Humanity is foul. It really ought not to exist in places of such profound and previously unmarred beauty. But somehow, it is as though the ugliest and most uncouth of people are, in some sort of inverse response to what they see in the mirror, the most attracted to scenes of such celestial exquisiteness. They descend upon the once unburdened tableau in droves, like ants with their antennae in unstoppable pursuit of a bread crumb. That bread crumb, in this instance, being Positano (for what is Italy without its zeal for products spun from dough?).
While never “under the radar,” per se, Regina, who ran a restaurant there called Il Gambero Rosso, traced the sudden more low-brow deluge of patrons to 2003, when Under the Tuscan Sun came out (others argued when Only You did in ’94, but, in Regina’s mind, it simply couldn’t be the case as there was still a sheepherder portrayed in the movie walking through the middle of the infamous winding road to scare lily-livered Americans away from actually visiting).
Every overweight housewife wanted to be Diane Lane as Frances Mayes before they shifted toward the vanilla BDSM fantasies of E.L. James via the marionette of Anastasia Steele. No, long before that, they romanticized the onscreen life of Mayes, who, despite living in Tuscany, immortalizes her breakup with an Italian cad in the milieu of Positano. Ever since, Regina reckoned, the town was never really the same, attracting more Southerners and Midwesterners from the U.S. than it ever had before–all of them just hoping to stand at the exact spot where Lane did while Marcello broke her heart.
The blight of their fat, ill-dressed bodies on the Amalfi might have meant more business ergo more money, but, to Regina, it simply wasn’t worth the mounting human stain bleeding into her restaurant. An establishment that was once filled with the sonorous dialects of the Campania region, only to be infiltrated by the grating interpolations of American accents, peppered in with the Asians that seemed to follow wherever U.S. travel trends went.
Although she felt racked with guilt over having to do so, she knew she could only blame herself for the gradual weeding out of bona fide Italians from the space, for she had to raise her prices along with every other business owner in order to meet rising demands in the peak summer months while still making a profit. The tradeoff for yielding a higher quantity of money was losing a higher caliber of clientele. And for some reason, she seemed to be the only person who wanted to admit this aloud, while everyone else on the rock appeared to be content to reap the profits without asking too many questions about what this would ultimately do for their formerly unbesmirched land.
Her defiance against the increasingly ghastly busloads of people careening through the village at all hours of the day mounted when it was announced to the comune that a land developer was coming to town and wanted to hold a community meeting with all the local proprietors to discuss his plan to open up a number of hotels and boat tour/water sports rental outposts. He was one of their own, in the sense that he was Italian. But he was not in the sense that he was from the north, and his appetitive material interests were not going to be quelled by any sentimentality about a place in the south, even if it was one that once used to be home to wealthy ancient Romans who had stately vacation villas built to commemorate that wealth. But no, there is no respect for the ancient–only the ancient tradition of capitalism and the rich controlling everything behind that principle tainting all that was once beautiful.
So no, maybe Regina couldn’t entirely despise the torpedo of open-mouthed swine flocking to her comune, for they were only following the desire that had been laid out for them in the capitalist-sanctioned trough. Regina had never seen herself as one–a capitalist, that is. Had always been firmly devoted to her passion for food as the driving force behind what had made her want to share it with others, and, in so doing, open up a restaurant. One that didn’t make her affluent so much as “stable” and, for a time, content–before the locusts set in to devour her authentic Italian clientele.
Discussing her plight after staying late one night as one of the busboys imbibed some grappa with her as a reward for a particularly trying day of being surrounded by assholes, Vittorio demanded of her, “Did you really think it was that much better in Positano when it was filled with nothing but arrogant Italians who have since moved on to Puglia for their vacation fix?”
Regina took another shot. “Yes. Yes I do.” She then practically spat, “Of course that was preferable to this. Now, every day, I have to answer the most asinine questions, like telling people what tagliatelle is. I can’t take it for much longer. I’m at my wit’s fucking end.”
Vittorio nodded his assent, perhaps realizing that he had himself asked her an asinine question in the hope of deflecting some of her woes. Maybe this, too, was why he had never succeeded as a magician–he was no master at misdirection. In fact, he directed Regina right to the last place she should have been in her tipsy state: the beach. It was as the waves lapped over their feet that they had their From Here to Eternity moment (it was true, Regina could never seem to deny her attraction for those who worked under her until she finally got them under her–call it a final consummation of power via actual consummation, if you will).
Vittorio bid her adieu when they were finished, leaving her somewhat wrecked and ravaged as she fell asleep, waking to the sight and sound of the tourists she had come to view as the villains laying siege upon the once pristine village. It was that morning that the Legend of Regina was born (told to this day in tour buses as they make their way down the winding stretch of road that leads to the heart of the Amalfi). The story of an embittered old woman who lost everything, including her once great seafood restaurant that was eventually seized by the northern developer with the hotels and the boat tour/water sports rental company. She became mythical, the person the tourists sought to find as they careened down the increasingly unclean shoreline.
But because there are so many trashballs of Positano now, no one can ever really know for sure who she is. These days, however, Regina is the only one originally from Positano still left. If your eye is discerning enough, you can find her sitting there on the beach amid the rest of the riffraff, looking as though she’s forgotten where she is entirely. Because Positano is no different to her than any other culturally bombed out place.