful town, light and airy…..
The tiny shopping streets are brimming with local wares and an inordinate amount of fresh lemons, lemon gelato and the famed limoncello. Lemons are everywhere and the scent of its blossom fills the air.
What with intoxicating fragrance and alcohol and the stunning coastline, it’s no wonder that famous writers came here for inspiration – among them, Byron, Keats, Goethe, Ibsen and Scott.
I stop for gelato – lemon, of course – and cool down.
I’m hearing a lot of English in Sorrento and am reminded of the Grand Tours we Brits used to take in the 1800s, rites of passage through Italy absorbing the culture, finishing up here in the Neapolitan Riviera. Of course, the tourists of that era were of a very different kind and took the whole thing to another level, spending months, if not years studying and patronizing the arts and getting an education in the process. As well as lots of sex.
More and more, I realize I am on my own Grand Tour (minus the sex), my heritage intact, my love for Italy overflowing in abundance. I could stay here for months, if not years, and immerse myself and write.
But I can’t stay that long as I have a bus to catch. Next stop, Positano.
The bus ride from Sorrento to Positano is a life-threatening experience. The driver takes risks that makes Formula One look like a ride to the shops. The only thing to trust is that he knows this route like the back of his hand. Tunnel roofs are missed by less than an inch. Curves are taken at velocity. And the drop down to the rocks below leaves no room for error. There are Oooohs and Ohhhhs from the passengers as he throws us around the bends. He’s also driving one handed as the other is fixed permanently on the horn, mostly for slow motoring tourists driving sensibly. Waving at oncoming buses as they pass within a hairbreadth, he yells out the window to his suicidal cohorts in rapid Italian. Maybe they’ve placed bets on who gets the most runs today – or who escapes a grisly death.
And then a hot-shot on a Ducati overtakes at 100 kph. I watch him take the road ahead, risking his life for the thrill of speed on the Riviera coast. What a rush. But he’s not alone. There must be at least five or six aces buzzing by like angry gnats on steroids. I’m starting to think that the bus driver has a Ducati at home and this is his practice run.
Needless to say, this stain-inducing rollercoaster is giving us a series of ever-evolving spectacular views.
Positano is another real-life Italian postcard. With mountains providing shelter and spectacle, the pastel colors of this coastal resort built into the cliffs are worthy of every picture. It’s got a dreamlike quality that inspires not only writers but artists, movie sets and working on a tan. Lollobrigidesque, I want to say, the mix of languages providing an accurate blend while bringing a new adjective into the lexicon.
The bus drops me off at the top of the hill and I wend my way down. There is a local bus that will take me, but I don’t want to miss a step on this walk into paradise. Here is that lazy Italian vibe, a few locals standing around chatting, the occasional car, and of course, le belle donne. It’s as if people don’t have a care in the world aside from what to wear and what to eat.
Like Sorrento, it’s not as hot as Napoli, the Mediterranean breeze affording some natural air conditioning. I pass the Hotel Royal Positano commanding the view and imagine a few nights of luxury. As I reach more of the town, I see that it’s going to be a long, hot walk down to the beach. I spot a young girl in a swimsuit with wet hair and a towel come up from some steps and I decide to go down. Right on time!
Her friend hikes up, out of breath, yelling up to her to wait.
The trees provide some needed shade and there’s no-one else about. I’ve found a secret passageway completely sheltered and quiet. A creek runs down through some rocks to the sea. Walking under a bridge, I arrive at a tiny street of houses with open front doors, an old woman sitting and some locals discussing today’s catch with a man on the bridge above. He shouts over and throws down a sack of fish.
Coming back onto the main street, I am met with an overflow of turisti. The place is packed. This is a different Positano I saw from above. This is the reality that I’m imagining Italians tire of, but it is income and it’s what makes this town run. As lemons are to Sorrento, so blue hand painted scarves and ceramics are to Positano. I pass a shop and there are scarves everywhere. Inside, there’s so much color it’s like I’m on Pandora.
I try to make my way down to the beach, but feel more and more like a human sardine as beachgoers fill the tiny streets in both directions. I have to get out of here. I turn around and head uphill.
Gradually, the herd thins and I return to the quieter, suave Positano of my postcard. Get the timing right next season and stay a few nights. Work on that tan. Sounds like a plan, Stan.
Excerpt from the soon-to-be-published ‘Soul Traveler: Adventures in La Dolce Vita’ by Navyo
Read more excerpts published in Osho News
Navyo grew up to 6 foot 5 in England, studied music in London before traveling to Pune to meet Osho in 1979. He has been the co-ordinator of the music department in Pune Two for several years and has participated in a number of CDs of Music from the World of Osho. After a decade or so in California, he now travels the world housesitting in wonderful locations, working on creative projects. facebook.com/navyoericsen – conscioushousesitting.com