Atrani Transformed into a Christmas Presepe

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Christmas is a magical time on the Amalfi Coast. With its colorful lights and picturesque setting, Atrani is one of the most charming spots this time of year. It feels like you’re walking right through a traditional prespe, or nativity scene. This holiday season Atrani has created a unique and modern light show that plays on that theme. The town truly feels like a presepe! The light show was inspired by a poem “Atrani è nu prisepio” (“Atrani is a Presepe”) by local writer Enzo Del Pizzo. Stars dance across the beach, the town is lit up with multi-colored lights and on the mountain above town there’s a large projection with a vintage image of Atrani and lines of poetry.

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Come along through the tunnel into the quaint piazza Umberto I, which is full of lights and such a festive feel. There was even Christmas music playing throughout the town when we visited last night!

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The steps leading up to church of San Salvatore del Birecto are like a colorful tapestry with shimmery lights around. Later when we passed by there were kids and a dog playing in the lights on the steps. It was fun to see the children interacting with the lights throughout the town!

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A large Christmas tree decorates one side of Piazza Umberto I, and it’s covered with lights that match the decorative swags on the balconies around the piazza.

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Over by the steps leading up to the Maddalena church, the arches of the Amalfi Coast Road are lit up blue with glittering lights and more lines from the poem talking about the church and seeing the characteristic arches of Atrani.

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Many of the little alleyways through town were also lit up in different colors. We had the benefit of a tour from our friend Linda who lives in Atrani. She showed us all the best spots!

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Looking down on Piazza Umberto I, you can see my favorite part of the light display on the left. It is a design by artist M.C. Escher. Why an Escher design in Atrani? The artist spent time in Ravello and on the Amalfi Coast in 1923, which was when he met the woman who would become his wife, Jetta Umiker. With its labyrinthine alleys and twists and turns, it’s not surprising that Atrani appealed to Escher, who was inspired and made many drawings in the area.

The design in Atrani’s light display this year is from Escher’s work Metamorphasis II, where birds transform into cubes and then eventually into the town of Atrani. You can catch a glimpse of the lights (and soccer game) in action in the short video clip below.

If you are on the Amalfi Coast this Christmas, stop by Atrani to see the fun light display. You can also find out more about the tradition of Christmas nativities and see some in the fountains of Amalfi here!

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Finding Home on the Amalfi Coast

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When my mother first set foot in Amalfi’s main piazza and stood gazing up at the Duomo of Amalfi, something deep inside her said, “Home.” It was strong, clear and visceral. She didn’t tell me this story until many years later, long after I had moved to the Amalfi Coast.

My first experience with Amalfi, while not quite so succinct, was just as powerful. It was as a result of my mother’s immediate connection, since I tagged along on her subsequent trip to the Amalfi Coast. The emotions that flooded over me that first time I set foot in Amalfi were overwhelming. Later that day, in late February 2007, I found myself in the hotel room in Vietri sul Mare trying to make sense of it all in my journal. I wrote that when I stepped off the bus and looked up the mountainside at the colorful buildings and the watchtower above, that I had felt so intensely that this would be an important place in my life.

And now it is my home.

Have you experienced that before? That odd yet extremely familiar feeling of finding home in a place you’ve never been before? If you have, you know just what I mean.

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And if my mother and I both falling for Amalfi immediately at different times wasn’t enough, there’s more to this story. When I stepped off that bus in 2007 and knew instinctively that Amalfi would be an important place, I had no clue that my tour guide that day—now my husband—was born and raised in Amalfi. How’s that for destiny?

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Nearly ten years later, I still have moments when I marvel at this place I call home. Travelers come from around the world and fall in love with the Amalfi Coast. Perhaps with the pastel cascade that is Positano or with the dreamy views from Ravello. Or like me and my mother with Amalfi. There’s some reassuring about know that around the world there are countless kindred spirits who have been here—or simply dreamed of being here—and have felt that deep connection with the Amalfi Coast.

What can I say? When your heart says home, you have found your place.

 

Italy Blogging Roundtable

italy-blogging-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 – Home – at the links below. We’d love to hear your thoughts and comments. Please share the stores if you’ve enjoyed them!

Bleeding EspressoChristmas in Calabria: Home for the Holidays

BrigolanteThe Humble Art of the Nativity Crèche in Umbria

Italy ExplainedYou’ve Been Gone So Long (On Leaving Home & Finding Ancestral Roots)

Fountain Nativity Scenes in Amalfi

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The nativity scene has a long tradition in Italy. It was St. Francis of Assisi who has been credited with creating the very first presepe, or nativity, way back in the early 13th century. While nativities can take on a variety of shapes and sizes—from a scene created with miniature figures (like ours – it’s up high safe from our cats!) to elaborate living nativity scenes—it’s hard to deny that the most elaborate, creative and, yes let’s just say it, over the top come from the Naples area. That includes the Amalfi Coast! Here a presepe doesn’t just include Mary, Joseph, baby Jesus and host of usual figures like shepherds, wise men and perhaps a donkey and an ox. In the Neapolitan tradition, you’ve got to get the whole village involved. And usually in 18th century style. So that means you’ve got not just shepherds, but whole flocks of sheep. Plus, geese, mules, rabbits, ducks, chickens – the whole shebang. Of course, if you have a village, that village has to eat. So don’t forget the butcher, the baker, (probably a candlestick maker), the fishmonger, the restaurants and because we’re in Italy – the pizzeria. The village often includes houses, churches and, well, everything you can imagine needed to run a village. In the 18th century, that is. It’s a wonderful tradition, and I love how it involves ordinary people and everyday experiences into the holy events of the Christmas scene.

In Amalfi there are several large nativity scenes that are lovingly created each year. Two of them are located in and around fountains! Here’s a look at the two fountain nativity scenes in Amalfi this year. Don’t miss the video at the end!

 

De Cape ‘e Ciucci Fountain Presepe

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Located just off Amalfi’s main street in Piazza dello Spirito Santo is a fountain called De Cape ‘e Ciucci (pictured in the first photo at the top of this post). It was built in the 18th century and takes its colorful name from the donkeys (ciucci) that used to stop and drink there after carrying a heavy load down from the village of Pogerola high above Amalfi. Since 1974 it has been home to a presepe, which now you can see throughout the year since it usually isn’t taken down. This elaborate nativity scene is both above and below the water in the fountain, which is why in the nativity scene above you can see the central part of the scene scattered with coins.

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Above the water you’ll see the regular host of characters. I particularly like the pizzaiolo (pizza maker) reaching into the oven to pull out a pizza. And that woman at the Taberna got a mighty large tip!

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The sheep in this presepe are real mountain climbers. I don’t envy the shepherds who after look over that flock! Below water, there’s one extra character you’re not likely to see in most other nativity scenes. A goldfish!

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Largo Scario Presepe Fountain

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Just off the Amalfi Coast road as it goes through Amalfi is a pretty little square called Largo Scario, which is home to a fountain topped with a column and statue of the Madonna Immacolata. Usually, you’ll find the fountain full of turtles lounging around in the sunshine. For the Christmas season, the fountain is drained and the turtles transferred to a temporary and safe home. A presepe scene completely unique to Amalfi is then constructed in the fountain. This year the angels around the manger have the names of the new grandchildren in the family that creates the nativity scene – such a sweet personal touch!

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What makes this presepe so unique is that it is a representation of Amalfi. If you look close, the names of the shops and restaurants are all those in Amalfi!

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Among the shops you’ll see Pasticceria Leone, for instance, which is a great coffee shop and bakery on Amalfi’s main street.

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Look … there’s even a limoncello shop! How could you have a presepe in Amalfi without a limoncello shop?

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There’s also the Ristorante Marina Grande, which is located just across the street from where this fountain is located. There’s even a local painter and other characters representing Amalfi locals.

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Amalfi Nativity Scenes Video from Positano Daily Photo

 

Last weekend I met up with my friend Nicki from Positano Daily Photo and we strolled around Amalfi looking at the fountain nativity scenes. She had been creating a video of the different nativity scenes that you can see in Positano and Praiano, so it was perfect! I hope you’ll enjoy seeing her video of all the different nativities on the Amalfi Coast. You’ll even spot me toward the end of the video in Amalfi!

Book Review | The Amalfi Coast Up Close & Personal by Chantal Kelly

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The Amalfi Coast seduces everyone who sets eyes on it. It is a rare destination guaranteed to give you a rush – the giddy kind you get when you can’t believe you are standing there. From the sea to the hills, from Positano to Vietri, it is a spectacular subject to photograph.   – Chantal Kelly

 

The seductive beauty of the Amalfi Coast has mesmerized travelers (including me!) for centuries, drawing them back again and again to experience that unique rush that comes from being surrounded by such a spectacular, impossibly gorgeous natural setting. I’ve had the pleasure to meet many of those return visitors over the years, including writer Chantal Kelly, who some of you might remember from Gelato Sisterhood on the Amalfi Shore. Chantal has been traveling and escorting tours to the Amalfi Coast for years and has a deep love for this area.

Her latest book, The Amalfi Coast Up Close & Personal, is a photographic and narrative journey of Sorrento and the Amalfi Coast, with stops along the way in the most iconic locations. What makes this journey so captivating is how the story is woven into her photography to create a captivating portrait of the Amalfi Coast.

Throughout the book, Chantal narrates a journey along the Amalfi Coast, interspersed with travel experiences, stories from locals and fascinating historical details. You’ll feel like you’ve had a personal tour along the Amalfi Coast after reading the book! I enjoyed the conversational narrative style, and felt like I was sipping cappuccino in Amalfi, meandering through lemon groves in Minori and shopping for colorful ceramics in Vietri sul Mare with the author. She has a friendly way of drawing you into a story and sharing a depth of history all while adding a personal touch – the hallmarks of a good guide!

For those of you missing the flavors of the Amalfi Coast, the book ends with a recipe section so you can enjoy local dishes mentioned throughout the book at home. Start with the traditional melanzane alla parmigiana (eggplant parmesan), then try Ndunderi (ricotta dumplings – a classic dish from Minori) and complete the meal with a slice of torta al limone (lemon cake). Delizioso!

The beauty of the Amalfi Coast shines through, not just in the photographs but also Chantal’s way of capturing how that beauty reaches deep into your soul and lingers. If you love the Amalfi Coast or know someone who does, The Amalfi Coast Up Close & Personal will bring back fond memories – and inspire you to book your next trip!

 

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DISCLOSURE: I received a copy of this book as a gift from the author. (Inside you’ll find a few photos by yours truly!) The opinions expressed here are wholeheartedly my own.

NOTE: The links in the post are Amazon affiliate links, which means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will earn a small commission. You will not pay more when buying a product through my link. Thank you in advance for your support!

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Visiting the Amalfi Coast in the Winter – 5 Things You Need to Know

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When most people think of the Amalfi Coast, the scenes that come to mind are beaches strewn with colorful umbrellas, bougainvilla draped pergolas and pastel hued buildings in the bright sunshine. If you’ve visited the Amalfi Coast from say April through October, that is very likely what you experienced. But what about the winter months? What happens on the Amalfi Coast the rest of the year? I love watching the change of seasons throughout the year, and mountains with a dusting of snow, lonely beaches and quiet winter days are just as much the Amalfi Coast to me as those summer experiences. While you can still plan a beautiful trip exploring the Amalfi Coast off season, you do need to know a few things in advance to have a fun time. Here are five things you need to know to plan a winter trip to the Amalfi Coast!

 

1. Ferries Don’t Run in the Winter

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It’s no secret that my favorite way to get around the Amalfi Coast is by ferry. You get a stunning view of the coastline and avoid the traffic. What’s not to love? However, if you’re planning a winter trip to the Amalfi Coast, the first thing you’ll want to know is that the ferries don’t run off season. The sea is often too rough, especially in Positano, and there just aren’t the crowds to justify the service. While there’s not a precise beginning and ending date for the ferry season, it usually starts running by Easter or a little earlier if it’s a late Easter. The ferries run throughout the spring, summer and fall until the end of October or beginning of November. Weather permitting, the service runs through the beginning of November for All Saints’ Day. If you’re planning a trip right at that shoulder season where you’re unsure if the ferries will be running, it’s best to arrange alternative transportation options before you arrive.

 

2. Many Places are Closed

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While winter on the Amalfi Coast is relatively moderate, the season ends at the beginning of November and doesn’t pick up again until the spring. This means many, if not most, hotels close off season. Some close entirely, some re-open for Christmas & New Year’s and some do stay open. You’ll just want to do a bit of planning in advance to enjoy your time on the Amalfi Coast off season. Many restaurants and shops close as well, but the amount that stay open depends on where you visit. Nearly everything closes in Positano all winter, while if you head over to Amalfi you’ll find the majority of the restaurants and shops open through Epiphany and then many close through February. Yet, if you visit a quiet village like Scala, you won’t find much different off season.

If you’re planning a trip to the Amalfi Coast over the winter, my recommendation would be to stay in Amalfi since it has excellent bus connections and a lovely local feel all winter long. You’ll have the beach to yourself … well you and the seagulls!

 

3. Except for Christmas & New Year’s – Fun!

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So everything I’ve said about the quiet winter days on the Amalfi Coast is what you’ll find – except for Christmas and New Year’s. They’re a wonderful time in Amalfi! Notice, I didn’t say the Amalfi Coast. I said Amalfi. And by that I mean staying in Amalfi over the holidays is a lot of fun. The streets are decorated with lights and the stores are open for holiday shopping. There are concerts all over the area and the fireworks on New Year’s Eve are spectacular. Need something else to make it even sweeter? You can pop into the Pansa pasticceria next to the Duomo and try out their fabulous artisan panettone and special local desserts made only for the holidays. The holiday atmosphere usually lasts through the Epiphany and then gets a little quieter for the rest of January and February as the Amalfitani go on a much deserved holiday time. That’s when you’ll find many hotels restaurants closed even in Amalfi.

 

4. There’s Not Much to Do Indoors

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The winter months on the Amalfi Coast can be rainy, and it’s important to keep in mind that there isn’t a lot to do indoors on the Amalfi Coast. While you will certainly want to visit the Duomo, with its beautiful Cloister of Paradise and museum, along with the Museo della Carta (Paper Museum), that pretty much covers all the indoor sights in Amalfi. (Besides eating more panettone at Pansa…) However, Naples is only about an hour drive away from the Amalfi Coast, so you could plan a rainy day exploring the National Archaeological Museum, the Capodimonte Museum or a number of other outstanding museums and cultural sights.

 

5. It’s Beautiful – Most of the Time!

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Yet, the majority of the winter is beautiful along the Amalfi Coast. And if you get a sunny winter day in Amalfi, there’s really nothing quite like it. The light is different, there’s a quiet atmosphere and it gives you the chance to see daily life on the Amalfi Coast. That daily life is there throughout the year, but it’s just easier to spot during the winter. My favorite thing to do in the winter is walk along the pier and enjoy the view of Amalfi. Maybe we’ll just bump into one another this winter!

 

Italy Blogging Roundtable

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

ArtTravHow to travel the Cinque Terre in Winter Too

Girl in FlorenceWhat To Expect in Florence This Winter 2016

Italy Explained4 Reasons to Visit Italy in Winter