Carnival Mask and Confetti

February on the Amalfi Coast: Local Tips for What to See & Do

February is a quiet month on the Amalfi Coast, with the exception of the very loud celebrations for carnevale. Yes, it’s carnival time again. Around the Amalfi Coast it’s a festive celebration that includes parades with large floats, kids with entirely too much confetti, and, my favorite part, lasagna. (I’ll share more about that below.) The carnival events add a burst of color to what is traditionally a peaceful time of year. This is the month that many restaurants and stores close for annual holiday time or for maintenance work. Soon things will slowly start coming back to life as preparations begin for another busy season ahead. In the meantime, I love these quiet days, especially when the sun shines.
 
Here’s a look at a few things going on this month, along with some tips for enjoying the Amalfi Coast in February!

 

Carnevale

When most people thing carnival and Italy they imagine all those gorgeous masks and costumes in Venice. That’s not at all what the celebrations look like in much of Italy. If you’re at all familiar with what carnevale looks like in the Italian city of Viareggio, with its massive floats and parade, that’s much more along the lines of how it’s celebrated in this part of Italy – naturally just on a much smaller scale. While there are parades and celebrations, often geared toward kids, in many of the towns along the Amalfi Coast, Maiori is the center of carnevale events. (In large part because they actually have space to make floats and have a parade!) With their Gran Carnevale di Maiori, they have a series of events from February 10th to the 18th. The parade with the floats will take place on Tuesday, February 13th at 3pm. You can see the full events for the Carnevale di Maiori here (Italian only).

Carnival Desserts

Of course you can’t have a holiday without good food! As it was traditionally considered the last big hurrah before the period of Lent leading up to Easter, the customary meal for carnevale is quite lavish. Along the Amalfi Coast that means cheese, salami, cured meats, rich pasta dishes, more meat, (usually more cheese) and lots of sweets. Many families prepare an incredibly rich and delicious lasagna enriched with sausage, little meatballs, spicy salami, hard boiled eggs and mozzarella. It is divine. I look forward to it all year. (Think Garfield and his love of lasagna.) Since my husband has two sisters and they are both marvelous cooks, it means we usually get to enjoy a double dose of lasagna each year.
 
When it’s time for dessert, usually a large tray of chiacchiere will arrive on the table. These are thin strips of fried dough topped with powdered sugar. This is a traditional carnival dessert all over Italy and it has many different names depending on where you’re at. While there are countless recipes, the dough sometimes includes a bit of lemon rind or even a splash of limoncello. They make the most delightful tasting mess you’ve ever eaten!

 

The Amalfi Coast in February

As it’s the quietest month of the year, if you’ve been dreaming of driving the Amalfi Coast Road it’s a good time of year to set off by car and explore the coastline. With less traffic it’s a little easier to stop in scenic spots and enjoy the views. The best part are the colors. If you get a sunny and clear day, the colors of February are vivid and crisp. Just keep in mind that most places are closed this time of year. So don’t expect to rock up to Positano and find all the boutiques open and restaurants to choose from along the beach. But if you’re coming to the Amalfi Coast to enjoy the views and meander around the quiet streets, it’s a wonderful time of year!
 
While you’re exploring the Amalfi Coast, don’t forget that sites like the Villa Romana ruins in Minori are open year round and are free to visit. Take note that the Museo della Carta (Paper Museum) in Amalfi is closed in February for maintenance.
 
Ah … the month of love begins in the place I love the most – the Amalfi Coast! Of course February means San Valentino, or Valentine’s Day. If the weather is nice, our favorite way to celebrate is to head out on a drive along the coastline or simply stroll along the port in Amalfi. No better way to celebrate than just enjoying the place I love most of all.

Home Again on the Amalfi Coast

Flying to the Amalfi Coast

I wish I could say that I woke up to this stunning sunrise yesterday morning, because that would have meant I had slept on the flight from Atlanta to Rome. Nevertheless, it was a beautiful sight watching the first signs of morning and enjoying this striking pink surprise somewhere over France. I’ve been in America the past couple of weeks visiting family and helping my mom move. This also meant sorting through all of my remaining belongings in America and condensing what I wanted to keep down to what would fit in two rather large suitcases. Including a lifetime of photos. Even though it was a busy and short trip, it’s always great to see my family!

Flying to Naples Italy

Flying into the Naples Capodichino airport is stunning on a clear day. Most of the time the landing flight path from the north comes in over Ischia and Procida, which you can see below the wing in the photo above. You can also see the familiar outline of Capri with the little peak of Monte Solaro in the distance. Then the plane curves in over the top of Naples with a clear view down right over Vomero and Castel Sant’Elmo and the Certosa di San Martino. If you know Naples you can spot Santa Chiara, Piazza Plebiscito and even the soaring glass dome of the Galleria Umberto I. Oh, and of course Vesuvius!

Ravello Villa Cimbrone Winter

But that’s the view I was waiting to see again – home! On the way back from the Naples airport to the Amalfi Coast, we ran into a jingly belled traffic jam. I love showing photos like this one below to people who think the Amalfi Coast is just glamorous hotels, lounging by the beach on a sun bed and endless shops and gelato. (Although the gelato is certainly tasty!) There’s a very rural and rugged side of the Amalfi Coast, and you don’t have to go very far up in the mountains to find scenes like this very typical.

Traffic on the Amalfi Coast

What wasn’t typical is that there were some very curious goats in this crowd, including one who stopped right in front of the car and looked at us seemingly puzzled why we were in the middle of the road. Another stopped and peered in the passenger side window before nuzzling the side mirror and closing it! (The side mirrors fold in on most cars in Italy, which comes in handy on the narrow Amalfi Coast roads.)

A Curious Goat

But there wasn’t much time for traffic, because we had a very important date. I arrived just in time yesterday on Carnevale to celebrate my favorite part of the day – eating lasagna! I thought that lasagna was traditional all over Italy for Carnevale, but I learned last year that it’s pretty much just the Naples area. For all the rest of you Italy expats, I’m so very, very sorry that you miss Neapolitan lasagna. It is a thing of wonder, especially when made by my husband’s sisters!

Neapolitan Lasagna

So it’s not the most photogenic food in the world, but it is one of the tastiest! I also discovered that it really is perfect after 24 hours of traveling and icky airplane food. It’s good to be home again for so many reason!

 

PS: I’m sorry about the iPhone quality photos, but I wasn’t traveling with my Nikon D3200. You can find more of my iPhone photos on Instagram at @ciaoamalfi.

Buon Carnevale 2011!

It’s Carnevale time in Italy, and for the first time in two years I’m missing Carnival on the Amalfi Coast due to my travels in America. While I’m not a big fan of the dressing up or dodging silly string wars going on between the local kids (or wondering where all that confetti ends up …), I don’t take lightly missing the divine lasagna made by the tour guide’s sister. Just to keep me from crying, there is another one planned for when I return. Another Carnival treat I love are the crunchy chiacchiere made for dessert. These are fried strips of thin dough that are covered in powdered sugar and are made throughout Italy for Carnevale. Before I left, a friend surprised us with a tray of chiacchiere from a pasticcceria in Pagani, just on the other side of the mountains. They were seriously coated with powdered sugar, but with a few taps to remove the extra they were really tasty.

Curious about other Carnevale traditions on the Amalfi Coast and throughout Campania? Last month I wrote an article for Charming Italy about some fun Carnevale traditions, foods and events in Campania. Buon Carnevale a tutti!