Ten Nights at the Hotel Murat
In the 17th century a steady stream of swarthy English gentry would don heavy linens, straw hats and voluminous silk neck ties, fill their wallets with Daddy’s money and make an educational rite of passage through Europe.
The Hotel Palazzo Murat, nestled in the green culdera of Positano’s bosom is the sort of place they would end up, and so it seems, have I.
I’m here for ten days.
Ten days is a long time you may think, but it’s the length of time you need to understand a place; to sense its tides and inhale it in and out as each sun sets and rises.
The Palazzo Murat is a place in which people linger.
As a writer, places where people linger are the best sorts of places. John Steinbeck lingered here, as did Semenov, Zagoruiko and Escher.
I wonder if they enjoyed their espresso with doughy sweet almond biscuits as I do right now.
I wonder if they glanced up to the same cascading bougainvillea and peeped through the yellow-doored upper floor to see what Italian intrigue was going on within.
I wonder if they were served tea in silver pots at breakfast, if they watched the deep turquoise ocean thrash below them, if they lounged on the terrace at dusk and put ink to paper as I put finger to keyboard.
I am always quietly obsessed with the workings of the hotels in which I stay.
Being on my own allows me time to indulge and observe like a quietly amused Mona Lisa on the wall.
I always choose places like this; places once owned by kings and aristocrats, places haunted with the embers of ancient fireplaces and whisper-stained wall paper.
It’s in hotels like these that the past entwines with the present and history pulses as a ghost from within.
However, on this warm April eve in the twenty first century, the Murat is filled with the living.
It’s filled with people like Chico, who greets me every morning with a thundering “Bellisimo” and who offers me a freshly sliced red rose with my steaming coffee.
It’s filled with people like Noami, who giggles with me as if we are both in on a universal and unspoken joke and who feels more like a sister than someone whom I have just met.
And it’s filled with people like Nick who although unspeakably handsome, seems shy and unaware as we chat on the terrace and he tells me of riding his Vespa through the winding roads to his home in the hills.
I’m alone now on the terrace, sipping a Pinot Grigio and listening to the evening song of the little birds that hop in the lemon trellis netting the gardens below.
But although I’m the only one here, in a place like the Hotel Palazzo Murat when the ghosts of the past and the spirits of the present coexist, one is never really on their own.