Amalfi and its rich heritage: lemons!
A day outdoors. Our odyssey started with angry skies but thankfully we dodged the rain once again. Our destination: Amalfi. Our mission: to discover the indigenous Sfusato Costa di Amalfi lemons. After a winding but incredibly scenic drive along the Amalfi coastline, we arrived at the busy town of Amalfi in time to meet Salvatore Aceto of Amalfi Lemon Experience http://amalfilemonexperience.it. His cousin Carmela walked us away from the tourists and up the Valle dei Mulini (valley of the mills) towards their family business. Upon our arrival we were given a tour of their modest museum filled with artifacts of early lemon labour and harvesting techniques. It seems the women were the workhorses of the time carrying kilos of lemons in baskets on their backs up and down the terraced landscape. Afterwards they treated us to an explanation of how limoncello is produced in their facility. We learned that the rind of the Sfusato is particular to Amalfi and is especially sweet making it ideal for the production of this liqueur. After the demo, we walked all the way to the top of their orchards. The perfume of lemon blossoms permeated the air. It was divine! We slowly made our way down to enjoy a beautiful homemade lunch prepared by Salvatore’s wife. We were served freshly made pasta tossed in olive oil infused with fresh lemon zest, garlic and parsley. Next we had smoked provolone baked in lemon leaves, tomato and cheese wrapped in eggplant and a green salad.
All were simple yet simply delicious. We finished with a decadent dessert of tiramisu and a slice of lemon cake. It was just what we needed after all that uphill hiking! To drink, Salvatore served a Lacryma Christi del Vesuvio, a local blend of Aglianico and Pie di Rosso grapes. It is a young red wine with a “vivace” or effervescent quality that made it the perfect pairing for our fresh and savoury lunch.
We said goodbye to the coast and headed inland to the ancient city of Pompeii. We were fortunate to arrive late in the afternoon after the crowds had left so we almost had the grounds all to ourselves! We met our guide Marco and were immediately taken back in time. Marco was a fountain of information. He carefully explained the how Pompeii came to become an important Roman city, how it had already been devastated by an earthquake some 17yrs before the eruption of Vesuvius in 79AD and how it came to be rediscovered. From storefronts to politicians’ homes to brothels, there was never a dull moment in this tour. We peppered him with questions and he kindly answered each and every one of them. After a solid 2 hours touring the ruins and learning fascinating details we happily boarded our bus to make the journey back to our hotel. Needless to say it was a quiet bus ride back to the hotel.
Once again, we enjoyed a lovely dinner in the hotel restaurant: Sea bream served with olives, tomatoes and potatoes, olive oil and parsley – very Mediterranean! This was paired with a lovely white: Costa D’Amalfi Bianco, a blend of Falanghina and Pepella – a grape that was new to Antonio! Next was a veal dish prepared with peppercorns, zucchini and mashed potato. We sipped Costa D’Amalfi Rosso with this course; a blend of Pie di Rosso and Sciascinoso – local indigenous grapes. And of course there was dessert – a choice between a strawberry crostata and liquor infused hazelnut cake. Tough decision!
Tomorrow we leave to coast and head inland to continue the adventure.