Interview with Alfonso Bottone - Journalist from Maiori
1. We are curious to know how life is in a wonderful place as the Amalfi Coast. Tell us who you are, what your job is, what life is like in Maiori and surroundings?
Let me tell you something: I’m a lucky man and at the age of 55 I could consider myself indebted to life. I say I’m lucky because I managed to do the job I wanted, I’m a journalist, and work in the place I love, the Amalfi Coast.
Anyway, my name is Alfonso, and in the course of a long career – I wrote my first article at the age of 13 – I have worked for major national and local newspapers, I’ve run newspapers and magazines, I’ve been director and head of the press office and, in 1997, I founded the publishing house “Terra del Sole,” with which I have published books that have won national awards. I am also the editorial manager for “Incostieraamalfitana.it” a newspaper aimed at promoting “Festa del Libro in Mediterraneo” (Book Festival in the Mediterranean) a festival that takes place in early summer.
Life in Maiori and Minori, the towns where most live and work, is closely linked to the time of year. Summer is lively here, due to the presence of tourists, and is important because it allows me to have a confrontation with people from other parts of Italy and the world. Winter is more melancholic, but days are still very enjoyable anyway. And it’s in this climate and in this environment that I eventually found out to be also a poet and writer.
2. What do you do when you don’t work? How do young people have fun when they go out with friends? And what about the elders? Do they have any recreation areas to spend their time?
Actually it’s rare that I don’t work. My work coincides with my life, I have fun with it. I talk and I walk around, listen to people, I track the facts of life on the Costiera. When I’m at the bar with my friends, I take my mind off things of course, but I also use these moments to understand people’s moods and find new stories and material for my work as a journalist and writer.
As everywhere in the world, there are meeting places and clubs frequented by the younger generation. I must say that, compared to when I was 20-25, young people today are more active, it’s easier for them to move towards Salerno or Sorrento, but are also more interested in the territory’s social and political life than we were. There are many young local administrators in town, and lots of young boys and girls are going to help me this summer with the important literary initiative “incostieraamalfitana.it Festa del Libro in Mediterraneo“. A festival that is not only about literature, but also music and theater, film and art, where writers meet people in the streets of the Amalfi Coast. I take this opportunity to invite all readers to the seventh edition of “incostieraamalfitana.it”, to be held from May 30 to July 14, 2013. Check the website www.incostieraamalfitana.it or the Facebook profile incostieraamalfitana.
The elderly are our historical memory. It’s a pleasure to hear them talk and chat when they meet at the club to play cards. Their presence is essential for everyday life, as points of reference to know what happens, a source of information on recent and past history of the Costiera.
3. Let’s play. Close your eyes. Visualize Maiori and answer without thinking it through: what image comes up to your mind? What colors? What sounds? What smells?
Images. The seafront of Maiori and Minori, as well as that of all the towns and cities on the coast. Because the promenade is a gathering place where people come together, and it’s there that initiatives, ideas and projects that keep alive the Coast come up.
Colors. Surely the color of water that changes with seasons, as well as the green color of the surrounding vegetation the white houses of the villages along the coast.
Sounds. I think the most beautiful sound is that of people talking. The sound of their words, spoken in Italian and dialect, the stories that become food for thought, but also material for articles, stories and poems.
Smells. Definitely smells of food, the home-made dishes cooked by our women, both unparalleled, dishes and women. I love the scent of freshly baked pastries. Significantly, one of the most famous pastry chefs in Italy, Salvatore de Riso, who works for Rai TV show “La prova del cuoco”, is native to the coast. His pastry shop on the seafront of Minori is one of the most famous tourist destinations on the coast.
4. If for some reason you were forced to leave your land, your town, one day, what would you miss most and why?
Well, perhaps I slightly exaggerate, but I would miss… everything. Colors, smells, tastes, voices. Everything. It’s not because I was born there, or perhaps it’s exactly that, but I consider the Amalfi Coast the most beautiful place in the world.
Because, as Renato Fucini writes in his “Taccuini di viaggio,” 1877: “From Vietri to Amalfi, through lava mountains, magic, paradise, Creator’s mistake, desire to scream and applaud the author of it, I am held back by the fear of offending his modesty; Eden, heavenly kingdom, amazement, astonishment, bewilderment.”
That’s it. Wonder, that daily wonder is what I would miss most, the one that every day makes me discover something new, a new face, a corner, a garden, a door I hadn’t noticed until that moment.
5. The Amalfi Coast is one of the most sought after tourist destinations during the summer season. We are curious to know, though: how is the Costiera in winter?
The Amalfi Coast in winter is much less glamorous than in summer. The summer liveliness that pervades the coast, the sea, the clubs and the moored boats, the cheerful people in their swimming suit, young people from around the world scurrying, hotels and restaurants completely booked out, people who make a living from tourism busy 24 hours a day. All this disappears in winter, as if sucked into a ditch, ready to be thrown out again with the arrival of the new summer. Winter in Amalfi is certainly more melancholic than summer, many hotels and many shops are closed, there are fewer things to do. But this is the time when Amalfitans find time to stay together, to get back to their lives and be the protagonists of stories, as they are the sole interpreters of the passing of time.
6. If you were a traveler, what should you NOT miss out on in your trip to the Amalfi Coast, apart from the classic tourist routes?
Trips along the Amalfi Coast have the advantage of allowing visitors to discover the most significant works of art of our Country, including the Cathedral of St. Andrew in Amalfi or the gardens of Villa Rufolo and Villa Cimbrone in Ravello. Unfortunately, often due to lack of time and sometimes for superficiality, some monuments are neglected because they’re considered less important. For example, think of the Abbey of Santa Maria de Olearia in Maiori or the archaeological excavations of the Roman Villa in Minori.
Perhaps those who come and visit the Amalfi Coast should start enjoying much more what my friend Grazia Francescato dubbed the “Amalfi Mounts”. Around the towns overlooking the sea, there are incredible hills and mountains, trails that wind up through the woods, through valleys covered with flowers in spring. Today, fortunately, some tour operators have started to offer tourists also packages including beautiful walks in the mountains of Furore and Scala.
7. The Amalfi Coast is famous for its handicrafts. In your opinion, which of these are the most representative of your homeland?
I’m sorry but in this case, I cannot but agree with the standard iconography. The crafts of the Amalfi Coast are a wealth of incredible beauty, forged by the hands of men and women who still work in their small workshops. It’s impossible to speak of local crafts without mentioning Vietri ceramics, which are now produced a little everywhere in the Costiera. How can we forget Positano’s fashion shows, which have made our Country famous throughout the world. And then, all the products derived from our unique lemons.
8. When you decide to eat out, do you have a favorite restaurant? What’s its name? What are the delicacies you usually order? What kind of wine do you pair with them?
If I answer this question and forget to mention someone … I will make enemies. Also because I don’t have a favorite restaurant and all the restaurants on the Costiera are great. If I were to suggest anyone in particular, I would say one of those proposing “zero kilometer” food recently, who use products that come from our lands and our crops. There’s more than one of these restaurants on the Amalfi Coast and, as promised, I am not going to name them out. However, it’s a pleasure to sit at their tables to enjoy seasonal dishes prepared with local products. Speaking of wine, you can’t go wrong with Doc wines from Ravello, Furore and Tramonti.
9. Can you think of a work, a ‘famous’ quote, or a book, a song or a movie, that could “capture” the true spirit of the Divine Coast? Can you tell us why?
The first famous quote that comes to my mind is attributable to Renato Fucini again; he writes: “The day of judgment, for the Amalfi people who will go to heaven, will be a day like any other.”
However, I rather find the real Costiera, the feelings and all the tangible and intangible things you can get from this land, in the works by Gaetano Afeltra, born in Amalfi and emigrated to Milan where he has been working as a journalist for the newspaper ‘Corriere della Sera’ and director at ‘Il Giorno’. In his books, such as “Spaghetti all’acqua di mare. Sapori di un’infanzia meridionale“,”Mordi la mela, ragazzo”, or “Positano darà la luce al mondo” written with Dino Buzzati, you can breathe the air of the coast, the joyfulness of being young in a unique and wonderful place, but also a life that can be very difficult at times, especially during the years of the first half of the twentieth century.
10. What is your blog/website about? And why did you decide to carve yourself a little space on the web?
Initially, the website “Incostieraamalfitana.it” was a newspaper, but over time has become the reference point for Web surfers to learn about the most important literary summer event in the Costiera and the province of Salerno. The website also gives visibility to the literary work by the above mentioned “Terra del sole” publishing house. It’s a tool designed to tell people that the Amalfi Coast is not only sea and sun, crafts and fine food. It’s also a place where you enjoy culture, where the stories of everyday life can become a cultural event, a novel, a poem. Because we want to dispel, once and for all, the saying that “you don’t make a living with culture.” Indeed, Culture is all about… eating, living, earning, having fun, growing up and dreaming.