If you have never been to the stunning Amalfi Coast yet, I bet you will at least dream about doing so. If you have been, you are most likely dreaming to return.
I am one of the lucky ones that has been to the area a couple of times; although the last time is more than ten years ago, and I am definitely one of those that can’t wait to return.
Unfortunately, this is not the time to do so. We all know why. However, thankfully planning for the future is still possible and there are some ways to create a bit of ‘destination feeling’ at home that helps to make social distancing a bit more exciting.
Let’s get started. What are the first things that come in mind when you think about the Amalfi Coast?
For me, it’s the stunning coastal towns and villages perched along spectacular rugged and steep cliffs, history laden places like Pompeii and Paestum, azure blue skies, the rich scent of Bougainvillea, and off course the many lemon groves where the two famous lemon varieties Sfusato Amalfitano (the Amalfi lemon indeed) and Femminello St. Teresa or Sorrentino (the Sorrento lemon) are cultivated.
And speaking of lemons, this invariably brings me to one of the region’s most notable products and the one thing will always come to my mind the moment I hear someone saying Amalfi Coast:
The famous local liquor that is omnipresent touring the area. The bright yellow bottles in all sizes and shapes are presented in the streets outside of the small local shops, adorn shop windows and are prominently exposed in local bars and restaurants.
Limoncello is said to be the second most popular liqueur in Italy after Campari. It’s production is pretty simple. You can easily make it yourself at home. All you need are four ingredients: lemons, alcohol, water, and sugar.
To make limoncello, any type of lemon can be used. Which everybody originating from the Amalfi Coast will tell you is the stupidest thing they have ever heard. In fact, they will tell you, it’s wrong. It’s a lie.
For locals, real limoncello can only be made from lemons grown along the Amalfi Coast, most notably the Femminello variety.
The Femminello lemon, along with the other locally grown type, the Sfusato lemon are grown under the I.G.P. logo which stands for Indicazione Geografica Protetta and guarantees that only products cultivated in a certain area and under strict traditional quality rules are allowed to bear a particular name.
In the case of the Amalfi lemon this means production is limited to 25 tons per hectare and the fruits must be harvested by hand from February to October. The lemons have a high volume in juice (over 25% of its volume) and a higher vitamin C content than most other lemons; and Sorrento lemons are slightly more acidic and tangy.
There are as I already pointed out, a wide range of different limoncello producers even though the basic limoncello recipe is fairly the same everywhere.
Pallini Limoncello, made by the Pallini family since 1875 who use the Sfusato lemon for their liquor, is perhaps the most famous in Italy and definitely regarded as one of the best in the world.
Truth be told, I am not too keen drinking limoncello. The first few sips are usually pleasant. But the thing is, Limoncello needs to be served ice-cold and as soon as it is starting to warm up just the tiniest bit, the sweet and syrupy texture is just too much for my taste.
Where Limoncello always works for me is using it for cocktails as well as baking or making desserts.
How to make limoncello
Making limoncello at home is easy. All you need is a bit of patience when it comes to letting rest the liquid.
Zest from 8 lemons (untreated)
1 l water
1 l alcohol (at 95°) – alternatively, use vodka
700 g sugar.
Peel off the lemon zest and put in 700 cl of alcohol (or vodka) for a minimum of several days up to one month. Then stain the liquid in a different pot and add the rest of the alcohol.
Heat the water with the sugar until you obtain a sugary syrup.
Mix liquids together and chill.
Now that you have either made or bought your limoncello liquor, use it for cocktails or desserts. Check out some of my favourite recipes using Limoncello below.
One of the easiest limoncello cocktails to make is the Pallini Spritz. The recipe (in a slightly different way is on the Pallini website).
150 ml Prosecco
100 ml Pallini Limoncello
50 ml tonic water (or sparkling water)
One dash of Angostura bitter
Fill a glass with ice, pour in all ingredients and stir gently. Garnish with an orange slice.
Margarita, the Mexican favourite, is one of the most versatile cocktails in the world. Indeed, there are almost unlimited variations of the classic Margarita cocktail and one of these is this citrusy Limoncello Margarita.
60 ml tequila
30 ml limoncello
1 tsp simple syrup
Juice of two limes
I am not so keen on putting salt on the glass as most swear you need to do when preparing a Margarita. So this is for you to decide.
Pour tequila, limoncello, simple syrup and lime juice in a cocktail shaker and shake forcefully for about ten to fifteen seconds.
Pour in a glass filled with ice cubes. Decorate with a slice of lime or lemon.
Limoncello Panna Cotta
If there is one dessert that means Italy (OK, except for ice cream albeit I would not strictly call it a dessert) then it is a creamy, smooth panna cotta.
Like the Margarita cocktail, you can make Panna Cotta in endless variations.
I particularly love this zesty limoncello panna cotta. It’s easy and quick to prepare and it does not even require anything aside like a sauce, fruit compote or similar thanks to the limoncello flavour.
For 6 – 8 portions:
375 ml panna or cooking cream
320 ml whole milk
125 ml limoncello
65 g sugar
7 sheets of gelatine
½ tsp lemon zest (untreated)
1 vanilla bean
Put the sheets of gelatine in water and let them soften according to instructions.
Pour cream, milk and sugar in a pot. Cut open the vanilla bean, and add to the pot. Bring to a slight simmer (do not let it boil) then remove from head. Add the softened gelatine and stir to combine fully.
Add the limoncello and lemon zest and keep stirring for a couple of minutes to let the mixture cool down.
Fill into serving glasses and cover with plastic. Put in the refrigerator for 5-6 hours or even better overnight.
The best things to do at the Amalfi Coast
Now with all that Amalfi feeling at home, it is time to dream of that long overdue visit.
The area – which is basically a 50 km stretch along the Tyrrhenian sea on the northern coast of the Gulf of Salerno – is best visited by car and setting your own leisurely pace.
Make your way from Naples down to Sorrento and stop at villages such as Positano, Ravello (an UNESCO World Heritage Site and home to famous Villa Rufolo), Praiano, Amalfi and Sorrento.
When you have done enough driving and sightseeing for the day, make sure to head to the beach. You will have to decent (and re-climb) long flights of narrow stone steps or steep paths but at the end you will be able to enjoy some of the most beautiful spots you can imagine.
The Amalfi Coast is also home to some of the best hotels in the world and at last count seven Michelin-star restaurants.
Think of places like Il San Pietro di Positano, Monastero Santa Rosa, Belmond Hotel Caruso, Le Sirenuse or Hotel Santa Caterina to stay.
As for excellent dining, head to La Sponda (Sirenuse), Ristaurante Zass (Hotel San Pietro), Don Alfonso 1890 or Rossellini’s at Palazzo Avino.
Have you been to the Amalfi Coast yet? If yes, how did you like it? And what about limoncello?