Ciao! I’m Laura, a writer, photographer, art historian and social media marketing manager. The road to expat life in Italy for me was as twisty as the Amalfi Coast road; and I’m passionate about sharing an insider view of my home to help travelers discover and enjoy the most beautiful experiences on the Amalfi Coast.
It’s been a little quiet around Ciao Amalfi since earlier this year. For those of you who are regular readers, you may have already spotted the reason why on Instagram or my other social media accounts. I have been wanting to write an update for months, but have been (and still am!) so busy that time feels like it is speeding by. What has kept me so busy is a very exciting new project. I’m writing a guidebook!
The book will be for Moon Travel Guides, a company that I love, and it will cover the Amalfi Coast, Sorrento, Capri, Ischia, and Naples area. It is an honor to have the chance to share so much about this place I love. It is also a massive project! Due to the seasonal nature of travel to the Amalfi Coast, the project has a pretty tight turn around. That’s good news for you since the book is scheduled to be out in the spring of 2019!
Beautiful Cetara on the Amalfi Coast
So while I work on the book this summer and autumn, I can’t promise I’ll be blogging as regularly as possible or able to respond to your lovely questions. I will try to share some moments from the research and writing process along the way here on Ciao Amalfi. You can also catch more of glimpse behind the scenes via my Instagram Stories, see daily photos on Twitter, or join in the community on Facebook.
Thank you to each and every one of you for following along on my journey here on the Amalfi Coast. This next chapter is going to be a thrilling one!
February is a quiet month on the Amalfi Coast, with the exception of the very loud celebrations for carnevale. Yes, it’s carnival time again. Around the Amalfi Coast it’s a festive celebration that includes parades with large floats, kids with entirely too much confetti, and, my favorite part, lasagna. (I’ll share more about that below.) The carnival events add a burst of color to what is traditionally a peaceful time of year. This is the month that many restaurants and stores close for annual holiday time or for maintenance work. Soon things will slowly start coming back to life as preparations begin for another busy season ahead. In the meantime, I love these quiet days, especially when the sun shines.
Here’s a look at a few things going on this month, along with some tips for enjoying the Amalfi Coast in February!
When most people thing carnival and Italy they imagine all those gorgeous masks and costumes in Venice. That’s not at all what the celebrations look like in much of Italy. If you’re at all familiar with what carnevale looks like in the Italian city of Viareggio, with its massive floats and parade, that’s much more along the lines of how it’s celebrated in this part of Italy – naturally just on a much smaller scale. While there are parades and celebrations, often geared toward kids, in many of the towns along the Amalfi Coast, Maiori is the center of carnevale events. (In large part because they actually have space to make floats and have a parade!) With their Gran Carnevale di Maiori, they have a series of events from February 10th to the 18th. The parade with the floats will take place on Tuesday, February 13th at 3pm. You can see the full events for the Carnevale di Maiori here (Italian only).
Of course you can’t have a holiday without good food! As it was traditionally considered the last big hurrah before the period of Lent leading up to Easter, the customary meal for carnevale is quite lavish. Along the Amalfi Coast that means cheese, salami, cured meats, rich pasta dishes, more meat, (usually more cheese) and lots of sweets. Many families prepare an incredibly rich and delicious lasagna enriched with sausage, little meatballs, spicy salami, hard boiled eggs and mozzarella. It is divine. I look forward to it all year. (Think Garfield and his love of lasagna.) Since my husband has two sisters and they are both marvelous cooks, it means we usually get to enjoy a double dose of lasagna each year.
When it’s time for dessert, usually a large tray of chiacchiere will arrive on the table. These are thin strips of fried dough topped with powdered sugar. This is a traditional carnival dessert all over Italy and it has many different names depending on where you’re at. While there are countless recipes, the dough sometimes includes a bit of lemon rind or even a splash of limoncello. They make the most delightful tasting mess you’ve ever eaten!
The Amalfi Coast in February
As it’s the quietest month of the year, if you’ve been dreaming of driving the Amalfi Coast Road it’s a good time of year to set off by car and explore the coastline. With less traffic it’s a little easier to stop in scenic spots and enjoy the views. The best part are the colors. If you get a sunny and clear day, the colors of February are vivid and crisp. Just keep in mind that most places are closed this time of year. So don’t expect to rock up to Positano and find all the boutiques open and restaurants to choose from along the beach. But if you’re coming to the Amalfi Coast to enjoy the views and meander around the quiet streets, it’s a wonderful time of year!
While you’re exploring the Amalfi Coast, don’t forget that sites like the Villa Romana ruins in Minori are open year round and are free to visit. Take note that the Museo della Carta (Paper Museum) in Amalfi is closed in February for maintenance.
Ah … the month of love begins in the place I love the most – the Amalfi Coast! Of course February means San Valentino, or Valentine’s Day. If the weather is nice, our favorite way to celebrate is to head out on a drive along the coastline or simply stroll along the port in Amalfi. No better way to celebrate than just enjoying the place I love most of all.
For many years now, I’ve started the new year by choosing one word that encapsulates my goals and intentions for the year ahead. While there are a lot of people out there doing this, I think the idea was inspired some time ago by my friend Michelle over at Bleeding Espresso. I find with my attention focused on one idea that I carry with me throughout the year that it often has more impact than resolutions. Those can so often get left behind.
Last year my one-word them was CHANGE. Hoo-boy was it ever a year of change. Although, as the end of the year approached, I did have some doubts about having made positive progress with change over the course of the year. Let’s just say December arrived and taught me a thing or two about change. While all positive, it has felt an awful lot like a roller coaster. I don’t really like roller coasters. But I’ve gripped on extra tight to CHANGE and am going along for the ride to see what exciting new places it takes me. And just maybe I’ve thrown my hands up in the air and screamed in exhilaration a few times!
I can see that CHANGE is still in full swing in my life and will certainly be carrying over to 2018. At times I thought maybe I was looking at a two year theme. But I had a sneaky suspicion another word would arrive. For me these one-word themes always come rather unexpectedly. When they do you just know it’s right. Just when I thought I had settled on another word, this year’s one-word theme arrived a couple of weeks ago and made itself right at home. CREATIVITY.
Ahh … now that just feels right. Much of the change in 2017 was shifting situations in to make space for bringing more creativity into my life. While, yes, it’s true that there’s already a great deal of creativity in my life, what has been missing is the space to pursue new creative projects. From the home remodel project we’re about to start in Amalfi to spending more time with photography and some possible projects I can’t quite share with you yet, this is going to be an exciting year full of CREATIVITY!
Do you have a one-word theme for the year? Please do share it below in the comments. I’d love to hear how you’re envisioning your 2018!
The cry of a gull overhead pulls me back into the moment. But it wasn’t the moment I left behind. Beyond me the quiet piazza stretches to the infinity of the sea. On a day like today the horizon is gone, playing a game of hide and seek – and winning. The church is quiet today, taking a well-earned break from its Sunday duties. Two ornate street lamps stand out in silhouette. One lantern cocks its head slightly, as if beckoning my gaze on. A light is what is needed to lead the way to what is past and what is present, but they stand as only guardians to the gate of that journey.
Time stands still in this piazza, despite the hourly ringing of the church bells. The bells have always rung out the hours here and they always will. Something so regular to define time actually defies it. How many people have heard those bells ring out over the village? While hanging laundry out in the sunshine, while feeding their families, while making love, while crying? Those people are all still here and will also all be here soon.
Here there are the echoes of other sounds, too. Of children chasing a small orange ball across the piazza. A cat’s pleading meow, asking for something to eat. Of wind howling down the mountain valley on a stormy winter night. The click of my camera’s shutter as I capture this moment full of invisible sounds.
But most of all, it’s all the voices I want to listen to as they float through the piazza. There are stories caught in this piazza, countless stories. Not the kind you read about in the newspaper. These are moments of daily life, the moments that make a life, the moments that are forgotten, but nevertheless left behind. Stories crated day after day, lost to time except in the memories of those who stopped to listen.
There’s the hum of a fisherman early in the morning making his way down to the beach. He’ll pull his small wooden boat, blue paint chipped off around the edges, down to the edge of the sea. He’ll give it one last push as he hops aboard, perhaps with the hope about what he’ll catch filling his mind.
That hope floats through the maze of tiny, shadowed streets back up to the piazza. It finds an open window and settles into a kitchen – still quiet except for the sound of a moka pot bubbling its dark, intoxicating scent into the morning air. A new day has begun, and with it comes the thoughts for another day ahead. Another menu to prepare. While tying an apron around her waist, a woman wonders, “What catch will the fisherman haul in today?”
The clattering of steps brings new life into the piazza. Children with bags slung over their shoulders and sleep in their eyes run across it on the way to school. Always late, always running. Across the piazza they go and down the steps to the future, a future that is unseen and unknown from here.
Unknown and yet the same. An old man sits at his window and watches the children run, just as he once ran to school. He knows the future, he’s seen it. But now he watches the future of others, sitting there. The steps are cruel friends. They take you where you want to go, but they take their toll with every step as well.
And steps are what this village is made of from top to bottom. The sound of heavy steps carries through the labyrinthine staircases. Finding your way is like walking through an M.C. Escher drawing come to life. Even he was here, lost in the alleyways, inspired by the alluring confusion of this place. There he is in the quiet piazza, setting down his sketchpad, mind swirling in the haze of yet to be visualized designs. He stops for a moment of respite. Maybe he sees all the stories, too?
My feet are tired. I look down at the honey leather loafers battered by the steps of the Amalfi Coast. Glancing over my shoulder, my eyes land on a cement bench. There’s a spot to sit and watch the stories unfold. Settling in uncomfortably, I look up expecting to find the same scene, the same voices, the same time and place.
But it’s all gone.
A seagull’s taunting call fills the piazza, seemingly laughing at my confusion. The church bells ring, slowly eleven times. I’m going to be late. I grab my bag and throw it over my shoulder, hurrying off across the piazza and down the steps to my own unseen future. But before going, I stop to turn and look up at the balcony, half expecting to find the old man watching me. And he’s there. As my feet carry me swiftly down the steps, I know they’re all there.
– A short story by Laura Thayer inspired by Atrani.
During breakfast this morning, I heard the weatherman on the TV talking about the “Estate di San Martino,” which means the Summer of San Martino. This is similar to what we call an Indian Summer in the USA. It’s when the weather is particularly nice after a cold spell, but it refers specifically to this period since the festival for San Martino takes place today. I looked out the window and it was a gloriously sunny day. A true and proper L’Estate di San Martino! We spent the morning running some errands before stopping at the Gran Caffè, which has outdoor seating overlooking the beach. You can spot the umbrellas in the upper right of the photo above. It’s one of my favorite spots in Amalfi for a Spritz or a light lunch. Today, with the sun shining down, it was perfection.
After lunch we took a leisurely stroll along the waterfront in Amalfi all the way to the end of the town’s largest pier and then back again. One of the things I love about Amalfi is that even though it’s small there’s a wonderful passeggiata if you walk from one end of the town to the other.
The harbor still feels empty after the busy summer months, but the winter is my favorite time of the year for taking photos along the waterfront. There are still a few gozzo boats and the usual cast of colorful fishing boats that stick around all winter.
Although the piazza was surprisingly busy, the waterfront was very quiet. It’s especially nice to walk along here after lunch, when many people are still resting. You can sit on a bench, take in this view below and for just a few minutes feel like you have it all to yourself.
The sun was deliciously warm today, and a few people were even taking advantage of that on the Marina Grande beach. I would have loved to have spent a little bit more time in the sunshine. More rain and clouds are in the forecast for the week ahead – all the more reason to enjoy the sun today!
I hope you enjoyed this quick update from a beautiful day in Amalfi. In this world of social media, it’s a pleasure to get back to my blogging roots. However, if you’d like to join me for more daily updates from the Amalfi Coast, you can find me on Instagram @ciaoamalfi.
A gift box of 4 soaps from La Selva (Photo courtesy La Selva)
High in the mountains above Positano there is an enchanting place where you can experience the natural beauty, sights and scents of the Amalfi Coast in an untouched setting. That special place is called La Selva, and I’ve shared about it here before since it’s setting for Sole Yoga Holiday’s annual Positano Yoga Retreat. La Selva is the creation of Martha and Cristiano, who have worked hard to make a place that respects nature – and highlights it at the same time. This is perfectly encapsulated in Martha’s new line of handmade soaps. And, yes, you can order them online!
Handmade soap from Amalfi Coast grown lemons and olives (Photo courtesy La Selva)
I’m always on the lookout for locally produced crafts that capture essence of the Amalfi Coast. I’m also dedicated to living as natural as possible on a daily basis, which is a continual evolution and wonderful journey. This summer while at La Selva for the Positano Yoga Retreat, I was excited to learn that Martha had created her own line of soaps. I had the pleasure to sit down with her and learn more about the process while I was there. The soaps are made with local olive oil from the first cold press along with other natural oils. Walking around La Selva, a meandering pathway leads through a beautiful terraced olive grove. Everywhere you look are the beautiful natural plants and herbs that Martha uses to make her soaps.
La Selva’s olive grove overlooking Positano with the Li Galli islands in the distance
In fact, the soaps are all natural and include traditional Mediterranean scents like lemon, orange, mint and rosemary. Ingredients are all sustainably sourced and the soaps are produced in small batches completely by hand using a “cold process” technique before being air cured and hand cut.
Hand cut soap drying (Photo courtesy La Selva)
There are a variety of scents to choose from: Limone e Oliva (Lemon and Olive), Agrumi (Citrus), Menta e Rosemarino (Mint and Rosemary), Propoli e Miele (Propolis and Honey), Iperico e Tea Tree (St. John’s Wort and Tea Tree) and Mirto e Arancia (Blueberry and Orange). I’ve tried out three of the soaps above and love them all. I’m excited to try out the new Lemon and Olive oil soap this winter!
Lemon and Olive oil handmade and all natural soap (Photo courtesy La Selva)
If you’re lucky, summer comes back for a little visit in October. These lingering summer days are extra special at the beach on the Amalfi Coast, because they’ve already been abandoned by the crowds. We’ve had so many warm days this month that it seems strange to have already set the clocks back for daylight savings and that November is just around the corner. How did that even happen?
It’s that time of year to start the annual hunt for the tricky ingredients for the Thanksgiving dinner I’ll be preparing before too long. Every once in awhile the cold north wind has been blowing down from the mountains and I’ve already made the “cambio di stagione” change in our wardrobes from summer to autumn and winter. Yet at the same time the sun has been shining and beckoning us back into summer.
Catching the boat to Santa Croce beach from Amalfi
Last week we took a trip back to summer and spent the day at Santa Croce beach near Amalfi – always one of my favorite spots. While we were walking along the harbor debating lunch plans, my husband spotted the boat from Ristorante Da Teresa arriving. We glanced at one another only very briefly. “It’s a sign,” I called out, already running down the steps to the pier to jump aboard.
Ready to go to Santa Croce
The Darsena pier, which you can see above, is where you can catch the boat to Santa Croca. Look for this long, pale pink boat with the sign saying Ristorante Da Teresa.
On the way!
Climb aboard and in a few minutes you’ll be at Santa Croce beach. The boat service is complimentary for patrons of the restaurant or if you’re renting a sunbed and umbrella.
Arriving at Ristorante Da Teresa
The only way to reach this rocky beach is by boat. Usually, there’s another restaurant called Santa Croce to the left, but it had already been dismantled for the season when we went last week. The sea can be so rough during winter storms that the entire restaurant structure is pretty much removed for protection. When we got ashore, I spotted two lonely looking orange sunbeds on one side of the beach. They were lonely no more! I’ve been to Santa Croce many times, even at the end of the season, but I’ve never had half of the beach to myself. It was divine.
Now this is my idea of the beach …
I really needed some time – just me and the sound of the sea. It was completely relaxing soaking up the autumn sun and listing to the waves tumbling little rocks to and fro. It was a bit too chilly for me to swim, but my husband took a dip before lunch.
Having the sea to yourself
After a bit we went upstairs to the dining terrace for a relaxed lunch overlooking the sea. As always, the meal was excellent.
Lunch with a soothing view
A crisp, local rosé was the perfect complement to a delicious meal. Naturally, seafood is the best choice here, and we had antipasti of friend anchovies and squid cooked with roasted peppers. Then pasta made with a local fish called gallinella.
Summer sunshine and an Amalfi Coast rosé
After lunch it was back to the sun for a little while before returning to Amalfi. There were a few boats coming and going, dropping of travelers for lunch at Da Teresa. Otherwise it was total tranquility.
Hang on summer
I spent some time reading and scrambling around like I always do on the rocks to take photos. Never gets old this beach. Water is such a soothing element for me, and just being near the sea can wash away a world of stress.
Back home to Amalfi
It always comes too soon, but before long it was time for the last boat back to Amalfi … and to our busy October days. But for just one day I could pretend it was still summer.
Italy Blogging Roundtable
This blog post is part of a series called The Italy Blogging Roundtable. Every month our group of Italy based writers takes on a new theme, and you can read the contributions for this month’s topic – Elements – at the links below. We’d love to hear your thoughts and comments. Please share the stores if you’ve enjoyed them!
One of the symbols of the Amalfi Coast, the lemon adds its colorful touch to the terraced landscape, to the hand-painted ceramics and, of course, to the local culinary traditions. The Amalfi Coast lemon is a treasure and one that you should experience while you’re visiting the area. What’s the best way? On the Amalfi Lemon Experience Tour! Created by the Aceto family, who have been cultivating lemons on the Amalfi Coast for six generations, this is a unique opportunity to walk among the lemon groves. Along the way you’ll learn about the history of lemon production on the Amalfi Coast, the unique challenges, and enjoy a tasting and visit to the family’s personal museum and laboratory where they produce limoncello and many other delights!
Recently I was able to join the Amalfi Lemon Experience Tour with Nicki from Positano Daily Photo, and we loved it! Enjoy her fun video of the tour and then read on below for a photo tour of the day exploring the lemon groves of Amalfi.
Amalfi Lemon Experience: Amalfi Lemon grove tour - YouTube
Wasn’t that fabulous? I love Nicki’s videos, and if you enjoyed that as well don’t forget to subscribe to her Nicki Positano YouTube channel so you don’t miss any in the future. Now come along and join me on a photo tour of the day!
A beautiful day for a Lemon Tour! The meeting point is in Piazza Duomo in Amalfi.
Hop on the cart for the ride up to the top of Amalfi to the Aceto family lemon groves
Learning about how the terraced lemon groves are created and the green and black nets to protect the trees in the winter
Salvatore Aceto leading the Lemon Tour – he is so passionate about his family’s traditions!
Taste testing Amalfi lemons – you can eat the whole thing since they are organic
Walking through the lemon groves and learning about the harvest and hard work it is to grow lemons on the Amalfi Coast
The terraces of lemons are connected so the lemon trees grow from one terrace to another to maximize space
The delicate lemon trees are covered with black nets until late spring to protect them
Although much of the harvest is done by hand and heavy crates of lemons carried on the shoulders, this helps them move the crates down the mountainside
Luigi Aceto, Salvatore’s father, is still hard at work splitting the willow branches that are used to tie the lemon tree branches to the wooden pergolas
Charming display for a tasting of lemons during the tour
Fresh lemonade and lemon cake are a sweet treat during the Lemon Tour!
A stop in the family’s museum on the tour shows their incredible collection of historic pieces
Pieces of Amalfi’s past, including the stencils that were ones used to mark bread
Taking a peek inside the laboratory where the family’s limoncello is made
So many choices! All made right in the laboratory below the Aceto family lemon groves.
Having fun taking photos with Nicki from Positano Daily Photo
Amalfi Coast lemon perfection – the true sfusato amalfitano lemon
A special visit to the Aceto family lemon groves overlooking Amalfi
Would you like to discover Amalfi’s incredible tradition of growing lemons firsthand? Find out more about the Amalfi Lemon Tour Experience and how to book here!
In Italy, you can’t help but experience modernity within the context of the past. What is new is quite literally enveloped in what came before. But isn’t that what it should always be like? During my Washington, DC days, I was struck by a quotation from Shakespeare’s The Tempest that is carved at the base of a statue outside the National Archives. “What is past is prologue,” it reads. In a place like the Amalfi Coast, protected as it is thanks to its UNESCO World Heritage Site status, the visual landscape is a narrative that has continued unbroken from the past.
In a place with centuries of history such as the Villa Rufolo in Ravello, it’s possible to walk through its history, starting practically at the prologue in the 12th century and continuing to today. It is within this historic surrounding that a thoroughly modern exhibit has been placed this summer. As part of this year’s Ravello Festival, the show Standing with Truth for Ravello 2017 is a site-specific installation created by Neapolitan born artist Francesco Clemente in one of the Villa Rufolo’s atmospheric spots.
The exhibit is situated in the courtyard and what was once a chapel at the Villa Rufolo. It’s a quiet and reflective setting – perfect for art exhibitions. The courtyard is flanked by two rows of bright red flags painted with symbols at once captivating and dark. A clenched fist holds colorful flowers. A sickle, broken at its base, cuts into a bleeding heart. Two strange creatures embrace. Images with an intensity that evokes a struggle.
Stepping inside the chapel, the narrative continues with a large tent entirely hand painted in tempura. The exhibition notes point out that it’s the type of tent characterized by Asian nomad shepherds. A tent as shelter, a tent as a symbol of changing places. This exhibition is themed around the idea of walls and migration – timely topics in today’s political climate around the world. Clemente has been working with the idea of tents since his ENCAMPMENT series that started about 5 years ago.
This is a tent you can walk into, explore and experience. I happened to be there at a moment when there were no other visitors and it was a fascinating visual experience. There are ancient symbols, animals and faces that reminded me of Picasso’s Rose Period. The colors are vividly warm and I found myself creating my own narratives as I wandered around inside.
What stories do you see?
Peering out from inside the tent, you can see the walls lined with a series of watercolors by Clemente that are on display for the first time.
Getting up close to these watercolors, it was possible to see the incredible texture and labor that went into their design. Just look at the design in the concentric circles and the red border below. The works were full of intricate details that are exotic and traditional, playing on the theme different cultures blending together.
Leaving the chapel, the harsh red flags reveal softer pastel color scheme with messages embroidered in gold thread. As they say, there are two sides to every story, and these flags fluttering in a summer breeze were reminders of that.
One tie-died flag caught my eye in particular. It says, “Il piu moderno qui è anche il piu’ arcaico.” That translates to: “The most modern here is also the most archaic.” Framed by the arched entrance to the chapel courtyard, it perfectly captured the setting of this contemporary art exhibit in the 12th-century ruins of the Villa Rufolo.
It was also the catalyst for my reflections on this exhibition. If what is past is prologue, we carry not only who we were in the past with us as we move forward in life, but we also carry with us our family, back to our remotest ancestors in far flung parts of the world we have yet to even imagine. We carry that with us as we go forward, sometimes moving countries, meeting new people, making new families. We are ancient and modern all at once, just like the landscapes we move through.
Standing with Truth for Ravello 2017 is on display at the Villa Rufolo through the end of September. Entrance to the exhibit is included when you purchase your ticket for the Villa Rufolo. More details available at www.villarufolo.com.
Italy Blogging Roundtable
This blog post is part of a series called The Italy Blogging Roundtable. Every month our group of Italy based writers takes on a new theme, and you can read the contributions for this month’s topic – Modern – at the links below. We’d love to hear your thoughts and comments. Please share the stores if you’ve enjoyed them!
It’s been a quiet summer around here on Ciao Amalfi, but it certainly hasn’t been a quiet time. Summer is always a busy period, but this year seems especially hectic … and hot! We’ve had a heat wave on the Amalfi Coast, making usually hot August even stickier than normal. But I’ve had a lot of fun experiences this summer, including writing a feature piece in Dream of Italy’s June/ July newsletter on my favorite walks on Capri. It was a pleasure to explore the island, covering familiar pathways and discovering some new ones to me – all while taking notes and photographs for the article. I’ve shared a variety of walks, including some short and easy walks if you only have a limited time on Capri as well as some longer hikes if you’re staying for more than a day. However, all of them show you the way to discovering the natural beauty of Capri!