Salt and Lemons: The Amalfi Coast

When people talk about going to Italy, they travel for the art, the history, the landscapes and the pasta. And yet, what I most want to talk about is the lemons.

After leaving Pompeii, we headed to Minori, a small town on the Amalfi Coast. The Amalfi Coast is the kind of place you film movies in, where you stage cinematic confessions of love, a landscape that feels like the quintessence of summer. And everywhere there are lemons. Lemon trees, limoncello in lemon bottles, lemon granitas. On our first night in Minori, at the welcome dinner for the wedding, we ate a delicious five course meal. The closer? A lemon semifreddo that was so cool and delicious on the tongue that it absolutely made me want another, despite the way my stomach was straining to hold everything I’d already eaten. Oh, and a shot of limoncello.

The next morning, we got up nursing near-hangovers, drank our obligatory cappuccinos, and decided to hike Il Sentiero dei Limoni, the Lemon Trail. This is a strangely urban (by American standards) meander from Minori to Maiori, constructed of concrete and cobbles, embraced by lemon groves. The area on the Amalfi Coast is very steep. Most towns are perched in narrow bays and gulleys carved out by freshwater streams — what we might call hollers back home, if not for their seaside proximity. To expand, the residents must build up the arid cliffs, carving their buildings, walkways and gardens into their steeply terraced sides. The road cuts along the sea, and offers no safe shoulder for pedestrians. If you want to get from one town to the other on foot, you can do worse than to take this path, but Il Sentiero di Limoni is largely comprised of stairs. The S.O. and I spent a good chunk of our climb speculating on the fitness levels of the postman tasked with bringing mail to their cliffside neighbors.

Near the top of our climb we came upon the first of the lemon-grower’s houses, open to provide refreshments. We drank fresh-squeezed lemonade and ate lemon salad — small sections of thick-rined lemon prepared with olive oil, vinegar and salt. It was surprisingly sweet. Then we continued our journey, tripping down the stairs to Maiori, where we met a friend for lunch before heading back to Minori for a shower and a nap.

Later, clean and fresh-pressed for nuptial celebrations, we boarded a boat to Amalfi. In the gentle light of evening, the air from the water was sweet and pleasant. The lemon groves graced the rocks of the coast with green, the town cradled amongst the terraces as we sailed away. The wedding was gorgeous, of course, held in a castle by the sea, the kind where a mermaid-turned-queen might wile away her twilight years dreaming of the depths below. And there was more lemonade, and limoncello spritzers, and yes, lemon desserts. I could write more about the coast of Amalfi — the colors of the sea caves, the clarity of the water, the speckling shadows of fish. It’s a magical sort of place. But for now I’ll leave you with the lemons, bright and alive on your tongue.

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