21.08.2019. Best of the Coast
Tourism may be its modus vivendi today; but there are still wild corners of the Amalfi Coast and Sorrentine peninsula.
Take Punta Campanella. The final gasp of the peninsula, the fingertip of the southern arm of the Bay of Naples that holds southern Italy’s greatest city in its embrace, this protected area of gorse and fragrant Mediterranean maquis is the last landfall before Capri. In Roman times it was the site of a temple to the goddess Minerva, and it seems likely that there was at least one Imperial villa here, within sight of Tiberius’ sumptuous Villa Jovis on Capri itself.
Today it’s a peaceful slice of mostly untamed nature, where myrtle and wild fresias bloom along a road closed to motorized traffic – except for the vehicles of the handful of people who live inside the reserve. Among these lucky few are Gianni and Ilaria De Turris, the owners of what must be one of the most scenic farms on the peninsula – Fossa Papa.
It was when his father’s building firm was charged with making the wall that runs the length of the Punta Campanella road – a wall in which every stone was shaped and laid by hand – that Gianni, who comes from nearby Massa Lubrenese, fell in love with this place of sea, sky and hardy plants. When the farm came up for sale, he invested all his savings to buy it, and set about turning it into the little rural paradise we see today.
Tomatoes, eggplants, bell peppers, pumpkins, melons and other vegetables and fruits grow in abundance here. There are olive and lemon trees, and a profusion of herbs. Goats (including a Sardinian breed with crazy spiral horns) give milk, hens provide eggs, but Gianni’s love for his animals goes far beyond the utilitarian. In few business-oriented farms would a donkey born blind have been allowed to live – but Gianni refused to consider having the young foal put down, and today Lulu, who lives with her mother Bonny in a special enclosure, is one of the stars of Fossa Papa, a sweet, docile creature who has learnt to walk up to the farm’s front gate by herself, navigating by touch, smell, and some quadripedal sixth sense.
Gianni and Ilaria welcome visitors for lunch, early dinner or aperitifs, but it’s essential to book ahead, as this is a working farm, not a restaurant. Guests sit at wooden tables made by Gianni out of cable drums, and are plied with a seemingly endless spread of plates to share – tomatoes every which way, peperonata, eggplant parmigiana, grilled zucchini with herbs, mozzarella, olives, platters of salami and local cheeses and much else, ending with Ilaria’s knockout lemon tart and some fantastic homemade liqueurs that help to make the half-kilometre uphill walk back to one’s car a little less daunting.
Agriturismo Fossa Papa, Via Campanella 68, Massa Lubrense.
To book, tel +39 338 461 8957
Open daily, check Facebook page for occasional closures
Photos © Roberto Salomone