Among the cliff-edge trellises and tumbling tendrils of green on Italy’s Amalfi Coast, you may spy an 80-year-old man climbing high atop heavily laden branches, tending to ancient lemon trees whose roots hold themselves, their caretakers, and the coast itself in place. Without this flying farmer, his giant, special lemons, and the generations that came before him, this beautiful place in our world would cease to exist! Here’s why some traditions are worth the risk.

On this edition of Saturdays Around the World, we’re heading to the Amalfi Coast to meet one of these “flying farmers,” Luigi Aceto. It’s here in the very lemon groves that have held the soil in place for centuries that we discover how Luigi, better known as “Gigino the lemon man,” and his son are working to save their home, livelihood, and the traditions surrounding their favorite, and exceptionally unique, local ingredient.

And better yet, we get to witness one of the coolest and most treacherous ways of growing and harvesting food that’s still practiced today! (It’s so cool!)

Image: Aceto kissing a lemon!

Luigi Aceto, AKA Gigino the Lemon Man! Source: Amalfi Lemon

A little sweet, a little sour!

Amalfi lemons, officially known as “sfusati amalfitan,” are very fragrant, large, sweet citrus only grown on the—you guessed it–Amalfi Coast of Italy, by a select few, dedicated individuals.

Due to the Amalfi Coast’s very special microclimate, where everything is just right between the shining sun, the towering cliffs, mighty mountains, and glistening sea, these are some very special lemons. But it isn’t just their flavor, appearance, or a rich history on the coast that gives them their popularity—their roots are literally keeping the land from washing away into the sea!

Without the lemons and the farmers who tend to them, the unimaginable could happen to the beautiful communities that call the coastline home. And with the majority of these flying farmers aging, this problem is top of mind for many.

The Aceto family has been farming Amalfi lemons since 1825. Nicole Jolly of True Food TV takes us into the terraced gardens to meet Gigino the Lemon Man, his son Salvadore, and their sweet, sweet fruit in this beautiful video!

Are you ready to bite into a bit of sunshine? Let’s go!

Source: True Food TV 1

Looking to get your hands on some Amalfi limoncello and honey? Order from the Aceto family directly by shopping here!

True Food TV is one of my favorite channels to go to when I want to learn more about the world! Nicole has brought us on so many fascinating journeys—into the worlds of mushrooms, blueberries, chickpeas, and olive oil (just to name a few)—that give us a perfect serving of the history, cultivation, and wonder to be found around the globe!

A Taste of the World!

If there’s one thing that connects us all, it’s food. Our cuisines reveal the roots of who we are and where we come from. They can be a source of pride, something special to our neck of the woods. (Like maple syrup, milk, and creemees here in Vermont!)

We build our cultures around the cultivation of our cuisines.

Sfusato lemons define the Amalfi coast just as the maple trees and cows spotting the landscape represent my home state of Vermont. Every product from places like these don’t just come with a tasty treat, there’s also a side of pride. Generations of our families and neighbors have worked the same land, tending to it, and making it what it is today.

So, what happens as generations move away from the traditions of our places? How do we preserve the land and the stories it tells for the future?

That’s why stories like the lemons of the Amalfi Coast need to be shared. When we hear stories like this, of a lemon only grown in a very particular part of the world that’s literally holding the land in place, that tradition isn’t just cherished by those that call the land home, it’s cherished by the world! We begin to care! Interests grow around the globe and so does the market. As the younger generations see that the traditions of their homes are appreciated worldwide, going into the “family business” and continuing that tradition instead of going into a cushy office job could be the highest honor.

These next articles will take you on a journey around the globe to fantastic places with their own unique specialties!

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Celebrating Culture and Empowering Youth in Hawaii

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Is Tradition the Secret Ingredient to Great Food?

If you want to have a really, really good tortilla, you're going to need the best corn. Masienda is a company not only supporting Mexico's small heirloom corn farmers but bringing the practices that enhance the nutritional powers of the grain back into the market.

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So, what’s your home’s specialty? Who’s the next steward? Is it you?

Stay open to new possibilities!

  • Sam

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  1. TRUE FOOD TV. “AMALFI COAST LEMON | A ‘How Does It Grow?’ Special: THE FLYING FARMER.” YouTube, 22 June 2018, Accessed 30 June 2020.

Sam has written and edited hundreds of articles since joining the EWC team in 2016. She writes about topics from the wonders of nature to the organizations changing the world and the simple joys in life! Outside of the EWC office, she’s a part-time printmaker, collector of knick-knacks, and taster of cheeses.