Beginning in the small fishing village of Vietri Sul Mare is the gateway to the Amalfi Coast, a coastal journey along the Tyrrhenian Sea, through small cliff top villages, famous towns like Positano, past vineyards, villas and lemon groves.
Amalfi Coast isn’t particularly long but it is full of surprises. Listed as a UNESCO site since 1997, Amalfi Coast is known for its limoncello liqueur, painted tiles, the elegant Amalfi paper, the Emerald Grotto, the semi-sweet Amalfi lemon and of course its dramatic views along a winding route.
Whilst traditionally the Amalfi Coast begins in Vietri Sul Mare and ends in Positano, my journey will go beyond Positano, across the Sorrentine Peninsula and into the town of Sorrento. At 35mi (56km) long, I look forward to endless sea views, small beaches and Italian cuisine.
I began my travels at the Villa Comunale, a public square perched up on the edge of a sheer cliff face with expansive views across the Gulf of Salerno. Constructed entirely out of ceramic tiles, this terraced square is a kaleidoscope of colour and mosaic tiling and pays homage to Vietri’s long history of ceramics and pottery production in the region.
Vietri’s ceramic tiles date back to Roman times, when exactly is unknown though. There are some records that indicate trade in the late 9th century of vases and tableware but more detailed recorded history begins around the 14th century. The quality and craftsmanship of Vietri tiles took a leap in the 17th century and by the 20th century with the arrival of renowned artists and craftsmen, mostly from Germany, took Vietri’s ceramic tiles internationally. The Germans were also skilled chemists and through their experiments many unique colours were invented with “Vietri yellow” being amongst them.
Vietri showcases its ceramic tiles throughout the village from the cupola of Parish Church of St John the Baptist, built in 1732; to the various laneways and buildings that are decorated with the tiles; and along Corso Umberto where shops specialising in ceramic wares line the street including Cassetta Ceramica, the oldest family of ceramists who began production in the early 16th century.
Just to the north of Villa Comunale is the Solimene Artistic Ceramics factory, an impressive custom made building for the founder of the company, dating 1954, that continues to produce handmade ceramics combining old traditions with new technologies.
Italian cuisine is known for its simplicity, using few ingredients that are fresh and flavoursome. Being in a fishing village I chose a seafood risotto. Made from arborio rice, it is gently cooked in broth with tomato puree added before the rice is fully cooked. A seafood combination of clams, mussels and shrimp tossed in olive oil with garlic and mild chilli is added on top and garnished with fresh parsley.