Sitting in Pontone’s small square, there is little else to do but listen.
The clamour of excited children, the explosive strife of a couple at odds, the gentle chatter of old friends; the noise flows together in a rhythmic symphony, the kind that only the Italians know how to create.
As the night passes, each wildly gesticulated conversation takes a new tempo. Kids’ games, identical to the evening before, take a dramatic, unexpected turn. Peroni flows, pizza is served. The same scenes play out every night, and despite the village’s predictability, nothing seems dull. Nothing seems boring.
One pair seem to know, resent and judge all comers to the square; a frosty gaze hangs across their faces, but it’s hard to tell whether this is genuine contempt or features permanently etched through years of graft.
A group of old boys sit clacking dominos in the corner. Tactically they watch each other, eyeing up the ivory slabs as they make their moves in slow, unhurried gestures.
Straight ahead, the Gulf of Salerno twinkles in the dark. To the left, the lights of Ravello ebb and flow in the night’s tide. Pontone’s clock strikes curiously at 15 past the hour and, one by one, the locals bid each other good night with ritual ease. Before the clock’s bell has finished ringing, the square falls almost quiet. The sound of children protesting in vain for five more minutes’ play time signals the evening’s end.
If you were told that the Amalfi Coast’s oldest village had not changed in its 900 years, you would hardly be surprised. Far above the crowded streets of Amalfi, the simplicity of a tiny working village offers insight into the lives of those who call this dramatic stretch of Italy home. Entertainment like this cannot be bought or sold, only heard.