I’m standing with my feet on the edge of this cliff in Positano. Looking down at the water, I feel like my heart is about to jump out of my bikini, especially when I think about jumping my whole self from this stupid cliff. Unfortunately, it all looked a lot less daunting from the ground. I consider counting to five, but I feel like I’ve already been standing here an embarrassingly long time. I turn my brain off, close my eyes, hold my breath, plunge. This is the moment where I feel my feet tingling at the free fall, out in the open air, that I realize cliff jumping is very reminiscent of studying abroad.
Amalfi Coast– Day 1
After a seven-hour red-eye bus ride from Florence to Sorrento on the Amalfi Coast with Bus2Alps, Andrea, my roommate and Italian partner-in-crime, and I collapse on our sad-looking twin beds stuffed in a room along with a set of bunks in Hotel Londra, which kind of reminds me of a place people in hiding might go to. However, since it’s 2:00 am and we have to wake up in four hours to get on a bus to Capri, the little beds with the grandma covers might as well be my king bed in Long Branch, New Jersey. About a half an hour after we collapse, our then-unknown roommates from Rome stumble in as well and crawl into their bunk beds.
The next morning, we get up around 6:00 am and stumble onto a bus to get to the marina in Sorrento and to take us on the ferry to Capri. As usual on these trips, I want to sleep so badly on these few precious moments of downtime but I can’t help but keep my eyes open to spot the little pink-yellow-blue houses pressed together and perched on the edges of cliffs. By the time we are on another boat after landing in Marina Grande in Capri, I’m wide awake as we circle the tiny island.
We sail past the Blue Grotto, the Green Grotto, and many of the other grottos (although I still don’t really get what a grotto is) as well as a tiny fisherman statue on a large cliff which welcomes visitors to Capri. Soon, we can see the Rocks of Faraglioni in the distance. Seeing them on various postcards is one thing. But actually sailing through the Love Rock and seeing couples kiss under it, hoping the promise of eternal love from it is true, is quite another thing altogether.
Back in Capri, we hike up an obscene amount of steps, where I can hear students mumbling, “I need to stop smoking,” to Anacapri, which the top of the island. Here, homemade sandals and limoncello are made for touristed-out prices. We hop on a nearly-vertical chairlift for a measly seven euro, in which an Italian man literally pushes you onto a one-person chair with a rusty iron bar to keep you in as you float to the top. We breeze by little cottages and gardens, stray cats and Virgin Mary statues.
Here, we peer over the edge to see the straight-down drop, which goes straight down. One sneeze and you are done for. We can see a 360 degree view of Capri, making the island seem like a tiny place, yet nonetheless colorful. I can see people heading to the beach and eating some gelato and walking hand-in-hand, reminding me that this is a place that people save up for years to visit, to get married. Here we are on a whim and it’s obvious how lucky we are.
Claudia and Rosie, two other study abroad students we met earlier in the day, meet us at the top of the island. Rosie and I hop a “FORBIDDEN” sign (in which an Italian attendant helps us actually open the gate) and we scramble through some brush onto a small beaten path which takes us outside of the initial fence and truly on the edge of these cliffs.
Later, we take a “topless taxi,” basically a convertible, down from Anacapri back to the marina and the beach at the bottom. Andrea, myself, Rosie, Claudia, and Nick, another person we picked up on the way, hold our breath as the little taxi zips through the tiny streets that hug the sides of the mountains. The toothless taxi driver either has to pull over when another car comes by or squeeze by anyhow (his usual choice). All the while, vespas speed by in and out of the cars. Making it out alive, we sit on the rocky beaches and cool off in the blue-green water, so deep yet clear that I can see the schools of fish parading by.
That night, our group goes to a restaurant in Sorrento, where we walk to from our hotel on the even tinier streets. The owner, a fat Italian father which his shirt undone to his belly button, gives us his homemade vinaigrette. While we wait for our meals, we quietly explore the sitting area outside, which borders a tiny garden and well with little icicle lights and a woman singing in the corner.
After dinner, we walk to the Olde English Inn, an outdoor bar. Even though we’re operating on four hours of sleep, everyone gets more alive from wine and beer and the big dinner and soon we are dancing to 90’s hits. One of our roommates who we have befriended, a sweet blonde girl named Claire from Minnesota, ushers the tall Italian men to dance with us with a smile always on her face. We all drift easy, squished on the dance floor, until the booze wears off and we are wishing for those grandma beds in the hotel a few blocks down the road.