Places

Amalfi – Steeped in history

The town of Amalfi was the capital of the Maritime Republic of Amalfi that dominated trade in the region a thousand years’ ago. It nestles like a jewel in a deep ravine in the Lattari mountains between two rocky outcrops, bordered at the back by hills and lush vineyards, and facing the azure waves of the Mediterranean. Quietly it sparkles within, protected; it’s unimaginable what lies within. One enters through arched passageways, which open into a beautiful square. Then splashes gold light catch your eye. You look up to see what must be one of the most exquisite and impressive cathedrals in the world. Its details and outside walls are decorated with mosaic of all colours, even silver and lots of gold. Combined with sunshine, the effect is dazzling.

The city centres on a mighty cathedral decorated with mosaics of all colours, with golds and silvers that reflect the sunlight to dazzling effect. The “Duomo” houses the relics of Saint Andrew, one of the 12 apostles of Jesus and the city’s honoured patron saint.

Many people have never left their Amalfi villages for very long, if at all. The dances and food, song and music are all steeped in old traditions. Traditions which have had many a passionate love affair with rogue influences. Traditions which could be accused of being just a little romantic. They are both in love with and living in their past.

Flowers flop over walls, shocking bougainvilleas and coy but testy prickly pears garnish the town. Citrus, in particular lemons are a symbol of the region. All along the coast you are making an educated choice if you choose something with lemons in it. Lemoncello, lemon sorbet, Dilizia al Lemone (a heavenly lemon desert).

This is a food lover’s paradise. Simplicity is key in the kitchen, and chefs create simple wonders using what is local—creamy mozzarella, golden lemons, smoked provola, wild mushrooms and, of course, sea food.

If you love fish, then Amalfi is for you. Most of the restaurants serve fish and if you keep it simple, you can’t go wrong. It will be fresh, delicate and special. Order the house white, it’s likely to be home-made by close relatives or friends. It’s not a quiet refined wine but rather an extremely fine home-made wine. Clean, pure, light, delicious and cheap. In summer it’s advisable to throw a peach into your pitcher and even red wine is chilled. A good rule a food worshipper taught me, is to look for the restaurant with a shorter menu. It means things are fresh because that’s what you should be after.

Amalfi was a favourite of the British aristocracy in the 1920s and 30s, which flocked here in search of the romance and passion of its secret passageways and gardens. Today, lovers from all over the world are still drawn by its timeless soul.

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