Brief travel guide to the Amalfi Coast, a paradise overlooking the sea
Scura notte e, allegre a vino,
nce azzeccammo cchiù vicino
p”a via nova ‘e Marechiaro…
Da ‘a muntagna ‘a luna sponta
cu na stella appriesso pronta…
Pare juorno ‘mmiez’ô mare! – Popular song
Beautiful beyond any belief. Spectacular and breathtaking. Wonderful landscapes and panoramas. Unique in the world. World Heritage Site. Pride of Italy. In short, the Amalfi Coast bears thousands of nicknames, compliments and official recognitions, but none of them will never do it justice.
The stretch of coast closed between Positano and Vietri sul Mare, on the west side of the Gulf of Salerno, is a natural amphitheater of rocks, scents and sensations, an oasis of peace flowing with a very intense social life. The Amalfi Coast seems to encompass the best outcome that the union between man and nature can achieve. The touching and unusual wonders of a land that smells of sea, lemons, woods and mountains, go along with a long history, the history of peoples that have managed to stand up and look ahead after various ups and downs. Today, the Amalfi Coast is synonym with beauty and fun, scenic nature and glamour. Mass tourism has failed to undermine the simplicity of these places, which are naturally meek, and have contemporaneously become a benchmark for the international jet set. For more than one hundred years the Amalfi Coast has been an icon for the world of culture, politics, media, literature, and art, a place where one can find peace and serenity, but also an intense nightlife, wonderful shopping streets, and lovely little shops where to buy high-quality crafts.
Towns, villages and hamlets of the Amalfi Coast
Let’s name all these places, so close to each other, but each capable of expressing their own peculiarities; many of them are on the list of the “Most Beautiful Villages of Italy” drawn up by TCI, the Italian Touring Club. From Agerola to Vietri sul Mare:
• Agerola, the Little Switzerland, popular with walkers and hikers;
• Amalfi, with its History and its major role along the coast;
• Conca dei Marini, an exclusive destination for the international jet set;
• Furore, the neverland with a wild beauty;
• Maiori, enchanting fishing village declared a World Heritage Site;
• Minori, the land of great food and Limoncello;
• Positano, the postcard, the boutique and nightlife centre of the Amalfi Coast.
• Praiano, unique for the incredible steps that wind between the houses;
• Ravello, city of music and coral;
• Vietri sul Mare, famous for the production of ceramics;
We couldn’t miss to mention Scala, the oldest village of the Amalfi Coast, Tramonti, a village in the mountains which is made of a dozen small ancient villages, Cetara, where anchovies have a unique taste, Atrani, the smallest town by extension of Southern Italy.
Arts & Crafts on the Amalfi Coast
The artistic heritage of the Amalfi Coast is very well preserved. At least, what’s left after centuries of looting by Saracens and enemies of the Maritime Republic of Amalfi. However, there are still many places of historical and tourist interest that worth a visit during a holiday in the Amalfi Coast.
Especially churches, of course, places of worship that hold priceless works of art, frescoes, statues and art objects wonderfully crafted by ancient artists. Moreover, worth a visit also many palaces and large public buildings dating back to past centuries, whose presence is testimony to the fact that the Amalfi Coast has always been an active and productive area. There is no shortage of industrial archeology, warehouse and factories for the manufacture of ceramics and paper, and even typical handcrafts of the Amalfi Coast, such as the ceramics of Vietri sul Mare, the lace and so called “filo torto” (twisted wire) of Praiano, the sandals and sea – fashion of Positano, the highly prized paper of Amalfi.
When food becomes art
From a gastronomic point of view, the distinctive feature of these places is a great heterogeneity. Because the Amalfi Coast is sea and mountains, fishing and farming. The typical cuisine of the Amalfi Coast has it all, from pasta, to main courses based on both meat and fish, up to the great deal of vegetable side dishes, fruit in every season, and mouth-watering desserts. The Mediterranean diet is supported by the much more sweet and caloric Pastiera, the lightness of the grilled fish dishes is balanced by the taste of cheeses made with milk from goats that graze on the Lattari Mountains. And then the olive oil, citrus fruits, lemons, chestnuts and berries.
However, the most typical and renowned product in these areas, is definitely Limoncello, which is not real Limoncello if not made with lemons from the Amalfi Coast. Here lemons seem made for the purpose: their peel, so thick, provides a raw material of unrivaled organoleptic value, which involves all the senses. The Costa d’Amalfi Lemon, has a PGI status (Protected Geographical Indication), it weighs between 100 and 120 grams, bears few seeds, juicy pulp and is cultivated in orchards called “lemon gardens”. And then, how not to mention Rosolio, a nectar that comes from the manufacture of rose petals: Concerto is the oldest liquor produced in the Amalfi Coast.
The most amazing thing is that in these 30 kilometers of coastline each town has been able to create a unique dish. The specialties of Scala are Orecchiette pasta with beans or Spaghetti with pork blood. In Amalfi, you can enjoy a delicious dish of homemade pasta, the Scialatielli, with parsley, pepper, parmesan cheese, fresh tomatoes and clams. Tramonti is famous for goat cheese and mushrooms. Furore’s traditional dishes are based on seafood, mainly squid, and meat, such as the pork Timbale. Maiori is best known for its eggplant with chocolate. Minori, instead, for Tagliolini pasta with lemons and risotto with shrimps and citrus fruits. In Atrani you will enjoy the so-called Sarchiapone, pumpkin stuffed with ground meat. Praiano mainly proposes fish, cooked in a thousand ways. In Vietri sul Mare you shouldn’t miss the ox spleen cooked in oil and vinegar. In Cetara, spaghetti are served with the famous “colatura di alici” (anchovies’ oil). In Conca dei Marini you have rabbit with lemon and “sfogliatella Santa Rosa” puff pastry stuffed with cream and cherries. In Ravello, whether you eat fish or meat, you have to wash it all down with Ravello Amalfi Coast DOC wine.
A marine oasis protected by the embrace of mountains
Sea and mountains. Difficult to find other places where the two live in harmony as on the Amalfi Coast: a crystal vase from which life emerges. The Lattari Mountains surround the Amalfi Coast and then plummet into the sea. The sea winds between the rocks, it molds them, it breaks over them, creating bays and fjords. From the mountains you can admire spectacular views over the sea. Inland, you can enjoy the cool of the mountains, up to 1000-1200 meters high.
Down from the mountains you meet life, towns, villages, people, the fruit of human labor and their art. From the sea, up to the mountains, to seek peace and tranquility, away from the hustle and bustle of the coast during the summer travel season. The mountains represent the memory of when people fled to escape from the enemy in past centuries. From the sea you look at the mountains with the respect due to a safe haven, a place where to bring tangible and intangible values, when threatened by pirates.
The sea is life, but often even death. Fishermen know this well, especially when they think about their days spent diving in seek of coral, or when their boats were turned upside down by the waves of a pitch-black sea. The mountain is life, but often even loneliness, deprivation, working the land stolen to the rock, clod after clod. The sea, the mountains, the people of the Amalfi Coast. A harmonious whole, which nonetheless claims a God to be thanked for the grace of such a charming place.