It’s Raining Lemons…

Lemons hanging off the branches on the Salvatore Aceto Lemon farm in Amalfi. Photo by Trisha Thomas, Amalfi June 15, 2019

Last weekend I took a trip to the Amalfi coast with some friends and, at the suggestion of a colleague from the foreign press association, we decided to try and find Salvatore Aceto and his lemon farm.

After landing in
the port of Amalfi, teeming with tourists dragging trolleys and buying
trinkets, we pushed past the crowd, glanced quickly at the stunning Cathedral
with its gold mosaics and balck and white marble and climbed up the steep slope.  We passed the tourist shops selling leather
sandals and linen dresses and up, up, up the hill, past the paper museum to the
entrance to  the Aceto Lemon Farm.

You can see the lemon trees from below, a green mass rising up the steep hillside.

Lemon trees on Salvatore Aceto’s lemon farm. Photo by Trisha Thomas, Amalfi, June 15, 2019

We asked for the
owner, Salvatore Aceto, and the message came down from the top of the hill to
go through the gate and up through the lemon grove to find him.

Inside, lemons, like
giant yellow drops, hung off wooden frames, in groves along the terraced
hillside.  I gently scratched the skin of
one and a strong lemon scent filled my nostrils.  I was in lemon heavan.

Salvatore met us
halfway up the hill, his straw hat protecting him from the intense
Mediterranean sun.

He was bursting
with energy,  “come on up, we have lemon
cake and lemonade ready, a tour is just ending.”

Panting, we reached the terrace overlooking the lemon grove and sat down with Salvatore.  His wife Giovanna was nearby preparing a lemon cake and a cousin served us a delicious sweet lemonade.

Giovanna Aceto making a lemon cake. She makes 4 to 5 cakes a day, seven days a week to feed to all the tourists that come to visit their Lemon Farm. Amalfi, June 15, 2019

Above hung long strands of what looked like thick twine (“salici” is what Salvatore called them) that they use to tie the trees to the frames.

Twine that, if I understood correctly, is made from willow and is used to tiethe lemon branches to the wooden frames. Amalfi, June 15, 2019

Salvatore is the 6th generation in his family to run the lemon farm taking over from his father Luigi who is now 84.  Salvatore said his father, whose photo hangs on the wall above, is the real expert who comes to the groves every day and climbs up on top of the frames to work on the lemons.  He even still carries crates of lemons on his back if no one stops him.

A crate used by workers for carrying the lemons down the steep hillsides. Photo by Trisha Thomas, Amalfi, June 15, 2019

Salvatore said he
regularly clashes with his father who likes to come up and tell all the workers
how to do things better.  “Bisticciare” he
called it.  Bickering about how to best
cultivate the lemons.  It gets on his
nerves, but, Salvatore admitted, his father really does know better than anyone
else how to handle the lemons.

Salvatore at
first rejected the family lemon farm and became an accountant, but in 2013 he
gave up crunching numbers and began squeezing lemons.  He said he uses lemons for everything.  He puts lemon juice on cuts and rubs lemon peel
on his skin to keep off mosquitos.

Salvatore said the type of lemons they produce, the Sfusato Amalfitano, were first brought to the Amalfi coast from Jerusalem in 1000 A.D.. The lemon descendants, are still there today.

Salvatore Aceto in a shed housing some of the equipment used on the family lemon farm over the past six generations. June 15, 2019

The Aceto family
began cultivating lemons in 1825, saw a period of success in the 1930s and then
prospered after World War II.  Now they
have over 2,000 lemon trees from which they produce 95 tons of lemons a year.  Thirty-five percent of those lemons go into
making Limoncello, the sweet yellow lemon liqueur made on the Amalfi coast, and
 some of the lemons go to the United
Kingdom to be used in making a lemon soda drink.

But 95 tons of
lemons are not enough to keep the farm going. Salvatore says tourism has saved
his farm.  They now offer Lemon tours
every day for tourists visiting the Amalfi coast.

Salvatore jumped up from the table.  “I have to run down to our other property, we have 40 Americans coming in to visit our place near the port in an hour.  Want to come?”  So I hopped in his lemon colored golf cart with him and zipped through the narrow streets of the town and down to the port. 

Salvatore Aceto explaining the challenges of the lemon business these days to me as we drive through the main street in Amalfi. June 15, 2019

As we passed
through the town, waving to traffic cops and dodging tourists, Salvatore
explained that tourism has been saving him. 
He said he gets about 40 American tourists a day, who come up for a tour
of his property.  After the tour, they
get lemon cake and lemonade.  To keep all
the tourists well-fed Giovanna makes four to five lemon cakes seven days a
week. But it is not just Americans, they are popular among South Koreans,
Australians and Europeans.

Down in the port, Salvatore parked the golf cart and we began the walk up the hundreds of steps through the lower groves to another terrace.  My leg muscles were burning and the sweat was running down my spine as I tried to keep up the pace.  We finally reached the terrace with the breathtaking view out over the port and along the coast. 

Enjoying the view from the lower terrace amid the Aceto lemon groves out over Amalfi. June 15, 2019

As I looked out
at the lemon groves stretching down to the sea, and breathed in the scent of
lemons in the air, I thought I could use a little more lemon zest in my
life. 

Maybe I should buy a lemon zester.

Salvatore Aceto gave me this funky shaped lemon telling me they bring good luck. Amalfi, June 15, 2019

P.S. Apologies for the way the paragraphs appear. Word Press has been acting up on me recently turning my simple paragraphs into something that looks like I am attempting poetry, which I am not. I am too busy and hopeless with these things to figure out how to turn the Haiku-look back to normal.

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Trisha Thomas

Trisha is a TV journalist working for AP TV News in Rome. She is married to an Italian and is a Mamma of three.

7 Comments

  1. Gwen Thomas
    2019/06/22

    What a wonderful experience. I still have my lemon mugs from our visit several years ago. Might need that lemon zester too!

    Reply
    • Trisha Thomas
      Trisha Thomas
      2019/06/23

      Lemon Zesters for everyone!!!

      Reply
  2. Ellen Burchenal
    2019/06/22

    Thank you! I can smell the lemons right now……

    Reply
    • Trisha Thomas
      Trisha Thomas
      2019/06/23

      What a fragrance!!!

      Reply
  3. Alan
    2019/06/22

    Good evening Trisha. We have two lemon trees in our garden that keep us well supplied for a good part of the year. Sure we use them for various things, but, Janet’s home-made gin with tonic sits right at the top of our needs!

    Reply
    • Trisha Thomas
      Trisha Thomas
      2019/06/23

      Ok, I definitely want to try Janet’s homemade Gin and Tonic with garden grown lemons. Sounds marvelous!

      Reply
  4. Gina
    2019/06/23

    I enjoyed your article. Very interesting and I could almost smell the fragrance of the lemons!

    Reply

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