During the final days of my family’s trip to Italy, we stayed at an apartment set directly in the middle of a dusty olive grove on the outside of Vieste, on Italy’s Gargano peninsula. The place was so clean and new, smelling so strongly of fresh paint, we suspected we were the unit’s first occupants, a suspicion confirmed when we discovered that the owners had forgotten several items of importance, including a trash can.
Despite the seemingly endless beaches just a mile away, one of my fondest memories of the trip was sitting outside of our apartment in 90-degree heat, eating sliced tomatoes drizzled with olive oil that had been pressed the day before by our host family.
But my second fondest memory involved the afternoons my wife and kids and I spent hiding under brightly colored, oversized umbrellas and occasionally risking splashing around in the shallow waters of the Spiagga del Castello (Castle Beach). I was captivated by the beauty of the vertical white cliffs that erupted from the seaside to support the city’s old town, as well as the iconic beach monolith Pizzomunno, which stands around 80 feet tall.
While lying on a recliner on the beach I wasn’t entirely sure that I could get up to this photo’s vantage point. But one morning, while in a delirium after a full night of long-exposure photography, I decided to attempt a sunrise photo.
The first step was to find a place nearby to park my rental car, which proved to be a harder task than I first realized on the one-car-wide cobblestone streets of the old town. After parking, it was just a matter of walking uphill and occasionally checking Google Maps. I then found myself at a 6-foot-tall iron gate that blocked off the parking area of a condominium.
Not being one to balk at gates, especially in the pre-dawn of one of the longest days of the year, I climbed over and walked into the apartment’s parking lot. The parking garage itself was couched in the side of the hill, so again I scrambled up the dirt on the side of the garage before I found my way up to its roof.
And there was my view. I cautiously picked my way through some thorny weeds, approached the edge, set up my tripod, and began to shoot. After a series of panoramas, I began to imagine the small section of land I was standing on cleaving and falling 120 feet to the beach below, which led to me losing my nerve a bit.
I decided to get out before I got kicked out, so I packed up my gear and turned to go, only to see an old woman sitting on her apartment balcony. Apparently, she had been watching me the whole time.