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14.02.2020. Best of the Coast
Is there a more romantic place anywhere in the world than the Amalfi Coast? Maybe it’s something to do with the terrain: in this vertical landscape, falling for someone has to be easy. Bad jokes aside, we honestly believe that there is something special in the air, the climate and the spirit of this charmed stretch of shore and its rugged hinterland that combines with its visual beauty to make honeymooners squeeze each other more tightly and road-hardened old couples come over all gooey.
However, we also firmly believe that even the most whirlwind love affair can be whipped up into a typhoon by a little savvy forward planning. The following are five suggestions, born of long and loving experience, for things to do, see or taste, and places to take her, him or they, that are guaranteed to fan the fire.
You may notice that one of the most romantic places on the Amalfi Coast, Le Sirenuse, is (mostly) missing from the list. That’s because you already know about our panoramic restaurant, illuminated nightly by the light of hundreds of candles, about the swoony view of Positano’s cathedral dome and ziggurat of houses from the terrace of Aldo’s Cocktail Bar and Seafood Grill, about guestrooms just made for cocooning, about the sunset cruises on our vintage Riva speedboat – newly restored for 2020 – that are included with Suite reservations of three nights or more. And also because we’re really too modest to mention any of those things.
Head up to lofty Ravello and walk through cobbled lanes to Villa Cimbrone, one of the coast’s most impressive landscaped gardens – whatever you do, don’t miss the panoramic, statue-lined terrace at the end. The hotel in the grounds harboured actress Greta Garbo and orchestra conductor Leopold Stokowski in the spring of 1938, before their romantic sojourn was cut short by invasive press coverage of their ‘scandalous’ affair. Rosa Greta, one of the fragrances crafted by Le Sirenuse’s sister brand Eau d’Italie, was inspired by their love story.
Romantic dinners should be about you two, not about foams and reductions. Which is why Lo Scoglio in the frazione of Nerano known as Marina di Cantone is our top tip for an intimate, atmospheric cena a due. In warm weather, you eat on a wooden jetty, lulled by the sound of lapping waves. The menu is utterly simple and utterly perfect: a cornucopia of starters based largely on produce from the organic farm of the De Simone family, who have run this beachside trattoria ever since it opened in 1958, followed by Lo Scoglio’s unmissable spaghetti con le zucchine, a legendary dish whose recipe we were privileged to be able to share in this earlier Journal post (where you will also find the restaurant’s contacts). We recommend going by boat from Positano, as it’s a long and winding road.
A Medieval watchtower in Praiano is the fairy-tale setting of Paolo Sandulli’s house-studio. Here, the 70-year-old artist and poet crafts terracotta busts of wistful, ethereal women inspired by the ladies of the Aragon courted sculpted in the 15th century by Francesco Laurana. But Sandulli adds his own whimsical touch – hairpieces made of dyed sea sponges. They’re as playfully romantic as their creator – who told us, on our last visit, that he always associates holiday towns like Praiano or Positano with “seduction, young suntanned bodies, and young people falling in love”. From the 2020 season, visits to Sandulli’s studio will become regular fixtures on Le Sirenuse’s weekly activities schedule.
Love has wings, but it doesn’t always have leg muscles – so we’ll pass over more strenuous walks, like the glorious trek up almost two thousand steps from Positano to the perched village of Nocelle, and suggest instead the gentle, paved footpath that leads in around half an hour from the end of the road just past the village of Termini to the westernmost point of the Amalfi Coast, Punta Campanella, in a pristine landscape of fragrant gorse, myrtle and wild fresias. A protected nature reserve, Punta Campanella offers reach-out-and-touch views of Capri from the ruined tower at its tip, but if you’re here around lunchtime, it also has another great attraction: the farm of Fossa Papa, where Ilaria and Gianni De Turris serve up simple but delicious local food to those smart enough to have rung ahead a day or so in advance. See this previous Journal post for contact details.
The call it viticoltura eroica, ‘heroic winemaking’. High above the tiny Amalfi Coast fjord of Marina di Furore, on terraces carved out of the steep terrain over the centuries, vineyards accessible only to men and mules have long provided locals with wines that few outsiders ever discovered. This all changed in the 1980s thanks to Marisa Cuomo, a local producer who together with her husband, Andrea Ferraioli, realised that the rare native grape varieties grown here had the potential to create great wines. Of the nine wines currently produced by Cantine Marisa Cuomo, the star is Fiorduva, a fragrant white blend of Ripoli, Fienile and Ginestra grapes that picks up prizes and critical kudos pretty much everywhere it goes. It’s the perfect accompaniment for a romantic, candlelit tête-à-tête at La Sponda.
Oops. We said we weren’t going to mention Le Sirenuse… and we came so close to keeping the promise. So just to clarify: other restaurants and hotels are available. Happy Valentine’s Day!
Photos © Roberto Salomone except Marisa Cuomo vineyards © Oliviero Olivieri