August 1968 was the first time I came to Nerano. We drove all the way from the UK in a great big Volvo – my parents and 4 children, aged 9 to 16.
We had rented Villa Griselda, now the Relais Vittoria, which at the time belonged to a British couple. My father noticed the advert in his daily paper, contacted the owners by phone (no emails in that era) and the rent was exchanged for the driving instructions and information sheets on a windy British railway platform as the owners travelled north.
My father was always meticulous with his summer holiday planning. It started at Christmas. Even so he had underestimated the difficulty of driving a large right hand drive car along the narrow and twisting roads from Castellammare to the village. It was dark by the time we finally crossed the small wooden bridge into Nerano, the weight of the car and its contents causing it to shudder and creak alarmingly as we passed.
The next morning, the sun was bright and dazzling as we admired what we had been unable to see the night before: the bright purple bougainvillea, the pink and white oleanders, the olive trees, the azure sea, the distinctive 3 peaks of the bay of Marina del Cantone to our right.
Time to explore. Off we went down the hill through the olive groves to find the beach, the noise of crickets accompanying us along the way.
It was August. It was high season. We were virtually by ourselves on the beach apart from a few local fishermen chatting, their small wooden boats bobbing up and down moored to the planks that formed the jetty. There were more cats than people, a couple of deck-chairs and a sun umbrella.
Most of what you see now didn't exist. What was there, was smaller. The beach was long and empty. The Scoglio restaurant ended on its rock “scoglio”, the Cantuccio was a group of boulders to dive off. No Mary’s Beach, no L'Africano, no beach establishments at all. The Certosa opened directly onto the beach and still harboured fishing nets. It had a juke box in one corner. I can still hear the strains of "A Whiter Shade of Pale" drifting out to sea.