Italy’s Amalfi Coast is a paradise on earth – but, unfortunately, many travellers know only the coastal towns scattered along the Bay of Salerno.
Organised coach tours and cruise ship day-trippers tend to stick to the well-worn tourist trail of Positano, Ravello and perhaps Amalfi, after first visiting nearby Sorrento and the Isle of Capri.
A stroll among the pastel-coloured cliffside houses; everyone photographing the same scenes; a coffee at the beachside cafes; and then back on the coaches. It’s a scene repeated each day of summer on this incredible slice of heaven.
But less than a stone’s throw from this tourist crush, travellers can experience traditional southern Italy in the ancient hamlets of the Lattari Mountains that rise up behind the coast.
Venture a few kilometres inland to the likes of Scala and Pontone and you encounter a whole new world based on the rhythms of nature and the traditions of old Italy.
Here, you can wander along trails carved in the Middle Ages and used by mules to transport goods between settlements scattered through the mountains.
It is a landscape dominated by goat farms, lemon, olive and chestnut groves – areas where you can almost hear the noise of the fashionable Costiera Amalfitana, yet be surrounded by nature in an almost alpine environment.
Ancient stone steps carved into the hillsides will carry you from hamlet to hamlet, past farmhouses, churches and the ruins of castles.
In past decades, many of the area’s young people have been forced to seek work in the tourist centres along the coast, leaving the farms to be tended by an ever-ageing generation.
These men and women are known as the ‘Flying farmers’ because of the way they scale the hillsides often using mules or three-wheeled vehicles called ‘Apes’.
So, if you want a genuine cultural experience off the well-worn tourist trail, the hamlets of the Lattari Mountains serve up ample traditional southern Italian lifestyle.
You’ll be well rewarded if you step out of the comfort zone and journey instead to the real Italy, where you can experience local culture first hand – rather than just observing.
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