Apes and flying farmers may face a steep hurdle

We met our first Ape at Ravello, on Italy’s Amalfi Coast – one of the most glorious parts of our planet

While exploring a hillside pathway – barely wide enough for two people – we were startled by a car horn.

The honking came from an Ape (roughly prounced ‘A – Pee’) a tiny vehicle used to haul lemons, chestnuts and vegetables from some terraced farms along the steep valleys above the Amalfi coastline.

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This three-wheeled vehicle complements mules and the farmers themselves – known as ‘contadini volanti’, or the ‘flying farmers’, who climb the steep heights to visit the groves.  

However, locals sadly pointed out that the efficiency of the Apes, mules and farmers is gradually proving no match for competition from cheaper, less aromatic lemons from abroad.  

For some years, this competition has been driving prices down and applying pressure to Amalfi’s vertical farmers to abandon terraces previously cultivated for generations.

Naturally, it’s feared that this could lead to the collapse of dry stone walls and an increase is erosion along a stunning coastline famous for its pastel-coloured villages sitting in narrow, V-shaped valleys.

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The dry stone walls were built stone-by-stone by the ancestors of today’s farmers who went on to plant and tend for many thousands of lemon trees.

However, some local residents now fear that, if maintenance is reduced, the walls may not last.

Add the inevitable summer bushfires in the Lattari Mountains, some clear-felling of land and the ageing of the remaining lemon farmers – and you have further problems for the terrace walls that have been a bulwark against erosion for centuries. 

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In September 2010, a fatal mudslide hit the enchanting Amalfi Coast village of Atrani.

In the aftermath, an early warning escape route was  established through the tangle of cobblestone lanes and streets in the ancient village.

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As we wandered through this unbelievably beautiful area on our most recent visit, we noted the ‘Escape route’ signs and the pedestrian-only routes to the sea through huge arches.

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There’s also talk of ground sensors and remote-controlled cameras in the hills.

The Amalfi Coast is one of the ‘must-see’ destinations of the world and, hopefully, the possibility of stone walls ever substantially falling into disrepair may remain just that – only a possibility.

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However, if possible, we can all probably help ward off problems by seeking out bright-yellow Amalfi lemons for our shopping basket.

Note: the writer was flown to Europe courtesy of Scoot Airlines

Amalfi Coast Italy

Italy’s Amalfi Coast: a place like no other

Some say it’s the most beautiful place on earth. And there’s no argument here.

The Costiera Amalfitano, or Amalfi Coast of southern Italy, is widely regarded as a place like no other.

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Photo courtesy Pexels

A 50-kilometre stretch along the southern edge of Italy’s Sorrentine Peninsula, the Amalfi Coast is a swirl of breathtakingly-beautiful cliffs, beaches, glamorous resorts, villas, vineyards, lemon groves and pastel-coloured fishing villages.

And, the amazing road that connects it all is also a marvel in its own right.

The Nastro Azzurro, or Blue Ribbon – described by many as the most spectacular road in Europe –  precariously winds and twists its way through this gorgeous landscape: with its edges sometimes only inches from a precipitous drop to the Mediterranean.

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Photo courtesy Dangerous Roads website

Even if you have never visited the Amalfi Coast, you are probably still familiar with the area, as its colourful resorts – that cling like limpets to the cliffs – have been the backdrop to countless films, including Under The Tuscan Sun; A Good Woman; Only You; and Beat The Devil.

Positano

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Copyright: Memorable Destination

The most sparkling and best known of the coastal towns, Positano boasts a superb setting.

We were left speechless by the scenery. Positano’s buildings almost seem to be tumbling down the steep hillside.

This slice of heaven also offers boutique hotels, an attractive central beach and meandering lanes and streets lined with restaurants and shops.

Sue particularly loves the many Positano shops that specialise in selling brightly-coloured linen.

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Copyright: Memorable Destination

Amalfi and Capri

The town of Amalfi is another picture-postcard jewell, known largely for its striking cathedral, the Duomo di Sant’Andrea,  or the Cathedral of St Andrew – founded in the ninth century.

Once a powerful maritime republic to rival Venice and Genoa, the shores at Amalfi are, these days, better known for moving human cargo – visitors making the short trip to the glamorous Isle of Capri, where the rich and famous mingle and the coast features huge spurs of rock known as the Faraglionj.

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Copyright: Memorable Destination

Within metres of Capri’s southern coast, these spurs rise out of the sea, throwing eerie shadows across a shoreline that also features famous grottos bathed in blue and white light.

Capri is a stunningly beautiful island that is well worth the time exploring thoroughly.

Ravello

About 20 minutes from Amalfi, high above the mountains, is the town of Ravello, where views of the coast are rivalled only by historic buildings and famous gardens.

Ravello has long attracted artists, musicians, craftsmen and authors from all over the world. The town also features outstanding gardens – notably those of the Villa Rufolo and Villa Cimbrone – excellent art galleries and craft stores selling everything from cashmere to ceramics.

World Heritage listing

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Photo courtesy Pexels

The awesome beauty of the Amalfi Coast is, of course, made all the more remarkable by the turquoise waters of the Mediterranean and the green swath of its mountain backdrop.

And it’s not only the hordes of travellers and visitors who are enthralled by this stunning part of Italy’s Campania region.

Since 1997, the Amalfi Coast has been on the World Heritage list, after UNESCO deemed it an “outstanding example of a Mediterranean landscape”.

Getting there

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The Amalfi Coast is about 287 kilometres south of Rome.

We believe the best time to visit is from April to June, when the spring flowers are in bloom.

Take the train to Naples and from there you can take the Circumvesuviana train to Sorrento. From Sorrento you can take a SITA bus to anywhere along the coast.

If you’re headed to the town of Amalfi, you may want to take the train to Salerno and then the bus.

Don’t forget the Limoncello

In recent years, the Amalfi Coast has also become well known for Limoncello, a locally-produced lemon liquer whose fame has quickly spread around the world.

Amalfi Coast

Limoncello: nectar of a wonderful land

Italy’s magnificent Sorrentine peninsula, Amalfi Coast and Isle of Capri are some of the most beautiful places on earth.

With astonishing scenery; picture-postcard towns and villages; and a gentle laid-back lifestyle, this part of the Campania region of southern Italy is largely unspoilt, despite its appeal to travellers.

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And, in recent years, the area has also become well known for Limoncello, a locally-produced lemon liquer whose fame has quickly spread around the world.

On our last visit to Campania, we sampled Limoncello before and after meals and were told that, traditionally, it was made from the zest of the Femminello St. Teresa lemon – also known as Sorrento or Sfusato lemon.

Put simply, lemon zest, or peels without the pith, is enriched by water, alcohol, sugar and syrup.

The process takes about three months and we were told that varying the sugar-to-water ratio and the temperature affects the clarity and flavor.

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A popular ingredient in cocktails, Limoncello gives a strong lemon flavor without the sourness or bitterness of pure lemon juice.

In typical Italian fashion, there seems to be a debate about the origin of the popular liquer, depending on who you ask – and where.

We were told that Limoncello was first made about 1900 on the Isle of Capri, that jewel of an island much beloved by the rich and famous.

However, ask that same question on the Amalfi Coast, and you are likely to hear that the liquer is actually much older – possibly first used by fishermen to fortify themselves against the cold.

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Yet others, are convinced that the recipe was actually born inside a monastic convent.

But, regardless of Limoncello’s origins, sales of the liquor – with its unique taste and the aroma – has grown like Topsy.

It is is also produced in Sicily; Sardinia; the Maltese island of Gozo; several other places in Italy; and even in France and the United States.

Limoncello is the second most popular liquer in Italy and is also a big seller in the US; Canada; the United Kingdom; Australia and New Zealand, to name a just a few areas.

We were told that the lemons of southern Italy are particularly good for making Limoncello, because the Mediterranean climate produces fruit with a thick and colourful skin.

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So …. do we recommend Limoncello? Without hesitation.

And, for us, the liquer is just another reason to visit a particularly stunning part of the planet.
Photo attributions: Lemons courtesy Wikimedia Commons photo by user BigFan; homemade Limoncello courtesy Wikimedia Commons photo by user Alejo2083.

Amalfi Coast Tramonti