PWk: Prod, Tlk: GS2, Datacash: Live
Located south of Naples, the Amalfi Coast – a small but strikingly beautiful stretch of coastline nominated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO – is my home. I was born in the small village of Minori and spent the first 18 years or so of my life here where the sea was my paddling pool, the mountains my backyard and the village my playground.
I try to return home as much as I can and love to take my family there for holidays, showing them all the places I used to go to and things I did. One of the first things I do when I arrive, at whatever time of year, is dip my feet into the sea, then enjoy a nice espresso at Gambardella, a family-run café and pasticcieria serving delicious local cakes and biscuits.
I still have family living on the Amalfi Coast; my sister, Carmelina, lives in Minori and I have cousins in neighbouring Maiori. Carmelina is a wonderful cook and when I’m there she insists on cooking for me every day. Sunday lunch is always a treat when all the family comes round to enjoy her specialities.
For some reason, when I’m on the Amalfi Coast, I love to walk – it’s probably the pure sea air and good healthy food which make me feel more energetic. I remember on one particular holiday with Liz and the girls, we would walk from Minori to Maiori and back again on a daily basis to visit family and friends.
I also love the walk from the picturesque hilltop village of Ravello, down to Minori, through lemon groves, ancient stone walls, popping into tiny chapels and the impressive church built under a cave of St Cosima & Damiano – and of course admiring the stunning sea view. We did this when the girls were quite small and it took us all afternoon but it was well worth it.
And in the evening a hike to the Villa Maria above Minori is rewarded with a warm welcome by Vincenzo and his family and delicious food, all home-grown, including the wine. The sea view is breathtaking and together with the peace and tranquillity and the sweet-smelling aroma of fresh herbs and lemons, you could easily be in paradise! There are very few tables, so be sure to book.
I like to travel by boat, especially during the summer months when roads can be busy. It’s so easy to get the boat from all of the resorts along the coast for day trips to other towns and villages, or even the lovely island of Capri.
From Minori it’s just a short ride away to Amalfi, where we enjoy spending leisurely afternoons admiring the beautiful church in the main square, perhaps a little shopping, and lemon granita and delicious pastries from Andrea Pansa, a traditional quality pasticcieria established in the 1800s.
Further along the coast, there is the internationally renowned chic resort of Positano, which Liz loves and where we have stayed a few times. The quaint narrow back streets, lined with bougainvillea-clad villas, are a joy to get lost in and explore the fashionable boutiques and cafés. A visit to my friend, Valentino’s, limoncello factory (Il Gusto della Costa) in nearby Praiano is a delight. A warm welcome is guaranteed and you can buy his excellent lemon liqueur and sweet locally-grown orange jam. Along the main road between Positano and Praiano is one of my favourite places to eat – La Taverna del Leone – no frills or sea views and frequented mainly by locals, you can indulge in delicious platefuls of local antipasti, freshly made pasta, fish and seafood, or simply opt for excellent pizza. Above Positano, in Montepertuso, where my friend Erica is chef, is the lovely Donna Rosa restaurant. It's excellent for seafood-filled pasta dishes.
We sometimes hire a boat. In my younger days it was always a rowing boat, but now I somehow prefer a speedboat –we can escape the busy main beaches, admire the coastline from afar and find a quiet spot for some swimming and snorkelling. Or sometimes I take the girls fishing with me to the same places I used to go when I was a boy. Sometimes, if there’s a crowd of us, simply hiring a few sun loungers at the beach, building sandcastles and jumping off the pier into the sea is a lot of fun – my daughter Chloe is quite an expert!
After a lazy day soaking up the sea and sun, thoughts turn to dinner. If we’re in Minori, we first enjoy a leisurely aperitivo at De Riso. I recommend sitting outside and watching the world go by before heading off to Giardiniello Restaurant. Giardiniello was around when I was little and our families were friends. Over the years it has expanded but still remains the friendly family-run restaurant I have always remembered and loved, serving good home cooking - exquisite fish and pasta dishes and ndundari (ricotta dumplings).
For an Italian shopping experience, nearby Salerno, is a hidden gem – and easily accessible even by ferry. It boasts all the Italian designer labels all within a pleasant stroll of each other, with plenty of cafés, pizzerias and restaurants to stop for a break.
Each summer, the Amalfi Coast becomes alive with feasts, festivals and religious celebrations. In my home village of Minori, the Feast of St Trofimena, our patron saint, is celebrated on 13 July. It is just as exciting now as it was when I was a local boy. The statue of the saint is paraded through the streets, bands play music, firework displays over the sea and of course lots of food and drink to be enjoyed. In Atrani, a similar feast is held a week later to celebrate Maria Maddalena, and at the end of June, the Feast of Sant’Andrea in Amalfi. On 15 August, known in Italy as Ferragosto and a national holiday, celebrations take place in honour of the Assumption of Our Lady and in Positano this is a festival not to be missed lasting two days.
Aside from religious feasts, the Amalfi Coast boasts local sagre (food festivals) like the Sfogliatella Santa Rosa festival in the small village of Conca dei Marini, celebrating this typical sweet pastry filled with local ricotta. In Cetara, the ‘blue fish festival’ pays homage to the local tuna and anchovy, and visitors can enjoy excellent fresh fish each evening, accompanied by live music.
In September, my home village celebrates its food too by putting on Gusta Minori, a three-day festival where all the community gets together. Local talent put on shows, plays, music, poetry recitals, and of course, delicious food - scialatielli con frutti di mare, totani and patate, mozzarella wrapped in lemon leaves, filled anchovies, lemon-based desserts and demonstrations of handmade pasta.
I do hope you have enjoyed reading about my beloved Amalfi Coast and I have given you some idea and feel of what is to me, one of the most beautiful places on earth – but then I would say that!