Friday, 22 November 2013

Postcard from the Amalfi Coast

When on a hot summer day the temperature reaches more than 40 degrees C (104 F) one of the best places to be is on the Amalfi Coast in  the Campania region in the south of Italy. It's the stretch of coastline that lies between Salerno and Positano in the Salerno Gulf, and which covers a distance of 40-50 kilometres. Along this stretch you'll find small, picturesque villages (with approx. 2500 to 5500 inhabitants), including Positano, Amalfi, Vietri sul Mare, Maiori and Minori. And not to mention Ravello which is located high on the cliffs off the coast where you have a stunning sea view. In 1997 the Amalfi Coast was added to the UNESCO list of world heritage. 
If you move inwards and upwards in this beautiful landscape you'll find hills covered in terraces and dry walls to keep the landscape "in place" and here they grow lemons and other kinds of fruits; olives, grapes and vegetables of all kinds. The Amalfi Coast (and Sorrento), along with Capri and Sicily are probably the places that are most famous for their Limoncello liqueur. If you continue even further into the countryside you can find farms that keep sheeps, goats, cows and even buffaloes (from where you get the absolute best mozzarella cheese).

The hillside up to Ravello


The entire landscape is criss-crossed by old cattle trails, or rather, earlier trade routes that ran between the different cities. I myself have walked from Minori that is situated by the sea and up to Ravello which lies at about 400 meters above sea level. The walk includes 1247 steps in addition to the normal path - so you get a good work-out along the way. You pass through olive groves and vineyards where farmers are working and they are greeting you with a  "ciao" or  a "buongiorno". Several times I thought I was lost because I was passing through what I thought was private property with cats and chickens running everywhere, but I wasn't. Lost, that is.... You have a fantastic view while you walk, both to the sea and the hills that stretch upwards and I strongly recommended that you take this walk if you happen to visit the Amalfi Coast. Although I must admit that when I was about halfway through it I regretted it because the thermometer showed  a whopping 42 degrees Celsius. The wisest thing though would have been to take the bus from Minori to Ravello and then walk back again ... Oh well, next time! 

Some of the 1247 steps from Minori to Ravello

The hillside between Minori and Ravello  as seen from Ravello

Minori- which was my starting point - is situated about 4 km from the town of Amalfi. It has about 2800 inhabitants and is the birthplace of Jamie Oliver's  "Italian mentor" Gennaro Cortaldo who has also written a cookbook called "Passione" with recipes from the Amalfi Coast. Since Minori is so small it is a perfect place if you want to relax. You'll find small restaurants or tavernas for almost every taste and the beach isn't too big or too crowded. The beach is actually divided into two parts where in one part you'll find sun beds and umbrellas - and the the other part is for people like me that is happy to lie down on my beach towel with a book in one hand and my toes in the sea... Minori is the perfect starting 
point for boat trips to the various towns along the coast - I wouldn't recommend the bus because the road is narrow and full of hairpin bends and the bus driver is driving like a maniac.... 



View over Minori. This is almost the entire town.....

Ravello, as I said earlier, lies high above sea level and has about 2500 inhabitants. Over the years it has been a popular destination for artists, writers, musicians and artists such as the Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg, Leonard Bernstein and Greta Garbo and they say it was here that Richard Wagner found the inspiration for the scenography of the opera Parsifal. The city has since 1953 celebrated a music festival in honour of Wagner. At first it was just an opera festival, but has now changed into a 2 months long festival of jazz, dance shows, photo exhibitions, discussion groups and also the opportunity to meet and talk to the various participating artists who in many cases is world famous. A part of the festival takes place at Villa Rufolo which has an unbeatable view of the sea. 

The main piazza in Ravello

The view from Villa Rufolo

The garden at Villa Rufolo

The view from where the concerts take place at Villa Rufolo

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