What better way to soothe a bedraggled group whose taxi to the airport left at 2.45am than to dig into sloppy Margaritas and frosty cold beers in Naples’ (and the world’s) oldest pizzeria – Pizzeria da Michele? This place is so popular there is a ticketing system on the door from 11:00am and hungry punters gather outside spilling into the road as they wait their turn and God damn it is worth the queue! Suitably refreshed we headed straight for the Amalfi coast.
There can’t be many drives more beautiful than the one up the Amalfi coast, winding along a clifftop sprinkled with historic villages and townships. Really you long to be in a classic Fiat Cinquecento or Alfa Romeo with the top down, feeling like Gwyneth Paltrow or Jude Law in the Talented Mr Ripley. We were instead in a convoy of cheap hire cars trying our best to follow the road, take in the view and avoid collisions with oncoming buses who seemed to accelerate around blind corners on the wrong side of the road.
Only a few hours after leaving Luton we had left cold, grey London far behind and were sipping bright orange Aperol spritz on a jetty over the Mediterranean, surrounded by blue waters and the hot-country blue of Lo Scoglio (surely one of the best places to stay in Campania). Run by an incredibly photogenic and friendly family - the very able chefs are the son and brother-in-law - we were blown away by our dinner and is some of the best food we’ve had in Italy for years. It started with a selection of raw sea urchins and clams followed by fried gamberetti (little prawns and courgette flowers and big platter of delicious anti-pasti. To finish off we shared big plates of linguine with fresh anchovies and fennel pollen and spaghetti with sea urchin – both were outrageously delicious.
The next day the lovely Antonia took us around one of the three family farms which supply all the meat, veg and fruit to Lo Scoglio. The farm is completely organic, tended by her sexagenarian father without the use of machinery, and the love and care that goes into it is tangible. A really picturesque place producing incredible things (including the best tomatoes we’ve eaten in a long time). We left wondering if, were we to stick around eating Lo Scoglio’s homegrown organic produce a while longer, we too might begin to look and feel as good as Antonia.
After an excellent night’s sleep listening to the sea roll in, we set off further down the Amalfi coast. The journey was made somewhat challenging by the “Nonna arrabbiata” who tailgated us between Sorrento and Positano. Barely able to see over the steering wheel this didn’t stop her bullying Tim on his first time as driver negotiating the winding coastal roads. For about an hour she flashed her lights, honked her horn and made unambiguous hand gestures which told us just what she thought of a bunch of brake-heavy foreigners. No thanks to Nonna, we managed to make it to Positano for a quick dip in the admittedly cold sea and a cold beer for good measure.
Cetara, unlike much of what we saw in Amalfi, is less for tourists and more for fishermen. We were introduced to Colaturra d’Alice at Aqua Pazza by Gennaro who was more ageing rock’n’roller than fisherman. His logo is best described as man meets fish by way of phallus, and was designed by a visiting artist in exchange for his lunch (possibly after several glasses of grappa]. To make Colaturra, the anchovies are salted and pressed in a barrel to age, their juices collected and used as an Italian answer to Asian cooking’s fish sauce. Is there anything that isn’t enhanced by anchovy? Certainly, with Gennaro’s encouragement we were soon splashing Colaturra onto anything that came out of his kitchen, enjoying a private dinner, sitting in his shop behind the restaurant around a table that came down from the ceiling on a pulley system.