A light breeze from the sea was caressing my face. The air was warm. It was a pleasant mild morning. From afar, gazing in my direction was the quiet ruler of Napoli: the Vesuvius. Neapolitans have lived under its peaceful rule since 1944. Yet, it hasn’t always been that way. That fascinating Volcano has been responsible for havoc and destruction. Pliny the Younger, a Roman poet, recounts the last moments of Pompeii in a letter to his friend Tacitus – it is breathtaking.
I was sipping a fresh Tassoni. A drink too often overlooked outside of Italy. It is a refreshing sweet syrup made of cedro (Yellow citron fruit), perfect aperitif if paired with large green olives.
I was sitting on the terrace of the Grand Hotel Excelsior Victoria. A historical hotel, operated since 1834. The hotel sits on a cliff on the edge of Sorrento. It took very little for my wife to fall in love with its stunning views, secluded garden and frescoed restaurant. Before I knew it, the first cheque to book that venue for our wedding had been signed.
My wife was there next to me, scribbling on a piece of paper. As I admired the sea, I was hit by very technical questions “what about the flowers? And what type of chairs should we use? What menu’?” My answers were very deep and thoughtful “whatever you want my love” and I kept staring at the sea.
At the center of that picturesque terrace, surrounded by Roman statues was a small door. It was the entrance to a fast elevator ride from the hotel down to the sea. Sorrento doesn’t really have beaches. What they have instead are what they call beach establishments. Sunbathing platforms with a touch of Italianism. For the day you can rent your own cabin, a king size sun bed, or for extreme relax, your own sofa. You can access the sea via hanging ladders placed around the establishment. When that little tingly feeling hits your stomach, at the restaurant – next to the sea – you can enjoy the best Mediterranean seafood. My wife enjoyed a Mozzarella Di Bufala- she was now hooked on it – I had a delicious fresella. It is a bread that is put in the oven twice in order to dry it out. Afterwards, it is soaked in water. As the bread soften, it is removed from the water. At that point, you can dress it with fresh tomatoes, salted anchovies, basil. The final touch is to add some extra virgin olive oil and the job is done. This is a sublime and light lunch for a day on the beach. If you are ever in Sorrento or Napoli I beg you to try it, you will thank me for it.
As a child, I used to love spending time in these establishments. The whole experience reminds of the movie Scandal in Sorrento with Sophia Loren and Vittorio de Sica.
After our afternoon nap – my American wife fully embraced the afternoon napping affair – and some suntan top up it was time to leave. We took a stairway to the top of the cliff. We ended up in the Villa Comunale (it is a park). At the entrance of the villa you could find the beautiful Church of Saint Francesco. Ahead you could see the entire Gulf of Naples. We sat at the small bar in the villa and at the request of my wife we enjoyed an aperitif – by then my wife had fully embraced Italian habits. I had a Tassoni- I binge on it when I go back to Napoli – and my wife an AperolSpritz. It was late afternoon, so we decided to go for a walk before dinner.
The City center is still arranged like a greek-roman town. At the center of the main square, Piazza Tasso there is a small café where one can enjoy an aperitif or an ice cream. Make sure you do get an ice cream when you get out there. Forget about your fit app, it is worth it. We took a stroll through the narrow streets. The walls of the shops were decorated with enormous lemons. Do not be fooled, they are real. The Penisola Sorrentina is famous for it enormous lemons, and lemon products such as lemon soap, limoncello and for its colorful ceramic articles- all hand made of course.
As the evening approached, my wife and I did what we do best: wine and dine. For our evening, we chose the Ristorante il Buco. Located in the old part of the town, through a street that leads down to the port. Its interior reminded of a vault with a romantic touch. The lighting was perfect and there was enough space amongst each table to enjoy a conversation with your partner. Restaurants in London and New York have the habit of taking your personal space away. Not at il Buco. Throughout the evening, we enjoyed a degustazione (tasting menu) of various dishes. The cuisine was refined, the service excellent. The food was accompanied with a refined Greco Di Tufo. I ended up the evening with my head on the table and barely able to breathe. Yet, it was all worth it.
Charles Dickens, John Keats and George Byron once walked the streets of this small town. Like many others before and after them they fell in love with its soul, its people, its food and its breathtaking views. As for my wife and myself, we ended up getting marrying there. There could not have been a better place to celebrate our love. I have always loved spending time in Sorrento, now I can share that with my wife. After all, Sorrento is not a place you see once. On Ernesto De Curtis famous Torna a Surrient we moved to our next destination: The Eternal City.
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