Amanda Tabberer, author of Amalfi Coast Recipes, reveals what it is she loves about the Amalfi region and Italian cuisine.
Q. IN YOUR BOOK, AMALFI COAST RECIPES, YOU WRITE THAT IT SEEMS LIKE EVERYONE FROM THE CLEANING LADY TO THE LOCAL CARPENTER IS A MICHELIN-GUIDE CONNOISSEUR. WHY IS FOOD SUCH AN INDELIBLE PART OF THE ITALIAN CHARACTER?
A. (Residents in) the quieter parts of this wonderful country appear to have more time to hang onto their traditions and Italy has always placed huge importance on style, love, food and wine, all at which (the locals) consider themselves 'connoisseurs', and not necessarily in that order.
The Amalfi Coast, although extremely busy for three months of the year, is basically tranquil and very 'local' for the rest of the year.
Home cooking has always been magnificent in this area but only in recent years has excellent food been brought to the public via delicious seaside eateries, mountain-top trattorias and even world-class coastal restaurants.
Q. WHAT WAS EXPAT LIFE LIKE FOR YOU ON THE AMALFI COAST?
A. Extremely pleasant. I was an outsider so there was little prejudice regarding my origins. Everyone marvelled at Australia and anything that came from there and I was partnered with a very large handsome local who had the respect of every kid, nonna and visiting Italian tourist as a kind and hard-working person from an honest family.
Q. WHEN FRIENDS FROM YOUR HOME CITY OF SYDNEY VISITED YOU IN ITALY WHERE DID YOU TAKE THEM?
A. I rarely took them anywhere. With five businesses, I was flat out. I would, however, send them up the coast on a boat for the day to swim in the grottos. Sometimes I'd send them night fishing for squid and very occasionally, if I could steal a day from work, I would brave the coastal trip to Paestum to visit the magnificent Greek temples.
Q. HAVING LIVED THROUGHOUT ITALY FOR 20 YEARS, WHERE ARE YOUR FAVOURITE PLACES TO VISIT OUTSIDE THE CAMPANIA REGION?
A. I adore Sicily and this is where I would head when I needed a break; (also) the Aeolia Islands or Catania to visit friends. I love Sicily.
Recently I have discovered many new parts of Umbria, my new favourite 'chill out' place. The food, wine and people are humble, easy and warming to the soul.
Q. WHAT ENTICED YOU TO MOVE TO POSITANO TO BEGIN WITH?
A. When the country shut down in August I was holidaying in Positano from Florence where I lived and worked in the fashion business. I fell in love with the town, the way of life, the food and more importantly my son's father, Sergio Bella.
Q. WHY DID YOU LEAVE?
A. Sergio and I grew apart after 18 wonderful years together. I felt Sydney was a better option for my son's continued education at 13 years old than another part of Italy. My dream was always for him to do a part of his education in Australia.
Q. WHAT DO YOU MISS THE MOST?
A. The food and how everything revolved around it - friendship, business, religious holidays, family holidays, meeting new lovers, discovering different flavours, literally everything.
Q. WHEN YOU RETURN TO ITALY WHAT ACTIVITIES AND PLACES ARE ON YOUR HIT LIST TO VISIT?
A. I am very keen to return to Umbria and Sicily to visit friends and discover unknown historic buildings for which Italy is so famous but I am also dying to take a sailing boat around Italy and visit unknown territories like Sardinia.
Q. HOW DID YOU GO TRANSITIONING FROM FASHION STYLIST TO BAREFOOT WAITRESS AT YOUR PARTNER'S DA ADOLFO RESTAURANT?
A. It was perfect timing. I had been thinking that I was feeling saturated in the fashion business as I was still young but had been doing it for nearly a decade. The barefoot waitressing was a welcome paradise and just what I needed.
Q. POSITANO IS ONE OF THOSE MUST-SEE ITALIAN DESTINATIONS FOR AUSSIE BEACH LOVERS; WHAT IS IT LIKE THERE DURING PEAK TOURIST SEASON?
A. There are pros and cons on both sides. Italian beaches are organised chaos during peak season with very little space, hence the organisation. Aussie beaches are huge and don't need this type of organisation.
The white squeaky sand is replaced by boiling hot pebbles. In Australia you may have to walk 1km for a bottle of water, on the Amalfi Coast you have a waiter 2cm from your right shoulder ready to bring you anything your heart desires.
A surfer may hate the Mediterranean and find it totally uninteresting and boring but a long-distance swimmer will thrive in the shark-less waters. Mother Nature has blessed the Med with human-friendly fish whereas Aussie waters have plenty of fascinating deadly creatures.
Q. WHAT IS YOUR ADVICE FOR AUSTRALIANS VISITING THE REGION FOR THE FIRST TIME?
A. Pack your best appetite. Follow the locals and do as they do. Ask the natives where to go, for example, ask the bank teller where he eats or the hydrofoil crew member which is his favourite beach or the taxi driver what is his favourite town and why - people that would have no invested interest in giving their advice.
And read both my books before leaving.
Amalfi Coast Recipes by Amanda Tabberer is published by Lantern, rrp $49.99