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I was fortunate enough recently to attend the Sirenland Writers Conference ( 

As if spending a week with a few dozen super talented writers were not enough to make the conference worthwhile, the event takes place on the Amalfi Coast of Italy, in breathtaking Positano.

View from the balcony of my room at Le Sirenuse

With a reputation as a resort area for the Beautiful People (that is, beautiful and rich), a place like Positano is the stuff of dreams for a middle class girl like me.  Which is to say, just the thought of going to Positano already had me swooning.

We’ve all seen the pictures of the colorful houses perched one atop the other up the sides of the cliffs, as if to add just one more might send them all toppling.  In old Italian movies, we’ve seen the twisty roads high above the Mediterranean that hug the Amalfi Coast (bring the Dramamine!). 

The Long and Winding Road

But, oh, the surprise in store for me when I checked into the hotel (albergo) where the conference is held.  Le Sirenuse ( is one of, if not the, most luxurious hotel in Positano.

In the week before the hotel opens for the season, the Sersale family hosts the Sirenland Writers Conference in high style–and with such graciousness and enthusiasm for the art of writing literature.

Prior to arriving in Positano, I’d spent three days traveling solo in Capri.  That morning, I’d taken the ferry from Capri to Sorrento (in season, there is a direct ferry to Positano) and then the bus to Positano.  I was exhausted when I arrived, having done quite a bit of traveling (and hiking) in those days.

At the front desk, Gennaro was all smiles and ready to check me in.  Leaving my luggage behind in the lobby (someone would deliver it to my room), Gennaro led me through the stunning lobby area, down a flight of marble stairs and through a maze of opulent sitting areas to room #91.

Room #91, Le Sirenuse

He opened the door, we walked the few steps down the short hallway and then turned the corner.  Perhaps my exhaustion had brought my emotions closer to the surface, but tears came to my eyes at the sight of this room–and the view beyond.

Never in my life could I have imagined I would ever stay in such a place.  I felt–for lack of a better word–undeserving.  First of all, the size.  The room was almost as large as my entire apartment here in New York (which, I realize, isn’t saying all that much!).  In addition to the huge bed outfitted with Frette sheets and duvet and the world’s most comfortable pillows, there was a sitting area with a table, cushy love seat and two armchairs, a little dressing table area with a window overlooking the water, a desk, an armoire that spanned most of a long wall, and….best of all…sliding doors that opened to an expansive view of the Mediterranean Sea, the beach (the sand darkened by volcanic ash) and that ubiquitous cliff of precariously stacked houses.

And I hadn’t even seen the bathroom yet, with its giant jacuzzi, its plush towels and robes and complimentary Eau d’Italie toiletries.  Or the dining room downstairs, with its lemon trees, the vines climbing the walls, and the chandeliers of hundreds of candles.  Or the myriad terraces, each offering slightly different views, all the more impressive than the last.

Gennaro left me with my key, a heavy golden mermaid (le sirenuse) and immediately I took a picture of it.  A minute later my suitcase arrived, but before I unpacked or did anything else, I shot photographs of every inch of my room, trying to make it seem real.

Even after spending a week there, it still felt more like a fantasy.  The room, the breakfast feast each morning, the conference itself, the new friends, the Baci chocolate waiting at my bedside each night–it all seemed part of some alternate life, a life I had somehow stolen and called my own.

After I’d taken my pictures, I leaned on the railing in front of the sliding doors and stared at the beach, the hillside, the fisherman paddling his rowboat out to sea.  It was cloudy, and cool, but it hardly mattered.  I closed my eyes and breathed in the moist air, listened to the gentle crash of the surf against the shore.

I left Le Sirenuse and Positano almost a week ago now.  I have to keep reminding myself that I did not imagine it.  For five days and six nights, I lived like one of the Beautiful People and I felt, well, special, as I’m sure all my fellow Sirenlanders did.  And maybe that’s because we are.

** Mille grazie to Franco, Antonio and Carla Sersale for all they did to welcome us at Le Sirenuse**

Oldies but Goodies

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