Thursday, June 9, 2016

Lemons, Steps and Pirates

Like a previous trip I have been extremely remiss in not staying current on these posts.  However I did use that wonder App called Track My Tour (please tell Chris that I sent you if you check it out) which did a much better job.  Here is the link to this part of the trip -- Click here.


Quite why we decided to go to the Amalfi Coast is unclear at the moment.  I cannot quite remember why we chose to do this but boy am I glad we did.  It is lovely.  Very difficult in fact to take a bad photo or see a crummy vista.

We decided to split the week up into several sections: first the Greeks and buffalo mozzarella cheese. Next the coastal villages and finally lemons and a cooking class.  We had a day in between so in those days we were able to bimble in the Amalfi area itself and the little villages around.

Amalfi was the centre of a 100,000 person plus 'empire' that was a seafaring empire that essentially took over the sea faring of the Roman Empire.  It was a great trading empire that competed on favourable terms with Genoa, Pisa and Venice in the early days pre-1100 but sadly those bloody Normans again spoiled the show and sacked Amalfi and essentially killed everyone over the next generation leaving each village with 2-3,000 persons each and subsequently irrelevant.

Just a brief aside about the Normans, this is pretty typical of how they 'colonised' places.  Slide in through the back door on the pretext of helping out against some external danger and then simply killing all your former allies and taking over.  Architecture in this region is largely Norman and bears testament not only to their presence and control, but rather more sinisterly, their utter ruthlessness in taking over.  Witness the Harrowing of the North in the years after 1066 in Great Britain for how effective this strategy was.

The duomo in Amalfi is Norman dating from the 1200s but with the usual Baroque add ons
The Normans did build a series of watch towers along the coast as Barbary pirates often came calling.  The 9 coastal villages did a very sensible thing and built 9 villages up the side of the mountains that drop straight into the sea.  When the pirates came, the villagers decamped up the tiny mountain paths ... that we walked ... to their high villages.  Sensible precaution.

Food is mainly seafood oriented with my favourite anchovies everywhere!

The drive over the mountains from Naples was interesting.  The rain stopped over there while the sun was over this side... sorry, the Amalfi side.  Just as it should be in fact!

The divide between Naples and the Amalfi Coast
As for the lemons, well the land here is so steep that the only way to farm (and incidentally stop soil erosion) is to create terraces up the side of the hills which are then cultivated.  Quite why lemons are so popular here is a mystery but not so their original source.  Egypt.

Our first view of the Amalfi Coast was definitely not shabby!
Back in the Roman era, Egypt was quite possibly the most cultivated part of the known world, specifically in the vast Nile delta.  Pre-Caesar, Egypt worked with Rome as its exclusive customer to provide all manner of foodstuffs.  Post-Caesar (and particularly post-Cleopatra) the province was decimated and taken over lock stock and barrel.  As a result of this trade, Amalfi got seeds, cuttings, plants and know how and simply made wonderful lemons.

One fine use for the local product!!
They still do.

And the views, well you cannot find a bad one.

Our balcony

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