Travel /
Campania

Massa Lubrense: the two sides of the Amalfi Coast

A town where you can discover a different, greener, slower and less touristy Amalfi Coast perfect for hiking, enjoying a pizza you won’t find in any travel book and living the real Dolce Vita.

 

The Sorrento peninsula is the land of the Sirens of Ulysses’ travels, the mythical place of Homer’s Odyssey and a mandatory stop on the Grand Tours of the late nineteenth century. Its fame attracts travelers from all over the world, but just like the mermaids’ captivating chant, it can turn out to be a tourist trap as it was for Ulysses and his sailors. Capri, Amalfi, Sorrento and Positano are unbearably crowded in summer months, at times spoiled by souvenirs and too often depicted to resemble the postcards. On your quest for Dolce Vita, it is better to dock in a safe harbor, away from the nightlife: Massa Lubrense.

 

A municipality of 14,000 people and 18 hamlets stretching from the Gulf of Naples to that of Salerno, across the fields and pastures of the Lattari Mountains, just 10 minutes away from Sorrento, overlooking Capri, with 20 km of coastline. The area, rich in history, myths and traditions, is crossed far and wide by a network of paths of over 100 km, pedestrian streets, suggestive views and coves with crystal clear water. The coast is green and unlike other points of the peninsula, cultivated and inhabited. Coming from Naples by car you realize you have reached your destination by the landscape, so much more similar to the inner and hilly part of the land, known by few and considered to be the real secret of the area waiting to be discovered. That’s why Massa Lubrense is definitely the right place to enjoy the two coasts and discover small jewels hidden from the hasty eyes of the general public, not only thanks to the most famous restaurant in the area, but the Slow Food trattorias too, as well as an amazing boutique hotel and the pizzeria that you will never find in any tourist guide.

 

Don Alfonso 1890: San’Agata dei Due Golfi caput mundi

Only the locals call it Massa Lubrense, for all the others it is Sant’Agata dei Due Golfi, a hamlet that is a part of Massa and that has somewhat stolen its spot on geographic and culinary maps. In fact, Don Alfonso 1890 is located here. A two-star Michelin restaurant, farm, boutique hotel and a perfect illustration of southern flavors taken up a notch. If certain dishes and ingredients of the region are now considered haute cuisine, it is thanks to them. In the kitchen, the father Alfonso Iaccarino handed the reins to his son Ernesto who enriched the traditional dishes on the menu with new creations. Among the signature dishes you’ll find paccheri (elevated here to fine dining), the legendary pasta, clams and zucchini; the Vesuvius of macaroni, and other creations such as the reinterpretation of fried egg with burrata and black truffle or eel ice cream, Oscetra caviar, pasta with hints of rose, vegetable sauce and organic egg yolk. A piece of Italian cuisine’s history in constant evolution, with incredible presentation and wine list.

 

Villa Fiorella: a room (and swimming pool) with a view

Small hotels that need to be refurbished or a grand hotel? Booking a room in these parts is not easy at all, which is why Villa Fiorella is even more precious. This guest house brought back to life in 2016 is the exact definition of accessible luxury where you’ll find everything you wish for: superb location, Swiss-standard hospitality, high design, infinity pool between olive trees overlooking the sea and even a rooftop bar where you can have a drink at sunset. You could stay in this small universe for days, not only because the kitchen is run by chef Marco Del Sorbo from nearby Gragnano. At the restaurant you can eat local dishes cooked with experience and creative interpretations (try the Linguine with lemon). The rooms all have 180° sea views, from Capri to Vesuvius, and are furnished with international level art just like the corridors. The price? Fair.

 

Trekking along the old mule tracks

It may seem a contradiction in a seaside area, but the Sorrentine Peninsula with its coasts overlooking the sea is one of the perfect places for trekking with a view. The numerous paths vary in length, allowing you to discover the different hamlets of Massa Lubrense. From Massa Centro it takes approximately 2 hours to get to Sorrento passing through olive trees and lemon-planted terraces, there’s no lack of gardens in the area. You can get to Termini and then continue to Punta Campanella, the most extreme point of the peninsula thought to be the location of the temple dedicated to the sirens sung by Homer. There is also the Sentiero delle Sirenuse, the Sirenuse Trail, which is named after the mythical characters and provides unmatched views of Li Galli. Be careful of the heat of midsummer when the sun can be merciless.

 

Lo Stuzzichino: the Slow Food trattoria

Looking for traditional dishes, simply cooked well with fresh local ingredients? Follow the freelance chefs and trust the travel guides. Trattoria lo Stuzzichino is a Slow Food Snail, mentioned both in Michelin and Gambero Rosso Restaurant Guides. Lo Stuzzichino is an institution where you can eat like a local: cheeses, Caprese, Eggplant Parmigiana or Prosciutto di Venticano with Massese Fiordilatte and melon. These Italian classics which rarely take your breath away stand at a whole different level here. And then there are the traditional soups that elsewhere have been replaced by more commercial versions. In short, people come here to taste the history, cooked by a family of restaurateurs. Paolo, the father, and Filomena, the mother, in the kitchen, their son Mimmo with his wife in the dining room, and the real “feels-like-home” kind of kitchen that everyone longs for but few really manage with success.

 

Bar Pasticceria Fiorentino: having breakfast with the Saint

Coffee and breakfast at the bar are just as much part of the Italian lifestyle as the Sanremo Festival is. No tourist will be able to resist it at least once no matter how appealing the hotel buffet is. In Massa, the place you’re looking for is  Bar Pasticceria Fiorentino in Sant’Agata dei Due Golfi. Depending on the season, you’ll find pastiere and zeppole di San Giuseppe, Roccocò and any typical dessert you dream of coming out fresh from the oven… but the right pastry to sweeten your morning or afternoon is called Sfogliata Santa Rosa, a classic curl.

 

Anima and Pizza: the real pop pizza

Nobody makes it all the way here without eating at least one pizza which is why this recommendation is important. In contrast to the rest of its surroundings, there are no famous spots or pizzerias in Massa Lubrense. Our advice is to enjoy a unique experience at a really popular local place where pizzas like cream, corn and ham still survive in round cut or family size. Anima e Pizza is a little local place offering a few simple tables, those outdoors rest on the sidewalk in front just by the road and with a view. It is an authentic place where the pizzas, as specified on the menu, can not be modified. Order a Cosacca, a real classic with tomato and Parmesan cheese. To drink? A bottle of Coca Cola or a “Nastro da 66” if you’re craving a beer. To blend in with the locals, have a portion of wrapped Nutellotti so delicious they may even make you forget about the view.

 

Mariagrazia: the first spaghetti alla Nerano

When you think of Naples and Campania, tomatoes come to mind. Summers though are all about the zucchini. Spaghetti alla Nerano in this area is impossible not to taste at least once (it’s also difficult to avoid, they are offered practically everywhere). However if you want to do things the right way then Nerano, a small piece of Massa Lubrense with a delightful beach is the place to go. Mariagrazia invented this simple recipe: spaghetti from Gragnano, zucchini, provolone del Monaco and basil. The place boasts a century-old history, opened in 1901, but in spite of being a tourist destination nowadays, they maintain a certain standard and professionalism, allowing you to order either fresh or frozen fried fish. Try the local shrimp of Crapolla with salt and pepper. The prices are so fair you won’t even turn your nose up for the excessive € 5 cover charge.

 

Turuziello farmhouse: discover how mozzarella is made

The Turuziello farmhouse, in the small village of Schiazzano, is family-run and produces mozzarella, caciotte and caciocavalli still made according to the original recipes handed down from fathers to sons. It offers a “mozzarella making” experience where you can watch in real time the transformation of simple milk into mozzarella – and taste it freshly made, still hot. Gastronomic tours mixing between lemons, oil and pizza are organized too, but the most important thing is that this is where you can buy the “Provolone del Monaco DOP“, a semi-hard cheese with spun paste, aged and produced in the Sorrento Peninsula exclusively on the Lattari Mountains.

Don Alfonso 1890: San’Agata dei Due Golfi caput mundi

Villa Fiorella: a room (and swimming pool) with a view

Trekking along the old mule tracks

Lo Stuzzichino: the Slow Food trattoria

Bar Pasticceria Fiorentino: having breakfast with the Saint

Anima and Pizza: the real pop pizza

Mariagrazia: the first spaghetti alla Nerano

Turuziello farmhouse: discover how mozzarella is made