Nestled between the mountains and situated on the shoreline is a village I like to call “Anchovy Paradise.” Cetara is a quaint and charming seaside village along the Amalfi Coast that is still relatively untouched by the hoards of tourists. Actually, this city was once visited by Anthony Bourdain! The food is delicious and you can find anchovies used in many different dishes. Little shops are of full of tuna and anchovies stocked and stored in every which way. Its Latin name, Cetaria, means tonnara and owes its origin to the Cetari, tuna hunters of Etruscan origin. So it’s probably no coincidence that fish is a staple of everyday life here. The gastronomic culture of seafood specialties, especially tuna, is very developed in this village. You can taste very special dishes seasoned with the “colatura di alici” (fish sauce) of Cetara, which is the result of a particular salting treatment of the anchovies, the blue fish par excellence caught in the Gulf of Salerno.
torre di cetara (Cetara tower)
“This tower, built in the Angevin age, only to be modified and fortified even more during the Aragonese hegemony, is very characteristic and fascinating. It not only had the function of protecting the city from attacks from the sea, but also that of overseeing the maritime trade often threatened by the sudden sieges of pirates. Following the landing of the Turks in 1543, this structure was part of a fortification complex, consisting of 400 towers, which protected a large part of the coasts of southern Italy. When enemy ships were sighted from these towers, there was a transmission of signals, from one tower to another, with fire when it was dark, and with smoke when there was visibility, to warn the population of the imminent danger and give them time to defend the coast properly. The tower of Cetara was equipped with three bronze cannons that were used to intimidate the enemy ships and in the event of an assault the “petrieri” were used, mouths that spat fire on their target. The architectural aspect of the viceregal tower has undergone many changes over the centuries: the original Angevin nucleus was enriched by a “ double height ” elevation in the Aragonese period. At the end of the 1800s it was enriched with two floors that completely altered the Aragonese structure.”
colatura di alici
You will notice a big production of colatura di alici, a deep amber-colored oil made from pressing anchovies. “This intensely flavored oil is thought to be the descendent of an ancient Roman Garum, a creamy fish sauce created by salting and preserving fish, which was produced in Pompeii. The process to create colatura di alici is passed down through generations of fishermen in Cetara, and many families have their own secret recipes. It starts with the freshly caught anchovies that are placed in wooden barrels, called terzigni, and covered with salt. The fish are usually caught from March through July so that the heat of the summer can help advance the maturation process. The barrels are weighted down on the top, and the anchovies are slowly pressed inside. Months later when it is finished, a small hole is punctured in the bottom of the barrel to release the liquid, which has a super-concentrated fish and salt flavor. The colatura di alici is traditionally ready at the beginning of December, when the Festa della Colatura di Alici takes place in town. The oil is then used to flavor the pasta and fish dishes customarily made on Christmas Eve. However, colatura di alici is used year-round to add extra flavor to everything from antipasti to pasta dishes and fresh vegetables.” [Excerpt from: Amalfi Coast by Laura Thayer]
Our roots will forever be from here, America, born and raised. Yet, life requires us to move more frequently than we care to count. Whether living stateside or abroad, you can always find us traveling somewhere. We scout out places that you only think you can dream of one day seeing and we seek out those that aren’t found in guidebooks. We then bring them to life here in our travel memos, so hopefully, one day you too can visit them or at least be able to live vicariously through us. This blog isn’t just about crossing off places from a bucket list. It’s about absorbing and learning how other cultures grow and fit into the same world that we do. Life is short and the world is big. Enjoy and get out there!