text and photos by Machi di Pace ©
Visitors to the Amalfi Coast realize at once that simplicity and elegance are two cultured concepts and by no means opposite. The dramatic landscape could well have been a watercolour masterpiece, with rocky cliffs overhanging the sea and colourful lemon groves. Amalfi is the emblem of elegance with its Byzantine architecture, famous citrus fruits and blue waters. It makes an ideal winter escape at a time when the relaxed pace of life can best be appreciated. Due to its strategic position, it became the first marine republic and obtained a trade monopoly in the Mediterranean Sea from the 10th century onwards when the Tavole Amalfitane, the first Maritime Law, was established.
Amalfi harbour and bay
The farmers got busy building the characteristic steep terraces close to the sea, where the small fishing town nestled in among the rocks. Here it is the knobbly lemons that are the real wealth of the place; for their properties, for their unique flavour and for the incredible variety of products that are created from them. A Lemon Tour is both fun and instructive, educating the visitor in the ancient agricultural traditions that have never been abandoned, despite the influx of modern farming techniques. Thanks to the use of wooden frameworks, this type of lemon, known locally as a sfusato amalfitano, extends as far as the Valley of the Mills. It is a local variety specializing in its extremely intense essential oils. You only need to rub the peel in your hands to get a feeling for the sensory properties of the Amalfi lemons, which have been certified with the IGP Italian certificate of quality.
Knobbly citrons and sfusato lemons
From the Amalfi countryside, the journey through the narrow streets and a small tunnel is rather like walking though a presepe, the Italian nativity scene. The doorways and front steps of the houses open straight out onto the narrow walkways. The main road then leads into the Piazza with its magnificent cathedral dating back to the year 987 A.D.. The golden mosaics and row of arches at the top of the steep set of steps create one of the most popular picture postcards of the town. And while at the top, time seems to have stopped at the year 1000, down below in the little streets, you can see the tourists busy shopping or chatting at the tables of the coffee bars and restaurants that lie in the shadow of the cathedral.
The only thing left to do at this point is to continue walking down the road that leads to the beach, breathing in the salty sting of the fresh sea air on a sunny day at the end of winter.
Restaurant in the main square of Amalfi
The most beautiful terraces for their breathtaking views of the mountains and the sea are:
– Villa Amalfitana (sleeps up to 16 guests) is a 19th century property, which has recently been restored and preserves all of its original, architectonic features. The villa also offers private access to the sea and is an ideal location for weddings and special events.
– Villa Jamila (sleeps up to 8 guests) is located 2.5 km from Amalfi and 5 km from Ravello. It boasts a modern, minimalistic style without renouncing the traditional colours of the Amalfi Coast villas.
– Villa Le Terrazze (sleeps up to 12 guests) is exactly as it’s name promises. It features sublime terraces overlooking the sea and is embellished with bright blue tiles and lively colours that blend beautifully with the bougainvillea and ivy flanking the property.
– Villa Il Tramonto (sleeps up to 12 guests) has a panoramic swimming pool set within the greenery of the terraces. You can almost feel yourself a part of the incredible landscape that unfolds before your eyes. It is only 2 km from the centre of Amalfi.
Seaview along the promenade
Things to do in the area:
- Lemon tour in the terraced gardens looking out over the Valley of the Mills. To book: Discover My Region
The local citron lemon is eaten whole, peel and all. Cut into small pieces, it can also be dressed with oil and salt.
- The famous Pansa coffee bar in Amalfi’s main piazza for shot of coffee and a lemon delight at one of the tables in the shadow of the cathedral.
- A ten minute walking tour from Amalfi to the fishing village of Atrani. Atrani is one of Italy’s most beautiful hamlets and a UNESCO World Heritage site. Villa Bellevue (sleeps up to 12 guests) faces right onto Atrani village and Amalfi Harbour
- The Amalfi Paper Mills. Due to the abundance of water, the first paper mills were founded in the the 18th century in the Valley of the Mills. The celebrated Amalfi paper is also known as Charta Bambagina and is made from cotton fibres dissolved in water and is used for formal ceremonial invitation cards. See Amatruda for more details.
- Dinner at the Trattoria da Gemma for delicious fish dishes flavoured with lemon, the famous chocolate aubergines and some amazing locally made cakes.