Golden Day Sixty-Two: Ravello, Mamma Agata’s Cooking Class and The Gardens of Villa Cimbrone
A drive south from Naples takes us to the gorgeous Amalfi Coast, and then we wind up above it to reach Ravello–one of the most enchanting towns in Italy. It’s fitting that in such a spot there resides a Goddess of Amalfi Coast Cooking: Mamma Agata. She began her pro-career when she was thirteen, cooking in the villa of a wealthy American who entertained star visitors. Mamma Agata was beloved by such guests as Humphrey Bogart, Anita Ekberg, Fred Astaire, and Jackie-O.
These days this open hearted, exhuberant woman offers a Golden Day: Cooking class in her hilltop villa, which has a to-die-for view of the hills and sea. Chiara Lima, Mamma Agata’s daughter is the gracious mastermind behind the cooking school. When I was there a couple of years ago, she welcomed us with caffe and lemon cake, which was a favorite of Bogey’s.
The class is mostly demonstration, in the cozy kitchen where Chiara narrates, as Mamma cooks, and we get tastes of fresh tomato sauce, sniffs of just picked basil. Practically everything she makes uses what’s grown right here in her terraced gardens. There’s rolled eggplant appetizers, eggplant parmigiana, pappardelle with sausage and peppers, and lemon chicken.
Then we took our places at a long wooden table on the terrace while lovely signorine magically appeared with platters and pans of everything we’d watched Mamma Agata create. More than one of us sighed, “This is the best lunch I’ve ever had!” For the grand finale, Mamma appeared to pour glasses of her homemade limoncello. A heavenly day…
Late afternoon was the perfect time for a stroll through the gardens of Villa Cimbrone, a bewitching mix of manicured lawns, cypress tree-lined paths, arbors dripping with wisteria, a rose garden, sculptures and colorful flower beds. A shaded path leads to the Belvedere of Infinity that will take your breath away with its stunning view.
You can actually stay in the Villa Cimbrone, or you may want to check into the Villa Scarpariello–an amazing mix of old buildings and a tower from the 12th century, that’s set in a seaside nitch, and offers reasonably priced rooms and apartments with balconies.