“Closer to heaven than to earth” is how the Amalfi coastline has been described. It certainly feels that way to us, waking in lovely towns perched on high, or alongside the sea. Fragrant lemon trees are everywhere, and colorful bougainvilleas accentuate the balustrades. One feels the thousands of years of geographical, political and agricultural history that have formed the towns, the paths, the churches and the terraced hillsides.
We were just traveling here with a wonderful group in April, trading a few rainy days for good hiking weather and the luxury of fewer crowds.
Starting south of Salerno in the tiny tranquil seaside town of Santa Maria Castellabate is a wonderful place to begin our explorations; our family-run hotel rooms look over the sea and we can stroll leisurely along the coast, imagining the Greeks sailing into port. It not only gives us the chance to visit the inspiring and majestic Greek temples at Paestum, but also to savor the best, freshest, organic mozzarella we have ever met.
Each part of Italy has its own distinguishing ceramic workshops: In Umbria, they are in Deruta, in Tuscany, in Montelupo, in Sicily, in Caltagirone. Here in this area of Campagna, it is the bright, colorful and whimsical ceramic workshops of Vietri, which we find on tables and also, beautifully, often on the floors of our hotel rooms. We always stop in Vietri to look, shop, and have an essential cappuccino here as we travel north….
Although we love our limoncello, it was delightful to taste many delicious ways the locals use lemons in cooking, in the lunch we savored in Silvia’s small café along the river above Amalfi. We had a refreshing lemon drink, an antipasto of fresh vegetables with lemon rind, risotto with lemon, and scamorza cheese grilled between two lemon leaves. Dessert was a fluffy lemon cake, (to die for) but luckily we were revived by a good espresso and a shot of homemade limoncello, and had a great tour of the town with our local guide.
Amalfi was once one of the paper making centers of the peninsula—in the year 1000 documents for the Pope and other heads of state were made in Amalfi. We visited a workshop where the gentleman (and his cat) still make cotton rag paper using ancient methods. The paper workshops ingeniously used the water running down the mountain to power the pounding, grinding, and washing of the rags for their paper production.
We had a marvelous visit with our friend Antonio (and his large herd of perky goats) during our hike on the Sentiero degli Dei, or Path of the Gods, above Positano. He prepared a tasty lunch of grilled sausages, and several of his own cheeses, served with fresh local bread, and of course, spaghetti with tomato sauce. Antonio’s charm and enthusiasm were delightful. Our local guide, Luca, brought his mother’s homemade fennel liquore. Antonio’s fiancee, a sommelier in a fancy hotel in Positano is going to give up her career to become a shepherdess in those rocky hills with her soon-to-be husband! Our hikers were a little skeptical about this, but we also are all too aware that love conquers all…
As you know the wonderful thing about traveling in small groups on the trails is that we meet interesting, and sometimes wonderful, people along the way. Here are some of our new friends, our nuovi amici from this trip. We saw Valente, the 80 year old fisherman, repairing his nets, and fishing, daily. This lovely family, out walking their pony, was going home for lunch. The father, Angelo, is a taglia-bosco, he cuts forests for fireplace and bread oven wood. He was on babysitting duty while his wife went to the market. The ladies in the group flocked around the sheep-herder Giuseppe. We bought some of his delicious pecorino cheese for our picnic that day, in the chestnut woods.
Below are some more pictures from our adventures on the Amalfi coast: Positano, Capri, delectable picnics, low clouds, blue skies, emerald seas, stone walkways, spring blossoms, colorful towns, rugged mountains, good spirits and great company!
“It’s not about the destination…it’s about the Journey…”
To view the full tour click here: Along the Amalfi Coast