Love the good life
The Amalfi Coast has long been famed for its beauty and glamour – now discover a whole new side to the region with our countdown of its 12 best local experiences, perfect for a romantic break
Make the perfect gelato together
In AD 27, the Roman emperor Tiberius moved to the island of Capri. He spent the next 10 years just off the Amalfi Coast – a natural paradise of secluded beaches and towering cliffs. The region has been a favourite destination for visitors to Italy ever since. Overdevelopment has been restricted by the coast’s narrow roads and tightly packed mediaeval towns. As a result, the Amalfi Coast has kept its character: warm, open and quintessentially Italian.
And what could be more Italian than gelato? At the Gelateria David in Sorrento, owners Mario and Carmela Gargiulo make 130 flavours – and teach others how to make it too. In their workshop, students blend cream, sugar and egg yolks with fresh fruit. Mario only uses seasonal produce, so the flavours depend on what’s in the market that day: almond and lemon zest, or tomato and basil. They even do zuppa inglese – an English trifle gelato.
Gelateria David: 00-39-081-807-3649; gelateriadavidsorrento.it; Via Marziale 9, Sorrento; tasting classes from ` 700 (minimum seven people)
Conspire over the secrets of limoncello
In the terraced groves outside Praiano, Valentino Esposito picks large lemons from a tree. Most are the size of two fists, and weigh heavily on the slender branches. “You can have lemon with meat, with fish, with ice cream – even just half a glass of lemon in half a glass of water is delicious,” he says. The highlight, though, is limoncello, the region’s traditional and much-loved lemon liqueur, usually served as an after-dinner digestivo. Valentino’s limoncello is so well-regarded that chefs Jamie Oliver and Gennaro Contaldo are long-term admirers, and he sometimes hosts picnics for them in his lemon groves.
Back at his small artisan factory, Il Gusto della Costa, Valentino brews some lemon coffee: dark espresso with two thin slices of peel in the pot. Two assistants pour vibrant yellow liquid into glass bottles. “For limoncello, you only use lemon peel with no white pith on it at all,” Valentino explains. “The white makes it bitter. The peel must infuse for three or four days in alcohol, then we add a syrup of cold water and sugar. Only four ingredients. The bright colour is natural. In September or October, when the lemons are green, the limoncello is green.”
A sip of the yellow stuff is a revelation. It is thick, sweet, potent and full of the fresh, zingy flavour of the Amalfi Coast’s most famous fruit.
Il Gusto della Costa: 00-39-089-813-048; www.ilgustodellacosta.it; Via Gennaro Capriglione 24, Praiano
Shop like Jackie O
When Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis visited the island of Capri in the late 1960s and early ’70s, she packed light. Once there, she would drop into La Parisienne and buy 12 pairs of Adriana di Fiore’s famous Capri pants.
Today, Adriana still works in the boutique established by her family more than a century ago, which is situated in the corner of Capri’s main piazza. Jackie O’s favourite slim-fitting trousers are made by hand in the workshop, along with a range of clothes in a distinctive Caprese style: bright colours, flowing cuts and jewelled detail.
In the last few years, more international labels have muscled out many small-scale Caprese designers and artisans. Yet Adriana and her daughter Francesca stood firm, and are proud to support local talent. “They try to get us out,” says Adriana with a glint in her eye. “But we are fighting to remain!” It would be a brave global brand that took on the feisty ladies of La Parisienne and tried to mimic their classic Amalfi Coast style.
La Parisienne: 00-39-081-837-0283; laparisiennecapri.it; Piazza Umberto 1, Capri; Capri pants from ` 15,200
Catch a romantic sunset over Positano
Positano is one of the most beautiful towns anywhere in Italy. Arranged around a beach of soft, volcanic sand and the tiled dome of the Church of Santa Maria Assunta are high terraces of terracotta-roofed buildings; these contrast in salmon pink, lemon yellow and brilliant white against the impossibly blue sky and sea.
The Sirens in Homer’s Odyssey lured sailors to their doom on a rocky island by singing a song of seduction. According to local belief, that island lies just off the Amalfi Coast. The Hotel Le Sirenuse is named after these mythical creatures, and its terrace offers what is generally agreed to be the most sublime view of Positano. It also serves the best drinks in town.
As the sun sets, the lights start to twinkle. Were the Sirens really in Positano, they need not have sung for Odysseus – they could just have raised a glass of perfectly chilled prosecco from this terrace, and he would have made a beeline for the treacherous rocks below.
Hotel Le Sirenuse terrace bar: 00-39-089-875-066; sirenuse.it; Via Cristoforo Colombo 30, Positano (open year-round)
Walk hand-in-hand down the Path of the Gods
Movie stars such as Grace Kelly, Humphrey Bogart and Elizabeth Taylor may have come for the glamour, but the Amalfi Coast’s inspiring natural scenery has also drawn literary names. The likes of Italo Calvino, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and DH Lawrence found beauty and tranquillity on one of the coast’s most stunning walks, the Sentiero degli Dei – the Path of the Gods.
From the hilltop town of Agerola, an anonymous road leads towards the sea. Here begins the heavenly route, winding up and down precipitous ridges all the way to Positano. Back in the 16th century, this coast was often attacked by Saracens and pirates. The ruins of a defensive tower serve as a reminder of that more troubled time. Now, though, it is a place of perfect serenity. The air is gently scented with wild thyme and the only sound to be heard is that of chirping crickets and the occasional porcupine shuffling through the undergrowth. At every turn, there is a new and dramatic view down to the cobalt-blue Gulf of Salerno. On a clear day, the island of Capri is distantly visible at the end of the Sorrentine Peninsula. If the gods ever did walk the Earth, it is easy to imagine that they must have done so here.
Path of the Gods walk: in-italia.com/italy/campania/hiking-path-sentieri- degli-dei; 3 hours/ 7km, signposted from the main piazza in Agerola