It was another hellish summer day in Positano. The tourists boats were coming in since first hour in the morning. Not much had changed in town. On the way home from Salerno she gasped a couple of fires smoking on the extremely narrow and winding road. The traffic was heavy, the views breathtaking. Ottavia was staring at the ocean from the amazing terrace of her mother’s house. ‘Why did I leave?’ The question echoed in her mind.

Two days had gone by. She still couldn’t eat a thing, she could barely feel. Nicco was dead, her son, her 20 years baby boy. Her mind went back to that cold morning at the family house in the heart of il Quartieri Spagnoli. She was preparing the laundry when she found her son’s favourite shirt stained with blood. Certainly not the amount of blood from a nose bleed or a small fight at school. By that time Nicco had already dropped out.

She had suspected this, but the shirt was an unsettling confirmation. Her son had fallen under the Mafia’s influence and there was little she could do about it. Flavio had left her a decade ago and, since then, she had to work extra shifts to provide for her and her baby son. ‘That was the moment I should’ve come back’, she thought. But she was ashamed and afraid of her family’s reaction.

She felt her son slip away soon enough. But she couldn’t fight him, she couldn’t make him stay in school. There were no Christmas presents nor any other luxuries during the year, but a couple of months after leaving the institute Nicco turned up with his new favourite shirt. She let that one pass, but then there was the brand new motorbike, a gorgeous red Vespa that enchanted most girls around. Nicco was all day in the streets and only came home for the daily dose of pasta at night. He never wanted to talk about it. It was as if the money came without a price.

‘Be careful who you mingle with’, she used to say. Of course he didn’t listen. On the weekends she could see him around the neighbourhood, standing on a corner with three other lads, all dressed smart and with an immaculate slick haircut. They could’ve left town, Naples was not a city for single mothers with teenage childs. But what was waiting back home? The jobs were scarce all throughout the coast, she even had to be grateful that Pietro allowed her to double her extra hours to afford the rent.

And she still felt ashamed, Flavio was a bad influence, just as mom had warned her. She didn’t listen and there she was. Nicco didn’t listen either. And he wasn’t there anymore. Once again back home, she was mourning her son and looking with empty eyes one of the most beautiful landscapes of Southern Italy.

Lost like Maradona

Flavio was working at the port when she met him. He was lean and tall, an attractive young man that captured her in a whisp. They married a year later, when she was only 21 and had Nicco after seven months. The first years were good, but when the local port got hit by the European laws regarding sea conservation, Flavio’s company had to wrap it up. A hundred men lost their jobs. His mood darkened and he started drinking more. He was an addict before they all moved to Naples in search for opportunities. It was too late for their relationship, the bruises were deep, and in a literal sense sometimes.

Flavio had a new job but abandoned the family without even asking for his son. She found herself alone in their rundown apartment at Vico Concordia, with views to the mural of Maradona, with no hope. She found a job at a Trattoria and managed to stay afloat for some years. But all the effort didn’t payoff.

Before Flavio she was a bright and young woman with dreams of becoming an interior designer. All that beauty outside the houses of her hometown had to be translated, somehow, into the buildings themselves. She used to draw on a notebook and often inspired herself in the colourful motives of Vietri’s ceramics and the sunshine reflections in Ravello’s old castles and churches. Sky blue, forest green and fiery orange were always stimulating her mind, a dream lost in between the dirty and greyish streets of Naples old quarter.

She captured a boat leaving with a couple dozen of tourists. Little Nicco used to enjoy the sea during the summer holidays, but lately he had never returned home, not even to say hi to grandma. Positano, surely, was losing the locals touch because of massified tourism, but Ottavia realized that opportunities here for her son would have been way different. Maybe he could’ve ended up being a captain of a tourist boat, or maybe a chef at a local restaurant. Nicco was a bit lazy in the kitchen, yet he prepared a delicious dish of spaghetti alle vongole and other delicatessen on special occasions.

He was dead now, shot by a kid of 16, another victim of the Mob’s claw. It happened around the corner of Maradona’s mural. She wasn’t home, but sure enough all the neighbourhood knew by now the familiar history, and word spread quick and reached Pietro’s Trattoria. And there she felt her heart crack, an irreparable wound that not even a hundred years of these Mediterranean breeze could repair.

How can this beautiful place hide such a screwed destiny to its younger ones? A bullet to the stomach and another to the brain, and all the sunsets will suddenly turn to grey.