Live the good life on the Amalfi Coast
11 October 2011 | By Alex von Tunzelmann, Lonely Planet Magazine
The Amalfi Coast has long been famed for its beauty and glamour – now discover a whole new side to the region with a countdown of its 12 best local experiences.
12. Make the perfect gelato
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 medieval 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 of ice cream – 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 at the market that day: almond and lemon zest, or tomato and basil. They even do zuppa inglese – an English trifle gelato. (Gelateria David, Via Marziale 9, Sorrento; tasting classes £8; 00 39 81 8073649)
11. Learn 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 with 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, Via Gennaro Capriglione 24, Praiano; 00 39 89 813048)
10. Shop like Jackie O
When Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis visited the island of Capri in the late ’60s 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.