Teeny Tiny Grapes

Ciao Amalfi Coast Travel Tiny Grapes

Grapes just beginning to grow on the Amalfi Coast

Walking home the other day I spotted the first tiny grapes growing on a lush green vine. Spring has been very rainy this year, and the vines and plants seem to be loving it! Below this grape vine the owners had planted fava bean plants very early this spring, which is pretty common in the area. I’ve enjoyed watching the plants growing and the long bean pods forming. Then one day they’re gone! Probably to make a delicious dish of pasta e fave. Yum!  It’s fascinating to watch out how locals use such small terraces of land to produce so much throughout the year. I dream of having my own small plot of land on the Amalfi Coast one day!

Wisteria in Positano

Ciao Amalfi Coast Travel Positano Wisteria Pergola

Under the wisteria pergola in Positano

Spring came late and all at once this year. The villages along the Amalfi Coast went straight from overcast wintry days to the buzz of activity rushing to prepare for the busy season seemingly overnight. The flowers loved all the rain and suddenly burst in bloom last month. Speaking of flowers, that’s precisely why I found myself in Positano one morning last month. With the blue sky and sunshine beckoning, I followed a whim and took the early boat from Amalfi to Positano to see the wisteria. And, my oh my, was it ever a show!

Ciao Amalfi Travel Wisteria Positano Ferry

Stepping off the ferry in Positano ... wisteria, here I come!

Positano is such a dreamy place and so very different from Amalfi. Even I feel like I’m on vacation when I step off the ferry and look up at the colorful houses stacked up the side of the mountain. With the restaurants overlooking the beach and the sun shining, there’s an air of isolation that adds so much charm when you’re on holiday. Boats come and go, but the rest of the world feels a million miles away. It was still pretty quiet when I stepped off the ferry and I didn’t meet too many people while heading to the center of the village just below the Church of Santa Maria Assunta.

Ciao Amalfi Coast Travel Positano Wisteria Boughs

Cascading wisteria in Positano

Just at the base of the staircase where you start the climb up toward the church there is a wall that is covered with wisteria vines. The few earlier rising tourists who were out exploring were sitting around the steps or enjoying coffee at a restaurant nearby. The air was filled with the sweet and spicy scent of wisteria along with freshly brewed espresso and morning pastries from a bar just a few steps away.

Ciao Amalfi Coast Travel Positano Wisteria Buca di Bacco

Wisteria vines meandering up the walls in Positano

The wisteria vines seem such a natural part of the buildings in Positano, like they’ve been delicately draped across the balconies and pergolas to make them even more captivating.

Ciao Amalfi Coast Blog Positano Wisteria

Wisteria cascading down a wall in Positano

The scent of these blossoms was simply intoxicating. I sat down nearby and breathed in deeply, wishing I could somehow capture and hold onto the scent. If you haven’t smelled wisteria before, it’s kind of like vanilla in that it is warm, sweet and spicy all at once. It somehow combines the sweetness of jasmine with the first sunshine after a gloomy winter into a delicate and spicy scent. It’s good for the soul, that’s what it is.

Ciao Amalfi Coast Travel Positano Wisteria Detail

An intoxicatingly spicy and sweet scent - heavenly!

Close your eyes, take a deep breath and let your imagination carry you to Positano. The sea is moments away, the scent of wisteria fills the air and the sun is shining just for you …

Ciao Amalfi Coast Travel Positano Wisteria Li Galli Islands

Peeking over at the wisteria in Positano

I was so taken by the wisteria that it wasn’t until I got home and downloaded the photos that I realized this shot above had the Li Galli islands perfectly framed in the upper left. I tucked one of those purple blossoms right there into my notebook and smelled it all the way home.

Ciao Amalfi Coast Travel Positano Wisteria Vines

Purple blossoms and red buildings

After tearing myself away from the wisteria blossoms near the beach I started to climb slowly up the narrow passageways of Positano. I could smell these incredible wisteria blossoms before I turned the corner! One deep red building was covered with wisteria, especially one balcony that must have been gorgeous from the inside. Just imagine how beautiful your house would smell!

Ciao Amalfi Coast Travel Positano Wisteria Red Walls

A moment of balcony envy ...

I kept climbing and climbing until I reached a pretty little piazza with a gorgeous pergola full of wisteria blossoms. I happened to bump into a friend from Amalfi while wandering the streets with camera in hand and he asked what brought me to Positano. I pointed up to the pergola of cascading wisteria we just happened to be standing under.

Ciao Amalfi Coast Travel Positano Wisteria Pergola

Under the wisteria pergola

“Ah, the glicine.” That’s the Italian word for wisteria. He seemed a bit perplexed why I would come from Amalfi to Positano to see the wisteria, but when I pointed out that it’s simply more beautiful in Positano even the Amalfitano had to agree. It really is something!

Ciao Amalfi Coast Travel Positano Wisteria Brilliant Blue Sky

Wisteria blossoms against the brilliant blue sky

Every little village on the Amalfi Coast has its own character, and even the weather can vary noticeably from village to village. Positano is nearly always warmer than Amalfi throughout the year and significantly warmer than Ravello and Scala, which are located 350-400 meters above sea level. When I went to see the wisteria and found it nearly in full bloom in Positano it was just beginning to blossom in Amalfi and Ravello. There’s just something about the climate difference that makes it grow better and bloom incredibly in Positano.

Ciao Amalfi Coast Travel Positano Wisteria Parking

Even the parking area in Positano is gorgeous!

I was happy that the sun was shining and I had the chance to catch the wisteria at its peak in Positano. The petals were just starting to gentle fall, scattering in the sea breeze like a spring snowfall. Last year I missed the best time to see the wisteria because the weather turned bad just at the moment they were at their best. Two years ago I went and had fun discovering the Wisteria Wonderland in Positano. That time I had a picnic and soaked up the sun on the beach, but this time I sat and enjoyed a cappuccino while working on the outline for an exciting project I hope to be working on soon.

Ciao Amalfi Coast Travel Positano Wisteria Bar

Wisteria with your morning cappuccino? Yes, please!

Yes, this is a yearly tradition that I hope to continue. If you come to the Amalfi Coast in the early spring, the water may still be chilly for a swim and the villages still coming to life after the winter, but if you happen to catch the wisteria blooming in Positano it makes up for everything else!

Ciao Amalfi Coast Travel Positano Wisteria and Orchids

Wisteria and orchids in Positano

Like I said, it’s good for the soul.

When Life Gives You Lemons …

Ciao Amalfi Coast Travel Lemon Pound Cake Recipe Amalfi Lemons

Amalfi Lemon Loaf from The Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook

I suppose if you lived in Georgia life might give you peaches. Perhaps oranges if you call the Sunshine State home. On the Amalfi Coast life really does give you lemons … and a lot of them! They’re stacked up in baskets at the markets and fruit and veggie shops and hanging on the trees just about everywhere you go. The choice of what you might do with the lemons life gives you is wonderfully rich on the Amalfi Coast. You could make limoncello, always a good choice, or you could squeeze it fresh over a salad or fish, make lemon risotto or some good old fashioned American-style lemonade.

I was in the mood for baking recently, and so I pulled out one of my favorite dessert cookbooks. To say I love The Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook is the understatement of the anno. After being introduced to the cookbook from a friend, I stopped in The Hummingbird Bakery in South Kensington (and again in Notting Hill!) in London last March. They had chocolate cupcakes with mint frosting. I was smitten.

Since then I’ve had great success with every single recipe I’ve tried from the cookbook. And, oh, have I tried some! I’ve introduced my husband’s Italian family to the wonderful world of cupcakes and brownies. The cupcakes–particularly the cream cheese frosting–have been a huge it, and the brownies are now specially requested at holidays. Oh, and you should see what happens when you introduce Italians to home-baked chocolate chip cookies! You’d think they were the best thing since chocolate chip cookies. Oh … wait … well, you get the idea.

Since there’s just the two of us and neither my husband nor I are big on sweets, I rarely make dessert except for family gatherings or holidays. Yet I do love the classic lemon cake that is very popular on the Amalfi Coast. Yet, a whole cake is just too much for us to ever hope to finish alone. I’ve been eyeing the pound cakes and loafs in The Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook lately and decided to give the Lemon Loaf of shot since it’s a lot smaller than the recipe I have for lemon cake in a bundt pan.

Ciao Amalfi Coast Travel Recipes Lemon Loaf Ingredients

Making the Lemon Loaf from The Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook

Oh my. Yes, you have to make this lemon pound cake at home. It’s one of those heavens to Betsy recipes that you’ll want to make again and again. I got impatient waiting for it to cook as the house filled with the lovely scent and made my stomach rumble. When it came out of the over and I drizzled the lemon syrup over the top the wait became nearly impossible. When it was finally cool enough to slice, I made tea because everything is better with tea. (I suppose you could have it with coffee, just don’t tell me …)

Ciao Amalfi Coast Travel Recipe Lemon Pound Cake with Tea

Lemon pound cake and tea ... yum!

Let’s just call this my English twist on an Amalfi Coast tradition! Taking the photos was hard work and was duly rewarded with another slice of cake. Then I snapped a photo on my cell and sent it to my husband promising to try not to eat it all before he came home. Yes, this is one of those cakes that requires photographic evidence.

Ciao Amalfi Coast Travel Recipe Lemon Cake

Yum ... would you like a slice?

I wish I could share a slice of this lemon pound cake still warm from the oven. But the second best is to share with you the recipe so you can enjoy it at home!

..

Recipe for The Hummingbird Bakery Lemon Loaf

Ingredients:

320 g caster sugar

3 eggs

grated zest of 2 unwaxed lemons

560 g plain flour

1½ teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

250 ml whole milk

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

200 g unsalted butter, melted

lemon syrup

freshly squeezed juice and grated zest of 2 lemons

100 g caster sugar

a 23 x 13-cm loaf tin,

greased and dusted with flour

Makes 8–10 slices

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 170°C (325°F) Gas 3.

Put the sugar, eggs and lemon zest in a freestanding electric mixer with a paddle attachment (or use a handheld electric whisk) and beat until well mixed.

Sift the flour, baking powder and salt into a separate bowl. Combine the milk and vanilla extract in another bowl. Add

one-third of the flour mixture to the sugar mixture and beat well, then beat in one-third of the milk mixture. Repeat this process twice more until everything has been added. Turn the mixer

up to high speed and beat until the mixture is light and fluffy.

Turn the mixer down to low speed, pour in the melted butter and beat until well incorporated.

Pour the mixture into the prepared loaf tin and smooth over

with a palette knife. Bake in the preheated oven for about 45–55 minutes, or until golden brown and the sponge bounces back when touched.

For the lemon syrup: While the cake is baking, put the lemon juice and zest, sugar and 200 ml water in a small saucepan and bring to the boil over low heat. Boil until it has reduced by half, or until it has a thin syrup consistency. When the hot cake comes out of the oven, pour the syrup all over the top. Leave to cool slightly in the tin before turning out onto a wire cooling rack to cool completely.

Beautiful and easy to follow recipes!

Thank you to Ryland, Peters & Small for allowing me to share The Hummingbird Bakery’s recipe for Lemon Loaf! The Hummingbird Bakery Cook Book Deluxe Edition is published by Ryland Peters & Small at £20.00 and is available from www.rylandpeters.com.

A Sunday Drive to Salerno

Ciao Amalfi Coast Travel Drive

Zooming along the Amalfi Coast curves looking toward Amalfi

The first sunny weekend on the Amalfi Coast and everyone … and I mean everyone … hits the road for a drive. When there’s only one road, that can be problematic. But with the Amalfi Coast road, it’s always best to pack a little extra patience … and your camera! Fortunately, there are the views and the sheer magnitude of this road carved out of the mountainside to keep one company. The colors in the springtime are a nice touch, too!

Ciao Amalfi Coast Travel Broom Bushes

Bright colors of spring along the Amalfi Coast Road

A couple of weeks ago we had a Sunday lunch invitation with family in Salerno, so we hit the road along with everyone else. The scooters and motorcycles were out in droves. After the rainy spring, I can’t blame them for wanting to enjoy a ride on a sunny Sunday. What a view!

Ciao Amalfi Coast Travel Drive Salerno

Around the curve toward Salerno!

Spring was in full bloom and the scent of wisteria and lemon blossoms filled the car with all the windows open. What a heavenly scent … I wished I could just roll up the windows and keep it inside. Looking at the photos brings back the memories of that warm, spicy scent and the sunshine on my arms.

Ciao Amalfi Coast Travel Wisteria Drive

The scent of wisteria wafting through the car

After passing Capo d’Orso, the Cape of the Bear named after a bear-shaped rock, the road climbs higher and twists and turns as it winds in and out of ravines in the mountains. Before long there’s a quick glimpse of the harbor at Cetara, which is an absolutely charming little fishing village.

Ciao Amalfi Coast Travel Cetara Salerno

Catching a glimpse of the port of Cetara

The road curves through Cetara just above the level of the rooftops of many of the houses and about eye level with the colorful majolica tiled dome of the church. If you’re driving along the Amalfi Coast road and have time, do stop off in Cetara and explore the village, enjoy lunch and the pretty beach.

Ciao Amalfi Coast Travel Cetara

The colorful majolica tile dome and rooftops of Cetara

One of the most captivating parts of the drive is just barely catching a glimpse of an incredible panorama and then a moment later it’s lost between the trees or around another curve. It’s one massive temptation … curve after curve!

Ciao Amalfi Coast Travel Vietri sul Mare Salerno

Beautiful Vietri sul Mare and Marina di Vietri beach

It took me quite a few attempts to get a clear shot of Vietri sul Mare, above, with its beach area called Marina di Vietri. The beach wasn’t packed like it is in the summers, but it was definitely a popular spot on this sunny Sunday. Around a few more curves and I tried to catch a clear shot of of Vietri sul Mare with the dome and bell tower of the Church of San Giovanni Battista. There it is … can you see it?

Ciao Amalfi Coast Travel Vietri sul Mare

The Church of San Giovanni Battista in Vietri sul Mare

The Amalfi Coast road never fails to impress me, with it’s intense beauty, crazy curves and views that make you want to drive it again and again. If you’re lucky enough to be the passenger … bring your camera!