|Subject: Amalfi Coast|
this is Leonardo reporting on his week in the Amalfi coast.
As some of the Ziners may not know,this is an area of outstanding beauty just south of Naples,Italy.
We spent the week from 6/17 to 6/24 in the area,staying at the Hotel/Residence San Pietro in Maiori.Maiori is one of the larger villages of the coast,one that suffered overexpansion in the '70s,because it had more flat land where they could build modern(and shabby)hotels and condos.It has about the same population as Amalfi(6000).While it's maybe less picturesque than Positano or some of the smaller places of the area,it's possibly more genuine,in that most of the people you see are local dwellers and not tourists(at least in this shoulder season).If you just raise your eyes,though,nature is superlative: you can walk the stairs up the hill and down to adjoining Minori among lemon trees,with beautiful vistas on the sea. We rented an apartment in the hotel,and it was very functional with A LOT of space.It's probably the most distant from the sea among the hotels of the village,but not more than 700 yards.For two two-bedded rooms,two bathrooms,ample sitting and dining room,separate large kitchen with second dining table,we payed 1.090.000 lire (530 $) for 7 nights.Swimming pool and complimentary minibus to the beach included.
Dining in the area was a mixed experience.I must reshape a bit what I said in a recent posting,because it happened that ,during this week, we had wonderful meals when we payed a lot,and modest quality when we payed less.You would say that's obvious,but I thought,from previous travels in Italy,that a trattoria meal could be better than a famous restaurant's.This time,alas,it wasn't so. Coming to the places,we had two great lunches. The first was not in Amalfi coast,but in Pompei.(We went there on Sunday,6/18,because we wanted to avoid the coast on a sunday).After visiting the superb archeological area,we had lunch at Il Principe.This restaurant is cited by all the restaurant guides;its staff and patron where in NYC Central park for an italian food week attended by president Clinton,and president Bush dined in the resaturant years ago. On our modest side we had a satisfying lunch,feeling the absolute excellence of the raw materials(the ingredients).130.000 Lire(64 USD) per head plus wine where quite a shock,but we don't do that every day...For you americans with your strong dollars and the usual prices at restaurants back home,definitely a good investment.We were pleased on seeing a large american family there,but quite disappointed when we later saw them sipping their cokes with the meal... The cuisine is a mixture of ancient(roman?)recipes and traditional food of the area.
Even better was our lunch at La Taverna del Capitano in Marina del Cantone,Nerano.This is a very simple-looking building right on the beach(even the beach is nothing special,although you can rent cheaply boats with driver, and have them take you to more beautiful coves),and you wouldn't rate it special from its outside appearance,but when you get in , you'll find an elegant dining room,an attentive service,and superlative cuisine.The accent is on fish,of course,and all the fish is from the small bay you can see through the large glass windows.They have a fishermen whose catch is completely sold to the restaurant,so they cook everyday what the man can give them and nothing more.The owner is really smart,and he will explain origin and peculiarities of the plates you order( I have no idea if he speaks english,but you have the luxury of a japanese waiter...the first I saw in a non japanese restaurant!). We payed 90.000 Lire per person(45 USD)plus wine,worth every cent,and I would have started immediately with a new meal.
We had disappointing experiences in the places that one could classify as Pizzeria-Ristorante.Usually these are nor good pizzerias neither good restaurants.If you want a good pizza,go where you see on the other people's tables almost only pizza.If you want to save on your meal,go to a shop and buy bread and tomatoes or fruits,or the outstanding mozzarella or fiordilatte produced in this area,and eat them on a park-bench,so you can spend more for the oncoming restaurants.Having a table and chairs in the apartment,we often did so,even if we never cooked anything different than tea.
One thing I would not do again is renting a car in this area(and here I come again contradicting what I posted some weeks ago ! ). The road ( not plural since there's only one) is the narrowest,most winding or meandering road we ever came across.(And we survived the road to Hana,as they write on T-shirts).When two buses happen to come from the two directions,this often ends in two long lines of cars trying to stick to each other and to the rocks,in order to give space for the buses to find their way.In most villages and towns you have scant chances of finding a parking,and if you manage to,it will be expensive and perhaps a 15 minutes walk from the centre,which is unusual for villages that stretch themselves for not more than half a mile horizontally(but often the vertical extension is stunning). Places like Positano are deservedly famous,but so crowded and so full of dozens of shops that sell all the same stuff,that I was happy to leave after a couple of hours. If I go back,and I'd definitely go,what I want to do is take a bus to some village(like stupendous Ravello) high on the mountaintops( rather hills,indeed,since they're 500-3000 ft high) and come down walking,on paths and stairs,of which there are many.I wouldn't need a car for that.Vistas are heavenly.Weather was perfect (not a single cloud in the whole week).
A special day was the excursion to Capri.This island that is famous for its Piazzetta (small square),home of the jet-set,and is also full of boutiques of the most exclusive names in fashion,is actually a natural splendour and it's worth every step you take in any direction.
On our last day we chose not to go to Naples,because we didn't know how to manage our luggage ( unthinkable to leave it well visible in the small car's trunk in that city...no left luggage at the airport).We visited Paestum instead and that was also a good surprise.The temples and the archeological museum are both first class,and it was well worth the extra miles,even if two of the temples are at the moment partially wrapped up for restauration. So we couldn't follow the interesting suggestions that Peter and other Ziners gave us about Naples restaurants.We left that for our next trip.