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Every town has its secrets, even one as firmly on the visitor map of Italy as Positano. Below are three chicche (hidden gems) that even Amalfi Coast regulars may not have discovered.
It can be difficult to find a good salad in a part of Italy that still favours carb-heavy three-course meals. But Casa e Bottega, run by talented chef and lover of beautiful things Tanina Vanacore, is much more than just a salad bar. Quiches, homemade cakes (including gluten-free options), 100% natural gelato, smoothies and fruit juices – with many ingredients coming from Tanina’s own kitchen garden – are on the menu of a place that has become a fixture on the Positano breakfast, lunch and aperitivo circuit since its debut in 2013. Open from April through to the end of October, Casa e Bottega is also a craft, homeware and accessories store where pretty much everything you see is on sale, from Paolo Sandulli’s delightful terracotta planters through Stamperia Bertozzi’s lovely printed linen tablecloths to Millegradi’s eminently desirable ceramic bowls.
Viale Pasitea 100, Positano. Open daily 9am-6pm.
Few visitors to Positano realise that an important wilderness ecosystem lies less than a mile from the dolce vita Amalfi Coast resort. Protected by UNESCO, the Vallone Porto ravine is a smaller version of the Vallone Ferriere above Amalfi: a humid microclimate, cool in summer and rarely too cold in winter, favours lush vegetation, including rare ferns such as Pteris cretica (Cretan brake fern or ribbon fern) and Pteris vittata (Chinese ladder brake), both remnant species which survived the last Ice Age. Fauna includes peregrine falcons, Eurasian eagle owls and the spectacled salamander, Salamandrina terdigitata. To get there, walk out of Positano in the direction of Amalfi along the SS163 coast road, and count the curves of the road on your left. The entrance to Vallone Porto is set back from the third curve - exactly 1.1km from Le Sirenuse - behind a parking area used by taxis and chauffeur-driven limousines. A footpath – suitable for all reasonably fit walkers with good shoes – leads up through the ravine: after just 10 minutes, you’ll be in the green heart of the Vallone Porto ‘jungle’, far from civilisation, in a landscape of waterfalls and rockpools that has changed little over the millennia.
To many outsiders, Positano is simply Positano: a daring vertical town, unified by its defiance of gravity and geology. But like any Italian conurbation, it has its quartieri, each with its own character. One of the most fascinating is Fornillo, which rises from the beach of the same name to the Grotta di Fornillo, a natural cave that has been turned over the centuries into a charmingly rustic Nativity shrine. A stepped path from Pupetto hotel and beach bar leads up past lemon and olive groves into the heart of this quiet residential district, which has long attracted artists (among them Vincenzo Caprile and Massimo Campigli). The district church of Santa Margherita, with its elegant terracotta and maiolica floor, stands in a little piazza where kids play and nonni sit and chat on warm summer evenings.
Photos © Roberto Salomone (main photo, Vallone Porto), Oliviero Olivieri (Casa e Bottega, Fornillo)