Home » Travel » Destinations

A Family Among Families: Fun On The Amalfi Coast

Aug 17, 2007
The region of Campania in Italy is perhaps most well known for the Costiera Amalfitana [the Amalfi Coast] for its spectacular vistas, for Pompeii and other historical archeological sights, and for the city of Napoli, characterized by it's cultural contradictions. More frequently than not, tourists flock to the Amalfi Coast for its romantic vistas and hotels and renown winding coastal drive in and around the fog-silhouetted hills and terraced crops of lemon trees. It is not often referred to as a family destination. Ironically, however, this area of Italy is truly one whose success has pivoted upon the strength of the families who live there. The willingness of the locals to share that family spirit is what made our trip there with our two young sons, among the more memorable of any of the Italian trips we have taken.

We traveled to the Amalfi Coast at the very cusp of the off-season, late March, and so missed the spring birth of the many incredible flora and vegetation of the region. But we also by-passed the intense crowds and traffic that bloom along with the flowers beginning right after Easter. This fortuitous timing also coincided with the "settimana santa," the holy week preceding Easter. We thus experienced the pageantry of "giovedi santo" [Holy Thursday], including "Lavanda dei piedi" '[the washing of feet] symbolic of the day and the "Prossessione del SS.Sacramento alla Cappella della reposizione per l'adorazione." The latter is a stunning and haunting procession intended to remember the betrayal of Christ. On that night, we followed the townspeople as they walked for hours up and over the hills of Ravello behind men dressed in white robes and hoods singing the dissident lamentations that mark the sadness of Christ's tortuous journey.

We chose, as our base, Ravello, a village in the hills above the Amalfi drive, which we found to be less hurried than the coastal cities of Amalfi and Positano, and one more accessible to other destinations, such as Pompeii and Naples. We arrived at night at about the hour of apperitivo and thus decided to take in the ambiance of the central piazza with the back-drop of Ravello's church, La Chiesa d'Annunziata. There, beyond the signs warning of "no ball-playing, no bicycling, no roller-blading and no scootering" we sat outside at the local bar and watched our children join ten year-old resident, Enrico and others, playing ball, bicycle-riding, roller-blading and scootering. As the children got to know each other, we began to talk to the owner of the bar, Enrico's uncle, Luigi Schiavo.

"It's such a beautiful, tranquil setting," I said to him as he brought us a glass of pinot grigio, "All the kids seem to get along so well." "We're practically all related," he told me, "See that shop over there? The one that sells ceramics. She's my cousin. The travel agent around the corner ... that's her husband. Then there's Vincenzo ..."

In the following one-hour period, an explanation of their extended family, as well as another glass of Pinot Grigio, ensued. Mario Capuano, Luigi's cousin, owns "Wagner Tours." He specializes in planning weddings on the Amalfi coast, but also organizes just about any other kind of tour you can imagine. "We try to cover every detail," says Mario. We know the importance of family, and believe me, the first step, is a happy, stress free wedding day ..."
Mario's wife is Paolina Amatruda. She's the one who owns the ceramics store next to the bar. For 25 years, the store has offered the traditional ceramics of nearby Vietri noted for their refined beauty and quality. "We are always trying to renew ourselves," Paolina said, "to adapt ourselves, but without losing the traditional quality that has sustained us all these years. Our kids keep us young and our family memories help us to keep true to our traditions"
The family talent doesn't end with Mario or his wife. Vincenzo Amatruda, Mario's brother-in-law, teaches cooking classes out of his private home, situated on a cliff top, 350 meters above sea level. After many years as a chef and owner of a restaurant in Ravello, "Vincenzino" [diminutive for "Vincent"] developed a cooking school where he says people can cook and eat "with the heart and not just the mouth." First, Vincenzino takes his students to some of the little food shops located in the historic alleys of Ravello. Speaking Italian and English, he introduces his students to the shop owners and an explanation of how the locals choose their wine and vegetables follows. Together, they decide the menu, according to the season and tastes of all gathered. Finally, they proceed with the hands-on preparation of the meal, from apperitivo and wine, gracefully past "il primo" course and "il secondo" and finally to dessert and espresso. If the weather cooperates, as it so often does in Ravello, Vincenzino's students will eat on the terrace so that their culinary experience can be enhanced by the spectacular view of the Mediterranean.

An entire experience as a family can be had by venturing no further than the warmth of the Capuano extended family, but one can hardly come to this region of Italy without taking in the joys of the Amalfi drive. Step one in this process, if you have the nerve and the inclination, [and kids old enough to sit behind you without squirming] is to rent a scooter.

When you rent a scooter in picturesque Positano, are you just renting a scooter? Perhaps. But if you also "fa quattro chiacchiere" [make a little chat] you may also realize that you are renting from Pepe Mandara of Positano Rent a Scooter, [Viale Pasitea 99, tel. 089 812 2077], cousin of Giulio, Anna, Rosa and Rafaelle Mandara who own the Pizzeria across the street, Valle Dei Mulini, [Via Vecchia 5, tel. 089 875 232]. Or perhaps you might meet their other cousins at the Boutique Luisa, next door, including Susanna Mandara, the designer, Luisa and Gaetano Mandara, the owner and Susanna's mother and father, Giovanna Mandara, Susanna's sister and the seamstress in charge of the production of Susanna's designs. "In Positano, it's very common for the whole family to have a hand in a successful business," Susanna told me "We do what we can to help each other. My success is their success and in some small way, theirs is my success as well."

No discussion of family here in Positano would be complete without the notable inclusion of the Sersale family, owners of La Sirenuse [+39 089 875066], the most important hotel in Positano. The Sersale family owned a summer home in Positano, an 18th century palazzo in the center of town, where they often spent summer vacations, but during the Second World War they retreated there full-time to escape the bombing of their native city, Napoli. In 1951, however, the family decided to turn their vacation home into a small elegant hotel. They started with eight rooms and a large terrace overlooking the Islands of the Sirens. Fifty years later the hotel has 62 rooms with all the comforts of a five star luxury hotel. But staying at La Sirenuse still has the feeling of being home.
To this day, the Sersale family owns Le Sirenuse and family members work together to maintain its position as a world-class hotel. Four descendents of the original owner, Antonio Sersale, were responsible for the initial opening of the hotel. For years, the eldest brother, Aldo, managed the hotel with the help of the mayor of Positano, Paolo Sersale, Aldo's brother. Together these two brothers ran the hotel until Paolo's death in 1991. Aldo, also ill at that time, stepped down, and their younger brother, Franco, stepped in. Franco began making the improvements today credited with the hotel's current luxury status. His taste in furnishings, paintings and sculpture have a vehicle for expression as Franco liberally purchases antiques that offset beautifully the architecture of the hotel and bring pleasure to guests. His son, Antonio, now runs the hotel as Franco, at age 77, describes himself as "semi-retired." "He's retired, but he's still our 'center.' We know that we can go to him about important decisions regarding the direction we want the hotel to take. We always get the kind of response that allows us to hold fast to our family roots, while at the same time creating a vision for our future that will keep up with the pace of our guests evolving needs and tastes."
As for our 'semi-tired' family, I'm back at the bar sipping a glass of Chianti this time and watching the kids play ball behind the "no-ball playing" sign with their new-found friends. We continued our trip with a visit to Amalfi, Capri, Pompeii and Napoli ... but that's a story for another article...
About the Author
Denise Hummel is a native of New York, who moved to Italy with her husband and children. She directs a public relations/ communications business focused on sustainable tourism called Imagine Communications.
Rating:
Please Rate:
(Average: Not rated)
Views: 201
Print Email Report Share
Article Categories
    • Artists
    • Gambling
    • Humanities
    • Humor
    • Movies
    • Music
    • Photography
    • Tattoos
    • Television
    • Classic Cars
    • Motorcycles
    • Recreational Vehicles
    • SUVs
    • Trucks
    • Vans
    • Branding
    • Business Opportunities
    • Careers and Jobs
    • Corporate
    • Customer Service
    • Direct Mail
    • Entrepreneurship
    • Ethics
    • Financing
    • Franchising
    • Home-Based Business
    • Human Resources
    • Import and Export
    • Leadership
    • Management
    • Market Research
    • Marketing and Advertising
    • Negotiation
    • Network Marketing
    • Networking
    • Organizational
    • Presentation
    • Project Management
    • Public Relations
    • Small Business
    • Strategic Planning
    • Team Building
    • Telemarketing
    • Training
    • Data Recovery
    • Databases
    • Games
    • Hardware
    • Networks
    • Operating Systems
    • Programming
    • Security
    • Software
    • Spyware and Viruses
    • Ask an Expert
    • College and University
    • Home Schooling
    • K-12
    • Languages
    • Online Education
    • Psychology
    • Accounting
    • Credit
    • Currency Trading
    • Debt Consolidation
    • Insurance
    • Investing
    • Leasing
    • Loans
    • Mortgage
    • Mutual Funds
    • Personal Finance
    • Stock Market
    • Structured Settlements
    • Taxes
    • Wealth Building
    • Coffee
    • Cooking
    • Gourmet
    • Recipes
    • Wine and Spirits
    • Acne
    • Aerobics
    • Alternative Medicine
    • Beauty
    • Cancer
    • Cosmetics
    • Depression
    • Diabetes
    • Diseases and Conditions
    • Fitness Equipment
    • Fitness
    • Hair Loss
    • Heart Disease
    • Medicine
    • Men's Health
    • Muscle Building
    • Nutrition
    • Skin Care
    • Supplements and Vitamins
    • Weight Loss
    • Women's Health
    • Yoga
    • Arts and Crafts
    • Babies
    • Collecting
    • Elderly Care
    • Genealogy
    • Hobbies
    • Parenting
    • Pets
    • Pregnancy
    • Woodworking
    • Feng Shui
    • Gardening
    • Home Appliances
    • Home Security
    • Interior Design
    • Landscaping
    • Affiliate Programs
    • Article Marketing
    • Auctions
    • Audio
    • Banner Advertising
    • Blogging
    • Broadband
    • Domain Names
    • E-Books
    • E-Commerce
    • Email Marketing
    • Ezines and Newsletters
    • Forums
    • Internet Marketing
    • Link Popularity
    • Pay-Per-Click
    • Podcasting
    • RSS
    • Search Engine Marketing
    • Search Engine Optimization
    • Security
    • Social Media
    • Spam
    • Video
    • Viral Marketing
    • Web Design
    • Web Development
    • Web Hosting
    • Copyright
    • Cyber Law
    • Intellectual Property
    • National, State, Local
    • Patents
    • Regulatory Compliance
    • Trademarks
    • Buying
    • Selling
    • Baseball
    • Basketball
    • Boating
    • Cycling
    • Extreme Sports
    • Fishing
    • Football
    • Golf
    • Hockey
    • Hunting
    • Martial Arts
    • Running
    • Scuba Diving
    • Soccer
    • Swimming
    • Tennis
    • Dating
    • Divorce
    • Marriage
    • Weddings
    • Astrology
    • Buddhism
    • Christianity
    • Faith
    • Hinduism
    • Islam
    • Judaism
    • Meditation
    • Metaphysical
    • New Age
    • Cable and Satellite TV
    • Cell Phones
    • Communication
    • Gadgets and Gizmos
    • GPS
    • Satellite Radio
    • Video Conferencing
    • VoIP
    • Addictions
    • Coaching
    • Goal Setting
    • Motivational
    • Stress Management
    • Time Management
    • Clothing
    • Electronics
    • Fashion
    • Gifts
    • Jewelry
    • Causes and Organizations
    • Environment
    • History
    • Holidays
    • Men's Issues
    • Nature
    • Philosophy
    • Politics
    • Women's Issues
    • World Affairs
    • Article Writing
    • Book Reviews
    • Copywriting
    • Fiction
    • Non-Fiction
    • Poetry
    • Quotes
    • Screenplay
    • Tools and Resources