Deep red wine. Hearty pastas drizzled with olive oil. Historic architecture. Impressive marble artwork. These are just a few of the images that spring to mind when thinking about Italian culture. For those looking to explore Italy’s Amalfi Coast, there are special cultural experiences to be had, from cooking classes to ancient sites to the chance to stay with a family in a historic monastery. To help you plan your itinerary, here are five cultural experiences to have on Italy’s Amalfi Coast.
Travel Tip: If possible, avoid visiting in the summer when the Amalfi Coast is jam-packed with tourists and extremely hot — not to mention you’ll pay higher prices. A better idea is to visit in September and October, just after high season and right before the rainy reason in November, for a less stressful, cooler and more budget-friendly trip.
There are a number of inspiring art galleries showcasing the works of local and international artists. In Positano, visit Franco Senesi Fine Art (two galleries, Via dei Mulini 8 and 16) to peruse a large array of contemporary art. In this area, one can simply wander to stumble upon laid-back local artist galleries. In Naples, head to the Capodimonte Museum and National Galleries, with works ranging from medieval to contemporary; Palazzo delle Arti Napoli (PAN), hosting everything from exhibits to thought-provoking movies to educational lectures; and the National Archaeological Museum of Naples, with Pompeii mosaics, Roman statues and pottery from ancient cultures. An array of independent galleries, like Galleria Overfoto (Viccolo San Pietro a Majella 6), Galleria Fonti (Via Chiaia 229) and Blindarte (Via Caio Duilio 10/4d), can also be explored. Alternatively, spend time in the colorful Furore, known as “il Paese Dipinto,” or “painted village.” Every September artists flock from all over the world to make their creative mark, and the town features more than 100 artist walls, murals and al fresco works.
Italy is possibly the world’s best destination for culinary enthusiasts, and the Amalfi Coast is no different. The area is known for buffalo-milk mozzarella, caprese salad, homemade pasta with local clams and seafood and sweet sfogliatelle — not to mention being the birthplace of pizza (Naples!). Wash it all down with some limoncello, a lemon-flavored liqueur crafted from simple syrup and Sorrento lemon zest. While one can simply frequent the many locally-owned restaurants, a better idea is to take a cooking class and learn first hand what it takes to be an Amalfi Coast chef. There are numerous options, but one suggestion is Cecilia’s Tenuta Seliano where you’ll learn to cook traditional recipes in a farmhouse.
Explore Ancient Sites
Italy’s Amalfi Coast offers numerous opportunities to explore ancient cultures. The UNESCO World Heritage Site of Pompeii is possibly the most famous, an ancient Roman city destroyed in AD 79 when Mount Vesuvius erupted and covered it in ash and fumes (nobody has known it was even a volcano!). It’s a well-preserved site, and visitors can see Italy’s oldest amphitheater still standing (from 80 BC), an ancient brothel with erotic frescos, Greek and Italian architectural style homes, the opulent House of Faun with its namesake statue, The Forum, the Temple of Apollo and much more. In The Garden of the Fugitives you’ll see shocking and deeply moving plaster casts of some of the people who did not make it out of Pompeii alive. The site is still being excavated to this day.
The Herculaneum was another ancient city destroyed by Mount Vesuvias in AD 79 that is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. There was much less damage inflicted here than in Pompeii, so you can truly appreciate the architectural styles from the time.
Active travelers can hike Mount Vesuvias from Campania.
Go Wine Touring
According to The Wine Bible by Karen MacNeil, the ancient Greeks called southern Italy Oenotria — “the land of wine” — and a day of wine touring makes it apparent why. Italy’s Campania wine region is an easy day trip from the Amalfi Coast, and is known for its dedication to old world winemaking traditions and wines crafted from ancient wine varietals like aglianico, fiano and greco. When visiting Campania make sure to sip some Taurasi, a highly regarded DOCG-status red wine with notes of chocolate, leather and tar. While mainly a red wine region, there are a few white wines worth sampling in Campania, including fiano di Avellino and greco di Tufo. To visit Campania’s wineries from the Amalfi Coast, it’s recommended to book a day tour, so that you don’t need to worry about getting lost or drinking and driving.
The easiest and most immersive way to experience culture on the Amalfi Coast is to book a multi-day tour with a local guide, like a Local Living Amalfi Coast Experience with Epicure & Culture Tours. On the tour — which is eight days and takes place from September 26th – October 3rd, 2015 — you’ll live with a local family in a 16th century former monastery agriturismo, collecting produce from the onsite garden for dinner, learning to cook like an Italian, drinking red wine in the vines and exchanging stories with your hosts. Some of the many daytime activities include scenic hikes like the “Walk of the Gods,” visiting Pompeii, sailing from Positano to Amalfi, and spending time in colorful coastal towns with their characteristic hillside-stacked houses. Responsible travelers will be happy to note this tour operates in partnership with G Adventures and Planeterra, meaning eco-friendly accommodations are used, local guides are employed, local businesses are frequented and reducing negative environmental impact and supporting the local economy are major focuses.
About the Author
Jessica Festa is a full-time travel writer, sommelier-in-training and founder of Responsible Tourism Twitter Chat and Epicure & Culture Tours. She enjoys getting lost in new cities and having experiences you don’t read about in guidebooks. Some of her favorite travel experiences have been teaching English in Thailand, trekking her way through South America, backpacking Europe solo, road tripping through Australia and volunteering in Ghana. You can follow her adventures on her travel websites Epicure & Culture and Jessie on a Journey.
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