Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Slow Food on The Amalfi Coast - Minori


There are no tentacles in my bikini bottom!

You got to hand it to the BBC. They sure know how to make an excellent series.

When Italian Reflections alerted me about the upcoming series Two Greedy Italians - Poor Man’s Food in the Amalfi coast on BBC television, I was terribly disappointed to be in the wrong area to watch. But then my enterprising daughter found it on You Tube and I have reproduced the clips here (For entertainment purposes only. All rights go to the BBC). Unfortunately the links are not always available.

A cocky North-South duo, Antonio Carluccio and Gennaro Contaldo,visit the small town of Minori, Gennaro’s birth place, just past Amalfi and talk food ‘con gusto’ in a thick Italian accent . The sound tracks of Fellini,‘Il Postino’ and ‘La Vita e` Bella’ lend a romantic touch to the dramatic back drop of coastal villas and shimmering seas, while they wax lyrical about the dolce vita in the poor past. Their friendly tongue in cheek banter accompanies what can only be seen as authentic Italian cooking seeped so deeply in tradition that you could mop your bread in it. Makes you want to jump on a plane and head straight for the Coast.


Il Simpatico Gennaro, a name so common in Campania that it must be the equivalent of ‘Tom’ in English, prepares a rich Ragu`alla Napoletana, finds room in his Speedos for a squid or two, prepares an impromptu meal of Linguine with prawns and mussels on the boat just off the cliffs of Amalfi (my favourite) and threatens to cook a lizard for Antonio.

The majestic Antonio Carluccio, a guest on the Coast although he was born in Vietri, samples the fresh homemade pecorino and cacciotella cheeses at a shepherd's mountain dwelling and prepares a ricotta tart with candied cedro lemon. A instant food fight ensues on the streets of Naples as they try to outdo each other and make the best fried pizza.

As I watched the charming series chuckling to myself over the comments in Neapolitan dialect as well as the theatrical English, I wondered what did they have, that I didn’t:

  • A traditional Italian family background where recipes are passed on in the family through the ages? Check!
  • A wooden board and plastic bowl exactly like the one used to make the twirly pasta and orecchietti? Check!
  • A jaunty little sports car to hug the corners of the Coast? Well no, but I love my red Fiat 500! And they didn’t show the traffic they would have encountered!
  • A lemon tree pergola to choose a lemon from? Take your pick!


  • An alfresco dining  room with a view? Check!


  • Fresh fruit just picked from the tree? Check!




Arrangiarsi’ to eat? Si`! Caught a lizard? Yes. They often slip prisoner into our bathtub. It’s either pick them up or flush them down. But eaten it? Never!

  • Tasted a sea urchin straight from the sea? Done (with a dash of said lemon from tree).
  • Held an octopus in my bikini?  No, what’s the word I’m looking for – too prudish or squeamish? But it doesn’t mean they didn’t want to be there.

fig basket cropped

  • Had uva fragolina (strawberry flavoured grapes)? Yes, but from our garden. Sneaky illicit tasting in someone else’s orchard would sweeten the moment.
  • But what I don’t have, or particularly want, is the great wobbly bellies that they are so proud to show.

       They are not great cooks and even better eaters for nothing!


Their Two Greedy Italians cook book is available on Amazon. I would love it I’m sure!



Friday, June 03, 2011

Blog Stains – What to do when you dare to be Different in Amalfi & Ravello

My neighbour Laura Thayer from Ciao Amalfi blog absolutely loves the town of Amalfi and has spent a good amount of her time living in the Coast walking and exploring the villages surrounding it.

Who would be better to bring you a guest post about the wonderful places the Secret Costiera has to offer in her corner of the Amalfi Coast? Enjoy her wonderful descriptions and drool over her beautiful photos! Thank you Laura!


Top 10 Things to do in Around Amalfi

Right up there with Positano, the towns of Amalfi and Ravello are the most visited travel destinations on the Amalfi Coast. I love the Blog Stains series that Rosa has created, and it’s a pleasure to share some of my favorite things to do in and around Amalfi and Ravello. Most of these activities will take you away from the crowds and show you a side of the Amalfi Coast that many visitors miss. Pack a good pair of walking shoes, because there are some hikes you won’t want to miss! Read on for tips on the best beaches, walks and views in Amalfi, Scala and Ravello.

1. The beautiful beaches are one of the main reasons to visit the Amalfi Coast, but the large Marina Grande Beach in Amalfi can get quite busy on summer days. To escape some of the crowds, take a short boat from Amalfi to the beautiful Santa Croce Beach just west of town.

 Ciao Amalfi Santa Croce Beach

Along the way the boat will stop off at the Duoglio Beach, which is a popular spot on the Amalfi Coast for wind surfing. Santa Croce is a little gem of a beach with incredibly blue water and lots of rocks to explore. There are a two local restaurants that also rent umbrellas and sun beds, which are a nice treat on this rocky beach.

 Ciao Amalfi Santa Croce Arco Naturale

Swim over to the Arco Naturale, or Natural Arch, just west of the beach. During the summer, you’ll see brave kids scampering up the rocks to jump off the arch.

2. Few of the travelers to the busy towns of Amalfi and Ravello know that located high in the mountains just between these two popular destinations is a sleepy little town called Scala where you can get a taste of quiet daily life in southern Italy.

Ciao Amalfi Scala

Scala is located just across the valley from Ravello and stretches out along the mountainside overlooking Amalfi and Atrani. It is composed of a town center and many hamlets that are connected by a road. Follow the road out of the town center and you’ll visit the hamlets of Minuta, Campidoglio and San Pietro before returning back to the center. It’s about an hour walk, and the first half is entirely uphill. But the bonus is that there are no steps along the way and very little traffic.

 Ciao Amalfi View Ravello from Scala

From the top of Scala in the hamlet of Campidoglio, the view overlooking Ravello and the coastline is spectacular. What’s even better is that you’ll have escaped all the crowds and be able to enjoy the view all to yourself.

3. High in the mountains above Amalfi is the Torre dello Ziro watchtower. Built in the 15th century as part of the castle defending the sea republic of Amalfi, a hike to this watchtower offers fabulous views overlooking Amalfi and Atrani.

Ciao Amalfi Torre dello Ziro Scala

The hike to the Torre dello Ziro begins in the hamlet of Pontone in Scala and takes about an hour each way at a leisurely (summer) pace. Bring a picnic to enjoy at the top!

4. Enjoy the gardens and stunning views from the Villa Cimbrone in Ravello. Yes, this one is in the guidebooks, but I’m always surprised how many first time visitors or day trippers to Ravello miss out on enjoying this splendid villa just because it’s not located right in the center of town. Follow the signs from the main Piazza Duomo, which will take you along a quiet walkway through a residential area to the tip of the promontory that the town sits on high above the Amalfi Coast. Plan about 20 minutes for the walk, which does involve some stairs and inclined paths along the way.

Ciao Amalfi Villa Cimbrone Terrace of Infinity

Upon entering the gardens you’ll find a little ticket booth opposite a beautiful cloister. You’ll be given a detailed map and all the time you’d like to explore the grounds. The Villa Cimbrone is famous for the Terrace of Infinity (above), with its—literally—breathtaking views of the dramatic, sheer drop down the mountainside and panorama overlooking the Bay of Salerno.

5. One of the most enjoyable and surprising hikes around Amalfi is up into the Valle dei Mulini, or Valley of the Mills, which is located above the town. Along the way you’ll see the ruins of the mills that once produced Amalfi’s famous paper. (To learn more about Amalfi’s fascinating paper history, visit the Museo della Carta, or the Paper Museum, in town.)

Ciao Amalfi Valle dei Mulini Stream

Pack a picnic to enjoy next to the cool mountain stream. Even in August it’s freezing cold and wonderfully refreshing to take a dip in.

Ciao Amalfi Valle dei Mulini Waterfall

When you reach the top of the valley you’ll think you’ve taken a wrong turn and ended up in a rain forest rather than the Amalfi Coast. The forests are thick and dark and the waterfalls so very unexpected. This is the other side of the Amalfi Coast that few visitors have the pleasure of discovering!

6. In September, the town of Scala hosts their Scala Meets New York Festival, which presents concerts, exhibits, special events and a memorial service honouring the victims of the terrorist attacks in America on September 11th. While the Ravello Festival attracts most of the attention, don’t forget to check the schedule for this festival, which also draws some big names.

Ciao Amalfi Scala Meets New York Bocelli

Last year the star of the festival was the Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli who gave a concert in the main Piazza of Scala. All events for the Scala Meets New York festival are free and open to the public.

7. If you’re up for a lot of stairs, enjoy the hike from Scala to Amalfi, which takes you through the hamlets of Minuta and Pontone.

Ciao Amalfi View from Minuta  

Along the way between Minuta and Pontone, you can see the ruins of the 12th-century church of Sant’Eustachio. While you can’t visit inside the ruins, you can walk up close and see what remains of the interior walls and columns from the pathway.

Ciao Amalfi View of Amalfi from Above 

Below the sleepy little hamlet of Pontone the stairs become steeper as you descend down the mountainside to Amalfi. It’s a gorgeous view of Amalfi from above with the blue sea beyond. When you get to the bottom, it’s time for a swim!

8. If the Marina Grande beach scene in Amalfi is a little too crowded for your taste, walk to the other end of the town’s harbor to the more hidden Le Sirene Beach. This beach has two entrances to the sea between rocks and has strong sunlight until late in the afternoon during the summer.

Ciao Amalfi Sirene Beach

Swim west just a little ways and you’ll find the Grotto di Sant’ Andrea to explore!

9. Long before the S.S.163—the famous Amalfi Coast road—was constructed in the 19th century, the only way to move about on the coastline besides by boat was to climb endless numbers of stairs. The town of Amalfi has many small hamlets located up in the mountains surrounding the town, and the walkway connecting them to Amalfi is called the Via Maestra dei Villagi.

Ciao Amalfi Via Maestra dei Villaggi

From Amalfi follow this walkway west out of town and be prepared to climb up and up to reach the hamlets of Pastena, Lone, Vettica and … up and up to … Tovere located high above the town of Conca dei Marini.

10. Just a short walk from Amalfi is the small village of Atrani, which is much less crowded and chaotic during busy summer days than its better known neighbor. This picturesque little town sits at the base of a river valley and has a wonderfully peaceful feel. If the pebbly beaches of Amalfi hurt your feet, head over to Atrani where you’ll find a black sand beach.

Ciao Amalfi Atrani from the Sea

On the right side of town is the colorful Collegiata di Santa Maria Maddalena. On July 22nd for the feast day of Mary Magdalen, Atrani hosts a fun summer religious festival with a procession and fireworks on the sea.