So we set ourselves a challenge. By pooling the Sersale family’s knowhow and asking around some of our closest collaborators at Le Sirenuse, would we be able to come up with a list of really secret places, businesses and experiences that we love in and around our little vertical town? The kind that even regular visitors to Positano may never have discovered?
The result took us by surprise. We’re still collecting recommendations and wondering what we have to do to bribe those who are still holding out on places they want to keep for themselves. But we already have so many cool suggestions that we’ve decided to release them in two separate posts. Here’s the first.
Roberto Salomone, photoreporter and Le Sirenuse photographer
“The tiny mountain hamlet of Santa Maria di Castello is so close to Positano, and yet it’s like you’ve gone through a portal into another, more ancient world. Down there are the beaches, the shops and cafés, the famous dolce vita lifestyle. Up here is a simple, scattered farming settlement where people like Maria still work the land the old way – by hand. I took this photograph of her burning off the weeds and grass she had pulled out of her beautifully tilled potato fields. You can drive to the village on a very winding, roundabout road, but the best way to get there is to walk up on the old stepped footpath of Le Tese, which for centuries was the most direct route, on foot or muleback, from Positano to the Sorrento side of the peninsula. It’s one of the highlights of the treks organized during Le Sirenuse’s Dolce Vitality health and fitness retreat. I recommend stopping off for a coffee or lunch at Zi Peppe, which multi-tasks as a bar, trattoria and village shop. They do utterly simple, genuine southern Italian mountain fare, with good pasta dishes and grilled meat”.
Antonio Sersale, co-owner of Le Sirenuse
“I’ve always loved the little mountain village of Nocelle high above Positano. After a long day’s work, one of my favourite ways to unwind and stay fit is to walk up the 1,700 steps that connect the Amalfi Drive coast road with the scenic piazza outside Nocelle church. Until recently, there wasn’t really anywhere good to eat up here. Then in 2019, the Rifugio dei Mele opened. The design is very simple, chic and contemporary, and there’s an outside terrace with incredible views down the coast. But the best thing is the food. I find it fascinating that although it would take a seagull just five minutes to fly from Positano to Nocelle, it considers itself a mountain village, not a seaside one – and therefore the default setting is meat and game, not fish and seafood. The chef respects this: there is a little fish on the menu, but it’s really the dishes like fassona beef, veal cheek and belly or chicken done two ways that do it for me. They also do good things with pasta and tartufo when it’s truffle season".
Nello Trapani, Le Sirenuse head gardener and plant consultant
“Not many people visit our provincial capital, Salerno, and of those that do, even fewer visit the city’s ancient botanical garden, the Giardino della Minerva – although that number has been growing since it was restored and reopened in 2001. For me, it’s an absolute must. Historically, it’s hugely important. It really is the ancestor of all other botanical gardens, just as the institution it was connected to – the Scuola Medica Salernitana, founded in the ninth century – is the ancestor of all our modern schools of medicine. Originally, in the early 14th century, it was the private garden of doctor and teacher Matteo Silvatico, who cultivated herbs and medicinal plants here. The layout of the garden you see today – which offers great views over the centro storico of Salerno and the sea – dates mostly to the 17th and 18th centuries. The six levels are connected by a staircase shaded by an ancient pergola, and the original irrigation system – which involves channels, storage tanks and fountains – is beautifully designed to waste as little water as possible. Almost 300 plant species thrive here – many the same as those that would have been found here in the Middle Ages. There’s even a Tisaneria, or ‘tisane café’, where you can drink infusion made from some of the herbs and flowers that grow here”.
Francesco Sersale, Le Sirenuse business development and marketing manager
"Guess what? Positano, the ultimate ‘vertical town’, actually has a tennis club, Il Tennis del Settimo Piano, with two very good synthetic grass tennis courts, and no membership requirement. It was created in 1987 in the most ingenious position – on the roof of the Mandara parking garage, which is pretty much the only flat space of any size in the centre of Positano. The father of the current owner, Giuliana Romano, opened it with the support of my great-uncle, Paolo Sersale, who was the town mayor back then. Giuliana was a professional tennis player who trained with the great Nick Bollettieri, and she still coaches children here. Adult players can enlist the service of an excellent pro who works closely with Giuliana. One of the really cool things about the club is that because of its valley location, it’s always in the shade after 4pm even in the height of summer".
Photos © Roberto Salomone except Giardino della Minerva courtesy Comune di Salerno
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