The Amalfi coast is an array of colour as the first sign of autumn reaches Italy…
The first signs of autumn arrive quietly on the Amalfi Coast. I try to hold onto the last warmth of the summer days, which seemed as if they would never come to an end. Yet, the evenings are already cooler, and a chilly breeze from the mountains reminds me that it’s time to pull jackets and sweaters out of the wardrobe, a sure sign the season is changing.
While out walking, I look for that change in nature in the red tint of the grapevines, now heavy with ripening fruit. The colours of autumn are everywhere you look. Here a red vine climbing an ancient wall has turned flame red and there the chestnut trees have turned the mountainsides below the village of Scala a golden hue.
The chestnut harvest has already begun, which must be done with thick gloves to protect fingers from the prickly burrs surrounding the nuts inside. For generations chestnuts have been gathered each autumn in Scala and the mountain villages of the Amalfi Coast. The Festa della Castagna, or Chestnut Festival, takes place each year in Scala – a quiet village located high in the mountains above Amalfi. An autumn favourite, this food festival celebrates the harvest with traditional games, music, a lively donkey race through the village streets and, of course, roasted chestnuts, local specialties and desserts prepared with chestnut themes. Autumn has arrived on the tables of the Amalfi Coast.
Soon the markets fill with autumn fruits and vegetables, such as the much-awaited arrival of the first rapini, or broccoli rabé, a bitter leafy vegetable that is often sautéed with garlic and served with sausage, prepared with pasta or even used as a topping for pizza. Nearby sits a crate of mela annurca apples, a variety cultivated in the region of Campania since ancient Roman times. In a country where seasonal shopping is a fact of life, the arrival of autumn favourites in the markets is a moment to be treasured.
As the weeks pass, the colours dance across the mountainsides turning the terraces of grapevines shades of red, yellow and orange against the silvery leaves of the olive trees. The rich hues of autumn against the landscape of the Amalfi Coast is a majestic sight. I’m reminded every year as the colours change why this is such a popular time for travellers to visit the Amalfi Coast. While the long and relaxing beach days are over, there’s still plenty of sun to enjoy the beach as nature puts on a spectacular show in the mountains nearby.
While the warm summer days might seem eternal at the time, there’s a wonderful sense of hurry about autumn. Soon cold winds will blow down the mountains, bringing winter along with them. Now is the moment to enjoy the flavours, colours and scent of autumn while it lingers on the Amalfi Coast.
LAURA THAYER is an American writer and art historian living on the Amalfi Coast. She writes about daily life, history and culture in southern Italy at www.ciaoamalfi.com