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Ciao Cetara!

A “write” way to experience Italy’s Amalfi Coast is to enroll in Sarah Lawrence College’s weeklong summer writing program abroad

A writer can work anywhere. But the muse is especially accommodating in a tiny town called Cetara, cradled within hills on Italy’s Amalfi Coast. There, amid the dull clangs of fishing boats, hourly choruses of church bells, and the effusive greetings of townspeople as they course the cobblestone streets, the material for a story or a poem seems as available as the region’s sunshine.

It is here, in an airy room filled with sea breezes atop the town’s 14th-century fortress torre, or tower, that students gather daily for the Sarah Lawrence College Writing Institute program, I among them. This is the ultimate example of a working vacation (this year, classes run May 25–June 1), though the labor involves penning stanzas and the opening paragraphs of memoirs and novels—which make for the best souvenirs.

Upon awakening every morning in the apartment provided by the college atop one of Cetara’s steepest inclines, I would open the shuttered doors and step onto my terrace. I would have to remind myself every time that what was before me, sparkling in the near background, was the Mediterranean (technically the Tyrrhenian Sea). The vista is so ethereally beautiful and the body of water so charged with history, ancient to the present, that it is a privilege to see and smell it, bodysurf its waves, ferry among its towns. The muse and I would happily awaken together to a sight that embraced the glinting domes of the town’s churches, the surrounding hillsides growing with lemon trees and grape vines, and most conspicuous of all, laundry flapping on clotheslines strung along the cascading terraces, a townscape configured so densely over the centuries that it resembles a Cubist painting.

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This story appeared in the Spring 2018 issue of MILIEU.