People

Salvatore Aceto: a lifetime with lemons

From business manager to farmer to keep the family traditions alive

By Francesca Faratro

Salvatore Aceto is a man who lives for his lemons, and we could say that these precious yellow fruits live thanks to him. He is the perfect example of a traditional farmer of the Amalfi Coast who decided to dedicate his life to take care of these plants and their fruit. To be a farmer, an occupation that still exists thanks to younger generations’ passion, is a family business.

It runs in the family

His family has been working in this field for various generations. Lastly, Salvatore’s father, Luigi, known around here as “Giggino,”  carried on the family business in Valle Dei Mulini. During the 18th century, the Acetos didn’t own land, so they worked as farmers for the high aristocracy of Amalfi. But then, in 1825, they were granted the possibility to buy one around Minori and Ravello, so they did it. With the passing years, they could buy more and more land, and they started to grow lemons, wine grapes, and various vegetables.

From a desk to wooden stakes

In the beginning, Salvatore chose to follow his inclinations and went to study economics, becoming later on a vital business manager. But after a while, he clearly understood that a life focused on numbers, documents, and clients wasn’t the life he wanted. “Following the 2008 economic crisis, I needed to change my life and go back to my roots. I felt a strong desire to live once again in the fields where I grew up so I could be as passionate as I once was. After helping so many companies managing their business, I understood it was time for me to concentrate on my own and save it as well, and that’s what I did in 2010. The accounting profession was interesting, and I enjoyed it for a while, but I felt the urgency to return to my traditions. This is how I ended back to jumping around on stakes looking like a flying farmer trying to reach for the higher fruits!”.

The courage to change direction

But Salvatore is no stranger to flying. He started to do it the moment he decided to follow his dreams leaving a comfortable chair in a studio behind and choosing a job where you sweat from physical exhaustion and where you need to carry heavy baskets around the place at any hour. “After finding the right people to pass my old professional life to, I gave it all up in December of 2012. Then I underwent a year of apprenticeship with my father as my boss, and finally, in 2014, I started the company that today brings my name.” He felt the transition from an office job to one in nature, but today Salvatore would do it all over again. His choice was to follow this direction, even if it was something that his father and the land itself strongly encouraged. The terraces in this territory need to be taken care of by the owners if there are no other buyers in sight.

Challenging life

“Agriculture is a challenging field in our country. As a farmer, you will face struggles and fatigue, and sometimes it even means you’ll spend everything you had saved in a year to be able to reclaim a plot of land. Some days I feel frustrated and tired, and my knees ache, but I try to mask all of this behind encouraging words that I tell my staff. I couldn’t quit, or everybody would do it too.” It’s the passion that saves Salvatore in his darkest days and helps him see the beauty in the nature surrounding him in one of the most beautiful places in the world.

 

From the left: Salvatore Aceto, his father and his brother, courtesy of Salvatore Aceto
Lemon's harvest
The flying farmer
The famous lemon trees
Salvatore Aceto leading a Lemon Tour
A museum where there are collected all the tools for the lemon harvest
Aceto explains the role of the formichelle, the women who used to carry the basket full of lemons from place to place
Lemon kiosk
Preparing a lemon recipe
Lemon tasting

 

Production

The 35% of the lemons that they grow are used to create sweet baked goods, lemon juice, and limoncello (the famous liquor). The 65% that remains is bought by local sellers that supply department stores or sell them to European producers, keeping this way a reasonable price. The Sfusato lemon has a protected geographical status, an exact brand, and an organic certification, but even with all of that, the company’s face is still essential. “Our worldwide clientele demands a clear identity, so they know who to associate with the quality of the brand. Almost like a picture of me, my father or my brother Marco could reassure them that they are buying a high-quality product and that they can put their trust in us”. They also have an e-commerce platform where it is possible to buy their products from Italy and all European countries.

A day in the life of a “flying” farmer

“For us, it is not possible to talk about a typical working day since we depend on the weather, the temperatures, and the seasons. But generally, we start our day very early in the morning after a good breakfast. My father still comes to work with us despite his age!”. The work is intense, but they still manage to rest during the day, especially at noon when the nearby church’s bells strike and everyone gathers for lunch. Sometimes the lunch they consume consists of a sandwich and other times in a pasta dish cooked at home. “I love to eat with everyone when I have to chance to do it. The first thing they do is to offer each other something to share, even as simple as a piece of bread.” Farmers don’t drink a lot of wine, but if they do, they always mix it up with water, so they don’t lose balance while working on the stakes. “You never stop learning. That’s why I still enjoy taking lessons from my foreman and my dad”.

A lemon for any need

We could say that in the veins of the Aceto’s family doesn’t run blood like for the rest of us but lemon juice, something they like to joke about. “Our lives are dedicated to lemon,” they say, explaining how everything in their daily life revolves around this fruit.  They use it a lot in the kitchen, where lemon zests are often added to beverages like coffee or tea or even added to water to make it more refreshing. But here, Lemon is not only a useful ingredient while cooking, but it is also a helpful tool to sanitize wounds, help with mosquito bites, and even to soothe the throat.

Production

As we’ve said earlier, in this line of work, different variables affect the production. For example, lemon maturation is deeply linked to sunlight: if a piece of the terrace is more exposed to the sun, it’s essential to harvest those lemons before the ones that grow on plants less affected by sunlight. Usually, the harvest goes from February to September, but a particular type of Lemon called “verdello” gets picked in December.

Fearless harvest

Even if they use a form of ropeway transportation to bring the lemons downstream, there are some terraces where we cannot use this type of technology, so the farmers must carry baskets full of fruits that could even reach 50 kg each. The harvest is different depending on the vegetation: so it’s easier to pick the fruits when the plants are short, while when the plants are higher, the workers need to use ladders. “That’s why a farmer has to have specific characteristics such as being slim and not too tall. Because to be able to fly around the stakes to pick fruits, it’s best to be somewhat of an acrobat. But other than physical abilities, experience in this field is the most important aspect. It’s essential to master the right way to harvest, cut, and pick the plant’s fruit. Our clients, for example, love to see the leaves still attached to the fruit because it gives them a sense of authenticity”.

Lemon Tours

“I wanted to offer people an experience through my business. That’s why I created the Lemon Tours. The guests can walk around our property following guided tours to discover more about terraces and have the chance to taste our lemons in all their declinations.” Lemons are almost like a badge of honor to the Aceto’s family. “Lemon to me symbolizes union, and for this reason, I like to gift it to the people I meet, could them be lawyers, doctors, or politicians. I’m proud to show the world the result of our hard work. Often when I fill up the baskets with the fruits that are ready to be shipped and sold, I feel a lump in my throat because I wouldn’t say I like the idea of losing them. It’s almost like the lemons are my all children of mine that I love equally, even if they are not good looking or show imperfections. I do believe that when the lemons are far from looking perfect, it means that you have a biological, healthy product”.

 

A view from the lemon tress of the Aceto's family

 

A life that revolves around lemons

Salvatore wasn’t like the kids of his age: when he was 11 years old, during summertime, he would prefer to pick lemons rather than go to the beach with friends. “It wasn’t clear to me back then, but now I know that the only life for me is the one full of lemons. I intend to keep the tradition alive while promoting my family business and show the world how precious our land and its fruits are. It’s true that here in the Amalfi Coast, a farmer is a producer of goods, but at the same time, he’s someone who protects the environment”. We are talking about a type of profession that doesn’t look for validations as its reason to exists, but rather, it’s kept alive by the passion of people who are thrilled to work with nature in one of the most beautiful places of the world. It is a type of love that requires to be passed on and spread. “When my day is over, as I go to sleep at night, I’m happy. I feel content that I was able to manage my terraces well and safeguard my land. I don’t work only for myself or my family. I also do it for my people of the Amalfi Coast and for everyone that worked hard to make this land what it is today”. The Amalfi Coast has been designated as a World Heritage Site by the United Nations Education, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). This happened not by luck but thanks to the work of the community.

Useful Information:

Azienda Agricola Salvatore Aceto: salvatoreaceto.it

Amalfi Lemon Experience: lemon tour booking, cooking classes, and lemon experiences, amalfilemonexperience.it, email: info@amalfilemonexperience.it

(Translation by Michela Pandolfi)

Would you like to receive
the latest stories about travel, itineraries, art, green innovation, and the food and wine culture of the Amalfi Coast?

*Required

I am aware that in the absence of consent, the consequences are the following:
No promotional and/or advertising communication will be sent by authenticamalficoast.it to the interested party, who will only receive news and/or communications regarding the service received / booked.
We use Mailchimp as our marketing platform. By clicking below to subscribe, you acknowledge that your information will be transferred to Mailchimp for processing.

We use Mailchimp as our marketing platform. By clicking below to subscribe, you acknowledge that your information will be transferred to Mailchimp for processing. Learn more about Mailchimp’s privacy practices here.


Gaetano Bove: the wine doctor

Leaving a successful veterinary career behind, he found his true calling to give value to the territory, so he founded Tenuta San Francesco

Menu