My Magic Window

Some of my warmest memories of Amalfi come from remembering the many times I would sit at my window looking towards that enchanting view.

In the morning, the sea below was always crystal clear with the waves washing gently on to the beaches.   Quite often I would be brought out of my sleep by the gentle putt-putting  sound of fishing boats returning from a night at sea.  I loved to watch them land with their catch, a few locals would come to meet them to have their pick of whatever fish they had caught, but disappeared when they saw the local fishmonger arriving in his little ‘ape‘ (the three-wheeled vehicle whose engine sounded like the humming of bees –ape in Italian).   As the sun reached its Heaven, our most important visitor was the Faraglione, a sleek, white ferry boat come to carry travellers along our coast to Capri.   This boat always gave out a long call to Amalfi on its deep horn and often I would see neighbours leaning from their windows to wave hands and handkerchiefs in welcome.    Another sound came from some women who  laid out their bedding from their windows or balconies and then beat the sheets and blankets probably with a wicker instrument.   More music came from the buses, with their unique baba-baba-baba as they made their way from the piazza along the coast road.

At night, my children asleep and my husband working late, I could then look down at the evening passeggiata (walk), with groups talking and gesticulating in animated fashion, couples strolling hand-in-hand, while others less energetic, would sit and gaze, possibly gossiping about the passers-by.  The sea would be dotted with little boats carrying lights to attract shoals of anchovies for the fishermen, while more bright lights twinkled on distant shores across the Bay.

In my  imagination I return there most days, but nothing can give me back those never-to-be-forgotten moments.Picture 043

School uniform

I was tickled pink by the way children had to dress for school; the little ones still at nursery school wore a white smock, pleated down the front, belted and with a smart white collar, the primary school outfit was the same, but blue and the older children also had the same outfit, but in  black and always with the white collar.   To see the little ones pouring out from school at the end of the morning, was a colourful sight.  The older ones were certainly less colourful, but always looked smart.   The advantage of these outfits (called ‘grembiule‘) was that they were drip-dry and could be worn clean every day. I remembered my early school days, when some children were embarrassed by not being as well-dressed as all the others and how difficult that must have been for them.   These attractive little outfits meant they all would look the same and for a very low cost – very democratic!

 Our little ex-pat group liked to take advantage of our few free hours, before our children came home at lunchtime, by enjoying a morning coffee together at our favourite bar in Piazza Duomo and maybe a short walk, before preparing lunch.    At that time the schools closed somewhere between 1 and 2 o/clock,  (no full days then, it was home to eat, usually followed by several hours of homework) but whenever there was some afternoon  activity for the children  we usually would all meet up again.  Happy days!

Friendship

Looking to AtraniEvery time I left the house for whatever reason and whichever direction I took, it was inevitable that I would meet someone who would want to stop and chat. That gave me a feeling of security and of belonging. It was clear that everyone knew everyone, having always shared the same schools, outdoor actitivies and families. Nevertheless, I spent a couple of years in Amalfi with no-one telling me that there were a few other English women also living there. The fact that I might be interested to know about them was totally ignored. It was someone from one of my tourist groups who first told me he’d met a local man who had an English daughter-in-law. For a while I couldn’t find out who she might be and then we bumped into one another quite by chance. Still today, we are the best of friends. However, it wasn’t easy; within a short time there were three of us and it was such a treat be able to speak English together, have afternoon teas, share a sense of humour, have our children play together and also share their knowledge of English. Unfortunately, for our husbands that was not pleasing and they each did their best to stop our frequent meetings.  It apparently didn’t occur to them that they had never lived abroad and had always been close to everyone they’d known since birth. So that was one of the negative sides of local attitudes towards we foreign women, not at all what any of us would have expected.