Monday, August 1, 2011

Hazy but not lazy days of summer on the blue Mediterranean

I just came across a short video on the Legionaries of Christ website. It depicts pretty accurately a passage in "Driving Straight on Crooked Lines: How an Irishman found his heart and nearly lost his mind," in which I describe our vacations in a small town south of Naples in Italy. You can read the passage below. Judging by the video, not a lot has changed - except in my time we didn't have backpacks and we certainly didn't have access to sail-boards. It's a nice little trip down memory lane (thanks to David Murray) and it certainly helps answer the question: what do Legionary seminarians (in Rome)  do on their summer vacations?

Summer in Monticchio included two weeks of ‘vacation,’ which we dedicated to intense physical activity. Most days, we would set out in groups of three or four, hiking to a nearby bay that wasn’t accessible by road. Getting there involved about an hour’s trek. We would climb down a steep path, which took us through some small olive groves and, eventually, to the water’s edge. Climbing back up again after a long day of swimming in the sun was a daunting task.
The bay was practically inaccessible by land, so we had the entire place to ourselves. The shoreline was steep and rocky and there was no beach. A large concrete platform, the remains of some former structure, served as our base for swimming and diving. The blue waters of the Mediterranean were always beautiful. Motor yachts and speedboats sometimes came in from the nearby marinas, giving us a fleeting glimpse of a lifestyle far removed from our seminary existence.
Other days, we would hike to surrounding towns, enjoying the magnificent scenery and Mediterranean locale. One of the more adventurous destinations for a hike was to the town of Positano, a beautiful place protected from the Northern winds by the Lattari Mountains. The return trip was about 20 km, which meant we had to run for most of the way, and would have little or no time to eat our sandwiches and visit the town.
The structure of Positano is old and beautiful. The buildings cling in tiers to the rock face. The small houses huddled on top of each other, so characteristic of the area, form the subject of endless photos. The colors are vibrant, and the white buildings create a perfect backdrop for the bright geraniums and other flowers adorning the walls and courtyards. Smells included; leather used for making sandals, the aroma from the restaurants, and the bustle of every day life.
But we didn’t have any time for sightseeing, because no matter how far we hiked or ran, we had to be back to our residence at the appointed hour. Because of the long distance, completing a hike to Positano, and getting back on time, came with bragging rights. 


Unknown said...

Hi Jack
I loved that isolated stretch of water, I still go there in my mind when I'm looking for a quiet place.
Another memory is sitting in front of the huge window which looked out on the Bay of Naples, having my hair cut by a future bishop!
Un fuerte abrazo

The Monk said...

I share those memories! Hope the Bishop is better at his new job than he was at barbering!