Archive | Amalfi Coast

Agriturismo San Fantino

the Italian form of “Magdalena”

We had run out of cereal and milk, so for our last morning in Amalfi we decided to have an Italian breakfast.  This might have also been because I had been craving a cappuccino all week.  You just can’t walk by all these darling cafes and not want to sit down for awhile!  And a Nutella-filled croissant doesn’t hurt either…

As I mentioned before, the town of Amalfi is known for its old paper mills, and many local artisans still make beautiful paper by hand.  We visited several of these shops, and at one of them I purchased some thick, creamy paper with the letter “B” embossed in the top corner.  I’ll need an especially good pen for that paper.

Later we hiked above the town into the hills to see some of the old paper mills.  If we did see them, they were really old.  Like… just a few stone walls in the valley.  But the hike itself was totally worth it, particularly because it passed through so many magnificent lemon groves.

Finally it was time to move on and leave the Amalfi Coast behind.  We drove down the winding highway along the coastline, soaking up last glimpses and final memories.  After several hours on the highway (including, of course, a stop along the way at another beach) we reached Agriturismo San Fantino, a rustic Italian villa with an attached ranch.  Since the 1980s, a huge tourism movement in Italy has been to convert old farms into hotels where families can come stay, meet the animals, and then enjoy a [usually organic] meal made almost entirely from food grown or raised on the property.  I’ve mentioned visiting another agriturismo here, and we have also visited a couple more in Sicily that I haven’t photographed for this the blog.  Visiting an agriturismo is definitely one of our favorite ways to enjoy the Italian countryside: good food and farm animals all in one place.

Before dinner, we explored the ranch, ate wild blackberries, and showed Lena animals in real life (instead of in The Big Red Barn).

Around 8pm we put Lena to bed and then enjoyed a quiet dinner on the patio.  The chef–a cheerful man named Pierluigi–served a dozen appetizers, all of which he had made from produce and meat from the ranch (sheep’s cheese, pork sausage, proscuitto, pickled artichokes, fresh green salad, eggplant bruschetta, etc.).  Elliott and Jess sipped wine from a nearby vineyard.  Later Pierluigi served us steaks from a cow that had been… umm… well, alive just a few days earlier.  Fresh and tasty.  Sorry if you’re vegetarian, but it was delicious!  Pierluigi popped the top off a Heineken and sat down with us to talk as the meal wound down.

And then home again, home again (jiggity jog) the next morning.  We were so ready to settle into regular life again, as always.  I think we all agree, though, that this whole trip has been one of our favorites in Italy thus far, haphazard and last-minute though it was!
2 :: in agriturismo, Amalfi Coast, eat this, Italy, travel

Agriturismo San Fantino

the Italian form of “Magdalena”

We had run out of cereal and milk, so for our last morning in Amalfi we decided to have an Italian breakfast.  This might have also been because I had been craving a cappuccino all week.  You just can’t walk by all these darling cafes and not want to sit down for awhile!  And a Nutella-filled croissant doesn’t hurt either…

As I mentioned before, the town of Amalfi is known for its old paper mills, and many local artisans still make beautiful paper by hand.  We visited several of these shops, and at one of them I purchased some thick, creamy paper with the letter “B” embossed in the top corner.  I’ll need an especially good pen for that paper.

Later we hiked above the town into the hills to see some of the old paper mills.  If we did see them, they were really old.  Like… just a few stone walls in the valley.  But the hike itself was totally worth it, particularly because it passed through so many magnificent lemon groves.

Finally it was time to move on and leave the Amalfi Coast behind.  We drove down the winding highway along the coastline, soaking up last glimpses and final memories.  After several hours on the highway (including, of course, a stop along the way at another beach) we reached Agriturismo San Fantino, a rustic Italian villa with an attached ranch.  Since the 1980s, a huge tourism movement in Italy has been to convert old farms into hotels where families can come stay, meet the animals, and then enjoy a [usually organic] meal made almost entirely from food grown or raised on the property.  I’ve mentioned visiting another agriturismo here, and we have also visited a couple more in Sicily that I haven’t photographed for this the blog.  Visiting an agriturismo is definitely one of our favorite ways to enjoy the Italian countryside: good food and farm animals all in one place.

Before dinner, we explored the ranch, ate wild blackberries, and showed Lena animals in real life (instead of in The Big Red Barn).

Around 8pm we put Lena to bed and then enjoyed a quiet dinner on the patio.  The chef–a cheerful man named Pierluigi–served a dozen appetizers, all of which he had made from produce and meat from the ranch (sheep’s cheese, pork sausage, proscuitto, pickled artichokes, fresh green salad, eggplant bruschetta, etc.).  Elliott and Jess sipped wine from a nearby vineyard.  Later Pierluigi served us steaks from a cow that had been… umm… well, alive just a few days earlier.  Fresh and tasty.  Sorry if you’re vegetarian, but it was delicious!  Pierluigi popped the top off a Heineken and sat down with us to talk as the meal wound down.

And then home again, home again (jiggity jog) the next morning.  We were so ready to settle into regular life again, as always.  I think we all agree, though, that this whole trip has been one of our favorites in Italy thus far, haphazard and last-minute though it was!
2 :: in agriturismo, Amalfi Coast, eat this, Italy, travel

Ravello, caught between earth and sky

Our second morning on the Amalfi Coast dawned so crisp, clear, and beautiful that we almost didn’t mind our daughter rousing us at 7am.  Just look at the view from our apartment!  (If you’d ever like to stay there yourself, here’s the listing.)

Elliott took this video of the scene as well as his two lovely ladies:

We couldn’t wait to see the town so we set off on a short walk to shop for some fruit. Lena enjoyed a fresh apricot (she’ll eat five a day) on the steps of the church in the middle of town.

Later that morning we all walked back down to the beach below our apartment for surf and sunshine:

The individual lidos are demarcated by the different colored umbrellas.  If you choose to go to a lido, you will pay between 3-5 euro for a day’s use of an umbrella and a couple of lounge chairs.  As always, we chose to pay nothing and laid our towels down wherever we could find space.

photos by Jess Garber

Check it out, Lena is actually looking at the camera and smiling!

Twice!  Sorta.

Finally, after Lena’s afternoon nap, we hopped into our car and drove about 20 minutes up into the hills to visit the magnificent town of Ravello.  To my surprise, Ravello was my favorite of all the Amalfi Coast towns we visited, although it’s far from the coast.  The beauty of the mellowed-by-time buildings, the peace in the many blooming gardens, the spectacular views down green hills to the coastline, the clinks of cutlery on crystal in the piazza-side cafes, the bursts of color from pottery shops, and the overall understated charm of the whole town completely drew me in.

Lena is wearing an outfit I wore when I was a baby.  Jess is, as usual, wearing an outfit I wish I could wear today.  (We’re definitely enjoying each other’s clothes as long as she’s visiting!)

The magnificent Villa Rufolo, which I imagine Mark Ruffalo lives in between filming movies.

Old vineyard just outside the center of town.
Quiet garden where a father and son were painting together.

A cinquecento (or “500,” named for its 500 cc engine), the quintessential Italian car.
I took the video below of Lena climbing steps in Ravello.  I love how she grunts after each step.  Such an effort for little legs!

We returned to the town of Amalfi and almost had a heart attack when fireworks started exploding right outside our window.  Later we learned they were to celebrate the festival of Our Lady of the Snows.  Italians, who love all festivals and any excuse to shoot off fireworks, were commemorating a legend from 4th century Rome in which snow fell in August.  A parade of boats streamed from town to town along the coast and each town obliging shot off fireworks late into the night.

photo by Jess Garber

Elliott and I put Lena to bed and left Jess in charge, and then dressed up a little and headed into town on a date!  We’d both been craving a meal of fine seafood, and Elliott had researched for an hour earlier that day to determine an appropriate restaurant.  He settled upon Ristorante Marina Grande, an establishment that prides itself upon upholding sustainable fishing practices and serving locally caught seafood and locally grown food.  It was a perfect choice.

I love their bread bags instead of baskets… and the beautiful drawing of the town of Amalfi on the front of their menus.  We could find our apartment in the drawing!

Elliott perused a wine menu that was almost as big as he was.  To begin, we chose the tasting of seven appetizers, which included seven vastly different types of seafood.  For a main course I chose the homemade rosemary gnocchi with prawns and oranges (there were a lot of flavors goin’ on in that one… almost too much for a pregnant woman to handle) and Elliott chose a dish bursting with seafood: linguine twisted around shrimp, calamari, and several kinds of shellfish.

That was our last day on the Amalfi Coast, at least on this trip.  We must come back!  We drove down the coast the next day and enjoyed our first stay at an agriturismo that night.  Tomorrow I’ll have some photos of Lena with pigs and horses and kittens (oh my!).

4 :: in Amalfi Coast, eat this, travel, video

Ravello, caught between earth and sky

Our second morning on the Amalfi Coast dawned so crisp, clear, and beautiful that we almost didn’t mind our daughter rousing us at 7am.  Just look at the view from our apartment!  (If you’d ever like to stay there yourself, here’s the listing.)

Elliott took this video of the scene as well as his two lovely ladies:

We couldn’t wait to see the town so we set off on a short walk to shop for some fruit. Lena enjoyed a fresh apricot (she’ll eat five a day) on the steps of the church in the middle of town.

Later that morning we all walked back down to the beach below our apartment for surf and sunshine:

The individual lidos are demarcated by the different colored umbrellas.  If you choose to go to a lido, you will pay between 3-5 euro for a day’s use of an umbrella and a couple of lounge chairs.  As always, we chose to pay nothing and laid our towels down wherever we could find space.

photos by Jess Garber

Check it out, Lena is actually looking at the camera and smiling!

Twice!  Sorta.

Finally, after Lena’s afternoon nap, we hopped into our car and drove about 20 minutes up into the hills to visit the magnificent town of Ravello.  To my surprise, Ravello was my favorite of all the Amalfi Coast towns we visited, although it’s far from the coast.  The beauty of the mellowed-by-time buildings, the peace in the many blooming gardens, the spectacular views down green hills to the coastline, the clinks of cutlery on crystal in the piazza-side cafes, the bursts of color from pottery shops, and the overall understated charm of the whole town completely drew me in.

Lena is wearing an outfit I wore when I was a baby.  Jess is, as usual, wearing an outfit I wish I could wear today.  (We’re definitely enjoying each other’s clothes as long as she’s visiting!)

The magnificent Villa Rufolo, which I imagine Mark Ruffalo lives in between filming movies.

Old vineyard just outside the center of town.
Quiet garden where a father and son were painting together.

A cinquecento (or “500,” named for its 500 cc engine), the quintessential Italian car.
I took the video below of Lena climbing steps in Ravello.  I love how she grunts after each step.  Such an effort for little legs!

We returned to the town of Amalfi and almost had a heart attack when fireworks started exploding right outside our window.  Later we learned they were to celebrate the festival of Our Lady of the Snows.  Italians, who love all festivals and any excuse to shoot off fireworks, were commemorating a legend from 4th century Rome in which snow fell in August.  A parade of boats streamed from town to town along the coast and each town obliging shot off fireworks late into the night.

photo by Jess Garber

Elliott and I put Lena to bed and left Jess in charge, and then dressed up a little and headed into town on a date!  We’d both been craving a meal of fine seafood, and Elliott had researched for an hour earlier that day to determine an appropriate restaurant.  He settled upon Ristorante Marina Grande, an establishment that prides itself upon upholding sustainable fishing practices and serving locally caught seafood and locally grown food.  It was a perfect choice.

I love their bread bags instead of baskets… and the beautiful drawing of the town of Amalfi on the front of their menus.  We could find our apartment in the drawing!

Elliott perused a wine menu that was almost as big as he was.  To begin, we chose the tasting of seven appetizers, which included seven vastly different types of seafood.  For a main course I chose the homemade rosemary gnocchi with prawns and oranges (there were a lot of flavors goin’ on in that one… almost too much for a pregnant woman to handle) and Elliott chose a dish bursting with seafood: linguine twisted around shrimp, calamari, and several kinds of shellfish.

That was our last day on the Amalfi Coast, at least on this trip.  We must come back!  We drove down the coast the next day and enjoyed our first stay at an agriturismo that night.  Tomorrow I’ll have some photos of Lena with pigs and horses and kittens (oh my!).

31 :: in Amalfi Coast, eat this, travel, video

Positano, a jewel of the Amalfi Coast

Our first morning in Amalfi dawned fresh, clear, and inviting.  We sipped coffee on our balcony and feasted our eyes on the town below as it slowly roused itself from sleep.  Later Jess and I went for a walk through town while Lena napped and Elliott worked back in our little apartment.  

This Arab-Sicilian cathedral dominates the skyline and its bells ring the hour throughout the town.  We explored around the church and then sat on the steps for a long time, talking and watching the town below us.  We definitely felt like we were in the heart of the Amalfi Coast for, although they are literally a dozen towns strung like pearls on a necklace along this coastline, only three are considered the crown jewels.  These three are Amalfi, Positano, and Ravello, one of which we were staying in, and the other two of which we wanted to visit later that day and the next.

That afternoon we went to the beach below our apartment.  August is the holiday month in Italy and so the free beach (the one where you didn’t have to pay for a lounge chair and umbrella) was crowded with adults and children of all ages.  We found a little patch of ground on which to put our towels and soaked up the sun.

This guy cracked me up, cast out full length in the sun at the water’s edge with just a couple of sandals for a headrest!  We loved being surrounded by Italians and only a few Europeans; I never heard another American accent on the Amalfi beaches.  All the Americans, actually, seemed to be in guided tours and generally passed through in large groups in the morning, leaving no other English-speakers in their wake.

As the sun was sinking in the west, we drove about 30 minutes along the winding coastal highway to another of the “prettiest” towns: Positano.  John Steinbeck famously loved Positano’s steep streets and quiet cafes.  In a 1953 Harper’s Bazaar article about Positano, he said, “Positano bites deep. It is a dream place that isn’t quite real when you are there and becomes beckoningly real after you are gone.” 

So many stairs from the top of town to the beaches!  Positano truly is an up-and-down town.  We didn’t know anything about the structure of the town, so we took the first parking spot we found, right at the top of the hill.  We walked all the way down, drinking in the view as we went, and explored for awhile before hiking the steep, steep hill back to our car.  About that time we realized we were on a one-way street now… and then had to drive all the way down the hill to the beaches before we could get on a two-way street going back to Amalfi.  Whoops!  My calves were aching for the rest of the week.  A word to the wise: do what the tour books say and park in the municipal parking lot at the bottom of the hill!

Lena saw I was resting an interesting chair and asked if she could sit there instead of me.  Honey, just let your mama sit down!  

As the sun was setting, we bought pasta, vegetables, and sauce at a little alimentari and then drove home to a simple supper in our apartment.  The plan for tomorrow?  Spend more time at the beach, visit Ravello, and then Elliott and I wanted to go out for a seafood dinner.   I’ll share those photos on Monday!
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6 :: in Amalfi Coast, family, Italy, travel

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