Right beneath the cliffs on Italy’s southwest coastline rests the small but charming town of Amalfi. As we hopped off the ferry near its port this past summer, my family was met by the picture-perfect landscape and ancient, rural architecture. My mom, brother, and I were on a mission to find and enjoy lunch at an agriturismo, a farm which also has room to host guests. We followed the small signs along a main road that led us to a narrow path up the hill before we arrived at the agriturismo called Agricola Fore Porta. Although it is just a 30-minute hike from the town center, Agricola Fore Porta can only be reached by foot. It is located at the beginning of the quiet Valle delle Ferriere, a deep valley filled with incredible crystal-clear waterfalls, tropical greens, remnants of ancient buildings, and farms. Even though the temperature was well above 90 degrees Fahrenheit, the hike up to the farm was staggering.
On our way up, we crossed paths with a few other tourists who all had the same look of astonishment on their faces. Everywhere one turned, lemon groves and terraced gardens flourished along the valley. Not far from us, a farmer led two donkeys who carried what looked like wine glasses on their backs. We later learned that animals are commonly used instead of cars, as the uphill footpaths are too impractical for any sort of motor vehicle to navigate.
Since my family is the complete opposite of time-optimists, we were not surprised to arrive an entire hour before the restaurant at Agricola Fore Porta opened. Nonetheless, we met Silvia, one of the owners of the farm. She kindly offered to bring out some homemade lemon drinks for us. Drenched in sweat from the hike, my brother finished his glass in what seemed like a few seconds, and my mom and I were not too far behind. Since the restaurant is a true “farm-to-table experience,” almost every ingredient could be found growing in close proximity to where we sat. The mom of the family, who also made most of the dishes, had many of the vegetables she used on display next to the kitchen. The gardens of Agricola Fore Porta were full of fruits, vegetables, and herbs, all of which changed with the seasons. Thus, the kitchen worked with different menus based on the time of year. Each item on the menu was crafted with the most tenderhearted care – it was almost as if love grew shoulder-to-shoulder with the fruits and vegetables at their farm.
As we sat down, we noticed how few tables there were, which was probably because they only took about five or six reservations per day. Needless to say, we took note of what the other guests ordered, and decided to order a few dishes from each part of their summer menu. After Silvia brought out the food, she carefully explained what they consisted of. For our primi piatti my mom ordered a zesty lemon pasta, while I decided on the zucchini flower pasta. While my mom’s dish was vibrant and tangy, my pasta was mild and sweet. We could easily decipher every ingredient that was used. This is something I greatly appreciate about authentic Italian food: it is so simple, yet so flavorful and heartwarming. My mom also ordered “long green beans” as a side, and we had to stop ourselves from laughing too hard as we measured each and every bean to be well over two feet long. Everything was perfectly seasoned with herbs such as basil. The exceptional craftsmanship of the food and phenomenal quality of the ingredients shone through in every dish and truly served as the cherry on top of the meal. It is common knowledge that love tends to be the secret ingredient for many noteworthy meals. However, when one can look over their shoulder and see all the ingredients grow next to where the dishes are being meticulously crafted, that is when true love shines through. Of course, the table setting was nothing less than immaculate too, and the outdoor dining area was also simple yet beautiful. With the view of the valley, it felt like we were in paradise. It was easy to see how much thought they put into every aspect of the dining experience.
Each dish was brought out one at a time, so our 12pm lunch quickly turned into a three-and-a-half-hour event. Nevertheless, it felt as though only an hour had passed at the charming farm. After talking with our waitress, who had become like a new friend to us, we ended lunch with espresso, lemon ice cream, and almond cake. Although it might seem apparent in hindsight, I was amazed at how the same few ingredients could make such a plethora of dishes that all tasted different. It shows how Italian cuisine puts focus on the quality of food rather on how elaborate it is. Moreover, the food serves as a source that connects families and ties people closer together. The family-run Agricola Fore Porta exemplified each and every part of Italian culture. As we walked out of the restaurant, I saw a sign that had been translated into English. It read: “My grandfather used to say that once in your life, you need a doctor, a lawyer, a policeman, and a preacher, but every day, three times a day, you need a farmer.” The tasteful dishes revealed the family’s dedication to growing good produce and illustrated their immense passion for what they do. This place really exemplified the importance of a strong family connection in a family-owned business. The love they had for one another, for the guests, and for what they did could be tasted in everything they brought out. The outstanding customer service and inviting atmosphere tied the knot on our lunch in Amalfi. The scenic landscapes, incredible food, and even more incredible people all made this country feel like a second home to me, and I never fail to fall in love with it a bit more each time I visit.
Cover photo courtesy of Instagram