Italy’s Amalfi Coast needs little introduction. The 30-mile (48.2 km) stretch of land on the southern edge of the Sorrentine Peninsula has long been a favoured travel destination. Visitors have fallen in love with its striking landscape of rugged shorelines, plunging mountains, pebbled coves, and pastel-coloured villages precariously perched atop cliffs.
Positano and Amalfi are the area’s heavy tourism hitter. But continue driving down the coast, and you’ll find a crop of less-famous towns and sun-kissed destinations that are equally, if not more, charming in their unspoiled beauty. Giardini del Fuenti, a luxe beach hangout just off the winding road between Vietri sul Mare and Cetara, is one of those places.
Here’s a look at this gorgeous club located close to Amalfi Coast
Sitting on a rocky outcrop overlooking the Gulf of Salerno, the property now features a series of gentle, verdant terraces that slope down toward the sea, each beautifully landscaped with pergolas, crisscrossing paths, and beds of aromatic herbs and blooming agapanthus. A vineyard grows on one side, a lemon garden on the other. Down below, a quiet private beach lined with sleek blue umbrellas and a handful of white cabanas completes the picture, providing direct access to impossibly turquoise waters.
It is the stuff Mediterranean dreams are made of — although you would have never guessed from its past.
Back in the 1970s, the craggy promontory where Giardini stands today was occupied by what came to be known in the boot-shaped country as the “Eco-Monster”: the Hotel Amalfitana, a giant, seven-storey complex that was built by carving into the mountain, essentially stripping away a large section of the highly romanticised coast.
The structure was sprawling — 34,000 cubic meters of concrete, 150-meter-long façade — with indoor elevators that reached the beach, underground parking, and a staircase leading to the sea and a swimming pool. It was, put plainly, an eyesore, with no regard for the delicate ecosystem of its surroundings or ecologically balanced architecture.
While owner Orfeo Mazzitelli had obtained a regular building permit for the hotel, environmentalists didn’t take long to deem the Amalfitana a glaring example of Italian abusivismo — the widespread phenomenon of illegal zoning and construction that flourished during the post-WWII years. (It could be argued that the Amalfitana was made into a scapegoat in the fight against the speculations of those years.)
In 1985, the Amalfitana closed. In 1999, after a slew of lawsuits and judicial battles, it was razed to the ground.
The land on which the ultramodern hotel once stood remained in the Mazzitelli family, although Orfeo died before the demolition. In the span of a few years, his daughter, architect Maria Teresa Mazzitelli, began dreaming of a fresh start for it. And that dream has turned into Giardini del Fuenti.
“Our mother was always determined to turn the destiny of this place around and prove that it could be made into something beautiful,” Alessandra de Flammineis, Maria Teresa’s daughter, who manages Giardini together with her brother, Pier Luigi, said. “She had the idea to embark on a regeneration project that would respect the territory and restore what the past had taken from it. And I think she — we as a family — have done it.”
Requalification plans were approved in 2006, but it took another 11 years for work to finally start. Giardini del Fuenti opened in June 2019 — its only full season until this summer due to the pandemic.
“It’s been a rollercoaster,” Alessandra said. “But also an incredibly rewarding adventure when you look around.”
Indeed, the Mazzitelli family has worked hard to bring this slice of paradise back to its natural appearance. A geologist was called to assess the hollow of the mountain and run surveys on seismic data and the grounds’ structural safety. An expert in agronomy and landscape design advised on how to sustainably build the large terraces that characterise the property today and chose indigenous plants for the gardens to create the most organic environment possible. Complex engineering works were also carried out to ensure Giardini could have its environmental redemption.
“We’ve learned from our history and are now looking to the future with a strong sense of respect for what nature has given to this land,” Pier Luigi shared. “This is the next chapter of Fuenti.”
It’s apt that the two siblings, both in their mid-30s, are the ones ushering it. “Mom has always had a very tight bond with this bit of coast, and this has very much been her project,” he said. “But when we finally got the green light to begin the requalification, she asked us to take over. As the family’s third generation, she thought we’d have the forward-looking approach this place needed.”
Considering what they’ve done with Giardini del Fuenti, it’s safe to say they’ve proved her right.
Besides the masterfully manicured greenery and the beach club with its stylish toes-in-sand vibes, the property includes spaces that are perfect for hosting weddings, intimate dinners, or cultural events (Alessandra and Pier Luigi held a small music festival here in 2019), along with barrier-free access to all the facilities, and parking — both a rarity on the Amalfi Coast.
There’s also an outdoor lounge bar for sunset cocktails and two restaurants: the laidback but top-shelf Riva del Fuenti, right by the beach, and the fine-dining concept Volta del Fuenti, which opened in May 2022 and has been getting rave reviews since (it’s indeed outstanding).
Both are under the helm of young but highly experienced chef Michele de Blasio, who’s cut his teeth in the kitchens of The Ritz-Carlton, Hong Kong and Alain Ducasse in France, among others. His cuisine draws on experimentation and local produce — including the vegetables grown in the garden of Giardini — with an eye toward seasonality and the traditions of Campania, where he’s from.
“It was important for us to invest in a strong food offering, and Michele is the person for that,” Pier Luigi said. “We want the Volta to become a culinary destination in its own right—somewhere you can have a truly memorable experience and are keen to travel for. Like the rest of Giardini.”
Looking ahead, the siblings want to expand Giardini del Fuenti into hospitality — albeit with a completely different vision from the property’s predecessor. “We’re finalising an accommodation project,” Alessandra shared. “A handful of boutique rooms along the mountain — part of which is still under our property — surrounded by lush vegetation and with easy access to hiking trails, so that guests can really immerse themselves in the nature of the costiera. It’ll be the final touch to the rebirth of this place.”
Pier Luigi agreed. “We’d like Fuenti to become a new point of reference for the entire coast,” he said. “We’re keen to show that new beginnings are possible. And you know what? I think our grandfather would have been proud of us.”
This story first appeared on www.travelandleisure.com
Main and Feature Image Credit: Courtesy of Giardini del Fuenti