Friday, 30 March 2018

Path of the Amalfi Lemons

Spending time in Naples one is in continually confronted with - in addition to tourists - lemons - lemon trees in the piazzas, lemons turned into limoncello, the lemon liqueur made in southern Italy, plastic lemons festooning many shops. Tourists and lemons become tiresome after awhile. They're both everywhere.
An "all things lemon" shop on the waterfront in Naples

But a trip down to the Amalfi Coast in March affords a different perspective. Most hotels and restaurants are closed until April for the winter season so there is a noticeable lack of tourists. And the famous Amalfi Lemon is at its most impressive. The fruit has ripened and is about ready to be harvested.  The steep mountainsides have been tamed into terraces separated by narrow stone or gravel paths. The terraces are filled with fruit laden groves of the Sfumato Amalfitano lemon. You can begin to understand why Goethe described southern Italy as "the land where lemons grow". In fact lemons appear in frescoes at both Pompeii and Herculaneum.
The mountainside completely cultivated through intensive terracing. The black and green netting is to protect the lemons against unexpected low temperatures

But these aren't just any lemon. These are Amalfi Lemons which have been recognized with the IGP (Indicazione Geografica Protetta) designation, indicating that only the Sfumato Amalfitano lemon grown on the Amalfi Coast can called an Amalfi Lemon. Like other iconic Italian cooking ingredients, such as the tomato and arborio rice, the Amalfi Lemon isn't native to Italy. It originated in the Himalayas but was introduced to Italy by Arab traders a thousand years ago. Back then the Mediterranean Sea was home to active trading between the Republic of Amalfi and Byzantium. Intense cultivation and the resulting transformation of the steep mountainsides began between the 10th and 12th centuries.
These lemon trees are unbelievably prolific

Even today there are no roads up into these intensely cultivated terraces and so harvesting is done by hand and the lemons are transported down to waterfront by mule.
A lemon farmer on his mule with the yellow bag of harvested Amalfi lemons
Accompanied by his faithful canine friend who is so happy his wagging tail makes the photo a little blurry!

A recognized Path of the Lemons runs high up amongst the lemon groves from the small town of Maori to the even smaller town of Minori. We had been reassured that once we took a couple of local buses to Maori anyone (and everyone) could tell us where the Walk was. Of course, it wasn't quite that simple. We had to inquire from many people before I finally went into a veterinary clinic and the woman working the cash knew of it and could give me directions.

The first step (literally of many) was to walk up to the town cathedral with its beautiful and distinctive majolica roof.
Maori's cathedral with its distinctive roof

Continuing up the path past the church and by houses built right up to the steps we finally made it to the first signpost.

For the casual walker it is a cardio workout up the mountain path to the upper terraces. But I loved it. The smell of ripening lemons was a delightful change from the diesel fumes of Naples and the peace and solitude a respite from the crowded streets and honking horns of Italy's third largest city. It was also interesting for me to see agriculture done on such an intensive level and so successfully! The views were spectacular - both on the micro level of being amongst the lemon trees

Lining the path both above and below are the lemon groves

The trees are pruned and wooden supports help hold the lemon laden branches aloft
and being able to gaze across mountainsides and get a bird's eye view of towns down to the water.

Coming back down into Minori was a little hard on the knees but well worth the experience.
The stone path down to Minori

Greeting us at the end of the path were two mules, happy also to be able to have finished their toils for the day.
I was just grateful not to have carried those boxes on my back on the Path of the Lemons 

1 comment:

  1. Sounds like an amazing walk! Great post and photos. Pat