If you’ve known me for a while, you probably know that I tend to cry when I travel. When I fall in love with a place, I either cry because my heart feels so overwhelmed by happiness, or I cry on our last day because I’m devastated that we have to leave. I’m pretty ridiculous. I’ve shed tears all over the world: Istanbul, Cape Town, Paris, Kyoto, Nuremberg… but the place that started it all is Positano, a popular cliffside town on the Amalfi Coast. My first time visiting was in 2015, and after we left I cried for days.

I was so sure I could keep it together this time; there’s no way Positano could still surpass my impossibly high expectations and idealized memories built up over the years. I was completely wrong. In fact, everything was better than last time, even starting with just our journey to Positano. We finally learned that the best way to reach Positano is to take an express train from Rome to Salerno, then a ferry from Salerno to Positano. It’s less hectic than going through Naples or Sorrento, and more pleasant than riding a bus.

Leaving Salerno
Arriving in Positano by ferry

We stayed at the same hotel — in the exact same room, in fact — as last time. So much of my attachment to Positano is due to La Tavolozza, a family-run hotel with only six rooms that cost a fraction of the price of all the hotels surrounding it. Why is it so affordable? There is no pool (why would you swim in a pool when you’re right by the sea?), and the WiFi is only strong out on the balcony. But you feel like you’re staying with family here. We stayed in the Blue Room again, which has high ceilings, blue tiled floors, and, most importantly, a huge balcony that we were reluctant to leave every morning. Every time I woke up at La Tavolozza, on our bed facing the view, I couldn’t help but pity every other person in the world. I am my happiest here, it’s as simple as that.

View of our balcony
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Fluffy croissants filled with marmalade, orange juice, and cappuccino on our balcony every morning
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This is what 9pm looks like in Positano

Last time, the only pitfall I noticed in Positano was the food. The few restaurants we tried seemed overpriced and touristy, especially after coming from Rome and Florence. This time, however, I did a little more research and took some suggestions from locals, and we ended up having some of the best meals of our trip. I highly recommend Lo Guarracino, a romantic ristorante off the beaten path, with views of Fornillo Beach. We also enjoyed La Cambusa and Da Vincenzo. When eating on the Amalfi Coast, make sure to stuff yourself with seafood, lemons, and candied oranges.

Our view at Lo Guarracino
Ready for dinner!
Spaghetti vongole and local olive oil
Meeting up with a family from our cooking class at Da Vincenzo

Speaking of food, the highlight of Positano was our cooking class with Marina in Cucina. We always enjoy cooking classes, but Marina’s home and the friendships we formed during class made this night one of the most memorable nights of my life. Marina lives in a stunning villa up in the hills — a former convent with views of the sea below. She’s a chef but also an interior designer, which is apparent in her tastefully-decorated home and enviable kitchen. We made fresh pasta on the patio, kneading dough, cutting it into strips, and drying the strips on a gorgeous ceramic table hand-crafted in Positano. We snacked on olives tossed with delicious lemon rinds and drank “caprese water” (water steeped with whole tomatoes and fresh basil leaves). We watched Marina make mattafama (bread salad), limoncello chicken, and a lemon ricotta dessert. And then the nine of us spent the next few hours dining together on her patio, late into the night. Unlike our other cooking classes abroad, we learned tips that we can actually bring back home, such as tilting the pan when heating oil so that the garlic doesn’t burn, and topping pasta with candied orange instead of cheese for a different flavor. Marina was able to use so many ingredients from her garden; it was inspiring to watch her go outside to collect basil or lemons and incorporate them into the dish we ate just a few minutes later. This is why Italian food is so good.

Taking in the view from Marina’s patio
Marina tosses mattafama
Tilting the pan to concentrate the oil so the garlic doesn’t burn

Besides the cooking class, the other new activity we did on the Amalfi Coast this time was take a daytrip to Capri. We didn’t initially have much interest in Capri, as it’s known as an island for rich vacationers, but we completely underestimated how charming Capri is. We rented a small boat around the island and finally understood the hype. From jagged coastline to dramatic rocks jutting out of the water to grottos that look like vaginas, Capri is just really sexy. After our boat ride, we took a hair-bending bus ride through the town of Anacapri, where we rode a funicular up to the top of Monte Solaro. It’s a single-seat funicular, so it’s pretty funny because you have to ride up by yourself, and then stare awkwardly at the people riding back down on the other side. The views are well worth it, though. There’s a cafe and gardens to explore at the top. After the funicular, we caught another hair-bending bus ride to Capri Town, which is the glitzier part of Capri, with designer shops and famous hotels.

On our way to Capri
Rented a little boat to see the island
Inside a grotto
Left the boat early because Anthony was feeling sick waiting in line for the Blue Grotto
View from the top of Monte Solaro
We were just down there with those boats!

When we returned to Positano after our daytrip, we felt like we had returned home. Positano is such a small town, yet I never felt bored, the way I feel bored in practically every other city that has fewer than 8 million people. There was so much to do. We hired a professional photographer via Flytographer to commemorate our second wedding anniversary. We bought colorful ceramic dishes with lemons on them, an Amalfi Coast specialty. We read books on our balcony. We hung out on the pebbly beach (in the free section because we’re cheap) early in the morning to beat the crowds. We watched the World Cup at a beachfront bar and mourned when Japan lost. We went grocery shopping at Delicatessen, a small grocery shop just down the stairs from our hotel that has fresh meat and huge wheels of cheese. We worked off all our pasta by walking up and down the staircases weaving through Positano — the only way to get around town. I could have done this forever.

With the cliffs of Positano
Iconic pastel colors
By the sea
Married for two years!
Would trade the Pacific for the Mediterranean in a heartbeat
Surrounded by fishing boats
Very Big Little Lies, in my opinion
And this is when everyone in Positano noticed my dress is see-through
Reeks of wedding proposal
Pure joy
More fishing boats
In front of a plaque for Flavio Gioia, who perfected the sailor’s compass and was born on the Amalfi Coast

By the time we had to leave on our fourth day, I had been emotionally preparing and told myself I wouldn’t cry. I was so ready for it — but as we checked out of La Tavolozza, we had a long chat with Paola, my favorite of the family members who runs the hotel. During our stay, we had seen her every day, either on our way out or right before breakfast, when she would bring a tray of cappuccino and croissants to our balcony. She told us such heartwarming things about Positano, how much she enjoys seeing return guests, and why her family loves what they do. So of course I cried like a baby as we hugged her good-bye.

Saying “arrivederci” to Paola

When I booked this trip, I had assumed it would be our last time in Positano. This was actually the reason we stayed for so long; I was hoping I’d eventually get sick of it. But, turns out, it’s impossible to get sick of Positano. I can still think of more things we need to do here, like take a daytrip to Ravello, go hiking above Amalfi, swim at the Fiordo di Furore, and have drinks at Villa Treville. Just as Francesca (Paola’s mother) told us when we checked out of La Tavolozza three years ago, “There’s something magical about Positano, isn’t there?” We will be back. I don’t know when, and I don’t know how, but it’s going to happen. My happiness depends on it.

Some simple advice: Find someone you want to see the world with. Then, see the world with that person.

Quantifying the Unquantifiable: An Anniversary Post

Next week, Anthony and I celebrate our one-year anniversary. This is a big deal for both of us, but especially for me because I have never been in a relationship for this long. I first attended an all girls’ private school for thirteen years, and then a small liberal arts college full of hipsters who were “too postmodern” for monogamy. Two years ago, if you had asked me if I could picture myself in a serious relationship at the age of 22, I’d have laughed and said, “I wouldn’t be able to put up with anyone long enough.” It seemed like a reasonable hypothesis; I had spent most of my life as a proudly independent woman who dabbled, albeit quite passionately, in fleeting crushes, and had more fun gossiping with her friends about the men with whom she happened to be involved than actually dealing with the guy. Of course I didn’t want to get involved in a serious relationship.

Anthony proved my hypothesis wrong. In fact, he proved a lot of things wrong. He proved that not all guys want open relationships, not all young people are scared of discussing a future with their significant other, and, most importantly, when you’ve found someone you love, you’re not gonna let them go.

For those of you who read Anthony’s insightful post about relationships, I am now here to prove him wrong. I, too, can be publicly mushy. So bear with me.

How I have been able to put up with Anthony for an entire year:

  • His intellectual curiosity. Possibly the most desirable quality that can be found in a person, intellectual curiosity keeps people young, life exciting, and conversations interesting.
  • He can make me laugh and understand my humor, which is often esoteric and sarcastic. The saying is trite but true: Laughter is necessary for any successful relationship.
  • He’s an atheist Filipino (yes, they do exist!). It’s so rare to be able to have discussions with someone who shares both my beliefs and my cultural background.
  • He is an optimist, which perfectly balances out my unwavering cynicism.
  • He reaches for my hand whenever we’re in public. I’ve never been one for public displays of affection, but, somehow, I find Anthony’s desire to showcase our relationship endearing. Plus, holding hands means a lower chance of losing each other on crowded New York sidewalks.
  • He gives me good mood nuzzles, which I constantly need when stressed about the many obstacles in life, e.g., not finding parmesan at the grocery store, losing my favorite yellow cashmere cardigan.
  • His family is an anomaly — it’s large, tight-knit, and everyone loves each other. I didn’t know those still existed in America.
  • He makes leftovers taste better than the original, whether it’s warming up pizza on a skillet or making garlic fried rice out of plain white rice.
  • He is very good at folding clothes.
  • He can complete the Rubrik’s cube faster than anyone I know.
  • He gives great massages. Often.
  • He values my opinion but is not afraid to argue if he disagrees with it.
  • He’d rather watch Hitchcock and have a two-person wine-and-cheese party at home with me than go out to a crowded bar.
  • There are fine lines between giving me my space and being too absent, between being affectionate and being overbearing. Anthony has mastered those fine lines beautifully.
  • He’s a beer snob. Drinking with him has taught me that I like dark ales. Plus, I could never date someone who drank Coors or PBR or other piss-like liquids.
  • He’s organized. More organized than me, in fact. I may create the lists and calendars, but he’s the one who keeps our room tidy.
  • He is constantly trying to please me, and by this, I don’t mean that he puts my happiness before his own. Such a relationship would be unhealthy. The stronger a relationship becomes, the more the happiness of both partners align. What made us happy when we were single has changed since going out with each other. More often than not, my happiness is now consistent with that of Anthony’s, and when that’s the case, he does everything in his power to satisfy.
  • He eats real food. After spending half my life with diet-obsessed friends from ballet, and then my college years in Portland surrounded by vegans, it’s almost too predictable that I would end up with someone who appreciates a good steak — cooked medium-rare, of course.
  • I have been told that this is the time to explore my options, to not get tied down to any particular guy, to have fun in my youth; I don’t have to settle down with anyone until I have lost my looks or charm. Apparently, this is what twenty-something-year-olds are supposed to think. I seem to have found the one self-proclaimed Relationship Guy in his twenties who eagerly rejected these standards of being progressively hip and instead never gave up on his lifelong dream of finding a long-term girlfriend.
  • He knows me, sometimes better than I know myself, and still (or thus?) loves me. He understands my odd obsessions, my sporadic bad moods, my irrational insecurities. Just as my favorite character said in Anna Karenina, “I love him, and therefore understand him,” love entails a deep understanding of the beloved. Without both a desire to understand and a success in that understanding, love cannot flourish.

That was merely an abridged list; I can’t possibly think of everything right now, and I doubt people would want to read all that anyway. Besides, it seems almost blasphemous to create a list of justifications for being in love — and this is coming from someone with a penchant for quantifying the unquantifiable.

You’ve probably noticed that most things on the list revolve around feeling respected, appreciated, and secure. This is, in essence, why we begin relationships. Not just romantic relationships, but those with our careers and with our platonic friends. Humans want to be appreciated for their passions and idiosyncrasies. I know I’ve found my dream career when I deem its main purpose respectable and stimulating, and it takes advantage of my talents and interests. I’ve found a friend when that person seeks my presence and is someone I can call up whenever something upsets me. A romantic partner is the most important person you choose to share your life with because of exactly that — you are choosing to share your life with that person. Unlike other people in one’s life, a romantic partner has many roles. This person knows the intimate details of your life, shares your living space, and has the possibility of sharing the rest of your life. I have never spent so many hours of every day with a single person since my mother took off from work to take care of me as a baby. And you know what? I have enjoyed every hour.

This past year has defined my life. It has felt like more than a year, but at the same time, it has flown by without me even realizing. Anthony’s put up with me this long. Hopefully, he’s up for more.