The Amalfi coast defies gravity.
It is proof that what needs to be done, can be done.
Just sheer will.
With less workable land than a city park, the Amalfitani built terraces on cliffs that kiss the sky, plant lemon trees that grow year round, and climb steep hills each day to tend to them.
It’s not the Mediterranean Diet that keeps them healthy. It’s all that exercise with the Nonnas and Nonnos (Grannies and Grampas) putting you to shame.
Times are tough in Italy. In some regions, the unemployment rate among young people is over 50%. There is bitterness when you ask about the government. Still, there is an undeniable pride in this country that gets life done despite the challenges – just like the lemon tree overflowing with fruit.
Trattoria da Ciccio is poised on the edge of a cliff in Amalfi. It looks like any place – though the recommendation “qui si mangia bene” (here you will eat well) is the highest praise from a fellow Italian. They take their food very seriously.
A sea of waiters welcomed us and broke the ice by asking us a few questions. It was like they wanted to know our mood, our taste, our comfort level with risk-taking before making any suggestions. All local – beginning with the wine.
The white: Costa d’Amalfi Tramonti Tenuta San Francesco 2012 DOC
The Falanghina, Biancolella, and Pepella grapes come specifically from the village of Tramonti – one of three villages in the southern Italian province of Campania that is recognized for particularly fine wine. The estate’s vines that grow on steep parcels of land are more than 100 years old. The result, a crisp medium-bodied wine with notes of the famous Amalfi lemons and a long finish.
The red: Colli di Lapio Campi Taurasini Irpinia DOC 2010
Taurasi wines have been called some of the most under-rated wines in Italy. It’s a showcase for the Aglianico grape – the most important red varietal in the Campania province. Irpinia is one of top regions because of its high altitude, soil and lengthy growing season. This wine was full-bodied and a real palate-pleaser.
From the signature dishes of flying squid – to spaghetti in a bag – yes, I said spaghetti in a bag – with fresh clams, olives and garlic – to the improvised birthday cake for Rob the birthday boy of the night. The most perfect evening in Amalfi topped off, of course, with a glass of Limoncello. All those lemons have to go somewhere.
Yes, “Qui si mangia bene” without a doubt. But when I remember this place it will be the warmth (and the wine) that accompanied our delicious meal that will share centre stage in this breathtaking region.