Bay of Naples Shifting Light

Lucked into a great room at the Grand Hotel Ambasciatori in Sorrento, Italy. It was gorgeous property overlooking the Bay of Naples.

What made the views astonishing was the ever shifting light. Morning, the sea met the sky at some distant horizon, blues merging into blues making earth and heaven one continuum.

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A couple of mornings there were singular fishermen in small skiffs, painted red, or blue, or green, with nets looping about twenty feet behind them.

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The last morning brought two cruise ships into port, their blanched white hulls more an intrusion on the seascape than the invasion of tourists. The boats sat silent having discharged their horde further up the coast.

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I wasn’t in the hotel midday. I was on a bus down the Amalfi Coast, or on a boat cruising along the Amalfi Coast stopping in Positano, Amalfi or Ravello, or on a boat to the Isle of Capri, or walking through the remains of Pompeii, or hiking to the top of Mount Vesuvius. But, days are long in southern Italy in May and I was back in my room, to rest up, wash up, relax, and sit on my deck before dinner.

The late afternoon light was amazing. While mornings were invariably clear, late afternoons brought clouds. Not cloudy but big, slow-moving, not quite cumulus, not quite nimbus clouds, that played peekaboo with the sun. Maybe the clouds are unique to the Bay of Naples. Stunning color gradient, grayscale where the cloud clouded the sun and brilliant creams and yellows where the rays of the sun struck distant shores. From my deck, a huge sky, a Montana sky, with mountains rimming the bay, and Mount Vesuvius, ever present, but fifteen miles to my right.

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The slow moving clouds allowed streaks and streamers of sunlight to illuminate and reflect off the bay at varying angles. It seemed to be the same type of cloud every afternoon, yet the light and shadow, the ferocity or tranquility, the distortion or clarity, of the pigments of light vacillated irregularly. If the clouds lingered, sunset came quickly and the faintly flickering lights from Naples dappled the water giving it a deep and ominous shading.

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On clear evenings, stars, not millions, because the ambient light of Sorrento lightened the sky, but enough stars and enough ambient light to outline the bay, to see, green and red lights from small boats that scurried across the open water like maverick lasers – all light and no body – streaks of light brilliant against the ancient shores.

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