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“L’Estate di San Martino” in Amalfi

During breakfast this morning, I heard the weatherman on the TV talking about the “Estate di San Martino,” which means the Summer of San Martino. This is similar to what we call an Indian Summer in the USA. It’s when the weather is particularly nice after a cold spell, but it refers specifically to this period since the festival for San Martino takes place today. I looked out the window and it was a gloriously sunny day. A true and proper L’Estate di San Martino! We spent the morning running some errands before stopping at the Gran Caffè, which has outdoor seating overlooking the beach. You can spot the umbrellas in the upper right of the photo above. It’s one of my favorite spots in Amalfi for a Spritz or a light lunch. Today, with the sun shining down, it was perfection.

After lunch we took a leisurely stroll along the waterfront in Amalfi all the way to the end of the town’s largest pier and then back again. One of the things I love about Amalfi is that even though it’s small there’s a wonderful passeggiata if you walk from one end of the town to the other.

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The harbor still feels empty after the busy summer months, but the winter is my favorite time of the year for taking photos along the waterfront. There are still a few gozzo boats and the usual cast of colorful fishing boats that stick around all winter.

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Although the piazza was surprisingly busy, the waterfront was very quiet. It’s especially nice to walk along here after lunch, when many people are still resting. You can sit on a bench, take in this view below and for just a few minutes feel like you have it all to yourself.

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The sun was deliciously warm today, and a few people were even taking advantage of that on the Marina Grande beach. I would have loved to have spent a little bit more time in the sunshine. More rain and clouds are in the forecast for the week ahead – all the more reason to enjoy the sun today!

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I hope you enjoyed this quick update from a beautiful day in Amalfi. In this world of social media, it’s a pleasure to get back to my blogging roots. However, if you’d like to join me for more daily updates from the Amalfi Coast, you can find me on Instagram @ciaoamalfi.

 

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La Selva Handmade Soap from Positano

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A gift box of 4 soaps from La Selva (Photo courtesy La Selva)

High in the mountains above Positano there is an enchanting place where you can experience the natural beauty, sights and scents of the Amalfi Coast in an untouched setting. That special place is called La Selva, and I’ve shared about it here before since it’s setting for Sole Yoga Holiday’s annual Positano Yoga Retreat. La Selva is the creation of Martha and Cristiano, who have worked hard to make a place that respects nature – and highlights it at the same time. This is perfectly encapsulated in Martha’s new line of handmade soaps. And, yes, you can order them online!

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Handmade soap from Amalfi Coast grown lemons and olives (Photo courtesy La Selva)

I’m always on the lookout for locally produced crafts that capture essence of the Amalfi Coast. I’m also dedicated to living as natural as possible on a daily basis, which is a continual evolution and wonderful journey. This summer while at La Selva for the Positano Yoga Retreat, I was excited to learn that Martha had created her own line of soaps. I had the pleasure to sit down with her and learn more about the process while I was there. The soaps are made with local olive oil from the first cold press along with other natural oils. Walking around La Selva, a meandering pathway leads through a beautiful terraced olive grove. Everywhere you look are the beautiful natural plants and herbs that Martha uses to make her soaps.

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La Selva’s olive grove overlooking Positano with the Li Galli islands in the distance

In fact, the soaps are all natural and include traditional Mediterranean scents like lemon, orange, mint and rosemary. Ingredients are all sustainably sourced and the soaps are produced in small batches completely by hand using a “cold process” technique before being air cured and hand cut.

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Hand cut soap drying (Photo courtesy La Selva)

There are a variety of scents to choose from: Limone e Oliva (Lemon and Olive), Agrumi (Citrus), Menta e Rosemarino (Mint and Rosemary), Propoli e Miele (Propolis and Honey), Iperico e Tea Tree (St. John’s Wort and Tea Tree) and Mirto e Arancia (Blueberry and Orange). I’ve tried out three of the soaps above and love them all. I’m excited to try out the new Lemon and Olive oil soap this winter!

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Lemon and Olive oil handmade and all natural soap (Photo courtesy La Selva)

If you love the Amalfi Coast and natural products, this is the soap for you! You can find out more and order directly online from Martha at the La Selva Positano Cosmetici Naturali Facebook page.

Last of the October Beach Days

If you’re lucky, summer comes back for a little visit in October. These lingering summer days are extra special at the beach on the Amalfi Coast, because they’ve already been abandoned by the crowds. We’ve had so many warm days this month that it seems strange to have already set the clocks back for daylight savings and that November is just around the corner. How did that even happen?

It’s that time of year to start the annual hunt for the tricky ingredients for the Thanksgiving dinner I’ll be preparing before too long. Every once in awhile the cold north wind has been blowing down from the mountains and I’ve already made the “cambio di stagione” change in our wardrobes from summer to autumn and winter. Yet at the same time the sun has been shining and beckoning us back into summer.

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Catching the boat to Santa Croce beach from Amalfi

Last week we took a trip back to summer and spent the day at Santa Croce beach near Amalfi – always one of my favorite spots. While we were walking along the harbor debating lunch plans, my husband spotted the boat from Ristorante Da Teresa arriving. We glanced at one another only very briefly. “It’s a sign,” I called out, already running down the steps to the pier to jump aboard.

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Ready to go to Santa Croce

The Darsena pier, which you can see above, is where you can catch the boat to Santa Croca. Look for this long, pale pink boat with the sign saying Ristorante Da Teresa.

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On the way!

Climb aboard and in a few minutes you’ll be at Santa Croce beach. The boat service is complimentary for patrons of the restaurant or if you’re renting a sunbed and umbrella.

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Arriving at Ristorante Da Teresa

The only way to reach this rocky beach is by boat. Usually, there’s another restaurant called Santa Croce to the left, but it had already been dismantled for the season when we went last week. The sea can be so rough during winter storms that the entire restaurant structure is pretty much removed for protection. When we got ashore, I spotted two lonely looking orange sunbeds on one side of the beach. They were lonely no more! I’ve been to Santa Croce many times, even at the end of the season, but I’ve never had half of the beach to myself. It was divine.

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Now this is my idea of the beach …

I really needed some time – just me and the sound of the sea. It was completely relaxing soaking up the autumn sun and listing to the waves tumbling little rocks to and fro. It was a bit too chilly for me to swim, but my husband took a dip before lunch.

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Having the sea to yourself

After a bit we went upstairs to the dining terrace for a relaxed lunch overlooking the sea. As always, the meal was excellent.

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Lunch with a soothing view

A crisp, local rosé was the perfect complement to a delicious meal. Naturally, seafood is the best choice here, and we had antipasti of friend anchovies and squid cooked with roasted peppers. Then pasta made with a local fish called gallinella.

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Summer sunshine and an Amalfi Coast rosé

After lunch it was back to the sun for a little while before returning to Amalfi. There were a few boats coming and going, dropping of travelers for lunch at Da Teresa. Otherwise it was total tranquility.

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Hang on summer

I spent some time reading and scrambling around like I always do on the rocks to take photos. Never gets old this beach. Water is such a soothing element for me, and just being near the sea can wash away a world of stress.

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Back home to Amalfi

It always comes too soon, but before long it was time for the last boat back to Amalfi … and to our busy October days. But for just one day I could pretend it was still summer.

 

 

 

Italy Blogging Roundtable

Italy Roundtable
This blog post is part of a series called The Italy Blogging Roundtable. Every month our group of Italy based writers takes on a new theme, and you can read the contributions for this month’s topic – Elements – at the links below. We’d love to hear your thoughts and comments. Please share the stores if you’ve enjoyed them!

ArtTravA Gift from the Earth: Potatoes in the Alto Adige

At Home in Tuscany

Bleeding Espresso

Brigolante

Italy ExplainedSecrets of Underground Naples

Girl in FlorenceThe Man Protecting Tuscany’s Sea: Paolo Fanciulli

Italofile

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Francesco Clemente’s Standing with Truth for Ravello 2017

In Italy, you can’t help but experience modernity within the context of the past. What is new is quite literally enveloped in what came before. But isn’t that what it should always be like? During my Washington, DC days, I was struck by a quotation from Shakespeare’s The Tempest that is carved at the base of a statue outside the National Archives. “What is past is prologue,” it reads. In a place like the Amalfi Coast, protected as it is thanks to its UNESCO World Heritage Site status, the visual landscape is a narrative that has continued unbroken from the past.

In a place with centuries of history such as the Villa Rufolo in Ravello, it’s possible to walk through its history, starting practically at the prologue in the 12th century and continuing to today. It is within this historic surrounding that a thoroughly modern exhibit has been placed this summer. As part of this year’s Ravello Festival, the show Standing with Truth for Ravello 2017 is a site-specific installation created by Neapolitan born artist Francesco Clemente in one of the Villa Rufolo’s atmospheric spots.

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The exhibit is situated in the courtyard and what was once a chapel at the Villa Rufolo. It’s a quiet and reflective setting – perfect for art exhibitions. The courtyard is flanked by two rows of bright red flags painted with symbols at once captivating and dark. A clenched fist holds colorful flowers. A sickle, broken at its base, cuts into a bleeding heart. Two strange creatures embrace. Images with an intensity that evokes a struggle.

Stepping inside the chapel, the narrative continues with a large tent entirely hand painted in tempura. The exhibition notes point out that it’s the type of tent characterized by Asian nomad shepherds. A tent as shelter, a tent as a symbol of changing places. This exhibition is themed around the idea of walls and migration – timely topics in today’s political climate around the world. Clemente has been working with the idea of tents since his ENCAMPMENT series that started about 5 years ago.

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This is a tent you can walk into, explore and experience. I happened to be there at a moment when there were no other visitors and it was a fascinating visual experience. There are ancient symbols, animals and faces that reminded me of Picasso’s Rose Period. The colors are vividly warm and I found myself creating my own narratives as I wandered around inside.

What stories do you see?

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Peering out from inside the tent, you can see the walls lined with a series of watercolors by Clemente that are on display for the first time.

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Getting up close to these watercolors, it was possible to see the incredible texture and labor that went into their design. Just look at the design in the concentric circles and the red border below. The works were full of intricate details that are exotic and traditional, playing on the theme different cultures blending together.

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Leaving the chapel, the harsh red flags reveal softer pastel color scheme with messages embroidered in gold thread. As they say, there are two sides to every story, and these flags fluttering in a summer breeze were reminders of that.

One tie-died flag caught my eye in particular. It says, “Il piu moderno qui è anche il piu’ arcaico.” That translates to: “The most modern here is also the most archaic.” Framed by the arched entrance to the chapel courtyard, it perfectly captured the setting of this contemporary art exhibit in the 12th-century ruins of the Villa Rufolo.

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It was also the catalyst for my reflections on this exhibition. If what is past is prologue, we carry not only who we were in the past with us as we move forward in life, but we also carry with us our family, back to our remotest ancestors in far flung parts of the world we have yet to even imagine. We carry that with us as we go forward, sometimes moving countries, meeting new people, making new families. We are ancient and modern all at once, just like the landscapes we move through.

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Standing with Truth for Ravello 2017 is on display at the Villa Rufolo through the end of September. Entrance to the exhibit is included when you purchase your ticket for the Villa Rufolo. More details available at www.villarufolo.com.

 

Italy Blogging Roundtable

Italy Roundtable
This blog post is part of a series called The Italy Blogging Roundtable. Every month our group of Italy based writers takes on a new theme, and you can read the contributions for this month’s topic – Modern – at the links below. We’d love to hear your thoughts and comments. Please share the stores if you’ve enjoyed them!

ArtTrav

At Home in Tuscany

Bleeding Espresso

Brigolante

Italy ExplainedWhere to See Modern & Contemporary Art in Italy

Girl in Florence

Italofile

 

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Check Out My Favorite Capri Walks in Dream of Italy!

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It’s been a quiet summer around here on Ciao Amalfi, but it certainly hasn’t been a quiet time. Summer is always a busy period, but this year seems especially hectic … and hot! We’ve had a heat wave on the Amalfi Coast, making usually hot August even stickier than normal. But I’ve had a lot of fun experiences this summer, including writing a feature piece in Dream of Italy’s June/ July newsletter on my favorite walks on Capri. It was a pleasure to explore the island, covering familiar pathways and discovering some new ones to me – all while taking notes and photographs for the article. I’ve shared a variety of walks, including some short and easy walks if you only have a limited time on Capri as well as some longer hikes if you’re staying for more than a day. However, all of them show you the way to discovering the natural beauty of Capri!

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You can check out a sneak peek of one of the walks on the Dream of Italy blog with Capri Walk #2: Natural Beauty Up Close. To read about all the walks, check out the Dream of Italy June/ July 2017 issue here.