This article originally appeared in the October 2006 issue of Dream of Italy. Updated 2018.
Guest editor Barrie Kerper asked a few residents and habituées of the Amalfi Coast about what they especially love about this special coastline. We published a number of their personal tips a few years ago in a special report on the Amalfi Coast a few years back but didn’t have room for them all, so here are some additional favorite things:
Leni Attanasio, owner, with her husband, Palazzo Murat, Positano:
- The restaurants Acqua Pazza in Cetara; Da Gemma trattoria in Amalfi; Capo D’Orso in Salerno; Il Grottino Azzurro in Positano; Donna Rosa in Montepertuso; and La Tagliata, between Montepertuso and Nocelle.
- Next To in Positano, a club with a new, modern look and great drinks and antipasti.
- The town of Conca dei Marini.
- Hiking up to Montepertuso and Nocelle in the spring and autumn.
- A trip to Capri — but only if you stay more than a day.
Giulia Sersale, supervisor, Plants and Flowers, Le Sirenuse, Positano:
- Mortella, the beautiful Mediterranean plant known as wild myrtle that thrives here. La Mortella (the place of the myrtles) is also the name of the garden on the nearby island of Ischia that was created by Lady Susanna Walton, wife of Sir William Walton, a noted British composer. Designed by English landscape architect Russell Page, La Mortella is one of the world’s great gardens, with rainforest trees, fountains, lotus pools, scented plants, olives, and wild roses. HRH Prince Charles is the patron of La Mortella, and recently a book was published, La Mortella: An Italian Garden Paradise, (New Holland Publishers, 2002). DOI readers who are garden enthusiasts may also be interested in the Mediterranean Garden Society,
- The scalinatelle of Positano have some lovely little shops, such as Ferro & Design and Idee d’Arte, with handpainted plates and attractive objects. They’re tiny stores on Via Leucosia, down the hill from Le Sirenuse — just take the little stairway on the right side off Via Cristoforo Colombo.
- Three restaurants on the spiaggia grande (main beach) in Positano: La Cambusa, a typical Positanese restaurant with tables indoors and out and delicious fried antipasti; Le Tre Sorelle, named after three clever women who opened the restaurant in the ’60s; and Chez Black, where you must ask for spaghetti ai ricci, spaghetti with sea urchins. The owners also have a nightclub, Music on the Rocks, open in the summer.
- Il Poseidon hotel and restaurant (Via Pasitea, 148, Positano). Brother and sister owners, Monica and Marco Aonzo, have created a lovely atmosphere where piano music is played every evening in the vaulted ceiling sitting room. The hotel is on the opposite side of Positano with views towards Le Sirenuse, and the restaurant serves delicious food.
- La Buca di Bacco hotel and restaurant in Positano. The restaurant is very good and serves a specialty: palle di riso, rice balls. A Positano tradition is for families to buy as many rice balls as they can and take them on board their gozzo, anchoring a few miles away in a special place called la cattedrale, the cathedral.
- Boat trips to one of three restaurants: Ristorante la Conca del Sogno in Recommone (39-081-808-1036), Ristorante Lo Scoglio in Nerano (39-081-808-1026), and La Taverna del Capitano in Marina del Cantone (39-081-808-1028). All of these are en route to Capri, and are in beautiful fishermen bays and have local fresh food.
- Hikes in the mountains. Guests at Le Sirenuse can participate in a special exercise walk organized by our fitness center that goes up the stairs that lead to Nocelle.
Carla Capalbo, author, The Food and Wine Guide to Naples and Campania:
- Delizia al limone of Salvatore De Riso (Pasticceria De Riso, Piazza Cantilena, 28, Minori): This is a classic Amalfi Coast dessert, a pale yellow breast of lemon-infused custard, cake, and cream. It uses the indigenous limone sfusato, which only grows on this coast, and has less acidity and more sweetness and flavor than other lemons. This was a historic dessert that had stopped being made, and De Riso revived it.
- The raw milk cheeses being made by Gregorio Avitabile and Rita Cioffi from their goats and sheep, high up on the mountain above Amalfi. No one ever looks upwards from that great coastal road, preferring to see only the sea, but up high there are villages like Scala that are so steep only mules can reach them, and the cheeses the animals make from those airy, salty pastures are sublime.
- The vegetable garden at Punta Campanella: Alfonso Iaccarino‘s vegetable garden for his famous 2-star Michelin restaurant, Don Alfonso 1890, is in the completely unspoiled, UNESCO-site peninsula, Punta Campanella. It once housed a Greek temple, and has been left intact for millenia. Alfonso and his wife, Livia, bought it when it was a wild jungle, and have lovingly retamed it, planting it with dozens of varieties of native southern Italian olive trees, and all the indigenous vegetables his kitchen loves to serve. These are the luckiest vegetables on earth, as they look out on only one thing: the island of Capri surrounded by the blue Mediterranean.
Faith Willinger, author of Adventures of an Italian Food Lover: With Recipes from 213 of My Very Best Friends:
- Faith’s book features about a dozen recipes from Amalfi Coast and Campania destinations. The fish cookery of chef Gennaro Esposito at La Torre del Saracino restaurant, in the town of Vico Equense (Via Torretta, 9; 39-081-802-8555). This extraordinarily large, jovial young man has a finesse of palate and hand that is rare to find, and his work with the locally caught Mediterranean fish that the little fishing boats bring in each morning is fantastic…worth the detour. His partner Vittoria Aiello‘s babà is also a favorite. Light as a cloud, but much more memorable! (Babà refers to the Neapolitan version of babà au rhum, a light pastry made with rum and served with cream and/or fresh fruit.) — Barrie Kerper