Monday, July 16, 2012
As promised, today I start my posts about last week's trip to Positano. This was not my first trip to the Amalfi coast. I’d been there about 10 years ago with Oldways, and had a glorious time. But since it was off season, (there was rain) and I with a busload of colleagues, it wasn’t the idyllic beach getaway I’d always imagined.
Last year Domenico and I managed a weekend at a completely over-the-top fabulous house he had worked on in Ravello. This was definitely the upscale, jet set image I had of this part of the world. But still...no beach. We stayed ‘up at the villa’ (which was pretty great), but never even got our toes wet.
So this time, as I headed to Positano, I knew beaching it was my first priority. I’d never been to Positano before (oddly, many of my friends in Italy haven’t either) but Gillian, who had invited us, had been many times before. And she promised to lead us to some of her favorite spots.
Getting there: not so easy. I looked into various train/boat/car combos and landed on the following which was painless and not horribly expensive. We took the fast train to Naples and then hired a car and driver to take us down the coast. The car was 100 Euros, but divided between three or four people it's very reasonable. By taking an 8:00am train from Rome, we had our toes wet by 11:30. Pretty amazing.
Getting around: Steps. And more steps. Positano is a gorgeous village climbing up a steep ravine leading to the sea. While there are a few streets, moving around means walking up and down steep steps. So wear comfy shoes, and keep your packing light. (And, since you will be going to the beach, repeat to yourself: more stairs = firmer butt. It's worth it.)
What to do: Go to the beach! While you can head down to the Spiaggia Grande, which fronts the village, better to head off to one of the nearby coves. Today’s lesson: how to get to Fornillo.
Fornillo is the small, pebble beach just to the west of town. You can reach it via little boats which leave from the dock at the end of the Spiaggia Grande. But an even easier way is to take the little foot path that leads up from town. It’s about a 10 minute walk, and gorgeous.
Choosing your stabilimento: Although there are ‘free’ beaches, in Italy it’s pretty common to pay to go to the beach. Stabilimenti, or clubs, provide you with a comfy lounge chair, umbrella and the use of a bathroom. The trick is choosing one that also has good food. Since we had our friend Diana’s recommendations, we headed straight for Ferdinando’s. I knew we were in good hands when I saw the mini vegetable garden they had planted to take advantage of the freshwater shower run off. Brilliant.
Given the completely beautiful location, and our happiness to just be at the beach, I’m sure we would have been content with a panino. But Ferdinando's delivered so much more.
The menu was deceptively simple, but incredibly good. Everything was super fresh, and obviously prepared to order.
The Insalata di Mare was mostly calamari and shrimp, cooked till just tender, and tossed with perky, spicy arugula. A splash of olive oil, a squeeze of lemon, and it was heaven in a dish.
Gillian ordered the Alici Marinate since she is basically addicted to them. Tender filets, laid out on a brilliant blue dish, with just enough marinating going on to let the fishy come through.
Just for fun we ordered a dish of Caponata for the table. Since it was described as ‘traditional bread salad’ we knew it wasn’t going to be the eggplant sweet and sour Sicilian version. What it turned out to be was one of the most ingenious summer salads I’ve had in a long time. Think Caprese (tomatoes and mozzarella) meets panzanella, by way of Nice, with the addition of tuna and olives. Plus - and this is the brilliant part - corn bread instead of regular old stale bread! Amazing invention that I am going to be working on the rest of the summer (stay tuned).
The simple caprese Sophie’s friend Tilly ordered, while delicious, seemed almost anti-climatic. But since it, like everything else, was served on too cute to be true Vietri ceramics, it tasted even better than usual.
And can I say right here, right now, that from now on, when I eat at a beach, I want all my food to be served on a plate shaped like a fish wearing lipstick? It just tastes better.
An added perk about the entire stabilimento experience is that you can have wine with your lunch, knowing you just have to amble back to your lettino where you fall asleep to the sound of water gently lapping on the shore.
Finally, around six o'clock, when the sun had sunk over the hills and our little cove was cooling off in the evening light, we packed up our stuff, said goodbye to Fornillo, and headed - up the stairs - back home.
Bar - Bagno
Letttino, Umbrella, Shower : 7 Euros