Exploring Sorrento, Italy
Exploring Sorrento, Italy. Within a month I came back to one of my favorite places in the world. Perhaps my absolute favorite. A place where kindness, good manners and good humor never fail. In which I really feel at home… I’m talking about Amalfi Coast and in particular of a part where I had already been two years ago. This place is Sorrento and thanks to the team of Your Amalfi Coast I was able to develop an itinerary dedicated to discover the territory and the many activities that it is possible to do about food and wine, nature and, why not, also with relaxation and shopping. In short, a unique tour, perfectly structured on my passions and, I can say, absolutely unforgettable! Read on to find out more!
Exploring Sorrento, Italy w/ YourAmalfiCoast: what to see, where to stay and eat
To reach Sorrento we took the Frecciarossa train that leaves from Turin at 12:00 and arrives in Napoli Centrale at 17:40: once there we found Simone Crotti from Your Amalfi Coast who, on board his very comfortable Vito minivan, welcomed us and accompanied us to the city. I want to say right away that Simone is a delightful person, who will tell you everything he knows about his territory with a passion and a pride that can be seen in his eyes, and who knows how to remind his guests that sometimes it is good to to rest, be silent and simply enjoy the journey! Once we passed Vesuvius, we reached the first city of the Sorrento peninsula, Castellammare di Stabia, which boasts the presence of as many as 28 disused natural water sources (now they are springs, all drinkable: some are curative, for example have iron properties in fact they are colored in red). We then continued towards Vico Equense and, following Corso Italia, we then reached Meta, Piano di Sorrento, Sant’Agnello and finally Sorrento!
Our destination was Villa Elisa. Set right in the heart of the town, in an ancient convent completely restored and transformed into five comfortable apartments equipped with every comfort (kitchenette, living area with table, chairs and sofa, bedroom, walk-in closet, bathroom with shower). Ours was right next to the main house, where grandfather Mario and grandmother Ludovica live, whose mother decided to buy this place and turn it into an accommodation facility. Grandparents’ house and the other apartments are located in a beautiful flowery courtyard and furnished with splendid Mediterranean-style lava stone tables!
Just above our apartment is grandfather Mario’s private terrace, where he goes up to check his garden every day at five in the morning. From up there, the view over Piazza Sant’Antonino Abate is even more beautiful!
Upon our arrival we were welcomed by Giovanna and Ludovica from Your Amalfi Coast team, who surprises us with a first welcome gift (which was followed by many others during the next days): two pairs of Siniscalchi hand-made sandals specifically designed for us!
After packing our bags, we prepared for the evening. We had an appointment at Imperial Hotel Tramontano to enjoy the moment of sunset on their wonderful terrace: you must know that in Sorrento the sun sets right on the sea! There we met Francesca, who told us the story of the hotel, which belongs to her family for generations. It is housed in several historic buildings: in 1857 some villas were grouped together and turned into an accommodation, which remained so until 1950 when Francesca’s grandfather decided to buy it.
While we were watching the sunset from the terrace, sipping a drink, Francesca told us two special episodes of her hotel history. On that very terrace De Curtis composed the famous song “Torna a Surriento”. The year was 1902 and Don Guglielmo Tramontano, then mayor of Sorrento, invited the Italian President Zanardelli to the Hotel to ask him to arrange the construction of a post office, one of the many public facilities that were still missing in the town (back at that time, the “closest” one was in Naples). The President seemed bothered by the request and reluctant to do that, so Don Guglielmo expressed his concern to the tutor of his sons, the artist Giambattista De Curtis. He had the idea of offering President Zanardelli a song: so the famous “Torna a Surriento” was played in the hotel for the first time. Zanardelli showed that he enjoyed the tribute and finally promised the concession of the long-awaited post office, which then arrived two years later, in 1904!
But this is not all … Hotel Tramontano is also the place where on March 11th, 1594 the poet Torquato Tasso was born, more precisely in his West Wing! It is incredible how much history can be breathed in this ancient and suggestive hotel.
Then we went for dinner at Ristorante Belvedere, always inside the hotel. Here they recommended the “Menù la Tradizione”, with Don Alfonso 1890 consulting, a magical place where I had been about a month before and which I had literally loved every second of my stay (if you missed the related blog post, you can read it by clicking HERE). The menu includes, in addition to the selection of bread (including the Neapolitan tarallo, flavored with salt, pepper and almonds), a fish appetizer (I chose the lobster zeppola in tempura with sweet and sour sauce), then au gratin potato dumplings with mozzarelle fiordilatte and cherry tomato purée, shrimp and vegetable tempura, a pre-dessert of amaretto ice cream and finally the lemon symphony: the best summer dessert in my opinion!
The next morning we discover that Villa Elisa has an agreement for breakfast with a neighbor, Mo’ Mo’ Kitchen & Bar. A very special place: I put down here some pictures of the beautiful and delicious dishes we tasted during our stay in Sorrento! Obviously it couldn’t miss the sfogliatella!
After breakfast it was finally time to get in the car and let Simone take us to the first activity of this trip…
… Visiting Tenuta Le Lune Del Vesuvio which is located in Terzinio, in the Vesuvius National Park. Here the soil is made of lapilli, or lava stones coming from the last eruption of the volcano: this makes it exceptionally fertile and allows to cultivate great products such as foxtail grapes (which takes its name from the elongated shape of the leaf), strawberries, walnuts, but also figs and “pomodorini Piennolo del Vesuvio DOP” (excellent kind of small tomatoes, harvested in August forming clusters that are tied to the ceiling and that are kept up to 6/7 months without any treatment).
We then continued on the farm, where we met the donkeys Luna and Filippo, the mini-pony Ciccioblack and the pony Stella!
From the garden to the table, the tasting lunch began: at each course, a different wine was served (perhaps this is the reason why I only took the photo of the first dish)! The variety offered by this territory is truly incredible!
We then returned to the Sorrento peninsula, to Sant’Agata Sui Due Golfi, for a special cooking class at Fattoria Terranova. But first, a tour of this beautiful place and the agricultural products that grow there, culminating with a snack of iced lemonade and sfogliatella (it’s always the right time)!
We then moved on to the real cooking class: with the complicity of chef Michela, I made step-by-step linguine with 3 tomatoes!
To end this beautiful afternoon, we took a sunset boat trip with Sorrento Luxury Charter. Going out on the boat is always a thrill for me because it reminds me of my childhood when I spent summers with my parents on the French Riviera. Roberto had reserved for us his most beautiful boat and he fulfilled our desire to cover the entire stretch of coast that turns into Punta Campanella and goes as far as Positano… On the way on I enjoyed the wind at the bow, while on the way back I stayed inside, drinking an excellent Prosecco wine glass and enjoying the colors of the sunset!
Finally we went to dinner at Grand Hotel President, which is located in the upper part of Sorrento from which you can enjoy a really beautiful panoramic view!
At the Il Sogno restaurant, the chef Daniele Persico welcomed us with a special menu designed for us: two types of tomato and herb bread to taste with their olive oil, crispy waffle entrée and buffalo mozzarella foam, tomato salad elixir made by osmosis (the sauce is meant to be drunk!), a small tentacle of octopus cooked at low temperature on a lemon potato knell, spaghetti that gathers the local flavors (Sorrentine lemon, local anchovies, dried tomato, walnut of Sorrento), sea bass in phyllo dough rolls with endive, olives and capers on pumpkin puree, and finally black sesame wafer basket with rhubarb mousse: all excellent!
We spent the next day in the nearby Massa Lubrense, starting from Oleum. Here we visited their oil mill, where the very nice Mr. Gennaro showed us every step of the process and explained to us what are the properties that make the extra virgin olive oil produced by them (and in general in the oil mills) different from those that normally found on the market, seasoning all super funny stories! The olives are harvested between late September and January, they are then washed and macerated (including hazelnut, which helps the oil to come out better) with an extraction system that allows not to throw away anything, because what remains is then used to fertilize the soil. Only with this system it is possible not to disperse anti-oxidant substances such as vitamin E and polyphenols for which olive oil is characteristic, even before its taste. In industrial processes, on the other hand, oils are micro-filtered, as they have ruin that must be cleaned. Very interesting to know!
Finally, even though it was not even lunch time yet, I let myself be tempted by the tasting of oil, bruschetta, and their vegetables at zero km!
After greeting Gennaro and Pino di Oleum we met Benedetto of the Agriturismo Il Turuzziello, specialized in cheese! He picked us up in his Ape Calessino, a small red car, and we walked a stretch of road until we reached a really special first place…
… La Limonaia of its neighbors! It is a citrus orchard that exists since 1894 and every year produces the characteristic Sorrento lemons (which must grow from 11 to 14 months before they can be harvested). Do they use them in the kitchen? Not only! As they say around here: “when life gives you lemons, make limoncello”!
After walking in the citrus grove, we finally climbed with the Ape up to the Turuzziello. Here the cheese tasting started with Provolone del Monaco: a unique, sweet cheese that is said to have been created by a monk from Vico Equense in a convent many years ago. That of Benedetto, compared to the provolone of the other 7 producers, is softer and less spicy, but really tasty! Then the cooking class of mozzarella fiordilatte started with a tasting of every form of mozzarella, caciottine and fresh ricotta with plum jam.
We then visited the farm, where we saw with what care their cows, their bulls (one of which is 8 days old) and their calves (there were two newborns) are treated! They graze for about half of the year outdoors and the remaining period are made impregnate in shifts, with intelligence, without stressing them, in order to produce a product of real quality. How sweet to see all these animals and with how much love Benedetto takes care of them!
In the afternoon Simone took us back to Sorrento, where we spent a few hours relaxing at Villa Zagara. This place is located a stone’s throw from the city center and is newly opened: it is a villa surrounded by a garden of secular trees, with a beautiful pool and tables furnished with style… A perfect location to have a party!
The lovely Dorotea, daughter of the owners, brought us to the discovery of Villa Zagara, explaining to us that food and drinks offered by them are made only with products, herbs and plants from their garden!
The evening continued in one of my places of the heart, Hotel Excelsior Vittoria. I had been there two years ago (HERE you can see all the images), literally leaving my heart. I think the photos can explain for themselves why!
Unlike last time, I had the pleasure of dining at Terrazza Bosquet with 1 Michelin star.
We started with canapés, to move on to a selection of plankton and seaweed breadsticks and a bread box (made inlaid by a local artisan): the biggest one you see in the picture below is called “croissantiello” and it’s a mixed of bread and croissants stuffed with cold cuts. All to be tasted with three types of butter (classic, with tomato and olives) and with Estremum olive oil. Shortly after the appetizer we ordered arrived: the eggplant parmigiana. To present it, the chef Antonino Montefusco came out in person from the kitchen! In fact, it consisted of two different versions of Parmigiana, one more traditional, like the chef’s mother does, and one revisited by the chef himself. Both delicious, but the chef’s one was really superb!
As a first course we ordered caprese ravioli: this time too it was a dish to compose, but in this case it was a do-it-yourself. You had to open the little box, discover the ravioli and put them in the dish with the sauce!
As a second course, we chose the amberjack, which is a local fish. Then they served us a pre-dessert with lemon and as a dessert the chef came back to us with his sous-chef to prepare a lemon sorbet with the help of liquid nitrogen! Finally, the selection of small pastries could not be missing. I know it will be trivial to say, but it was all really exceptional.
Thus we arrived at the last day of our journey and we had to wander around Sorrento together with Giovanna! I was literally kidnapped: the colors, the perfumes, the facades of the churches, the alleys, the small shops… It was hard to win the temptation to buy everything on which my gaze rested!
I also went to thank Siniscalchi for the gift they gave me on the first day and, seeing how they made their sandals entirely by hand, I decided that I would buy a new pair for my summer: you see it in the picture below, what do you think?
We could not miss a last culinary experience: lunch at Terrazza delle Sirene! As you can imagine from the name, it is located in a splendid location, with Vesuvius exactly on the other side of the sea! They served us an aperitif, an appetizer of calamari, tagliolini with lemon scent and then a slice of pezzogna (a typical bottom fish of the Gulf of Naples). And then a selection of delicious desserts, with lemon, strawberries and pistachio! We couldn’t have ended this trip better than this: thank you Ciro!
Before concluding, I would like to thank Ludovica from Villa Elisa for the gifts she put every day on the table right outside our apartment door. A white linen dress from Blanc Du Nil Sorrento, a set of oil flavored with white truffles and black truffle pearls “to do a dressing with a touch of Molise tradition” from King Of Truffles and two bracelets from Una Lettera Da Sorrento made with “exhausted nets worked by old fishermen from Sorrento” with the initials made with sealing wax. Finally a cute set with lemons print from Luisa Positano, wife Francesco, the owner of Mo ‘Mo’!
Saying good-bye to Villa Elisa got me really emotional: Ludovica, grandfather Mario with his freshly picked vegetables and his uncle Antonio. And also to Giovanna and Simone from Your Amalfi Coast (which still accompanied us to the station in Naples, of course)! Thank you very much for your Hospitality: I will always carry you all in my heart!
This is the end of my travel diary. As always I hope that my advice on what to visit in Sorrento can be useful, or even can make you dream and come up with new ideas for your next trips!
Happy summer! I’ll see you in September here on the blog (but while you can find me on Instagram @lauracomolli)!