Well, I received some wonderful, well thought-out and often very entertaining entries. Out of a total of 19 entries, 7 identified the Amalfi area in Italy. Winner is Steve Curry, who produced a near-flawless answer:
Righto Foy, you bastard, this is driving me crazy. I've wasted three days on this puzzle already and if I don't send an entry I'll go mad picking at it.
Thanks to your clue in the follow-up post I believe I've got it:
The photo is taken from within the grounds of the Villa Cimbrone, looking down onto the town of Ravello, which is on the Amalfi Coast not far from Salerno, the target of Operation Avalanche.
The Villa Cimbrone is a mock pile built by the rather brilliant Ernest Beckett, 2nd Baron Grimthorpe, described by Michael Holroyd as 'a man of swiftly changing enthusiasms ... a dilettante, philanderer, gambler and opportunist. He changed his name, his career, his interests and his mistresses quite regularly.' I would love to have met him, but not to have lent him money!
No doubt among many other connections between Ravello and Whitby, the towns were both visited by Wilkie Collins, the author and great friend of Charles Dickens. He visited Ravello as a child with his father the painter William Collins during their two-year stay in Italy (and about which he wrote in a memoir). Dickens introduced Collins to Whitby, where he stayed in 1862 while working on his novel No Name.
More importantly, Whitby is a sister city of Porirua, New Zealand, where I was born (and which is also famous for being the site of New Zealand's first McDonald's restaurant).
I can sleep now.
PS I may have omitted the key fact that Ernest Beckett was the MP for Whitby between 1885 and 1905, during which time "his name was rarely mentioned in Hansard", suggesting that if he ever bothered to show up it was only to sleep off a hangover.
Very nice, Steve – if I ever used words like “awesome”, this would be the time to use them.
My photo is taken looking over the handrail of the last terrace at the Villa Cimbrone, Ravello.
Ravello is a remarkable town, it is about 1 km inland from the astonishing Amalfi Drive, along the Northern shore of the Gulf of Salerno, and is also about 350 metres above sea level, so the road to get up there is, shall we say, interesting. I have visited the place since then, but my photo was taken in 2000. We are looking straight down the gorge towards Atrani, where the road up to Ravello leaves the coast. Atrani, these days, is just the eastern end of the ancient town of Amalfi. The terraces and the twisting road are apparent – meeting the local bus on this road when driving a car is not recommended. I have, let it be said, walked down this same valley – I am delighted to say I came back up by bus.
Down at the edge of the sea you can see one of the old Martello-type towers which were built to watch for the approach of the Saracens, Turks, Greeks, Normans, Carthaginians, or whoever the enemy of the week was. This is the garden of Europe, my friends, and it has been open for pillage since the dawn of time.
As Steve has identified, the link with Whitby is Lord Grimthorpe.
|Ernest, 2nd Baron Grimthorpe, sometime MP for Whitby|
Steve, if you can send me a comment with your postal address, I won’t publish it and I’ll get your parcel away to you forthwith.
The shortest entry came from Vance, who simply asked, "Is it a photo of Whitby?"
Among the “special mentions” are Jacko, who tells me that he visited the area a few years ago, in part to see the area where his grandfather was seriously wounded during WW2, and, most especially, Chris Grice, who got the place entirely wrong, and in support of this included a piece of what he dismisses as doggerel, but which by the standards of this blog is a very significant piece of high art:
“I’ve up and writ this story,” the Yorkshireman declared,
“’bout blood and bats and big black dogs. It’s sure to leave thee scared.
But I need a place to set it.” Bram Stoker then imparts.
“There’s no scary names in Yorkshire like they ‘ave in foreign parts.
I’ve wandered round the continent, ate foreign food and such,
but I found no inspiration ‘mongst the Belgians and the Dutch.
I even thought of Chateau Foy to set my tale of blood,
but the French said they pronounce it fwa, so that’s no bloody good!
At last I’m in Romania, atop a gret big ‘ill,
wi’ a castle that’s just perfect! In fact I think I will
use this very same location as the setting for me tome.
Pray tell to me, your countship, what t’name is of your ‘ome.”
“It’s Cetatea Poenari,” said the nobleman with pride.
“It has been mine for centuries, well, since my father died.”
The Yorkshireman, crestfallen, grunted, “Bugger, that’s a shame.
I’d never sell me novel if I used THAT for the name!
So perhaps I’m back to Whitby as the place to set my plot
but I shall ne’er forget thee and t’reception that I got
at thy castle on a mountain, wi’ a vista so spectacular.
I’ll even name t’book after thee, my dearest Count Vlad – what was your name again?”
Thanks again to everyone who took part, including those who did not send an entry, but restricted their input to abusive/helpful comments. I had a lot of fun with this – I hope you found it interesting!